What Civil War era fort that is the best preserved?

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
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.
If you include masonry forts of the Third System - what a lot of people refer to as Civil War forts, as many saw action in the war - then that opens up a whole new set of forts.

The size of a fort makes a difference. If you talk about a smaller fort, it is easier for the whole fort to be well preserved. When you get to the very large forts, it is more likely that portions of the fort will be well preserved, but other areas will not. Also complicating things are the concrete fortifications of the Endicott Period, which were often built in or on Third System forts. Does the presence of an Endicott Battery mean the Third System fort is not well preserved? In many cases, probably the most dramatic being Fort Taylor on Key West, the Third System fort was greatly modified to accommodate the Endicott batteries. At Fort Taylor, the upper two tiers were removed!

With that in mind, I'll give a rundown of my opinion of the condition of the Third System. I'll do this in the order the Army always used in talking about the forts, northeast to south to northwest - a clockwise sweep.

Fort Knox, ME, very well preserved and well interpreted
Fort Popham, ME, not completed but what was built is well preserved. Reasonable signs to guide the visitor.
Fort Gorges, ME, well preserved with interpretive work and stabilization ongoing.
Fort Scammel, ME, was well preserved but now being turned into a luxury camp.
Fort Preble, ME, not completed, what was built remains. Some signs to guide the visitor.
Fort McClary, ME, not completed, but what was built is well preserved and nicely interpreted.
Fort Constitution, NH, not completed, some signage, more interpretation in process.
Fort Warren, MA, modified for Endicott, but most of the old fort in good shape. Some interpretation.
Fort Independence, MA, well preserved and decent interpretation.
Fort Taber, MA, well preserved but not accessible to the public. Nice museum near the fort has some interpretation.
Fort Adams, RI, very well preserved and interpreted. Very large fort with some areas not restored. Outworks are magnificent.
Fort Trumbull, CT, very well preserved and interpretation from previous management is very good.
Fort Schuyler, NY, adaptive reuse as SUNY Maritime Academy. Well cared for, but adapted for classroom, etc., use.
Fort Totten, NY, not completed, but what was built is in good condition. Well cared for now that it is a NYC park.
Fort Tomkins, NY, well preserved but access is limited. No interpretation except tours.
Fort Richmond, NY, extremely well preserved but access is limited to tours.
Fort Hamilton, NY, only a portion of the fort and a fantastic caponier remain. Well interpreted in caponier museum.
Fort Hancock, NJ, almost nothing remains of the original fort.
Fort Delaware, DE, very well preserved and well interpreted.
Fort Carroll, MD, neglected but still intact, no access or interpretation.
Fort Monroe, VA, very well preserved and well interpreted. This is a very large fort, so some areas not interpreted.
Fort Calhoun (Wool), VA, closed to the public and sand added within fort for use as bird sanctuary. At-risk historic site!
Fort Macon, NC, very well preserved and well interpreted.
Fort Caswell, NC, much destroyed and modified, but part of the old fort remains. Reasonable interpretation.
Fort Sumter, SC, most of fort destroyed between Civil War siege and Endicott construction. Reasonable interpretation.
Fort Pulaski, GA, very well preserved and very well interpreted.
Fort Clinch, FL, very well preserved and very well interpreted.
Fort Taylor, FL, most of fort destroyed during Endicott construction, but one tier of casemates remains. Well interpreted.
Fort Jefferson, FL, fort is in remarkable condition considering the hurricanes it has withstood. Well interpreted.
Fort Pickens, FL, much of the fort destroyed by accidental explosion and Endicott construction, but well interpreted.
Fort Barrancas, FL, very well preserved and very well interpreted.
Advanced Redoubt, FL, very well preserved. Access limited to tours.
Fort McRee, FL, nothing left of old fort.
Fort Morgan, AL, very well preserved and well interpreted.
Fort Gaines, AL, very well preserved, but modified for handicap accessibility. Quite well interpreted.
Fort Massachusetts, MS, well preserved, some interpretation.
Fort Pike, LA, structural and neglect issues. Very limited access.
Fort Macomb, LA, neglect issues. Very limited access.
Fort Jackson, LA, quite well preserved, but some Endicott modification. Limited access at this time.
Fort Livingston, LA, about half of the old fort remains due to wave action. No interpretation.
Fort Point, CA, most completely preserved and interpreted fort of the Third System.
Fort Alcatraz, CA, little portions of the original fort remain, but are well interpreted.

These are my opinions based on visits over the past two years.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
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.
Fort Meigs is great fort; I have visited it many times. It is, however, significantly smaller than Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. Fort Meigs is approximately 1240 feet long at its longest point, and about 540 feet wide. Fort Monroe, without bastions, is approximately 1390 feet long and about 1570 feet wide. If you include the very large bastions of Fort Monroe, it grows by 200 to 500 feet in each dimension. It has 37.5 acres of parade!
Both forts are HUGE and wonderful places to visit. The interpretation at both forts in excellent.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
I have been to Fort Meigs but not Fort Monroe.
They are both magnificent. Fort Monroe is stone and brick rather than the wooden palisade of Fort Meigs. I grew up about 45 minutes north of Fort Meigs, so have been going there for many years. Here are a few Fort Monroe pictures:
10-19 Monroe Aerial 2 Color Rev02.jpg

10-27 Monroe Seacoast Front Exterior Rev01.jpg

10-28 Monroe Casemate quarters Rev01.jpg

10-29 Monroe Central Bastion Rev01.jpg
 

American87

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 27, 2016
Location
PENNSYLVANIA
If you include masonry forts of the Third System - what a lot of people refer to as Civil War forts, as many saw action in the war - then that opens up a whole new set of forts.

The size of a fort makes a difference. If you talk about a smaller fort, it is easier for the whole fort to be well preserved. When you get to the very large forts, it is more likely that portions of the fort will be well preserved, but other areas will not. Also complicating things are the concrete fortifications of the Endicott Period, which were often built in or on Third System forts. Does the presence of an Endicott Battery mean the Third System fort is not well preserved? In many cases, probably the most dramatic being Fort Taylor on Key West, the Third System fort was greatly modified to accommodate the Endicott batteries. At Fort Taylor, the upper two tiers were removed!

With that in mind, I'll give a rundown of my opinion of the condition of the Third System. I'll do this in the order the Army always used in talking about the forts, northeast to south to northwest - a clockwise sweep.

Fort Knox, ME, very well preserved and well interpreted
Fort Popham, ME, not completed but what was built is well preserved. Reasonable signs to guide the visitor.
Fort Gorges, ME, well preserved with interpretive work and stabilization ongoing.
Fort Scammel, ME, was well preserved but now being turned into a luxury camp.
Fort Preble, ME, not completed, what was built remains. Some signs to guide the visitor.
Fort McClary, ME, not completed, but what was built is well preserved and nicely interpreted.
Fort Constitution, NH, not completed, some signage, more interpretation in process.
Fort Warren, MA, modified for Endicott, but most of the old fort in good shape. Some interpretation.
Fort Independence, MA, well preserved and decent interpretation.
Fort Taber, MA, well preserved but not accessible to the public. Nice museum near the fort has some interpretation.
Fort Adams, RI, very well preserved and interpreted. Very large fort with some areas not restored. Outworks are magnificent.
Fort Trumbull, CT, very well preserved and interpretation from previous management is very good.
Fort Schuyler, NY, adaptive reuse as SUNY Maritime Academy. Well cared for, but adapted for classroom, etc., use.
Fort Totten, NY, not completed, but what was built is in good condition. Well cared for now that it is a NYC park.
Fort Tomkins, NY, well preserved but access is limited. No interpretation except tours.
Fort Richmond, NY, extremely well preserved but access is limited to tours.
Fort Hamilton, NY, only a portion of the fort and a fantastic caponier remain. Well interpreted in caponier museum.
Fort Hancock, NJ, almost nothing remains of the original fort.
Fort Delaware, DE, very well preserved and well interpreted.
Fort Carroll, MD, neglected but still intact, no access or interpretation.
Fort Monroe, VA, very well preserved and well interpreted. This is a very large fort, so some areas not interpreted.
Fort Calhoun (Wool), VA, closed to the public and sand added within fort for use as bird sanctuary. At-risk historic site!
Fort Macon, NC, very well preserved and well interpreted.
Fort Caswell, NC, much destroyed and modified, but part of the old fort remains. Reasonable interpretation.
Fort Sumter, SC, most of fort destroyed between Civil War siege and Endicott construction. Reasonable interpretation.
Fort Pulaski, GA, very well preserved and very well interpreted.
Fort Clinch, FL, very well preserved and very well interpreted.
Fort Taylor, FL, most of fort destroyed during Endicott construction, but one tier of casemates remains. Well interpreted.
Fort Jefferson, FL, fort is in remarkable condition considering the hurricanes it has withstood. Well interpreted.
Fort Pickens, FL, much of the fort destroyed by accidental explosion and Endicott construction, but well interpreted.
Fort Barrancas, FL, very well preserved and very well interpreted.
Advanced Redoubt, FL, very well preserved. Access limited to tours.
Fort McRee, FL, nothing left of old fort.
Fort Morgan, AL, very well preserved and well interpreted.
Fort Gaines, AL, very well preserved, but modified for handicap accessibility. Quite well interpreted.
Fort Massachusetts, MS, well preserved, some interpretation.
Fort Pike, LA, structural and neglect issues. Very limited access.
Fort Macomb, LA, neglect issues. Very limited access.
Fort Jackson, LA, quite well preserved, but some Endicott modification. Limited access at this time.
Fort Livingston, LA, about half of the old fort remains due to wave action. No interpretation.
Fort Point, CA, most completely preserved and interpreted fort of the Third System.
Fort Alcatraz, CA, little portions of the original fort remain, but are well interpreted.

These are my opinions based on visits over the past two years.

Can you recommend any good books or other writings on forts? Specifically that go into the Third System or Endicott Batteries, or other similar things?

Visiting forts is one of my favorite things to do on road trips, and I would greatly appreciate any info I can find on them for when I visit.

Thank you for any help you can provide.
 

WScott

Private
Joined
May 6, 2021
The only third system fort I have visited was Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, which is in fabulous condition w/ artillery and drill demonstrations (3 pictures). Kingston also has an excellent Martello Tower open to the public (1 picture).

If you head up north you can visit several forts of the Second System, worthy of consideration. Fort Niagara (1726 - 1870) north of Niagara Falls NY, Fort Erie (1814) Fort Erie, Canada, Fort George (1812) & Fort Mississauga (1815), both at Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada and Fort York (1812) in Toronto, Canada. All five are within 100 miles of each other.

I'm sure there are a lot of good examples of the Third System along the coast that readers can share with you.

PICT0170.JPG
PICT0188.JPG
PICT0151.JPG
PICT0095.JPG
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Can you recommend any good books or other writings on forts? Specifically that go into the Third System or Endicott Batteries, or other similar things?

Visiting forts is one of my favorite things to do on road trips, and I would greatly appreciate any info I can find on them for when I visit.

Thank you for any help you can provide.
@jrweaver's book covers everything you need to know about Third System fortifications.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1732391610/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Can you recommend any good books or other writings on forts? Specifically that go into the Third System or Endicott Batteries, or other similar things?

Visiting forts is one of my favorite things to do on road trips, and I would greatly appreciate any info I can find on them for when I visit.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Another that digs into Endicott period fortifications along with all other periods as well as artillery used is this book by Lewis. It's a very high level overview that doesn't dive too deeply into individual forts like Mr. Weaver when he talks about Third System forts individually but still a good one to have on the shelf in my opinion.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1557505020/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Can you recommend any good books or other writings on forts? Specifically that go into the Third System or Endicott Batteries, or other similar things?

Visiting forts is one of my favorite things to do on road trips, and I would greatly appreciate any info I can find on them for when I visit.

Thank you for any help you can provide.
My book, A Legacy in Brick and Stone, 2nd Edition, covers Third System forts, including directions on how to get to each fort. Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG.org) has a reference guide that covers forts of all periods, from Colonial through WWII. There are also a lot of individual books that go into detail on each fort. The Images of America series has a number of books on individual forts and harbors.
If you have a particular area that you are interested in, I can recommend specific books.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
Another that digs into Endicott period fortifications along with all other periods as well as artillery used is this book by Lewis. It's a very high level overview that doesn't dive too deeply into individual forts like Mr. Weaver when he talks about Third System forts individually but still a good one to have on the shelf in my opinion.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1557505020/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
Ray Lewis' book, Seacoast Fortifications of the United States: An Introductory History, is the one that inspired me to begin my research of the Third System and eventually write Legacy. Ray was very supportive of my work; he was a great guy and I was honored to consider him a friend.
 

American87

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 27, 2016
Location
PENNSYLVANIA
My book, A Legacy in Brick and Stone, 2nd Edition, covers Third System forts, including directions on how to get to each fort. Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG.org) has a reference guide that covers forts of all periods, from Colonial through WWII. There are also a lot of individual books that go into detail on each fort. The Images of America series has a number of books on individual forts and harbors.
If you have a particular area that you are interested in, I can recommend specific books.

Thank you, no specific interest just yet, I just love seeing forts when I'm on my road trips to battlefields and cities. I discovered it the "hard way," as it were, just visiting them and discovering how much I like them.

I particularly liked Fort Pulaski when I visited last Summer, but I also have Fort Mifflin hear me, and of course Fort McHenry down in Baltimore. I would just like something to read so that when I visit, I can think of stuff other than "This looks cool. This stopped ships, or at least tried."
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Thank you, no specific interest just yet, I just love seeing forts when I'm on my road trips to battlefields and cities. I discovered it the "hard way," as it were, just visiting them and discovering how much I like them.

I particularly liked Fort Pulaski when I visited last Summer, but I also have Fort Mifflin hear me, and of course Fort McHenry down in Baltimore. I would just like something to read so that when I visit, I can think of stuff other than "This looks cool. This stopped ships, or at least tried."

If you're also interested in fortifications on the Great Lakes, I'd also suggest this one by James Barry. It covers both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the lake from the most prominent works like Fort Wayne or Henry to little known forts like Fort Wilkins way up on the upper peninsula of Michigan. Some wouldn't be to far to get to depending on where you are in PA.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1882376056/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
 

American87

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 27, 2016
Location
PENNSYLVANIA
If you're also interested in fortifications on the Great Lakes, I'd also suggest this one by James Barry. It covers both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the lake from the most prominent works like Fort Wayne or Henry to little known forts like Fort Wilkins way up on the upper peninsula of Michigan. Some wouldn't be to far to get to depending on where you are in PA.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1882376056/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

Thanks, but I'll stick with jrweaver's book for right now. There's only so much I can take at one time.
 

KianGaf

First Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
Can you recommend any good books or other writings on forts? Specifically that go into the Third System or Endicott Batteries, or other similar things?

Visiting forts is one of my favorite things to do on road trips, and I would greatly appreciate any info I can find on them for when I visit.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Id say Osprey publishing would have something. I have one on the fortifications on Malta, I found their books good.

edit: turns out they have several.

https://ospreypublishing.com/store/...ooks/american-civil-war?filterSeries=Fortress
 
Last edited:

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
+1 on all of the titles and book recommendations given in this thread, and especially the input of one of the authors.

For a general survey, see J. E. Kaufmann & H. W. Kaufmann (line drawings and illustrations by Tomasz Idzikowski), Fortress America: The Forts that Defended America, 1600 to the Present (Da Capo, 2004).

https://www.dacapopress.com/titles/j-e-kaufmann/fortress-america/9780306816345/
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
I have been to several forts Civil and Revolutionary Fort Monroe was very interesting and understand it is under a 3 year renovation..
Fort Monroe is always under stabilization - renovation - preservation. Being the huge fort that it is, there are always things to be done and a combination of the Fort Monroe Authority and the Fort Monroe National Historic Site are always working to improve the visitor experience and ensure the preservation of the structures at the fort. Please don't let the fact that renovation is underway deter a visit - it is a fantastic place to see!
 
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