In 1807, Britain was in a conflict with France. The
British blockaded French ports and seized American
ships, which were carrying cargo to France. Than the
US Congress passed the Embargo Act of 1807, in
order to stop American ships from leaving port. The
American ports were also closed to all nations. The
American government feared an attack by the British,
so it authorized the building of fortifications to
protect Maine. Fort Edgecomb was built and on March 4, 1809, cannons were mounted
inside of it.
On June 22, 1814, the British tried to attack the fort on land but retreated when
they noticed that the Americans were ready for them. After robbing some houses they went
back to their ships. After peace was made with Britain in late 1814, the cannons were
moved to Boston. The fort was not equipped for defense until 1864, but no action ever
After the War of 1812, the Army Corps
of Engineers proposed the construction of a
new fortification on Hog Island. After many
years, in 1857, the building of the fort was
approved by Congress, and a year later, the
construction began. At the outbreak of the
Civil War, the fort as still being built; in
1865, 26 guns were mounted in it. The fort was completed in 1865. It was named in honor
of Sir Ferdinando Gorges.
Fort Gorges began to be modernized in 1869. Among many
changes, the guns on the third floor were supposed to be replaced by bigger ones. In 1876,
the project funding was stopped, and the work was left unfinished. In 1897, the fort became
a submarine mine storehouse. Charles Rust, who was a caretaker at Fort Gorges, lived at
the fort until 1916. This fort has belonged to the City of Portland since 1960.
Fort Halifax was built in 1754, and was the oldest blockhouse in
the United States until 1987, when it was destroyed by a flood. It
was rebuilt and now stands at its original site. The fort was originally
built to protect the English people along the Kennebec from a
possible attack by the French or their allies. Fort Halifax was used
between 1754 and 1766. During this time it was never attacked
directly, but Native Americans killed some Englishmen who were
outside the fort.
In 1839 Britain, and the USA started a dispute over where the
boundary line between Maine, and New Brunswick was. In 1840,
Fort Kent was built to defend Maine’s boundaries, but no battles
were ever fought at it because the two nations made an agreement.
A truce was established and all the troops in the area were sent
home. The dispute was named the “Bloodless Aroostook War”
because no fighting took place. In 1858 The Fort was sold, and
used as a family home. Six children were born in it while it still was
in the hands of its private owners. In 1891 Fort Kent was purchased
by the state of Maine and became Maine’s first historic site.
In 1839, Great Britain and the US began a dispute
over the boundary line between Maine and New
Brunswick. In 1844, the Americans began the construction
of a fort, which would protect Bangor from
a British attack. The fort was named Fort Knox, after
General Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War. The
building process took over 25 years and cost almost a million dollars. There were two
periods in which Fort Knox saw military activity. The first time was between 1893 and 1866,
when it held no more than 47 troops. Later, when the barracks were built, around 500
troops from Connecticut stayed at the fort during the Spanish-American War. There were no
battles ever fought at fort Knox.
This interesting fort measures 252 by 146 feet and holds a total of 69 cannons. It is
Maine’s largest fort and the first one built out of granite. Fort Knox is also New England’s
finest unmodified fort of its time. Visitors can go into the passageways and many rooms.
When Fort McClary was first built in 1720, it was a
home defense system built and owned by William
Pepperrell. It was called Pepperell’s Garrison, or Fort
Pepperrell . During the Revolutionary War the fort was
confiscated from the Pepperrell family, who was still
loyal to Britain . It was manned by the New Hampshire
militia until it was abandoned in 1779. In 1808 the fort
was expanded and its name was changed to Fort McClary, after Major Andrew McClary. He
was the highest ranked officer, killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Later, in 1844, a large,
hexagonal blockhouse was built to replace the upper battery. The blockhouse still exists
today. At this time, two Rifleman’s houses were built for flank defense. Twenty-five acres of
land were purchased in 1846 by the federal government, which brought the fort close to its
present day size. At the beginning of the Civil War, fifty men from the Kittery Artillery were
sent to man the fort. Hannibal Hamlin, later the Vice President of the United States, spent
three months in the fort as a cook. Four guns were placed in the fort to improve its defenses.
The men from Kittery were replaced by a company from Biddeford . Later, during
World War I, Fort McClary was used as a lookout post, aiding Fort Constitution and Fort
Foster in the defense of the harbor. After the war, the fort was transferred to the state of
Maine and was not used for military purposes until 1942, when it became a lookout post. In
1969 Fort McClary was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort O’Brien (formerly named Fort Machias) was
built in 1775, during the Revolutionary War for
defense against the British Naval Forces. The fort
was destroyed that same year and was rebuilt in
1779 on orders of Colonel Allan. It was made a part
the national defense on February 15, 1781. During
the War of 1812, about 900 British soldiers attacked
Fort O’Brien . They came up in small boats, each
equipped with one cannon. The defenders of the fort were forced to retreat to the Machias
village. The British took all the guns and ammunition, and torched the fort before leaving for
Fort Halifax . The fort was once again repaired. Its name was changed from Fort Machias to
Fort O’Brien during the Civil War.
Fort Popham is a semicircular granite fort built
in 1861, for use during the Civil War. Expansions
were made, and the fort was used again in the
Spanish American War, as well as World War I.
Historical records show that fortifications, probably
wooden, existed here and protected the
Kennebec settlements during the Revolutionary
War and the War of 1812. Fort Popham is near the area where the English made their first
attempt to colonize New England in 1607.
Picnicking and fishing are also enjoyed at this state historic site.
Fort Preble was known as Fort Hancock during the Revolutionary
War, and was a temporary fort. In 1808, under the
supervision of US President Thomas Jefferson, the construction
of Fort Preble began. In contrast to other forts, this fort took a
very short time to build; the fort was completed before the War
of 1812. Fort Preble was named after Commodore Edward
Preble, a heroic man born in Falmouth, Maine, which is today
known as Portland. The fort was later enlarged and renovated to
fit the needs of the sailors training there. Since then, Fort Preble
has been periodically modernized. In 1863, Fort Preble served
another purpose other than a sailor training base; it was used as
a prison for Confederate sailors after an unsuccessful raid into the Portland Harbor. Fort
Preble was manned until 1950. In 1952, the State of Maine gained control of Fort Preble,
and turned the place into a Historic Landmark and built the Southern Maine Community
College (SMCC) near it. Fort Preble overlooks the Portland Harbor and has a great view of
Preceded by an English blockhouse
in 1661, Fort Scammell was
built in 1808. This fort was originally
an octagonal blockhouse with a semicircular
earthwork battery and a
lunette battery. These were both
connected in 1845. During and after
the Civil War, a need for it to be enlarged appeared, so more guns could be mounted. After
the expansions, there were 17 gun mounts. Fort Scammell guarded the main entrance to the
Portland Harbor with its sister fort, Fort Preble. It was used through the Spanish-American
War and was retired from military uses just after. Fort Scammell still stands today.
Fort Scammell is located on House Island. It is privately owned but is open to the public
for a fee, which includes the boat ride to the island.
Fort Western (also known as Old Fort Western)
was built in 1754. It is a National Historical
Landmark, being America’s oldest surviving
wooden fort. Fort Western was built along the
Kennebec River by the Kennebec Proportiers, a
Boston land company. This wooden fort served
as a fortified storehouse, in support of Fort
Halifax, which was 17 miles north. Although this
was originally made into a storehouse, it later became a military base because of its good
location along the Kennebec. The soldiers living in it lived on a routine. They completed the
same tasks each and every day, at the same time.
Benedict Arnold used Old Fort Western as
a staging point for the assault on Quebec. After that, though, no more soldiers lived inside.
For the majority of this fort’s usage, it was used as a store and a house, including the time
after Benedict Arnold was in it. Now, this fort is a museum used to educate young and old
about the life of the early settlers.
On April 13, 1894, President William McKinley named the one time sub-post of Fort Preble, Fort Williams.
It was named after Brevet Major General Seth Williams. The fort became a “tremendous military asset” during
the years of World War II. The position of the fort made it easy to observe and protect the shoreline. After
World War II, many forts were closed down, including Fort Williams, though it was shut later
than most others; it was officially closed down on June 30, 1964.
Anyone can visit this fort and enjoy the other buildings around it. It is safe and fun for
everyone! Today, Fort Williams is still one of the most treasured sites of Cape Elizabeth. The
park is also the home of the oldest lighthouse in
Maine, the Portland Head Light. Fort Williams has
become a place of tourism, recreation, and
leisure time enjoyment. Each year nearly a million
People on any day of the year
enjoy the playing fields, tennis courts, beach, or
walks around the park. During the winter, many
find Fort Williams a great place to cross-country
ski, sled, or even ice skate (on the pond). There
are even special events such as the Family Fun
Day, the Labor Day Art Show, the People’s Beach
to Beacon 10K Road Race, and performances by
the Portland Symphony Orchestra. These events
happen yearly, but it is the peacefulness of
Maine’s coastline that makes Fort Williams such a popular place for so many adults, teenagers,
and children. Bathrooms are located in the park, as well as a set of swings for little kids.
Tables and benches are also available.
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