Tour guide Dan Burns Fort Independence on Castle Island
July 28, 2013
     Went to Castle Island in South Boston today. Fortunately, free tours of Fort Independence on the island (actually connected by road to the mainland) are offered on weekend afternoons during summer by volunteers of the Castle Island Society. I did not absorb a lot of new information, but what I did learn was a lot of fun for me.
     In its heyday in the early nineteenth century, the cannon fired fourteen-inch balls, weighing over four hundred pounds apiece, a distance of about three and a half miles. The actual cannon were melted for the iron during World War II, but there is at least one replica in place; it is impressive.
     Another thing I learned was that the local legend that Edgar Allan Poe was inspired by an immurement at the fort to write "A Cask of Amontillado" is false. The purported victim, a Lieutenant Gustavus Drane, actually lived for many years after Poe's tour of duty at Fort Independence and is buried in Philadelphia, according to FindAGrave. (Ironically, though, Drane died just a few months before the first publication of "The Cask of Amontillado" in 1846.)
     Also a lot of fun to discover was that our delightful tour guide, a gentleman named Dan Burns, studied, as did I, with the preeminent expert on Boston history, Professor Thomas O'Connor at Harvard Extension School. It was an easy guess to figure that the knowledgeable Mr. Burns knew the deservedly famous Professor (who passed in 2012), but it is a hoot that we took the same courses and may have been in class together.
     Mr. Burns told us the open secret that the only time the Fort is open to the public, besides the times of these guided tours, is on Thursday evenings in June, July, and August for viewing the sunset over Boston Harbor. I think I may have to make that trip.