Fort Stevens (Images Of America), by Susan L. Glen
I happen to greatly fond of the Images of America, and as someone who has gone to Fort Stevens to watch civil war reenactments, there is a great deal of enjoyment to be found in reading a book that answers to one’s own behaviors even if one does not happen to be in the photos. The text itself is welcoming to someone who is familiar with the fort and what goes on there, and provides a look at the past that also provides some hint as to what still goes on in the fort today, and what role the fort has in American history as having suffered inaccurate fire from the Japanese during World War II. Photographic history is a perhaps underrecognized aspect of allowing the past to be visualized by those of us in the present, and this book (like many other examples of its series) has done a great job in providing a picture of Fort Stevens through the years with enough discussion about the present that it will hopefully encourage more people to visit and enjoy what it has to offer contemporary tourists and Civil War reenactors in the present day.
The contents of this particular book, which at just over 100 pages is a very short one, take a bit more than 100 pages. The author begins with acknowledgements and an introduction. The first 30 pages of photographs with captions look at the early construction of Fort Stevens during the period during the Civil War and the period following it (1). After that the author discusses and provides pictures of the submarine mines that the fortress and its personnel were involved in laying and practicing to lay during times of war (2). A short chapter provides some pictures and discusses of the notable wreck of the Peter Iredale that took place on the fortress grounds, where the quickness of personnel in the area in rescuing survivors was praised by the British government in its inquiry of the wreck (3). Two chapters deal with the pre-World War I and World War I years at the fortress (4) as well as the World War II times (5) where the small fort and its few people had to deal with Japanese attack, to which they responded with some fierceness of wit. Finally, the last chapter of the book looks at Fort Stevens today and what remains of the fort, including its melancholy graveyard and redoubt and visitor’s center (6).
Fort Stevens has been important throughout history because it guarded the Oregon shore at the mouth of the Columbia River. Such a strategic location near Seaside and Astoria would make it obvious for fortresses to be built, and the obviousness of its strategic location has made it a target in war. The fact that the site is pleasant and close to the ocean has also made the place an equally obvious for contemporary use in historical reenactments. The photos in this book also bring to life the way that people lived in the fort, with the observation that while enlisted people often had to sleep in tents that could not even keep their uniforms clean and dry. Intriguingly enough, the gardens of the fort were kept in shape by those who had run afoul of discipline, and the photos in the book of kitchen duty show that soldiers were not happy to be photographed peeling potatoes, perhaps not considering it manly enough work. At any rate, this particular little book helps the reader to better understand Fort Stevens as it has existed throughout history to the present day, and that is a very worthy exploration to take.