What Civil War era fort that is the best preserved?

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Forts were not built to last for ever and some pre Civil War forts are now showing their age. The same can be said of Civil War forts. Battlefields are often fairly were funded but I am not sure forts receive as much funding. So what Civil War era forts are the best preserved?

Although I enjoy visiting battlefields I also enjoy visiting forts. Sadly some are on the verge of falling apart and most could use more money so they do not become seedy.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Almost nothing left of Ft. Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, NC. The sea has washed it away. Still a very impressive, if harrowing, battlefield to visit and explore.

What did you think of the two forts at the entrance to Mobile Bay, AL when you visited?

Fort Pulaski, GA?

Vicksburg, MS was mostly earthworks, but it is still very fascinating and well worth a visit.

Washington Post article on some of the 63 forts that once ringed Washington DC:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/life...6136d2-d354-11ea-9038-af089b63ac21_story.html
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
Fort Macon in North Carolina is in excellent condition, as good as any I've seen. Well, as of 2007 anyway.

4F746AF3-DF53-4482-A8CA-4A4397D3E7C1.jpeg
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
I thought Fort Pulaski was fairly well-preserved... Didn't know about Fort McAllister...

As for Fort Fisher, there are a handful of earthen ramparts here and there but the vast majority of the fort--and it was really huge in scale--are long gone and washed away. That said, you can sit at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and eat seafood in Wilmington and walk around the battlefields and so on. I would say it is highly worthwhile.
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
I am possibly planning to visit Ft. Fisher this summer. It looks like it might still be worthwhile?

Yes, Fort Fisher is quite eroded, and much of the seaward portion is underwater. However, there's still quite a lot to see -- especially impressive to walk around the landward ramparts, which are still massive. Well worth a visit, I think. I was just there in February.

ARB
 

American87

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 27, 2016
Location
PENNSYLVANIA
What qualifies as "Civil War era?" Did they just have to exist in the Civil War era, or did they have to be completed or started within a few years of the war?

If we're going by mere existence, then Fort McHenry is very well preserved, being as famous and tourist-attracting as it is. It was of course used in the Civil War to house the secesh Maryland legislators and presumably other prisoners as well.

If we're going by something that was created a little later, then Fort Pulaski outside of Savannah, GA is very well preserved, at least on the Outside. I would have seen the inside, but it was closed for Covid.
There is some exterior damage still remaining due to artillery fire in the war, but other than that it is very well preserved, moat and all.

Fort Sumter, despite its importance, is not well preserved, or at least not as well as you might think. The top level was demolished I believe during the attack, and was never rebuilt. But more importantly, perhaps, the inside is still somewhat in ruins. They may qualify as "preserved" in the sense that its authentic, but it's not a neat little fort with all the compartments and walls maintained as if it were brand new, which is definitely the case with Fort McHerny, if I remember correctly.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Fort Grainger in Franklin & Fort Defiance in Clarksville TN are both well preserved & easily accessible.

Not accessible are the three miles of rifle pits & stone faced artillery bastions atop a ridge near Triune TN. It was garrisoned by the 10,000 man Reserve Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. Franklin’s Charge holds tours occasionally, but boy howdy is it ever a goat climb.

The massive curtain walls of Fortress Rosecrans in Murfreesboro TN are remarkably well preserved. It is a NPS site & well worth a visit.

Fort Negley in Nashville has been reconstructed a couple of times. But we’ll worth the climb. After a tour you won’t ever ask why Hood did not try an assault in Dec 1864.

At Johnstonville TN State Hisoric Site the fort is in good shape.

At Kennesaw, the armies dig in during a long wet spell followed by a drought. The red GA clay set as hard as bricks. I some areas not accessible by visitors, some of the rifle pits could have been dug last week.

Come see us in Tennessee.
 
Last edited:

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Of the ones I've been to (all in the last decade) I would rank best to worst condition:

Fort Macon, NC
Fort Gaines, AL
Both very well-preserved and interpreted. Slight edge to Fort Macon because it's not altered by a later Endicott battery within the fort, although Gaines' is fairly small.

Fort Pulaski, GA
Could get the number one spot, depending on whether you think unrepaired damage from the 1862 bombardment is a benefit or a detraction.

Fort McAllister, GA
The best preserved and interpreted earthen fortification I've seen. I met a really nice reenactor last time I was here.

Fort Clinch, FL
Only small alterations. Before the pandemic they had weekend reenactors there monthly which adds a lot to the experience.

Fort Jackson, GA
Small and with a fairly minor role in the war, but in pretty good condition. The same historical society operates this fort that also operates the history museum and railroad museum in downtown Savannah so you can get an all-in-one pass.

Fort Moultrie, SC
Good condition and interpretation, but lots of alternations and additions from being used all the way through WW2.

Castillo de San Marcos (Fort Marion), FL
The NPS predominately interprets the fort's original and more significant role during Colonial Spanish Florida, but it was nominally still in use during the ACW.

Fort Barrancas, FL
The fort itself and the connected water battery converted from an older Spanish fort are in good shape, but it's small and not anything remarkable. The view has also been drastically altered by the construction of NAS Pensacola. However, you can spend a good day visiting Barrancas, Pensacola Lighthouse, and the Naval Aviation Museum all in very close proximity to each other.

Fort Sumter, SC
For all its historic significance, it's been heavily altered by the wartime destruction and postwar modifications. It's a level shorter than it was in 1861, 3 of the 5 walls are altered beyond recognition, and an Endicott battery dominates the site. It's a nice ferry ride across the harbor and still worth a visit for a history buff.

Fort Jefferson, FL
This one is a bit tricky to rate as it's an architectural marvel but also an architectural mistake. Not one of the ones in better condition, but it was never finished, the lower bricks are of inferior quality, the walls are filled with dredged coral, and the fort is simply too heavy for the island it's built on. It's a unique and fascinating experience. Worth the expensive day trip on the ferry from Key West.

Fort Fisher, NC
There's a good museum and one section of the massive earthwork, but of all the forts I've been to this one has the least to see.

Fort Pickens, FL
30 years ago Gulf Island National Seashore would have been great for coastal artillery buffs as you've got not only the main third-system fort, but a slew of later Endicott and post-Endicott fortifications too. As of a decade ago though the park was understaffed, underfunded, and not in very good condition. Lots of graffiti and most of the fortifications no longer open to the public. The main ACW fort is one of the more deteriorated I've seen. One of the bastions is gone due to a later magazine explosion. The view from the fort has also been substantially altered by Ivan and other hurricanes, there is an Endicott battery in the middle of it, and the mouth of Pensacola Bay has shifted substantially westward since the 1860s.

Fort Morgan, AL
One of my more recent visits and I was really surprised, especially in contrast to Fort Gaines across the bay (the ferry ride is worth it). It was not in very good condition and there was little interpretation. Endicott battery in the middle of it too.
 

bdtex

Major General
★★ Sr. Moderator
Silver Patron
Annual Winner
Regtl. Quartermaster Chickamauga 2018 Vicksburg 2019
Joined
Jul 21, 2015
Location
Texas
Of those I have visited, Fort Barrancas, Florida was the best. I had time constraints on my first visit. Definitely want to go back for a longer visit, hopefully before another hurricane barrels through there.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Of those I have visited, Fort Barrancas, Florida was the best. I had time constraints on my first visit. Definitely want to go back for a longer visit, hopefully before another hurricane barrels through there.
I like Barrancas, especially considering age, like Morgan Gaines and Massachusetts as well, though the later in part for the ferry trip to island.
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
I like Endicott works but my wife, who enjoyed older forts and fieldworks (our first trip was to Ohio to see Fort Meigs and the remains of Fort Miamis near Toledo and the site of the Battle of the Wabash at Fort Recovery) hated them.

The Castillo de San Marcos is in excellent condition and has been maintained and kept in good repair its entire time. Indeed, the Army's role there during much of the 19th Century was as caretakers. When I volunteered there I pointed out to people the various repairs and when they were made. For instance where you see red brick you're seeing 19th Century repairs made by the army. New coquina are newer NPS repairs, concrete are old NPS repairs.

NPS workers repairing the parapet of the fort's covered way with new coquina.

F1346CC5-86DA-4D94-859B-9C05CE916B00.jpeg
 
Top