What Civil War era fort that is the best preserved?

WScott

Private
Joined
May 6, 2021
Two other forts that could be included are Fort McHenry in Baltimore that was re-armed with several coastal guns and Old Fort Niagara in Western New York. Fort Niagara, dating back to 1726, is on the boarder with Canada, a part of the English Empire. When the CSA was in negotiations with France and England for recognition the U.S. decided to strengthen it's northern boarders which included Fort Niagara. The land side of the fort received a facelift, a new entry gate with flanking batteries and some new cannons. While work started during the civil war it wasn't completed until well after the conflict. These works are in very good condition and seem to be well maintained.

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major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
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Aug 25, 2012
It does appear that the forts that get the most visitor are in fair shape. This could indicate that people prefer to visit forts in good shape or it could mean that the forts with more visitor generate more money for upkeep.
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
@WScott

Interesting post. I saw this photo of Fort Niagara in the late 19th Century and then assumed that the gatehouse we see today and its flanking battery are reconstructions of earlier French works the Army had demolished when building the brick scarp.

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NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
I think you really have to ask as to what you mean by "Civil War era".

There are dozens upon dozens of forts that remain to this day, many under the direction of the NPS, that have ACW ties. Many of those have been mentioned in this thread already and having visited most of them, they are fantastic examples of engineering in the US in the mid 1800s. The Third-System forts are obviously the best constructed and most intriguing as our resident expert, @jrweaver, will testify.

If you mean by the Civil War alone, obviously no major masonry/stone structure was built in those times. At least not as a stand alone fortification.

That said, I've gotta go with Fort Duffield in Kentucky in terms of preservation of the ones I've visited. This fort's earthworks are in extremely good shape after all this time. The layout of the fort is clear and concise. I was very impressed upon my first visit a year or so ago. It doesn't have any sort of battle history but if you're a fan of engineering and fortifications. This is one you don't want to miss.
 

WScott

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Joined
May 6, 2021
The gate house and the French Dauphin flanking battery were demolished / bricked over during the civil war construction but were restored during the "restoration" of Old Fort Niagara in 1929 - 1934. Old Fort Niagara has been an active military base since 1726 with the construction of the "French Castle" and continues through today with an active U.S. Coast Guard Base.
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
The gate house and the French Dauphin flanking battery were demolished / bricked over during the civil war construction but were restored during the "restoration" of Old Fort Niagara in 1929 - 1934. Old Fort Niagara has been an active military base since 1726 with the construction of the "French Castle" and continues through today with an active U.S. Coast Guard Base.
Fort Niagara is a fantastic fortress. Join in, if you're a fan.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/forgotten-forts-series-fort-niagara.100169/#post-879769
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
The gate house and the French Dauphin flanking battery were demolished / bricked over during the civil war construction but were restored during the "restoration" of Old Fort Niagara in 1929 - 1934.
Thanks for the reply.

I've run into people who think the reconstruction of Fort Ticonderoga is somewhat...ah...inaccurate.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
It does appear that the forts that get the most visitor are in fair shape. This could indicate that people prefer to visit forts in good shape or it could mean that the forts with more visitor generate more money for upkeep.

I think it also depends on who is responsible for the fort. A good nonprofit organization can achieve impressive results. Results certainly vary by state; North Carolina state park service (Fort Macon) seems much better equipped than the Alabama Historical Commission (Fort Morgan). NPS seems to operate differently with National Seashores than National Historic Parks, to the detriment of historic structures in the former but doing pretty good with the latter.
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
I think it also depends on who is responsible for the fort. A good nonprofit organization can achieve impressive results. Results certainly vary by state; North Carolina state park service (Fort Macon) seems much better equipped than the Alabama Historical Commission (Fort Morgan). NPS seems to operate differently with National Seashores than National Historic Parks, to the detriment of historic structures in the former but doing pretty good with the latter.
I can agree with this. Fort Clinch in Florida has been kept up extremely well under state ownership. Meanwhile, back in the day, you could drive inside Fort Pickens walls without obstruction and park your vehicle. Thankfully, the NPS has gotten wiser. That said, they're doing their best. For instance, Fort Massachusetts has always been under threat from the sea but the NPS has gone to great lengths to preserve the fort.

At the end of the day. It comes down to money.
 
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DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
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Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
Not accessible are the three miles of rifle pits & stone faced artillery bastions atop a tiger on Triune TN.
Which of the two forts are you describing? Fort Grainger or Fort Defiance? What is a "tiger"? Is Triune a river or an old town?
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Which of the two forts are you describing? Fort Grainger or Fort Defiance? What is a "tiger"? Is Triune a river or an old town?
Fort Granger is the in Franklin, Fort Defiance is in Clarksville. Both are parts of their respective city park system. The other thing is a typo that I fixed.

Triune is a crossroads between Franklin & Murfreesboro. The ridge parallels I-840. If you make a fist with your right hand, your thumb is where the historic North-South Nolensville Pike leads to Nashville. The Franklin Pike that connects with Murfreesboro was the East- West link of Rosecrans’ line facing Bragg.

The Works at Triune never had a more formal name. The knuckles of your fist are bastions / redoubts. The works are about a mile wide. It is a lot like visiting Mayan ruins in the Yucatán. You climb huffing & puffing, blood streaked from honey locust thorns & there in front of you is a dressed stone wall.

Across the valley is Arrington Vineyards, a lovely place to recover from the rigors of Civil War touring.
 
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redbob

Major
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Location
Hoover, Alabama
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.
In Fort Morgan's defense, it was heavily bombarded by both land and sea and the citadel burned, but I agree that it could certainly use some improvement. And the downfall of many of these forts was the addition of the Endicott works.
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
And the downfall of many of these forts was the addition of the Endicott works.

I look at it differently and see the Endicott works as extending the usefulness of the modified forts. Anyway, the Endicott works are part of history and some are pretty cool. Now that I've moved up Seattle way I'll get up to Fort Casey to see the pair of 10" disappearing rifles there.

12" mortars at Fort DeSoto on Tampa Bay.
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FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
You'll flat love Fort Casey on Whidbey Island. Those disappearing rifle batteries are awesome. Fort Worden in Port Townsend has the concrete and so forth, but I don't recall any guns left... Maybe a few of the 3" rifles like on Bainbridge Island?

Not Civil War, but here are some of the late 19th century coastal defense forts:

https://cdsg.org/harbor-defenses-of-the-puget-sound/
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
I look at it differently and see the Endicott works as extending the usefulness of the modified forts. Anyway, the Endicott works are part of history and some are pretty cool. Now that I've moved up Seattle way I'll get up to Fort Casey to see the pair of 10" disappearing rifles there.

I think Endicott batteries are certainly historically interesting in their own right, if aesthetically unappealing.

However, when they are built in the middle of an older fortification, instead of merely nearby, it seriously impairs the pre-Endicott interpretation of the site. They often resulted in removal or substantial alteration of the older fort and occupy much of the space that would have been the parade ground and various buildings like barracks. Fort Pulaski dodged an artillery shell when the Endicott battery protecting Savannah was built on Tybee Island instead of Cockspur Island.

In several cases - Sumter, Pickens, and Morgan in particular - the masonry fort was involved in important battles in the American Civil War wheras the later Endicott batteries at those sites never fired in a wartime situation.
 

J C J Barefoot

Private
Joined
Sep 10, 2019
Fort Monroe and the Batteries at Fort Donelson.

For the CWT readers that have an interest in the war of 1812 Fort Meigs on the Maumee River in Perrysburg Ohio is the largest (by area) historically restored military fort in the United States. Only the battle of New Orleans was of more importance as a land battle. General William Henry Harrison stopped two seperate British and Indian attacks, sealing off the British access to the NW Territories from the Great Lakes and driving the Indians out of NW Ohio. It's walls, earth works, block houses and park area are in top notch condition. It is not NPS but run by the Ohio Historical Society. There is a small but well done visitor center. Excellent re enactments in summer and fall. The overlook to the Maumee river and outside batteries are as they were originally. It's a gem. One hour south of Detroit, two hours west of Cleveland. Twenty minutes from Toledo.
 
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