Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fort McClary, Maine

Fort McClary Entrance Marker
Fort McClary Entrance Marker
Visited 20 Jun 2012 - Fort McClary was a Second System U.S. Coastal fort built in 1808-09, just before the War of 1812 with the British. Today, Fort McClary is partially restored and well kept at the Fort McClary State Historic Site on Kittery Point, Maine. We drove down from Portland on I95 and took Exit 2 toward Kittery, the fort was less than four miles from the exit. The entrance is marked with a stone state marker.
1844 Fort McClary Blockhouse
1844 Fort McClary Blockhouse

The first thing you see coming out of the parking lot is the great white blockhouse at the top of the hill and you can't help being drawn to it. Nearly all of the blockhouses we have seen lately have been in poor shape and most are locked up tight. The blockhouse here is looking good and open to the public. The inside was a real treat with displays, interpretive signs and mounted cannons.

Mounted Cannon Inside the Blockhouse
Mounted Cannon Inside the Blockhouse

This Second System blockhouse was not built until 1844, well into the Third Period time frame and long after blockhouses had become obsolete. It's not clear why it was built or what need it fulfilled.

Outside the blockhouse are two brick buildings, one is an 1808 restored magazine the second is the shell of an 1808 Rifleman's House. Further over on the upper level are the foundations of another Rifleman's House and a Barracks. From that location you can look down on the lower gun battery and the stonework for Third System fortification.
Camponier Interior
Camponier Interior

Fort McClary was designated to be upgraded to a Third System fortification and the upgrade was begun during the Civil War. Unfortunately, advances in armament during the war rendered all of the Third System forts obsolete and work was stopped before it was completed. The parts of the Third System fort that were partially completed at Fort McClary are interesting and some are unusual. 

Fort McClary 1864 Land Side Bastion
1864 Land Side Bastion

Fort McClary 1864 Camponier Exterior
1864 Camponier Exterior
The two major Third System features are a land side bastion and a central camponier. The camponier was an enclosed granite and brick structure at the center of the two water side walls that looked forward and back along the walls. The camponier at Fort McClary is open and accessible through a tunnel and stairs on the lower level. The land side bastion includes a powder magazine, unfinished gun positions and casemates.

The forts on this site were active over five different wars, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish American War and World War I. During the Spanish American War (1898) three 15" Rodman cannons were emplaced as a temporary defense and they remained in place until at least 1903. During World War I (1917-1918), it was the site of an observation post. At the end of World War I the post was abandoned as an active fortification.

Fort McClary 1864 Camponier Entrance
1864 Camponier Entrance
Fort McCary is a great visit to observe significant parts of both the Second System and the Third System fortifications. It is difficult to find posts where they both exist side by side because, in many cases, the Second System construction was overbuilt by the Third System construction or torn down because it was obsolete.

See the FortWiki page for more information and pictures.

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