18 August 2014

Fort Adams, Rhode Island

32 pdr in position
Recently I had the opportunity to visit Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island, which is one of the largest coastal fortifications in the US.  It and a sister Fort guard the main entrance to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, which is strategically important as the only protected deep water anchorage between Boston and New York.  The fort was constructed in the wake of the burning of Washington in the War of 1812 to replace a smaller earth predecessor and enhance the seaward defences.
Commanding view from the ramparts

The fort took over 30 years to complete in classic Vauban style and incorporated the most advanced fortification designs available of the day.  The fort is built on the end of a peninsula, which restricts the landward approach to one direction only, which incorporates a quarter mile of redoubts - clearly a large landing force would be required from that direction.  The fort has a turf roof and locally produced bricks, both of which would absorb incoming fire rather than it sloughing off sections or creating fragments.
Approaches to the south wall via the defensive crown works

The fort's west wall faces the main channel and has the primary anti-shipping armament: three tiers of guns, the lightest atop the ramparts to fire chain shot, 24 pounders in the middles firing grape, and massive 42 pounders at the bottom firing heated shot.  Nasty stuff.
The West Wall from Seaward showing the 3 gun tiers
Fort Adams saw some periodic updates to its armaments to reflect the shift from wooden ships of the line to ironclads, and the rise of aerial threats.  Over time this included 12 inch mortars, 15 inch Rodman guns, 6 and 10 inch disappearing guns, mobile 3 inch AA guns and M1 90mm AA guns   Manned continuously by the army until the early 1950s, it was home to the US Naval Academy during the Civil War (Maryland being a bit suspect you know...), and Eike stayed here for a few summers while he was President.  Lots of great history.

One of the 6inch disappearing gun batteries
A wonderful spot with very knowledgable tour guides. Highly recommended if you are in the area.



  1. What an interesting location to visit.
    Great photos and history.

  2. One of the forts in San Francisco has one of the 12" disappearing guns operational. They fire blanks out of it and you can watch the whole evolution.

  3. Excellent pictures of a very interesting location. Many thanks for pointing us to it.


  4. I am just trying to imagine what the effect of three tiers of fire might have on a passing ship - awesome stuff.