Fort Jay

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Fort Jay (1794-1966) - First established in 1794 as a First System Fort. Named after John Jay, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs and New York Governor. Rebuilt and renamed in 1806 as Fort Columbus, renamed back to Fort Jay in 1904. The U.S. Army left Governors Island and turned the fort over to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1966.

Fort Jay Commanding Officer Quarters
Fort Jay Bastion and Moat
Fort Jay 1830s Star Fort Barracks

First System (1794-1808)

The first Fort Jay was a First System earthen star fort with two detached batteries. This first fort was modified, then completely rebuilt in 1798-1801, and then demolished in 1806 in favor of a completely new fort.

Second System (1808-1816)

Fort Jay South Battery Entrance

The new Second System fort was completed in 1808 and named Fort Columbus, it was a large masonry pentagon with four bastions and ravelin. The new fort was designed to hold up to 100 guns. In the 1830s four brick barracks were built on the quadrangle inside the fort walls.

U.S. Civil War (1861-1865)

Fort Jay 10" Mounted Rodman Cannon M1861

During the U.S. Civil War fifty 10" and 15" Rodman cannons were emplaced to protect the harbor. The north barracks were used to hold Confederate officer POWs in transit to other Union POW camps.

The old fort and the new surrounding post was renamed back to Fort Jay in 1904 by Secretary of War, Elihu Root who also ordered the expansion of Governors Island using fill from the construction of the New York subway system.

World War II (1941-1945)

During WWII the post was the headquarters of the Eastern Defense Command. The first major scrap drive of World War II claimed most of the remaining U.S. Civil War Rodman cannons. Three 10" and one 15" Rodman cannons were retained at the fort for historic display.

Fort Jay Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1864-09-04 1865-02-14  “Lt. Col. Bomford, James V. 695
1865-02-07 1865-06-10  Maj. Cogswell, Milton 1417
1873-02-19 1874-10  Maj. Roy, James P. 1444
1877-10-24 1877-10-11  Maj. Mendenhall, John 1513
1888-06-04 1888-12-07  Maj. Miller, Marcus P. 1805
1889-02-19 1890-05-17  Maj. McCrea, Tully 1980
1898-04 1898-06  Capt. Lomia, Luigi 2175
1898-06-11 1898-07-13  Col. Barber, Thomas H. 2178
1900-01 1900-06  Maj. Cornish, George A. 2490
1901-04-09 1901-08-22  Maj. Hills, Elbridge R. 2141
1906 1908-07-01  Col. Allen, Leven C. 2443
1911-09-03 1912-09-08  Col. Cecil, George R. 2526
1912-09 1915-03-16  Col. Mallory, John Skinner 2815
1922-09-02 1923-05-08  Col. Gerhardt, Charles 3221
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Governors Island National Monument, Governors Island, New York County, New York. Mounted period cannons. Must see!

Location: Governors Island, New York County, New York.

Maps & Images

Lat: 40.691389 Long: -74.016111


  • 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 555-556
  • Speer, Lonnie R., Portals to Hell:Military Prisons of the Civil War, Stackpole Books, 1997, Mechanicsburg, PA, ISBN 0-8117-0334-7, 410 pages, page 325.


Visited: 15 Aug 2010

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