Collection: Quaint and Historic Forts of North America

Strongholds of the Past

The tourist on the coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia- for in summer hundreds of people seek out this pleasant land for its cheerful climate – may come upon a little bay on the easternmost verge of the land where is a deep landlocked inlet protected from elemental fury by a long rocky arm thrust out from the shore into the sea. He will not be able to surmise from the present aspect of his surroundings that this was the site of mighty Louisburg, the greatest artificial stronghold (Quebec being largely a work of nature) that the French ever had in the New World. Of this massive and menacing fortress, which cost thirty million livres and twenty-five years of toil to build after the designs of the great Vauban, hardly one stone lies placed upon another and grass and rubble have taken the place of the heavy walls. Standing on the ground where New France’s greatest leaders stood it is difficult today to picture the martial pomp which once must have claimed this spot, to visualize, more particularly, the setting for the farcical onslaught of the zealous New Englanders of 1744, under the doughty Pepperell, in their greatest single military exploit. The Treaty of Utrecht, which provided a basis of agreement for France and England in the New World for almost half a century, did not establish boundaries...

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West Point, New York

The long trough of land which runs 384 miles from New York to Montreal, consisting of the Hudson River Valley, Lakes George and Champlain and the Richelieu River Valley, is without doubt the most vital of American natural highways and its importance has been recognized from the earliest days of American history. The French in the days when the lilies of France waved over half of the American continent sent their war parties down this depression to prey upon the English settlements, and hence came about the building of Ticonderoga at the northern entrance to the long march. The American colonists years afterward, when they had need to defend the southern mouth of the valley, fortified West Point and its neighboring points and crags, their first cover being taken at Peekskill some three or four miles south of West Point. It will be remembered that in 1777 came about that menacing campaign in the Hudson in which the British from the south under Sir Henry Clinton and in the north under General Burgoyne attempted a juncture of forces at Albany, the intention being to divide the American colonies along the line of the historic Hudson Valley and then to reduce each half at leisure while the British fleet prevented any efforts at union by way of the seacoast. Burgoyne surrendered in October of that year at Saratoga, which is...

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Forts Trumbull and Griswold

The sunny waters of the Thames at New London, Connecticut, present a smiling aspect, and from the high flagstaff of trig little Fort Trumbull the stars and stripes float gaily. Across the river on the hill above the little town of Groton is the State reservation containing the remains of Fort Griswold, with rough zigzag paths approaching the summit of the hill. Adjacent to Fort Griswold is the stone monument which commemorates the Fort Griswold massacre. Many sunny years will not wipe out the memory of the bloody deeds of that violent hour. Fort Trumbull is situated one mile...

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Fort Ticonderoga

One could desire to be at the bold promontory of Ticonderoga in 1609, when the virgin woodside gazed anxiously at Samuel Champlain, that intrepid French adventurer, as he fired his bellmouthed musket against the mystified Iroquois. The echoes of the discharge of this ancient firearm were seldom allowed to die in these wildernesses until the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, until the complete ascendency of white man over red had been established. Standing upon the ramparts of the old fort one may today easily imagine himself in a virgin forest world. Civilization has set her hand upon Lake Champlain, but her work is not obtrusively near to the fort. The hills to the rear are still wooded; the waters, to front and sides, are clear; and the same blue bends over all. The immediate surroundings are little different from those in which Champlain fought his opera bouffe fight and inaugurated the long struggle between red men and white in this part of the world. We must remember that in 1609 the French had already taken hold of New France. They had a querulous, contumacious baby of a colony on the Saint Lawrence at Quebec and to this point came many curious red men. With some of these red men the French had formed alliance. One tribe of these allies had seen the thunderous cannon and guns of the French...

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Fort Snelling, Minnesota

The historic post of Fort Snelling, Minnesota, for more than a generation after its establishment, in 1819, the most remote western outpost of the United States, is situated at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, eight miles southeast of Minneapolis by river and six miles from St. Paul. It lies in a region of rare natural beauty, in the vicinity of the Falls of Minnehaha, Bridal Veil Falls, and other points locally notable and is, itself, no mean attraction to the many visitors who are attracted to the locality every year. The old fort standing on its high bluff at the headwaters of America’s greatest river is a most picturesque object. The reservation of Fort Snelling contains 1,531 acres, though originally this tract was much larger than now. The fort structure which one sees from the river is an irregularly shaped bastioned wall conforming in outline to the high plateau of land upon which it is situated. It occupies the extreme end of the point of land formed by the juncture of the two rivers, and on the Mississippi side the bluff upon which the fort is situated descends abruptly to the water, the river there running almost in a canyon. On the Minnesota side the slope is more gradual and ends in a low marshy flat which extends from one third to one half a mile...

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Fort San Carlos de Barrancas

Pensacola Bay is a lozenge shaped body of water, the entrance to which from the Gulf is at the southern point of the figure, and the southern side is formed by Santa Rosa Island, which stretches out in a long sandy line here to divide sea and inland water. On the western shore, near the head of the bay, is situated the busy city of Pensacola, one of the most active shipping points on the Gulf and also one of the most ancient. About six miles south of Pensacola, and near the mouth of the bay, is the city’s ancient defense. Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, which has gone through ten generations and more of life as humans reckon it and has done valiant service under four flags. The military (and social) history of Pensacola Bay commences in 1558, when Philip II, of Spain, commissioned Luis de Valesca, viceroy of New Spain, to undertake the settlement of Florida. After a preliminary survey Valesca, in the summer of 1559, sent 1500 soldiers and settlers to make a beginning at Pensacola Bay, this body of water having been adjudged the best roadstead and the most favorable for the support of human life on the Gulf Coast. A tentative settlement was established, but for some reason the site did not please the expedition and its leaders attempted unsuccessfully to find a better...

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Fort Pulaski

The trip from beautiful Savannah to the battered ruins of the once famous brick fortress, Pulaski, takes one through that gold and green country which one comes to associate with the name of this charming southern city. Fort Pulaski is that great hexagon of brick which one sees from incoming steamers on Cockspur Island at the mouth of the muddy Savannah River, and all the country round about is marshy, reedy land, cut up by big and little streams with no hills to be seen and only scraggy pine trees breaking the flat monotony of the horizon. If one would go to Fort Pulaski from Savannah, he seeks out the little railroad which runs to Tybee, and whose passenger traffic is confined almost exclusively to summer. There he will be received by the hospitable southern trainmen and put off the train near the lighthouse which graces the northern end of Cockspur Island. Here, if he has been wise and has made his arrangements properly, he will be met by a boat from the lighthouse and will be carried across to the island. Arrived at the landing, which gives access to the fort, one is struck by the graceful desolation of the scene. The boards and timbers of the wharf have rotted, and ends of planks hang down toward the water like withered arms. Yet the brilliant Georgia sunshine gives...

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Fort Ontario, Oswego, New York

It was in 1722 that Oswego, New York, was made the site of an armed camp and, at that, it was more through the stubborn determination of Governor Burnet of the colony that the thing should be done than through any willingness of the staid burghers of the State Assembly to cooperate with their executive in schemes leading to future good. As a matter of fact, Governor Burnet is said to have paid the bill for establishing his little fort out of his own pocket, though he may have made this sum up in some other direction authorities do not tell us this kind of thing! Yet this little post was to become one of the most decisive factors in determining the result of the conflict between France and England for the New World, the flags of three Christian nations were to fly over it at different periods, and warriors white, red, French, English and colonial were to struggle for its possession. So much grows out of so little! One of the earliest mentions of Oswego in the history of the colonies is that in 1687 the Onondaga Indians presented a petition to the mayor and common council of Albany, that busy little trading post, requesting them to establish a trading post and fort at this point. The mayor and common council evidently thought that this was too wild...

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