ALCATRAZ ISLAND AND PRISON Essay Research Paper

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ALCATRAZ ISLAND AND PRISON Essay, Research Paper Alcatraz 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 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, unpopulated state, into what it is now.

California is now one of the most populated states and it was mostly the gold rush that brought attention to California. As the government saw all of this happening, they realized that California was much more important than they ever realized. In their realization, they decided that California must be protected. San Francisco has one of the largest bays in all of California, and so this was where enemy countries would most likely to try to invade the country. So this is where Alcatraz was to lie, to serve as a military fort. It was supposed to serve as a secondary base in companionship to another base located on the other side of Golden Gate Bridge. But with severe problems trying to build this other base, Alcatraz was to remain alone. “Out in the middle of the San Francisco

Bay, the island of Alcatraz is definitely a world unto itself. Isolation is just one of the many constants of island life for any inhabitant on Alcatraz Island. It is the most reoccurring theme in the unfolding history of Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz Island is one of Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s most popular destinations, offering a close-up look at a historic and infamous federal prison long off-limits to the public. Visitors to the island can not only explore the remnants of the prison, but 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 the protecting 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. 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’s defenses 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