Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Riley's Ramblings: Fort Alcatraz

Christmas 1876
Fort Alcatraz. You can see our house on the left.
I'm curled up by the fire in this terrible, terrible place. Fort Alcatraz is an island right off the coast of San Francisco. I hoped Pa would still be stationed at the Presidio, which I liked a lot---before Mama got sick. Lots of room to run and play with the other army kids. A nice school at the fort. And best of all, a place for Midnight to be stabled. 

Midnight is still stabled at the Presidio, but I'm stuck here on this rocky island. Pa was sent to command this fort about a week after I left the Circle C ranch. Now it's raining, raining, raining. There are only about ten kids at this whole stinking fort. Nasty Tom Malloy is the only boy nearest my age.  

I found out what Fort Alcatraz does. Pa and his 86 men don't fight Indians here on this rocky island. This is where the Indians go when they break the law. This is where really bad white people go who break the law. They're all together, and Papa is in charge. Kind of gives me the shivers to know there are so many criminals just behind those fortress walls. 

Alcatraz: Docks, houses for the soldiers and families. A store. Even a school.
The fort didn't used to be a prison, so Tom tells me. The fortress was built back in 1853, and it even had a lighthouse and 11 cannons. Tom struts around like his pa is the commander. Ha! His pa is just a sergeant. But he's been here for many years so he knows a lot. Tom says Fort Alcatraz was once the most powerful defense of the whole West coast. (It sure isn't now.) 

It didn't take long for army folks to realize that Fort Alcatraz was a perfect army prison, and soon a bunch of law-breaking soldiers from forts all over the place got sent here to be locked up. During the War Between the States, lots and lots of Southern soldiers trying to capture San Francisco got thrown into prison. By the time the War ended, there were over 100 cannons. I've seen some of the leftovers. They are the only interesting part of this fort. Tom says the only time they were ever fired was when President Lincoln was killed. (That was over ten years ago.)

Right now Pa is really upset. A couple of Modoc Indians were sent here a few years ago, and one of them just died. His name was Barncho. Tom says he was here for stirring up trouble during the Indian Wars. Doesn't seem right that Barncho was locked up with some of the worst murderers in the West.

Tom knows way too much about prisons. 

I'm praying every night that Pa will soon be transferred off this "Rock." (That's Fort Alcatraz's nickname.) 


  1. wow this is really interesting!
    Thank you

    1. Yes it was interesting, thanks Mrs M!!

  2. Ooh! This is really neat! I love seein' Riley's perspective on everythin'. Especially his feelings for that nasty Tom Malloy. :)
    ~Hope M.


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