John W. Young – Part I – Almost a Yankee Doodle Dandy


Panoramic view of Fort Crockett in 1918 from the Library of Congress collection

The great American song writer and showman, George M. Cohan, penned the tune that started out:

I am a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

Yankee Doodle do or die,

A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,

Born on the fourth of July…

John W. Young, the brother of Margaret Edythe Young, missed out by just a few days having been born on the 1st of July 1882 but was in almost every other respect the epitome of a Yankee Doodle Dandy. He spent a lifetime in public service starting with his military service before, during and after the First World War in the Sixth Company of the Coastal Artillery continuing the tradition of his grand father, David Adams, who had served in the 1st Regiment of Texas Heavy Artillery during the Southern War for Independence.

After the war he was among the Texas delegation that attended the St. Louis meeting in 1919 that founded the American Legion.

From the first days of independence Galveston was fortified against invasion by seaborne forces. The three forts whose remains are still evident are Fort Crockett near the middle of the island defending the western portion of the island, Fort San Jacinto defending the eastern side of the island and the mouth of the port and Fort Travis on Bolivar Peninsula also defending the port.

A barbette gun of the type mounted at battery Leonard Hoskins which is now part of the San Luis – the west gun emplacement.

 

A disappearing gun of the type mounted at battery Wade Hampton – the east gun emplacement at the San Luis

 

Between these two gun emplacements there was battery George Izard which housed 8 12 inch mortars –  it was the mortar battalion from Fort Crockett that was sent to France in World War I – and battery Jacint Laval which housed two 3 inch rapid fire cannons.

The small batteries at Fort San Jacinto still have their emplacements there although the last of the armaments was removed in 1946 and Fort Travis on the Bolivar Peninsula is one of the best examples – sans armament – of the forts of this era. If the City of Galveston, which took over the fort/park, would only reopen it there would be a 100 acre facility with emplacements, sighting outposts and a very well designed interpretive trail with excellent explanatory signage available.

Original battery at Fort Travis – all photos by author

Armored doors at gun emplacement.

 

Separate elevators for powder and shell at the back of the bunker.

 

The retracted storage position for the two 12 in barbette guns at Fort Travis.

Ironically the only gun still in place in this part of the coastal fortification is a 6 inch barbette gun sitting on top of an emplacement overlooking the entrance to Freeport harbor. When you look at these forts you are impressed by their solidity – most have with stood the storms since 1900 with damage but no devastation – and then you reflect on what service here must have amounted to with heat, humidity and mosquitos and you have a new-found respect for the men who served here, for those who went overseas and came back and for those who did not come back. A fourth of July remembrance for them all.

 

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