In 1819, President James Monroe commissioned Fort Pike’s construction alongside six other forts on the Louisiana coast. [2] Originally known as Fort Petites Coquilles, Monroe commissioned the fort with the intention of protecting the city of New Orleans from a second British invasion after the War of 1812. Fort Pike received a name change to honor General Zebulon Montgomery Pike, a War of 1812 leader and avid explorer of the Louisiana territory.

Originally, Fort Pike served as a barracks for up to 400 men and provided storage for gear and ammunition. While the military that occupied Fort Pike never fired a single cannon, the walls of Fort Pike still hold a violent past. 

During the Seminole Wars (1817-1858), the US government attempted to push Indigenous peoples from their lands in Florida and Alabama. Because of Fort Pike’s location and accessibility, the US government imprisoned Seminole people and previously enslaved self-emancipated people within Fort Pike’s walls in order to steal the Seminoles’ lands. [3]

Prior to imprisonment, the Floridian Seminole people “rejected a dubious treaty signed at Fort Gibson in 1833” between delegates of the US government and Seminole leaders that would exile Seminoles and relinquish their land to the US. [3] Shortly after this rejection, self-emancipated enslaved people sought asylum within the Seminole territory in exchange for an allyship. Unfortunately, the Seminole people interchanged the language of allyship to re-enslavement of the self-emancipated people.
[3 pg.85]

With this exchange in place, the Seminoles would require the enslaved people to serve as military support against the US government if necessary. Soon enough, it was. After multiple attempts from the US government to remove the Seminoles and their Black allies from the land, war broke out. According to historian Daniel H. Usner, Jr., “what would become known as the Second Seminole War began with the assassination of agent Wiley Thompson in December 1835 and lasted until August 1842, costing the United States more than twenty million dollars and the lives of some fifteen hundred soldiers and uncounted militiamen and settlers.” [3] The lives of the Seminole people and previously enslaved were not taken into consideration during this cost count. 

This devastation allowed General Thomas Jesup to deceive the Seminoles. Under false pretenses of a truce, Jesup captured Seminole leaders and forced them to turn over Seminole land. [4] Jesup arranged for ships to transport the Seminole and Black peoples to northern lands, where he promised security “in their lives and property.” [3] This promise was a deception. Instead, “Thomas S. Jesup captured the popular Anglo attitude toward the Seminoles,” stating that “‘the country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.’” [1]

It was in this genocidal notion that Jesup, with the help of the US government, imprisoned and shipped Indigenous and Black people to Fort Pike. [3]

Usner states that, “over many months at a time, thousands of Indian and [B]lack prisoners of war were confined to Fort Pike on a narrow split of land at the entrance of Lake Pontchartrain or to US army barracks on the downriver outskirts of New Orleans.” [3]

Imprisoned Seminole and Black peoples waited for ships to retrieve them and bring them to the new lands supposedly awaiting them. By March 30, 1838, the ships never came. This act left 1,150 imprisoned people stranded at Fort Pike. Major Issac Clarke, a quartermaster assistant, took note that of these 1,150 people, most were sick and the person who was to look after their “shelter” was nowhere to be found. After being stranded for up to a year, the Seminole people emancipated themselves and left Fort Pike. [3]



27100 Chef Menteur Hwy., New Orleans, LA 70129 ~ Although no longer open to the public because of Louisiana State Legislature budget cuts, Fort Pike can be seen off the Rigolets’ bridge on highway US 90 (also known as Chef Mentuer). If you are interested in viewing Fort Pike by foot, set your GPS to Ft. Pike Boat Ramp. There, you can see the remains of the Fort and park.