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Hipster Viking Amy @lasrina
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All right, friends, gather round (or maybe mute me for the next hour or so), because it's just me and a bottle of local rum for this 4th of July afternoon and I'm waiting until later this evening to watch Captain America for the 97th time, so I'mma give you all a DRUNK HISTORY.
(I've been threatening a couple of people with this story forever, and I went and did some Very Serious fact checking to prepare for it when I was at the beach a couple weeks ago, but I've also had a LOT of rum so take all of this with the proverbial grain of salt.)
In the Outer Banks of North Carolina is a town called Beaufort (pronounced BO-fert, and not to be confused with Beaufort, SC, pronounced BYEW-fert, because America). Beaufort was established in 1709 and is sometimes said to be the site of the last battle of the Revolutionary War.
But Amy! I hear my fellow Hamilton fans cry. We know the Revolution ended with the Battle of Yorktown, 1789! And yes, it did. See, what happened was, the British ships didn't all immediately get the message about the ceasefire, because they were at sea, and did not have Twitter.
I have absolutely no doubt that when the British soldiers rolled into port and said, "Hey, nice easily pillage-able town you got here," someone tried to tell them the war was over, and they were like HA HA NICE TRY COLONISTS but nobody is that stupid.
Southwest of Beaufort and across a lovely and picturesque inlet is an island. The town of Atlantic Beach was incorporated there in the 1970s, but at the time of our story it was so isolated that they did not have so much as a single Wings Beach Shop on the entire island.
After the War of 1812, the US built a fort on the western end of the island, called Fort Macon.

Everyone agreed that this was a great idea and a wonderful place to have a fort! ...Except that it appears no one wanted to actually be stationed there, or pay for maintaining it.
Here's a photo of the ramparts of the fort, and of the view from the ramparts. It's a really beautiful place, and I imagine a lot of people would've been really happy to be stationed there, if, you know, the fort had gotten enough money for upkeep, or food, or entertainment.
Strangely, a big pile of bricks on an earthworks next to an ocean didn't hold up to the passage of time all that well, and nobody wanted to spend the money on fixing it. Eventually, the Army decided to cut costs by only stationing one guy in the fort full time.
And so we come to the hero of our story: Sergeant William Alexander, who takes control of the fort. Alexander is, in no particular order, a Scot, in his 50s, married to a young woman who joins him in the fort, not far from retirement, and an ordnance sergeant.
An ordnance sergeant's job is to be in charge of weapons. This will be important later.
(I haven't been able to find any pictures of William Alexander, which is a shame, 'cause, I mean, a 50yo Scot who's married to a 21yo woman and convinces her to move with him to a big empty brick pile in the middle of nowhere? I *have* to assume he's rocking a Sean Connery look.)
Meanwhile, back in Beaufort:

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a young man who wanted to be a soldier, but the Army wouldn’t take him because of his asthm—hang on, wait, wrong story.
ONCE UPON A TIME there was a young man named Josiah Pender, who wanted to be a soldier, and had nothing wrong with him except, apparently, a chronic case of stupid.
Josiah Pender enrolled in West Point, but he found out he didn’t like taking orders, which you’d think somebody would have told him is kind of a thing with the Army. He quit and went to art school instead, but he still believed, against all evidence, that he'd be a great soldier.
In 1846 the US-Mexican War got rolling, and Pender enlisted, because soldiering! Glory! Awesomeness! And since he'd been to West Point, he got himself appointed to Second Lieutenant.

To quote the great Lin-Manuel Miranda: Yeah. He's not the choice I woulda gone with.
Our buddy 2nd Lieutenant Pender lasts for seven and a half months before he gets his ass dishonorably discharged for, YOU GUESSED IT, insubordination.

Now you may be thinking, at this point, a sensible person would think, "Hey, maybe this whole Army thing isn't for me."
You would be reckoning without Josiah Solomon Pender.
"Clearly," Pender says, "there's only one thing to do here."
"Find a real job?" says, no doubt, everyone who's ever met this guy.
"Nope!" Pender says, and calls the President.
Does anybody else feel like they remember this guy from college? The guy who, like, flunks all his classes and sets the dorm on fire and then one day he gets thrown out and he's like, THIS WILL NOT STAND, I WILL WRITE AN ANGRY LETTER TO THE DEAN AND YOU WILL ALL BE SORRY?
So Pender writes to the President, who just so happens to be Mr. James K. Polk, who a very specific subset of music fans will remember as our eleventh president, Young Hickory, the Napoleon of the Stump, and now that song is in all of our heads, you're welcome.
I imagine the scene in the White House going something like this:
POLK: What an interesting letter from this Pender fellow. It's obvious what we have to do.
GENERAL: Nothing, because we fired his a--
Friends, Pender was reinstated in the Army, and he was promoted, and you are never going to guess what happened five months later.

He quit, because once again, this whole following-orders thing was seriously harshing his buzz.
So Pender quits the soldiering life and goes into the hotels-and-steamships business instead, and at this point, you would be forgiven for thinking that surely he has achieved a certain measure of self-awareness and he will buckle down at his new career and all will be well.
And this brings us to 1861.

So William Alexander is hanging out in his crumbly, outdated fort in the American South, where lots of people are making noise about how maybe they should secede and start their own country, and he takes stock of what he's got in the assets column.
Crumbly old fort: 1.
Cannons: 4, none of which has been fired in years.
Wife: 1.
Soldiers: 0.
Guns: 0.

...Yep, you read that right. The guy in charge of weaponry for the entire fort has not actually been issued a firearm of his own.
Alexander writes to the Army Chief of Ordnance and says, "Hey, so my wife and I are in this fort with no backup and it would be nice if you could send me a gun?"

He receives a letter denying his request, coincidentally, on the very same day Confederates fire on Fort Sumpter.
Pender is chilling out in Beaufort when he hears the news, and you can kind of imagine him jumping up and down with excitement, because if there's anything that pleases a guy who's quit soldiering THREE TIMES ALREADY, it's news that there's about to be a war he can fight in.
But he doesn't run down to the Confederate Army and enlist, because that would be silly. Josiah Pender has bigger plans. He's gonna gather up his buddies, and they're gonna go seize Fort Macon.
I cannot emphasize enough how much Pender DIDN'T TELL ANYBODY he was going to do this. Not the governor, not the Confederate Army. But he does round up some buddies from Beaufort and, according to one article I read, other "volunteers, concerned citizens and interested parties."
Alexander, up in the fort, somehow gets wind of Pender's plan, and does what anybody would do at this point, which is, he sits his ass down and writes the Army Chief of Ordnance an extremely polite and not at ALL passive-aggressive letter informing him of the situation.
Pender gathers up about 50 guys, which is really overkill, considering the situation, puts them on a boat, and takes them over to the island. They walk up the road that leads to the Fort, and Alexander is, of course, waiting for them.
What follows is one of those examples of passive-aggressiveness that modern minds cannot comprehend.

Pender approaches the gate and informs Alexander that he is seizing the Fort for the state of North Carolina.
Alexander informs him that he's not.
Pender goes, "Yes-huh."
Alexander looks at the 50 guys, who've whipped up some pseudo-military insignia and actual firearms, and looks at his fort and its total absence of guns, and he sees the inevitable march of history, and he says...

"Okay, but I'm gonna need you to write me a receipt."

nobody is quite sure what to do about this.
After what I like to imagine is a long surprised silence, Pender looks at his guys with their guns, and looks at Alexander and once again his TOTAL LACK OF GUNS, and says he'll give Alexander and his wife some time to pack up and clear out, but he will not give them a receipt.
Alexander does, in fact, pack up his stuff, and prepare to put it on a wagon and clear out of the fort.

But he spends
the next
nagging Pender
about how he really needs him to write him that receipt.
Alexander writes Pender a note, reminding him that he really needs that receipt.

Pender actually writes him a note back, which you'd think would take MORE TIME than just writing a damn receipt already, informing him that he's not getting a receipt.
Eventually, Alexander and his wife are (somewhat forcibly) loaded onto a boat and sent across to Beaufort. And up to the very last moment, Alexander keeps harping on how this is U.S. government property he's surrendering, and, look, he REALLY needs that receipt.
And that, my friends, is how a 50-year-old dude with no backup and no firepower can use bureaucracy to be a hero.

Alexander never does get his receipt, and the Civil War, obviously, begins in earnest shortly after. But a weird sort of poetic justice occurs.
See, since Pender never told the Confederate Army he was gonna go get that fort, about a month later, when North Carolina actually secedes, the Confederate Army comes along and... does not give Pender the warm welcome and instant command position he was presumably expecting.
Instead, they're like, "Hey, thanks for the fort, but, um, you can go home now." And when he doesn't go home, they're like, "So... if you're gonna stay, you kind of have to join the actual Confederate Army." And then they station him in the Fort.
In a SHOCKING PLOT TWIST that I bet absolutely nobody saw coming, Pender gets very bored with military life in a fort miles away from everything very quickly, and he starts to have some problems with authority.
Pender asks for leave to go home and visit his sick wife, and when the Army goes, "Bruh, there's a war on, so, NO," he goes anyway.

Going AWOL in wartime is... not good, so Pender is court martialed for "making false statements" and is once again "dismissed from service."
This has gotten ridiculously long so I'mma wrap it up as quickly as I can.

Pender is done in the Army, and spends the rest of the war as a blockade runner. He dies in 1864.
Alexander and his wife stay in Beaufort, while he waits for orders from the Union Army that never actually come. Unfortunately, he's a Union officer stuck in a Confederate-occupied town, but he later reports that other than "occasional jeers," nobody really bothers him that much.
Union troops finally get around to retaking Fort Macon the next year, 1862, in a big old siege that one would think could have been completely avoided if they'd just given their dude a gun. However, once they retake the fort, they need to put somebody in charge of it...
And who better than the guy who's proven that he can hold out for days, arguing about getting a receipt?

No word on what they had to promise Alexander to get him to accept the job. I hope he got a gun, at least.
Alexander retired in 1864, and he must've really had no hard feelings about the citizens of Beaufort, because he bought a house and lived out the rest of his life there, and I HOPE EVERYONE HE EVER BOUGHT ANYTHING FROM EVER AGAIN GAVE HIM A F*CKING RECEIPT.
And that concludes today's episode of Drunk History.
OH! I forgot a thing! The other thing Alexander argued with Pender's guys about. He wanted to take the fort's huge American flag back to Beaufort with him. They refused, and instead took it themselves, cut it up, and sewed it into possibly the first Stars & Bars flag.
Which is, of course, a horrible thing for SO many reasons, but at this point? These are guys who've been arguing with an angry Scot for two days about not giving him a receipt. They've gotten their punishment.
I will now tell you about the Last Shot Fired in the Civil War, but before I start, I want to say I'm calling dibs on the rights to this one, because I've already written like three paragraphs of the fanfic where Bucky Barnes is the main guy in this story.
So after the Civil War, Fort Macon fell even more into disrepair, and was absorbed by the National Park Service in 1936 or so. (And it's a gorgeous park with a gorgeous beach attached, and I love it.) However, it was briefly reactivated for duty during World War II!
Now a very interesting thing, which was a well-kept secret at the time, was that in WWII, the Germans had a lot more U-Boats off the coast of the eastern United States than the general public ever knew. Like, people heard that maybe one sneaked through, but it was a LOT more.
(Some of these are sunk off the coast, and I think that at least one is scuba-dive-able today.) Anyway, Fort Macon was reactivated in order to help defend against U-Boats hanging out in U.S. shipping lanes and causing havoc.
The Fort was, of course, barely fit for living in, but there wasn't really a barracks or time to build one, so when a bunch of soldiers from New York were stationed there, they were basically living in crumbly, drafty, generally awful bare brick rooms, partly underground.
One of the rooms had a brick fireplace that wasn't level. The GIs built fires in it, and the logs would roll right out of the fireplace and onto the floor.

One day, one of the GIs found some old cannonballs lying around, and he had a great idea.
He brought a cannonball in and put it in front of the fireplace to act as an andiron, and keep the logs from rolling out, and this was a wonderful idea, and everyone was happy.

The cannonball in question turned out to be not just an old solid iron ball that could harmlessly sit in front of a fireplace, but a piece of Civil War-era live munitions.

Which, in front of the fireplace, dried out ever so nicely, and then warmed up.
Remarkably, no one was killed when it exploded. A couple of guys were, however, wounded by the shrapnel.

Because they were Federal troops from New York who were injured by Confederate munitions, an argument could be made that this was technically the last shot of the Civil War.
So it's interesting that within a couple miles of each other were the "last battle" of the Revolution and the "last shot" of the Civil War, and I guess the moral is that the NC OBX is the place to be if a war is technically over but you're holding onto a really long-term grudge.
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