Principles of defense

Free Civil War Ironclad Plans

The sole reason for the existence of these fortifications was to protect an important strategic location, such as a seaport or a river mouth. This meant that the structures were sited where they could offer the best defense, regardless of the accessibility of their location. While some were built on small islands or spits of land, others were constructed on the shore, where they were theoretically vulnerable to land attack. This meant that while the main seaward battery remained the principal...

American Civil War Fortifications

American Civil War Fortifications

A Konstam Illustrated by D Spedaliere & S S Spedaliere 5e'< es editors Marcus Cowper and Nikolai Bogdanovic First published in Great Britain in 2003 by Osprey Publishing, Elms Court, Chapel Way, Botley. Oxford OX2 9LP. United Kingdom. Email info ospreypublishing.com All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced,...

Fort Macon

As part of the campaign fought for control of the coastal waters of North Carolina during early 1862, a Union force laid siege to Fort Macon. The fort was built to protect Beaufort, North Carolina's only significant deep-water port. Designed by Simon Bernard, construction began in 1826 and continued until late 1834. Totten also incorporated improvements to its design in the early 1840s. Garrisoned by an ordnance sergeant caretaker since 1849, it was seized by the North Carolina militia when the...

Garrison life

Sketch Key West

During the decades before the Civil War, garrison life in the great coastal fortifications of the United States was a dull, if not particularly arduous, occupation. No fort of the Third System was garrisoned to its full capacity until the Civil War, instead a nominal garrison of company strength was usually assigned to each one. Others were only garrisoned intermittently, and left in the hands of small caretaker detachments for years on end. In theory, coastal fortifications were the...

Fort Sumter 186 I

Fort Sumter Battle 186

During the months leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War, the Union garrisons of Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter found themselves isolated by a hostile population. Both forts were ill prepared for service, particularly Fort Moultrie, which was largely indefensible due to cracks in the walls and sand piled up in front of the embrasures. For this reason the two garrisons concentrated their forces in Fort Sumter in late December 1860. For the next 13 weeks, they worked to improve the defenses...

The Third System of coastal fortification

Fort Mcree

The era of construction following the War of 1812 was instigated as a direct result of British depredations during that conflict. It had been demonstrated that without adequate coastal fortifications, an enemy who enjoyed control of the sea could land more or less where he liked, and raid far inland. The maritime frontier needed better protection, and the Third System, which developed on the heels of the war, was the first coastal fortification initiative created as a result of an analysis of...

Glossary

Bastion A flanking structure that projected out from a scarp. It usually had two angled faces, and two flanking walls. caponnier A flanking structure that projected out from the scarp, but of a lower profile than a full-sized bastion. It was usually protected by a stone and earthen roof, although some were topped by open parapets. It was usually pierced with loopholes to permit flanking fire to either side. It also sometimes served as a fortified passageway or gateway structure. casemate An...

Aftermath of the Civil

Civil War Submarine Battles

When the Civil War began, engineers of the Confederate Army realized that while they now controlled most of the Third System coastal fortifications in the Southern States, there were significant gaps in the system. Many smaller harbors lacked any kind of modern fortification, and weaknesses were apparent in existing well-defended regions. After all, this was a war unlike any that the military planners and engineers had been planning for. Consequently additional fortifications were constructed...

Fort Pulaski

Confederate Fortifications

Built on Cockspur Island to guard the mouth of the Savannah River, Fort Pulaski was regarded as one of the strongest forts in the country. It was built over a period of 18 years on a bed of log pilings and wooden beams, a project supervised at one stage by the future Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Completed in 1847, the pentagonal structure was formed from one tier of casemates and a barbette level on four sides the front two faces and the truncated sides , and a landward face that...

The fortifications today

The following selection of American coastal fortifications includes most of the major Third System forts, plus other Second System fortifications that played a significant role during the Civil War 1861-65 . This included State and National Park Service properties, forts owned by the local community, government agencies and those in private hands. At the time of writing, all these sites are open to the public unless otherwise noted. The forts are listed from north to south. Fort Knox, Defense...

Manning the guns

All Types Gribeauval Artillery System

When the Third System forts were being planned, it was clear that the existing stocks of heavy artillery would be inadequate and that specially designed heavy ordnance would be required to equip the fortifications. The first batch of specially designed seacoast artillery guns introduced during the period from 1820 to 1830 consisted of 18-pounders 1816 , 24-pounders 1819 and 32-pounders 1829 . Designs were heavily influenced by existing French Gribeauval patterns, but the guns were cast from...

A tour of a Third System fortification

Barbette Fortification

The large and imposing coastal fortifications of the Third System were designed to conform to long-held principles of military engineering. As such, they displayed features that could be found in the Vauban forts built across F.urope over two centuries earlier, and certain features were continued on into the 20th century when the U.S. Army built a new series of coastal defenses. The main component was the deployment of a large battery of ordnance on the seaward side of the fortification, while...

The First and Second Systems of coastal fortification

Fort Baton Rouge 1719

The fortification of American ports began long before the 19th century. Small wood and earth works fortified the first settlements in the American Colonies from the 16th century onward. Shortly before the start of the American Revolution in 1775, some of these early coastal fortifications were developed into more substantial structures. Among the strongest of these was the Spanish-held Castillo de San Marcos, which protected St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast of Florida. An earlier structure...

Defensive Fortifications

British Fort South Carolina

During the late 18th century, the newly created United Slates of America was vulnerable to foreign attack on her two land frontiers, one with Canada and the other with Spanish Florida, and along the Atlantic seaboard. There was no secure western border to the 13 states, only a vaguely defined western territory-occupied by tribes of Native Americans. Although the Spanish were never considered to be a significant military threat, the Canadians were, and a string of small forts was constructed to...