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Alcatraz. A 14 Page Research Paper On The Historic Prison Near San Fransico. Includes Work Cited Page

4110 words - 17 pages

AlcatrazAlcatraz Island has quite a distinct history. Many people know that Alcatraz served as a federal prison, but most are reluctant to know that this island served as a fort built before the Civil War, it served two main purposes. First, that it was to guard the San Francisco bay area from enemy ships against a foreign invasion, and second, to hold hostage prisoners of war or POW's as they were called. In this report, I'll show you how this fortress came to be a federal prison, why it is no longer in operation today, and most importantly, to show why it was built in the first place. When the great "Gold Rush" of 1849 first started, California grew from what would be considered a small, ...view middle of the document...

Visitors to the island now can not only explore the remnants of the prison, but also learn of the American occupation of 1969 - 1971, early military fortifications, and the West Coast's first and oldest operating lighthouse. These structures stand among the island's many natural features - gardens, tidepools, bird nests, and "bay views beyond compare." (1) Fortress Alcatraz ran in operation from 1850 - 1933. It served as San Francisco's only major defense. It started off with only eleven cannons, that were transported onto the island in 1854. By the early 1860's, Alcatraz had 111 cannons. Some were enormous, firing a fifteen-inch ball weighing over 450 pounds. Defenses included a row of brick enclosed gun positions called Case Mates to protect the dock; a fortified gateway or a Sally Port to block the entrance road; and a three-story citadel on top of the island. This served both as an armed barracks and as a last line defense strategy. Even though Alcatraz was built to withstand a foreign invasion, its most important use was during the Civil War, 1861 - 1865. Seeing as it was the only completed fort in the entire bay, it was vital in offering protection from Confederate Raiders. Early in the war, ten thousand rifles were moved to Alcatraz from the state armory, to prevent them from being used by southern sympathizers(2).The crew of a Confederate privateer were among the first inmates to be held within "The Rock." Alcatraz's notoriety as a penitentiary overshadows its earlier, and longer use by the Army. Surprisingly, this small island once was the most powerful fort west of the Mississippi River. There was some limited modernization of the island'sdefenses after the Civil War. Rifled cannons were mounted. In 1854, some 450 electrically controlled underwater mines were brought to the island to protect the Bay. However, as the ships of potential enemies became more and more powerful, the defenses were increasingly obsolete(2). In 1907, Alcatraz officially ceased being a fortress and became a Pacific Branch, U.S. Military Prison. Alcatraz Island's use as a prison began in December 1859 with the arrival of the first permanent garrison. Eleven of these soldiers were confined in the Sally Port basement. The Army recognized that the cold water (53 F) and swift currents surrounding Alcatraz made it an ideal site for a prison, and in 1861 the post was designated as the military prison for the Department of the Pacific - most of the territory west of the Rocky Mountains. The prison population grew during the Civil War with the addition of prisoners from other army posts, the crew of a Confederate privateer, and civilians accused of treason. The Sally Port's basement was filled, along with one of the gun rooms, and a wooden stockade was built just to the North of the Sally Port. During the next three decades additional buildings were erected just north of the Sally Port to house up to 150 Army prisoners. These provided hard labor for construction projects...

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