Fort Dette

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Fort Dette (1863-1865) - A Union U.S. Civil War Fort established in 1863 near Rolla, Phelps County, Missouri. Unofficially named Fort Dette after Captain John F. W. Dette, the officer who supervised most of the construction. Abandoned after the end of the war in August 1865. Also known as Fort Detty and in some correspondence as the Star Fort.

Fort Dette Plaque on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus at Rolla. Photo by Andrew Careaga.


Construction began in July 1863 on the second of two named forts guarding the critical Union supply railhead at Rolla, Missouri. Rolla was the primary forward supply depot for the Union armies in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas throughout the war. Union forces first seized the town on 14 Jun 1861 and held it throughout the war. Tons of war material, food, and forage passed from arriving trains into warehouses and then onto long trains of wagons headed for troops in the field and in fixed installations.

Fort Wyman was built first in 1861 but the operations at Rolla had grown significantly enough to warrant a second fort to be built on the north side of town in mid-1863. This fort was unofficially named Fort Dette. This second fort was located on the present-day campus of the Missouri University of Science and Technology at Rolla.

Fort Dette Plan.

The plan of the fort, known officially as the "block-house," was unusual and not like Fort Wyman. This fort was built in a Greek Cross or "+" configuration and sized to accommodate some 200 soldiers. The Greek Cross is a cross with arms of equal length, as in a plus sign, with a square center connector. Each arm of the cross in this fort was a double-deck log and plank hall with artillery positions on the ends of both decks. The lower decks were to be armed with light field pieces. The open upper decks were armed with heavier 24 or 32 - pounders. The structure was one hundred and forty feet long across each arm and the lower corridors of each arm had loopholes for the riflemen. The lower central portion of the structure was configured as a storeroom and buried below that was a twenty-foot square powder magazine. Above the storeroom was a central guardhouse and observation platform. Externally the fort was surrounded by a ditch eight feet wide and four feet deep.

It is likely that this fort was never completely finished although it was described on 25 Mar 1865 as "nearing completion" and monthly post returns after January 1865 describe it with "two 24-pounders in position at the blockhouse."

U.S. troops remained in the Rolla area after the end of the war until the U.S. Government property was removed, the post at Rolla was abolished in August 1865. The remaining wood and fixtures at the fort were subsequently removed by locals leaving only the earthworks as a reminder of the fort. In 1909 the site was over-built by Norwood Hall of the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy (later the University of Missouri-Rolla, and now the Missouri University of Science and Technology).

Current Status

Marker only on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus at Rolla. The actual fort site is reportedly over-built by Norwood Hall, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Phelps County, Missouri.

Location: Norwood Hall,
Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla,
Phelps County, Missouri.

Maps & Images

Lat: 37.953447 Long: -91.773019

  • Multi Maps from ACME
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  • Elevation: .....'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 456.
  • Bradbury, John, Fort Dette, A Civil War Fort in Rolla, Missouri, Newsletter of the Phelps County Historical Society, Vol. II, No. 3, Sep 1983, page 1-9.


Visited: 21 Jul 2021 Area

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