Forgotten Forts Series - Fort Trumbull


Sergeant Major
Jun 21, 2012
Louisville, KY
Fort Trumbull is a granite Third System fortification located on the western shore of the Thames River in New London, Connecticut. The fort is built on the site of of earlier First System and Second System works of the same name and was named after Jonathon Trumbull who served as the state governor from 1776 to 1784.

The original First System work was built from 1774 to 1776 during the Revolutionary War and was designed for the defense of the Thames and the strategic government center of New London. It was captured by British forces under the command of Benedict Arnold in 1781. Later the fort was destroyed and rebuilt as a Second System fortification at the outbreak of the War of 1812 and remained in American hands for the duration of that war. Following the War of 1812 the fort deteriorated until the 1830s when it too was destroyed in order to make room for the Third System work that we see today.

Construction on the third and final Fort Trumbull began in 1839 under the supervision of George Washington Cullum. Cullum would go on to serve as a general in the American Civil War and Superintendent at West Point (He would also marry Henry Halleck's wife Elizabeth upon his death in 1872). The fort was finally completed in 1852 with it's current design consisting of 5 granite faces and 4 bastions. With the outbreak of the war in 1861 the fort was garrisoned and quickly made headquarters of the newly formed 14th United States Infantry Regiment. Then LtCol John F. Reynolds was given command of the 14th and Fort Trumbull for roughly 2 months before being promoted to brig. general. During the war Fort Trumbull, along with Fort Griswold on the opposite shore of the Thames, was tasked with defending the Thames and New London from Confederate naval forces. The fort also remained the headquarters of the 14th US Infantry Regiment and was used as a training center for the unit before the recruits were sent south. Fort Trumbull did not fire a shot in anger during the war.

Following the war the military improved Fort Trumbull by updating its armament however as was the case with so many forts during the American Civil War the advancement made in artillery made this fort all but obsolete and it was eventually placed on caretaker status until it was turned over to the Treasury Department in 1910. From 1915 to 1932 it served as the United States Coast Guard Academy before being moved to its current location in New London further up river. Following its role as the USCGA the fort served a variety of purposes until 2000 when it finally became Fort Trumbull State Park. Visitors can visit the park from May to October from 9AM to 5PM. Visitors can tour the fort and surrounding area which also houses a river walk, fishing pier, and the Fort Trumbull visitor center. If visiting the area you can also make the short drive over to Groton, Connecticut and the Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park which can be seen below. Fort Griswold, as Fort Trumbull, can be directly connected to the American Civil War.

(Fort Griswold on the opposite shore of Fort Trumbull. Trumbull is barely visible in the upper right hand of the photo on the opposite bank.)