View single post by Hellcat
 Posted: Fri May 2nd, 2014 01:24 am
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Root Beer Lover

Joined: Tue Nov 15th, 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 981

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Nay, not treasure kind sir. Fortunato himself, so says the legend.

Ah, but it is an interesting legend. You may have seen the <I>Hauntings</I> thread I started in the Other Civil War Talk category so it's little shock I'd be interested in ghost stories. And this legend is that, along with Poe lore. Of course I was obviously latching onto Poe's The Cask of Amontilldo from your "our bitter Amontillado" comment in my comment. Which you clearly got. And one of my ghost story books is Ghosts of Boston Town by Holly Mascott Nadler which I picked up on a trip to the Freedom Trail back almost eleven years ago (will be eleven this October 18th). One of the stories is the legend of how Poe came to be inspired to write his story.

During his stint in the army in the late 1820s Poe was stationed at Fort Independence in Boston. According to the legend Poe saw a small monument outside the fort that read "The officers of the U.S. Regiment of Lt. Art'y erected this monument as a testimony of their respect and friendship for an amiable man & gallant officer" on it's western face. On it's eastern face was a fragment of an ode by William Collins which read "Here honour comes, a Pilgrim gray / To Deck the turf that wraps his clay." And on the north face it became clear what the monument was. A tombstone. The north face read "Beneath this stone are deposited the remains of Lieutenant ROBERT F. MASSIE, of the U.. Regt. of Light Artillery. Near the spot on the 25th Dec 1817, fell Lieutenant Robert F. Massie, Aged 21 years."

Intrigued, Poe began asking questions about what he believed was a duel that the military brass was hushing up. Perhaps this was more than the inspiration for his famed story, perhaps it was also the inspiration for his detective C. Auguste Dupin as Poe was investigating what had happened to Lt. Massie of Virginia almost ten years before he himself arrived at the fort. He learned that Massie arrived at Fort Independence in the summer of 1817 and was almost immediately a very popular figure amongst those at the fort. Save for one man, a Captain Green. Green was known around the fort as an antisocial bully and a master swordsman.

The men did their best to keep clear of Green as much as possible, naturally it was impossible to avoid him altogether at a fort located on an island so there were naturally run-ins with him. And unfortunately for Massie, he had to be with Green on Christmas Eve. It was a snowy evening, the wind howling outside making it not a place officers would want to go. Massie and some of the other officers were naturally gathered inside playing cards along with the cold Green. It was around the witching hour that Massie threw down a winning hand and began to take his winnings. Green immediately accused Massie of cheating, even striking him across the face and demanding satisfaction. Whether Massie wanted to or not, Green had just challenged him to a duel and honor was at stake so he accepted the challenge.

The duel was set for day break, on Christmas day. Now I've always understood that the one challenged is the party who selected the weapons so I makes little sense to me that Massie would have selected something that would quite obviously give Green the advantage. But indeed the choice of weapons was swords. The men and their seconds met outside the fort, the seconds trying to convince them not to go through with it. But honor was at stake, at last for one. Perhaps Massie did try to listen to reason, but Green had never liked Massie and sounds like the type who would use honor as an excuse to get rid of someone he didn't like. And getting rid of Massie is exactly what happened, he ran him through with his sword and he died in the fort's infirmary later that day.

For weeks after the tragic duel depression settled over the officers and men following the loss of the well liked Massie. And some began to talk of revenge will also honoring Massie. The monument for Massie was soon erected while at the same time Green apparently deserted. And the official record was that Green was a deserter. But according to the legend, the official record is a lie.

Poe's investigation reveal that Massie wasn't some special victim of Green. Green was a sociopath who had used dueling to kill six other officers at the various military outposts he had been assigned. Although the public view of the practice was already changing towards the negative in the late 18th century, dueling wasn't outlawed in the US in the early 19th century and in fact was actually gaining in popularity despite movements to ban it (which would lead to dueling grounds where it was considered legal to do so). So it was that Green had apparently found a "legal" way to murder those officers he didn't like. Unfortunately for him, Green's last victim was too well liked and his friends planned to get revenge for Massie.

And now the legend becomes the well known Poe short story. A delegation of officer pretended to be friends with Green one night, getting him falling down drunk. They then led him down into the underbelly of the fort to the old dungeons. They dragged him along to the most out of the way cell and shackled him in place. Then, just as Green was waking up and discovering what was happening to him, shouting for the men to return and set him free, the men piled out of the cell and began bricking the cell closed for what they believed would be forever.

With the deed done and Green consigned to death the men of the detail all requested transfers before what they did could be discovered. But word leaked out to the enlisted men even though the commanders of the fort wanted it to remain a secret. Poe was summoned to the commander's office and ordered to keep the truth of the disappearance of Green a secret. But the legend says Poe was unable to obey completely, using it as the basis for The Cask of Amontillado. and in 1905 a work crew working in the old basement discovered the remains of Captain Green

Now if you look on Wikipedia there are many explanations for the origin of Poe's classic tale. Including the Fort Independence one. But there it is said his name wasn't Captain Green but rather Lieutenant Gustavus Drane. And that Drane actually was court martialed and acquitted of Massie's death, going on to die in 1846. Perhaps this is true, but not as fascinating as the legend. Then again, perhaps the court martial and acquittal were all part of a cover-up. Or perhaps Drane was actually one of Massie's friends who avenged his death and was recorded as being his murder as part of a cover-up for the disappearance of Green. Or perhaps he was even Green's second on that tragic Christmas Day in 1817. Sometimes truth is strange than fiction and harder to accept as truth. But often a good legend beats out truth. After all, could Washington not tell a lie for chopping down the cherry tree? And isn't there treasure buried on Oak Island worth dying for?

Edit: Sorry, think I hijacked the thread there. Just the mention of amontillado and I went straight to Poe and the legend behind the story.

Last edited on Fri May 2nd, 2014 05:58 am by Hellcat

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