Tuesday, April 17, 2012

walking the ramparts

George Patton may have been correct.  Fixed fortifications are monuments to human stupidity.

That certainly was true of the early forts that guarded Nassau, capital of The Bahamas, in the mid-700s.  They simply were ineffective.

During the War of Independence, the fledgling American Navy seized the town.  After the Americans returned the city to the British, the Spanish invaded, and then the Americans took the city from them. 

When the Stars and Stripes and Bourbon banner were carted off, the  British decided enough was enough.

They built a new fort (Charlotte) at the top of what passes for a hill in The Bahamas,  Started in the 1790s and finished in the 1820s, it was designed to defend against Britain’s many enemies: Spain, the United States, and pirates. 

In an irony that would do justice to a Noel Coward play, the fort’s primary purpose shifted to deterring slave revolts.  The slaves of Haiti had just seized their freedom from France in history’s only successful slave revolt.

But the Caribbean slaveholders did not have crystal balls.  And many of them believed that their slaves would be the next to revolt.

So, the British garrisoned the fort.  First, with European soldiers who quickly died off.  And then with African slaves.  Slave soldiers are quite common in history.  But they made the slave masters a bit nervous.

The fort is an engineering marvel.  Most of it is underground -– hewn out of the limestone that forms the knoll on which it is built.  And ringed with cannons that could fire from any direction.

But no one ever came to fight.  Not the Americans.  Not the Spanish.  Not the pirates.  And no slave revolt.  It last saw duty in the First World War.  And now serves as a reminder of a time when men placed their security in limestone walls.

But Nassau is more than old forts.  When we docked, there were five other ships in port. Foreign soldiers may not have invaded The Bahamas lately, but plenty of foreign tourists did this morning.

I have spent enough in the pastel shop fronts of Bay Street to know that it offers little more than what can be purchased at your neighborhood Import Plaza.  I wanted to see some of the sights I had not seen.

So, I headed up the hill to Government House -- the official residence of the Queen’s Governor General.  One of those buildings that looks far older than it is.  It looks like Tara, but is barely a hundred years old.

Statues of Columbus are scattered throughout the Caribbean.  The one in front of Government House captures The Admiral looking far more like a Civil War Cavalier than the discoverer of The Bahamas.  (His first land fall was on one of  the islands in the chain.  No one knows which for certain.)

But this woman is far more emblematic of modern professional women in the Caribbean.  The suit is feminine and powerful.

On my walk over to the fort, I walked by several houses in this state.  They are good reminders that The Bahamas are a delightful place to live.  But hurricanes keep it far from paradise.

And now we are off to The Azores.  Arriving in another seven days. 

Plenty of time to relax.


Andean said...

What a great outfit on the woman pictured! You captured her femininity indeed.

Mcotton said...

Enjoyed the pictures and the history lesson.

Steve Cotton said...

You can always count on a bit of history from this correspondent.

Steve Cotton said...

She reminded me of Dame Eugenia Charles.