Forgotten Forts Series - Martello Towers

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Martello Towers were small fortifications built in several locations along the eastern seaboard of the United States following the War of 1812 by the United States government. Many of you may be unfamiliar with these types of fortifications so I wont focus on any one fortification but all of them in one post since I could only find evidence of six ever being built in the United States.

Martello Towers are named after a fortified tower at Mortella Point on Corsica. The British made widespread use of the towers along their coast in the early 1800s in case of an invasion by a foreign nation(s). The United States then followed suit.
Tybee_martello tower.jpg

(Martello Tower at Tybee Island, GA during the Civil War)

The general design of Martello Towers was one of 3 tiers with a basement if the ground allowed for such construction. The interior included quarters for a small garrison, a magazine, storehouse, and room for a few pieces of artillery. Many of the towers in the United States were not constructed so much as for defense but rather as fortified lookout stations. One such example is the tower constructed on Tybee Island, Georgia seen in the photograph above.

The tower was constructed following the conclusion of the War of 1812. At the time Fort Jackson was the main defensive position for the city of Savannah as construction of Fort Pulaski on nearby Cockspur Island would not begin for another 14 to 15 years. In the event of enemy contact the job of the tower was to signal Fort Jackson (http://civilwartalk.com/threads/forgotten-forts-series-fort-james-jackson.90034/) and the city of that an enemy was approaching.
Portsmouth_nh_martello.jpg

(Ruins of a tower at Portsmouth, NH)

Similar towers were built at the entrances of major ports such as New York City, Charleston, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. However, due to the advancements made in artillery these small fortifications were quickly deemed obsolete. Many were already on caretaker status prior to the American Civil War and were never garrisoned. The few that did see action during the war were the towers at Key West, FL and the tower at Tybee Island, GA. The tower in Georgia was occupied by Union troops as a small base prior to the capture of Fort Pulaski. The two towers located in Key West were garrisoned by small detachments of Union troops to serve as lookouts since nearby Fort Taylor was the main fortification for Key West. This would be the extent of their use during the war.

West_Martello_Tower_Key_West.png

(One of the surviving towers located in Key West, FL)

Today only two Martello Towers still exist in the United States, both are located in Key West although the towers differ in design from the traditional towers. Both Martello Tower East and West feature somewhat of a square design rather than the traditional round plans. One has been converted into a botanical garden while the other is now a museum featuring a Civil War exhibit dealing with the role of Key West and the surrounding area during the war. Both sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

http://www.kwahs.org/visit/fort-east-martello/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Martello_Tower

Also be sure to check out all other "forgotten forts" in the Forgotten Forts Series Index (Link Below)
http://www.civilwartalk.com/threads/forgotten-forts-series-index.80901/
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
There was also a Martello Tower in New Orleans, named Dupré. It was destroyed by Hurricane Rita, I believe, but its ruins are still there.

There isn't much left of Tower Dupre, also nearby is Fort Proctor (it's been known as a number of other names as well). This "tower" was never completed but it's still there. These also differed from the traditional Martello Tower designs. Dupre was a hexagon and Proctor is a square. They were designed to allow for larger garrisons and armament compared to the traditional towers.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
There was also a Martello Tower in New Orleans, named Dupré. It was destroyed by Hurricane Rita, I believe, but its ruins are still there.
View attachment 391895
View attachment 391902
Katrina took down Tower Dupre. I had attempted to visit it twice prior to Katrina, but my attempt was thwarted both times. The first time weather prevented a landing; the second time the motor failed on my rented boat. I was only able to visit after Katrina when it had gone down - looking like the picture above.
 
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