Granite State Stories: Protecting Fort Constitution

  • Broadside advertising for volunteers to garrison Fort Constitution in New Castle, dated March 22, 1862. Courtesy of the N.H. Historical Society

Published: 6/11/2018 8:55:53 AM

The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 prompted state and federal officials to reexamine the fort system that protected the harbors of the northeast.

The security of Portsmouth, home to a large shipbuilding facility and a busy seaport, relied on Fort Constitution, the most substantial of the state’s coastal defenses.

The fort dated back to before the Revolutionary War, when it had been known as Fort William and Mary. Although it was rebuilt in the early 1800s, it desperately needed a major overhaul by the 1860s, when the state government advertised for volunteers to man it at more robust levels than during peacetime. Recruits committed to three years of service and in exchange received wages, rations and clothing.

Portsmouth’s harbor defenses never faced any serious threat during the war, and efforts to renovate Fort Constitution were abandoned in 1867.

N.H. Historical Society

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