Fort Adams is a former
United States Army
United States Army post in Newport, Rhode
Island that was established on July 4, 1799 as a First System coastal
fortification, named for President
John Adams who was in office at the
time. Its first commander was Captain John Henry who was later
instrumental in starting the War of 1812. The current
Fort Adams was
built 1824–57 under the Third System of coastal forts; it is part of
Fort Adams State Park
Fort Adams State Park today.
2 Civil War
2.1 1870s upgrade
3 Twentieth century
3.1 Endicott period
3.2 World War I
3.3 World War II
4 State Park
5 Notable persons associated with Fort Adams
6 See also
9 External links
Fort Adams was designed by Major
Louis de Tousard of the
Army Corps of Engineers as part of the first system of US
fortifications. After some additions in 1809, this fort mounted 17
cannon and was garrisoned during the
War of 1812
War of 1812 by Wood's State Corps
of Rhode Island militiamen. The Secretary of War's report for
December 1811 describes the fort as "an irregular star fort of
masonry, with an irregular indented work of masonry adjoining it,
mounting seventeen heavy guns. ... The barracks are of wood and
bricks, for one company".
After the War of 1812, there was a thorough review of the nation's
fortification needs and it was decided to replace the older Fort Adams
with a newer and much larger fort. This was part of what became known
as the third system of US fortifications. The new fort was designed by
Brigadier General Simon Bernard, a Frenchman who had served as a
military engineer under Napoleon. Bernard designed the new Fort Adams
in the classic style and it became the most complex fortification in
the Western Hemisphere. It included a tenaille and crownwork, a
complex outer work on the southern (landward) side, designed to break
up and channel an assault force. In the US, it is rivaled in size
Fort Monroe in
Hampton, Virginia and Fort Jefferson on the Dry
Tortugas in Florida.
Construction of the new fort began in 1824 and continued at irregular
intervals until 1857. From 1825 to 1838 construction was overseen by
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Gilbert Totten, the foremost American
military engineer of his day. In 1838 Totten became Chief of Engineers
and served until his death in 1864.
A section of historic
Fort Adams in a neglected state (1968)
Fort Adams was first garrisoned in August 1841, functioning as
an active Army post until 1950. During this time the fort was active
in five major wars (the Mexican–American War, American Civil War,
Spanish–American War, World War I and World War II) but never fired
a shot in anger.
At the start of the
Mexican–American War the post was commanded by
Benjamin Kendrick Pierce, the brother of President Franklin Pierce.
The fort's redoubt, about 1/4 mile south of the main fort, was built
during this war.
From 1848 to 1853,
Fort Adams was commanded by Colonel William Gates,
a long serving veteran of both the
War of 1812
War of 1812 and the Mexican War.
The fort's garrison was ordered to California and many of the soldiers
lost their lives when the steamer SS San Francisco was wrecked, but
not sunk, in a North Atlantic storm on December 24, 1853.
In a report of 1854
Fort Adams was armed with 100 32-pounder seacoast
guns, 57 24-pounder seacoast guns, and 43 24-pounder flank howitzers.
The flank howitzers were short-barreled guns deployed in casemates in
the tenaille to protect the fort against a landward assault.
The War Department was concerned about the political sympathies of
Maryland during the American Civil War, so the United
States Naval Academy was moved in 1861 from
Annapolis to Fort Adams.
In September 1861, the academy moved to the Atlantic House Hotel in
Newport and remained there for the rest of the war.
Among the midshipmen assigned to the Naval Academy while it was at
Fort Adams was
Robley D. Evans
Robley D. Evans who was wounded at Fort Fisher, North
Carolina in 1865, commanded the battleship Iowa during the
Spanish–American War, and later commanded the
Great White Fleet
Great White Fleet on
the first leg of its epic around the world voyage. Among Evans'
Fort Adams were future Rear Admiral Charles Sigsbee, who
commanded the battleship Maine, and future Captain Charles Vernon
Gridley who commanded the cruiser Olympia at the Battle of Manila Bay.
Fort Adams became the headquarters and recruit depot for the
15th Infantry Regiment. This regiment, along with several others, was
organized into a regiment of three eight-company battalions, with the
3rd Battalion formed at
Fort Adams in March 1864.
From August to October 1863,
Fort Adams was commanded by Brigadier
General Robert Anderson, who had commanded
Fort Sumter when it was
attacked by Confederate forces in April 1861.
As part of a major upgrade to US seacoast defenses, in the 1870s Fort
Adams' armament was modernized with eleven 15-inch Rodman guns,
thirteen 10-inch Rodman guns, and four 6.4-inch (100 pounder) Parrott
rifles. Three new emplacements were built for the 15-inch guns; the
remainder replaced older weapons in the fort, of which all but 20
32-pounders were removed by 1873. For mobile defense, four 4.5-inch
siege rifles, four 3-inch Ordnance rifles, and four 10-inch mortars
were provided. In 1894, four 8-inch converted rifles were added in a
new battery south of the fort.
As time went by, the fort's armament was upgraded to keep up with
technological innovations. Major kinds of ordnance used at the fort
included muzzle-loading cannon in the 19th century, rifled
breech-loading artillery pieces in the early 20th Century and
anti-aircraft guns during and after World War II. The fort received
significant armament, in the form of batteries to the south of the
main fort, under the Endicott and Taft programs from 1896 through
1907. These were to defend the East Passage of Narragansett Bay in
combination with the new
Fort Wetherill in Jamestown, as part of the
Coast Defenses of Narragansett Bay.
The Endicott and Taft period batteries at
Fort Adams were:
No. of guns
12-inch coast defense mortar
12-inch coast defense mortar M1890
10-inch gun M1888
4.72-inch Armstrong gun
8-inch gun M1888
converted Rodman carriage
6-inch Armstrong gun
3-inch gun M1903
Batteries Greene-Edgerton, Reilly, and Talbot were built 1896–1899
and were the first of these to be completed. Battery Greene-Edgerton
included sixteen mortars, all of which were at first called Battery
Greene, but the battery was divided into two groups of eight in 1906.
Battery Talbot, one of a number of batteries added on the East Coast
at the outbreak of the
Spanish–American War in 1898, included two
4.72-inch Armstrong guns. One gun of Battery Talbot is preserved
at Equality Park in Newport; another is at
Fort Moultrie near
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina and was in
Westerly, Rhode Island
Westerly, Rhode Island circa
1920-1977. An unnamed battery of a single
8-inch M1888 gun on a
converted 1870s carriage also existed briefly from 1898. In 1907 two
additional batteries were completed, Battery Bankhead with three
6-inch Armstrong guns and Battery Belton with two 3-inch M1903
Battery Greene-Edgerton was named for General
Nathanael Greene of the
Revolutionary War and Lt. Colonel Wright P. Edgerton, a professor at
West Point. Battery Reilly was named for Captain Henry J. Reilly,
killed in the
China Relief Expedition
China Relief Expedition near
Peking on 15 August 1900,
who previously served at Fort Adams. Battery Talbot was named for
Silas Talbot, an Army officer from Rhode Island in the Revolutionary
War who later became a Navy officer and commanded USS Constitution
1799–1801. Battery Bankhead was named for Brevet Major General James
Monroe Bankhead, who served in the War of 1812, Second Seminole War,
and Mexican–American War. Battery Belton was named for Francis S.
Belton, who served in the
War of 1812
War of 1812 and the Mexican–American
In 1913 Battery Bankhead was disarmed and its three 6-inch guns sent
World War I
Thornton Wilder, author and playwright, whose 1973 novel Theophilus
North is set in Newport, served a three-month enlistment in the Army's
Coast Artillery Corps at
Fort Adams during World War I. Wilder rose to
the rank of corporal in the Army.
In World War I,
Fort Adams served as the headquarters for the Coast
Defenses of Narragansett Bay, as well as a training center in both
world wars. The
United States Army
United States Army Coast Artillery Corps (CAC) was
chosen to man all US heavy artillery in that war, as they were the
only part of the Army with experience using big guns, along with a
significant amount of trained personnel. Four heavy artillery
regiments and two heavy artillery brigade headquarters were organized
Fort Adams and served in France, with troops of Coast Defense
Commands from Maine, Rhode Island, New York, and elsewhere as their
cadre. These included two of the four US railway artillery regiments
that saw action in that war (with French-made weapons) and their
brigade headquarters. The railway gun units were designated the 52nd
and 53rd Artillery Regiments (CAC) (originally the 7th and 8th
Provisional Regiments), and the 30th Separate Artillery Brigade
(Railway) (CAC) (originally the 1st Expeditionary Brigade). The 51st
Artillery Regiment (CAC) (originally the 6th Provisional Regiment),
66th Artillery Regiment (CAC) and the 34th Artillery Brigade (CAC)
were also organized at
Fort Adams and sent to France, but only the
51st completed training in time to see action.
The two 10-inch guns of Battery Reilly were dismounted in 1917 for
potential service as railway guns, but after considerable delay they
were sent to Fort Warren near Boston in 1919 to replace guns removed
from that fort. Eight of the sixteen mortars at Battery
Greene-Edgerton were removed in 1918 for potential railway artillery
service; this was also done as a forcewide program to improve the rate
of fire due to overcrowding in the mortar pits during reloading.
Some sources state that Battery Talbot's guns were redeployed to
Sachuest Point 1917-1919, a few miles from Fort Adams. However, Army
records show that these guns came from
Fort Strong in the Coast
Defenses of Boston.
With World War I over, Battery Talbot was disarmed in 1919 and its
guns sent to Newport and Westerly as memorials. At some time after the
war three 3-inch M1917 anti-aircraft guns were deployed at the fort,
supplemented by at least two mobile 3-inch guns (or possibly mobile 75
mm guns) on White truck or Ford
Model T chassis. Battery Belton's
two 3-inch guns were transferred to
Fort Wetherill in 1925 to replace
obsolescent M1902 guns there. This left the eight mortars of Battery
Greene-Edgerton as Fort Adams' only armament.
World War II
In the Second World War a peak strength of over 3,000 soldiers were
assigned to the Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay. In September 1940
the 243rd Coast Artillery Regiment of the Rhode Island National Guard
was mobilized and sent to
Fort Adams to reinforce the Regular Army's
10th Coast Artillery Regiment. The two regiments garrisoned several
coast defense forts and anti-aircraft installations under the Harbor
Defenses of Narragansett Bay. During the war,
Fort Adams and most of
the other Endicott Period forts in Rhode Island were superseded by new
defenses centered on Fort Church and Fort Greene and their guns were
scrapped. However, the previous anti-aircraft guns at the fort
were replaced by two 90 mm guns with several 40 mm guns and .50
caliber machine guns. As the war progressed, the number of troops
was gradually reduced to about 500 by the end of the war in 1945.
Another section, 1968
In 1953, the Army transferred ownership of
Fort Adams to the Navy,
which still uses some of the grounds for family housing. In 1965, the
fort, and most of the surrounding land, was given to the state of
Rhode Island for use as
Fort Adams State Park. In 1976,
Fort Adams was
declared a National Historic Landmark, in recognition for its
distinctive military architecture, which includes features not found
in other forts of the period. In 1994, the
Fort Adams Trust was
formed, which provides guided tours at the fort and oversees ongoing
restoration work at the fort.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower lived at the former commanding
officer's quarters (now called the Eisenhower House) during his summer
vacations in Newport in 1958 and 1960.
From the early 1950s until the mid-1970s
Fort Adams fell victim to
neglect, the elements and vandalism.
Through the efforts of State Senator Eric O'D. Taylor, in the 1970s
Fort Adams was cleaned up and open for tours and was used for the
filming of the
PBS television movie The Scarlet Letter. The tour
program was cancelled about 1980 due to budget cutbacks by the State
of Rhode Island.
Since 1981, the
Fort Adams grounds have been host to the Newport Jazz
Festival, and the Newport Folk Festival.
In the early 1990s,
Fort Adams was subjected to an environmental
remediation program which made the fort safe for public access. About
this time, the
Fort Adams Trust was formed to oversee public programs
and restoration of the fort.
In 1995 the
Fort Adams Trust began giving tours at the fort from May
to September. Since that time, the fort has had several areas of the
fort restored as well as having its land defenses cleared of
In 2012, the park was the official venue for the America's Cup World
Series in Newport.
Notable persons associated with Fort Adams
Robert Anderson – Commander of
Fort Sumter and Civil War general
John G. Barnard
John G. Barnard – Army engineer, Civil War general and
Superintendent of West Point.
Alexander Dallas Bache
Alexander Dallas Bache – Army engineer and Superintendent of the
United States Coast Survey.
Pierre G. T. Beauregard
Pierre G. T. Beauregard – Confederate Civil War general.
Simon Bernard – French army general, military engineer under
Napoleon and designer of Fort Adams.
Ambrose Burnside – Civil War general, Governor of Rhode Island and
United States Senator.
Fox Conner – AEF Operations Officer in the First World War and
mentor to General and President Dwight Eisenhower.
George W. Cullum
George W. Cullum – Civil War general and Superintendent of West
Henry A. du Pont
Henry A. du Pont –
Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor recipient, president of the
Wilmington & Northern Railroad Company and United States Senator.
Dwight Eisenhower – Vacationed at
Fort Adams while he was president.
William P. Ennis
William P. Ennis – Army lieutenant general born at Fort Adams.
Robley D. Evans
Robley D. Evans – Navy rear admiral and commander of the Great White
John G. Foster
John G. Foster – Civil War general.
William Gates – long serving Army officer.
John Henry – First commander of
Fort Adams and adventurer.
Henry Jackson Hunt
Henry Jackson Hunt – Civil War general and artillery commander at
the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lyman Lemnitzer – Army general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
John B. Magruder
John B. Magruder – Confederate Civil War general.
Franklin Pierce – General, Senator and President of the United
William S. Rosecrans
William S. Rosecrans – Civil War general.
Isaac Ingalls Stevens
Isaac Ingalls Stevens – Civil War general.
Thomas W. Sherman
Thomas W. Sherman – Civil War general.
Joseph G. Totten
Joseph G. Totten – Oversaw construction of
Fort Adams and Chief
Engineer of the United States Army.
Louis de Tousard – Revolutionary War hero and designer of the first
Thornton Wilder – Author. Parts of his book
Theophilus North were
inspired by his experiences while stationed at
Fort Adams during the
First World War.
William Griffith Wilson
William Griffith Wilson – Best known as "Bill W". Founder of
Alcoholics Anonymous. Stationed at
Fort Adams during the First World
War of 1812
War of 1812 portal
Rhode Island portal
10th Coast Artillery (United States)
United States Army
United States Army Coast Artillery Corps
Seacoast defense in the United States
Naval Station Newport
List of National Historic Landmarks in Rhode Island
National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places listings in Newport County, Rhode
Fort Adams in 2008
^ Duchesneau, John T., Troost-Cramer, Kathleen (2014). Fort Adams: A
History. The History Press. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
National Park Service
National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information
System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park
^ "Fort Adams".
National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark summary listing. National
Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
^ Wade, p. 141
^ Duchesneau and Troost-Cramer, pp. 23–24
^ Wade, p. 242
^ Weaver, p. 98
^ Duchesneau and Troost-Cramer, pp. 32–35
^ Ann Johnson, "Material Experiments: Environment and Engineering
Institutions in the Early American Republic," Osiris, NS 24 (2009),
^ a b c d e f g h i FortWiki article on Fort Adams
^ Duchesneau and Troost-Cramer, pp. 37–40
^ Weaver, pp. 95-97
^ a b c Duchesneau and Troost-Cramer, pp. 154-156
^ a b c d Berhow, p. 204
^ Berhow, p. 233
^ Duchesneau and Troost-Cramer, pp. 146-147
^ Rinaldi, Richard A. (2004). The U. S. Army in World War I: Orders of
Battle. General Data LLC. pp. 156–166.
^ History of the Coast Artillery Corps in World War I
^ Gun and Carriage cards, National Archives and Records
Administration, Record Group 156, Records of the Chief of Ordnance,
^ Duchesneau and Troost-Cramer, p. 167
^ "NHL nomination for Fort Adams" (PDF). National Park Service.
Berhow, Mark A., Ed. (2004). American Seacoast Defenses, A Reference
Guide, Second Edition. CDSG Press. ISBN 0-9748167-0-1.
Lewis, Emanuel Raymond (1979). Seacoast Fortifications of the United
States. Annapolis: Leeward Publications.
Wade, Arthur P. (2011). Artillerists and Engineers: The Beginnings of
American Seacoast Fortifications, 1794-1815. CDSG Press.
Weaver II, John R. (2001). A Legacy in Brick and Stone: American
Coastal Defense Forts of the Third System, 1816-1867. McLean, VA:
Redoubt Press. ISBN 1-57510-069-X.
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