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Six Revolutionary Forts

The remains of dozens of revolutionary forts can be found throughout New England. Some, like Fort Halifax in Maine, date to the French and Indian wars. Others, like Fort Washington in Massachusetts, were built during the American Revolution.

They range from the extensive remains of Mount Independence in Vermont to mere traces of earthworks. They were all sited along waterways and harbors, making them pleasant summer destinations today.

Here are six revolutionary forts, one for each state. If you know of another revolutionary fort worth visiting, please mention it in the comments section.

Black Rock Fort

Black Rock Fort

Black Rock Fort

In early 1776, Connecticut built a three-gun log fort and blockhouse on a rocky point in New Haven Harbor. Called Black Rock Fort, it was on the site of an old fort built around 1657.

In 1777, British Gen. William Tryon and 2,600 troops ravaged New Haven, Fairfield and Norwalk along the Connecticut coast. They captured Black Rock Fort after its 19 defenders ran out of ammunition.  When the British forces withdrew from Connecticut they burned the fort’s barracks, having already torched manor houses, barns, ships and supply houses.

In 1807, the abandoned fort was rebuilt and named after Connecticut hero Nathan Hale. Fort Nathan Hale II was built during the Civil War, but saw no action. It became a historic site in 1921, but was neglected and overgrown after World War II.

Black Rock Fort and Fort Nathan Hale were reconstructed in time for the nation’s bicentennial. Today they are part of Fort Hale Park, and they include a drawbridge, moat, ramparts, earthworks, powder magazines and bunker.

Fort Nathan Hale Park has a sandy beach, picnic tables and spectacular views of the harbor.

Connecticut is also home to Fort Griswold in Groton and Fort Trumbull in New London.

Fort Nathan Hale Park and Black Rock Park, 36 Woodward Ave., New Haven, Conn.

Fort Halifax

Fort Halifax in 1936

Fort Halifax in 1936

At the outset of the French and Indian War, Maj. Gen. John Winslow built Fort Halifax where the Sebasticook River flowed into the Kennebec. Winslow was the great-grandson of Edward Winslow, who came to Plimoth Plantation on the Mayflower.

The British built Fort Halifax as a series of fortifications along the rivers to prevent the French and Indians from reaching English settlements from the north. (The other significant forts from the era are Fort Pownall in Stockton Springs, Maine, and Fort Frederick in Saint John, New Brunswick.)

Like so many revolutionary forts, the American rebels took over Fort Halifax from the British. It had been decommissioned when Benedict Arnold used it as a way station for his troops on his failed expedition to Quebec.

Inside the Fort Halifax blockhouse.

Inside the Fort Halifax blockhouse.

Only a single blockhouse survives, but it is the oldest blockhouse in the United States. The fort was gradually dismantled to build the Town of Winslow, Maine, which grew up around it.  The blockhouse was used as a boathouse, a storehouse, a cow barn, and a chicken coop.

In 1987, the Kennebec River flooded and washed the blockhouse downriver. Searchers found 22 original pine timbers, and they were used to rebuild the blockhouse. Hundreds of people came to the rededication ceremony in 1988.

Today Fort Halifax is set in a municipal park, and can be visited in the summer.

70-98 Bay St., Winslow, Maine

Fort Washington

Fort Washington

Fort Washington

Fort Washington Park in Cambridge, Mass., contains the remains of the only surviving fortification built by Gen. George Washington during the Siege of Boston. It’s also the oldest surviving fortification from the American Revolution.

Diagram of Washington's battery, courtesy Library of Congress.

Diagram of Washington's battery, courtesy Library of Congress.

In November 1775, Washington wrote to Joseph Reed, "I have caused two three gun half moon batteries to be thrown up for occasional use.” About 50 or 60 men could find protection behind the earthworks.

Washington had quickly realized his soldiers needed training if they were to fend off the professional British forces. He ordered his men to build the small batteries as a way of training them to build larger fortifications like the one at Dorchester Heights in Boston.

After the war, the property was held in common by seven people, who deeded it to the City of Cambridge in 1857 on the condition that it ‘shall forever remain open for light, air, and adornment.’ Today the fort is a park that includes three cannon, grassy embankments and a fence.

95 Waverly St., Cambridge, Mass.

Fort Constitution

Fort Constitution

Fort Constitution

Before 1632, the British built a stone fort, then called the Castle, in New Castle, N.H., at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. The Castle protected Portsmouth Harbor and stored the colony's munitions. It was renamed Fort William and Mary around 1692.

Paul Revere took a less-famous ride to Fort William and Mary five months before the shot heard ‘round the world.

A rumor had spread in Boston that the redcoats were on their way to seize powder from Fort William and Mary. The fort was manned by a handful of troops who reported to the royal governor, John Wentworth.

Revere rode 60 miles to Portsmouth to warn the patriots of New Hampshire.

Four hundred men were mustered to attack the fort, guarded by six troops. They broke open the powder house, captured the British soldiers and took 100 barrels of gunpowder later used in the Siege of Boston.

Fort William and Mary was the only manned fort in New Hampshire during the American Revolution, but saw no action.

When it was rebuilt in 1808, it was renamed Fort Constitution. It’s the ruins of the 1808 fort that are still in evidence at the state historic site, open year-round. Fort Constitution is a great spot for picnics, though it is unstaffed and not pet friendly.

During the Revolutionary War, Fort No. 4 in Charlestown no longer existed, but General John Stark gathered New Hampshire militia at its site en route to the Battle of Bennington in 1777.

25 Wentworth Road, Off NH Route 1B at US Coast Guard Station, New Castle, N.H.

Fort Conanicut

'Fort Dumpling' by Edward Bannister.

'Fort Dumpling' by Edward Bannister.

Fort Conanicut was first built as Dumpling Rock Battery in 1776 near Jamestown, R.I. It was fortified with eight 18-pound guns.

The British captured the battery in late 1776 after they landed at Newport. They expanded the battery, building Beaver Tail Fort, Beaver Head Fort and Fort Conanicut. As the French drew near, the British spiked the guns, destroyed the battery and retreated to Newport.

The French occupied Fort Conancicut until 1778, when the British fleet appeared. A hurricane damaged both fleets. The French didn’t return until 1780, then left for Yorktown in 1781.

In 1790, a tower was built on the site and called Fort Dumplings. The fort was abandoned in 1824 and dynamited in 1898 to make way for Fort Wetherill. Today the site is a state park.

Some remains of the earthworks may still exist and an interpretive signs explain the history of the fort. The park sits atop 100-foot granite cliffs and is a favorite spot for viewing Tall Ship events and the America’s Cup races.

Fort Wetherill State Park, Fort Wetherill Road
Jamestown, R.I.

Mount Independence

Mount Independence

Mount Independence

Mount Independence in Orwell, Vt., is one of the largest and least disturbed Revolutionary sites in America. After the fort was abandoned, the land that held unmarked graves of Revolutionary War soldiers was used for livestock grazing.

Across a quarter-mile stretch of lake is Fort Ticonderoga.

The fort was built on a mountaintop and extensively fortified to prevent the British from invading from Canada. Rebels began building the fort in July 1776, a week after the return of the disastrous Arnold Expedition to Canada. It was known as East Point or Rattlesnake Hill until July 28, 1776, when Col. Arthur St. Clair read the Declaration of Independence to the soldiers. On that day the fort was renamed Independence.

A year later, the Americans retreated and the fort was occupied by British and German soldiers until November 1777.

Today Mount Independence has a museum and six miles of hiking trails. In the museum are exhibits about the fort and artifacts such as timbers, a cannon recovered from Lake Champlain and a powder horn.

Hiking trails pass the remnants of blockhouses, soldiers’ huts and a general hospital. Trails lead to the remains of the fort, shaped like a star, the Great Battery and the Horseshoe Battery. Re-enactors stage encampments and the Seth Warner Mount Independence Fife and Drum Corps performs at civic events.

 6 miles west of State Route 22A, Orwell, Vt.

Images: Black Rock Fort by 2112guy - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3319905; Fort Halifax, blockhouse interior By Magicpiano - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28017965; Mount Independence By Zeph77 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27483591; Revolutionary Re-enactors, By Zeph77 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27521852; Fort Washington By Daderot - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5275220; Fort Conanicut By Swampyank at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20434654

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. FYI – the photo you have listed as “Ft Constitution” is actually a photo of Ft Foster, Gerrish Island, Kittery,ME.

  2. Fort McClary
    possibly as early as 1689 (Fort William, Fort rebuilt 1721, 1808,1844,1863

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