Fort Warren (Massachusetts)

Fort Warren (Massachusetts)

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Fort Warren is a historic fort on the 28 acres (113,312.1 m²) Georges Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor is a natural harbor and estuary of Massachusetts Bay, and is located adjacent to the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It is home to the Port of Boston, a major shipping facility in the northeast.-History:...

. The fort is pentagon
Pentagon
In geometry, a pentagon is any five-sided polygon. A pentagon may be simple or self-intersecting. The sum of the internal angles in a simple pentagon is 540°. A pentagram is an example of a self-intersecting pentagon.- Regular pentagons :In a regular pentagon, all sides are equal in length and...

al, made with stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 and granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

, and was constructed from 1833–1861, completed shortly after the beginning of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Fort Warren defended the harbor in Boston, Massachusetts, from 1861
through the end of WWII, and during the Civil War served as a prison for Confederate officers and government officials. The fort remained active through the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 and World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and was re-activated during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. It was permanently decommissioned in 1947 and is now a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 and a tourism site. It was named for Revolutionary war hero Dr. Joseph Warren
Joseph Warren
Dr. Joseph Warren was an American doctor who played a leading role in American Patriot organizations in Boston in early days of the American Revolution, eventually serving as president of the revolutionary Massachusetts Provincial Congress...

 who sent Paul Revere on his famous ride. Dr. Warren was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War...

.

History



Fort Warren was built from 1833 to 1861 and was completed shortly after the beginning of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. The Army engineer in charge during the bulk of the fort's construction was Colonel Sylvanus Thayer
Sylvanus Thayer
Colonel and Brevet Brigadier General Sylvanus Thayer also known as "the Father of West Point" was an early superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point and an early advocate of engineering education in the United States.-Biography:Thayer was born in Braintree, Massachusetts,...

 best known for his tenure as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 at West Point, New York. During the Civil War, the island fort served as a prison for captured Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 army and navy personnel, elected civil officials from the state of Maryland, as well as Northern political prisoners.

James M. Mason
James M. Mason
James Murray Mason was a United States Representative and United States Senator from Virginia. He was a grandson of George Mason and represented the Confederate States of America as appointed commissioner of the Confederacy to the United Kingdom and France between 1861 and 1865 during the American...

 and John Slidell
John Slidell
John Slidell was an American politician, lawyer and businessman. A native of New York, Slidell moved to Louisiana as a young man and became a staunch defender of southern rights as a U.S. Representative and Senator...

, the Confederate diplomats seized in the Trent affair
Trent affair
The Trent Affair, also known as the Mason and Slidell Affair, was an international diplomatic incident that occurred during the American Civil War...

, were among those held at the fort. Military officers held at Fort Warren include Richard S. Ewell
Richard S. Ewell
Richard Stoddert Ewell was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general during the American Civil War. He achieved fame as a senior commander under Stonewall Jackson and Robert E...

, Isaac R. Trimble
Isaac R. Trimble
Isaac Ridgeway Trimble was a United States Army officer, a civil engineer, a prominent railroad construction superintendent and executive, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War, most famous for his leadership role in the assault known as Pickett's Charge at the Battle of...

, John Gregg
John Gregg (CSA)
John Gregg was an American judge, politician, and general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was killed in action during the Siege of Petersburg.-Early life and career:...

, Adam "Stovepipe" Johnson
Adam Johnson (colonel)
Adam Rankin "Stovepipe" Johnson was an antebellum Western frontiersman and later an officer in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War....

, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr.
Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr.
Simon Bolivar Buckner fought in the United States Army in the Mexican–American War and in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He later served as the 30th Governor of Kentucky....

, and Lloyd Tilghman
Lloyd Tilghman
Lloyd Tilghman was a railroad construction engineer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War, killed at the Battle of Champion Hill...

. High ranking civilians held at Fort Warren include Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, and Confederate Postmaster General John Henninger Reagan
John Henninger Reagan
John Henninger Reagan , was a leading 19th century American politician from the U.S. state of Texas. A Democrat, Reagan resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives when Texas seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. He served in the cabinet of Jefferson Davis as...

. The prison camp had a reputation for humane treatment of its detainees. When the camp commander's son, Lieutenant Justin E. Dimick, left Fort Warren for active duty in the field with the Second U.S. Artillery, he was given a letter from Confederate officers in the camp urging good care should he be captured. (He was later mortally wounded at Chancellorsville in May, 1863.)

The famous Union marching song John Brown was written at the fort using a tune from an old Methodist camp song. The song was carried to the Army of the Potomac by the men of the
"Webster Regiment" (12th Massachusetts Infantry) who had mustered in at Fort Warren. Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, and poet, most famous as the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".-Biography:...

 heard this song while visiting Washington DC. At the suggestion of her minister, Howe was encouraged to write new words. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which was initially published as a poem, was later matched with the melody of the "John Brown" song and became one of the best remembered songs of the Civil War era. (See also:List of Civil War POW Prisons and Camps

After the Civil War


Fort Warren remained active through the Spanish-American War and World War I.
The fort was modified in the late 1890s through the beginning of the twentieth century
to accommodate the newer rifled ordnance then being developed for coastal defense.
During World War II, the fort served as a control center for Boston Harbor's south mine field,
a precaution taken in anticipation of potential attacks by Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s.
At that time, Fort Warren was staffed by personnel of the 241st Coast Artillery (Harbor Defense),
a Massachusetts National Guard unit that was federalized in September, 1940.
Fort Warren was permanently decommissioned after 1950.

Decommissioning and opening to the public


Fort Warren was owned by the U.S. federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 until 1958, when the state obtained possession from the General Services Administration
General Services Administration
The General Services Administration is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1949 to help manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. The GSA supplies products and communications for U.S...

. In 1961, the fort was reopened to the public after initial restoration
Building restoration
Building restoration describes a particular treatment approach and philosophy within the field of architectural conservation. According the U.S...

 efforts.

Today, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Department of Conservation and Recreation (Massachusetts)
The Department of Conservation and Recreation is a state agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, situated in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. It is best known for its parks and parkways. As of May 24, 2011 the Commissioner of the DCR is Edward M. Lambert, Jr...

 maintains and administers the fort, which is the centerpiece of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
The Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area is a National Recreation Area situated among the islands of Boston Harbor of Boston, Massachusetts. The area is made up of a collection of islands, together with a former island and a peninsula, many of which are open for public recreation and some...

. The fort is reachable by ferry from downtown Boston, Hingham, or Hull to Georges Island. Transfers are then available for those who wish to visit some of the other Harbor Islands.

The fort is typically open from early or mid May through Columbus Day weekend. DCR Rangers offer guided tours or you may explore on your own. An information booth just outside the sally port (the main entrance to the fort) posts information about available activities. The island offers a well-stocked snack bar, water fountains, and a large number of composting toilets. There is also a museum located in the old mine storehouse (the red brick building opposite the ferry dock), a number of picnic tables, and a children's play structure. The tops of several of the bastions (the walls) and several of the casemates and magazines beneath them are open to visitors.

External links