Fort Lafayette (2)

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Fort Lafayette (2) (1812-1946) - A U.S. Army Coastal Fort established in 1812 during the War of 1812 as Fort Diamond. The fort was located on Hendricks Reef in New York Harbor, just off Brooklyn in Kings County, New York. Renamed Fort Lafayette on 26 Mar 1823 after General Lafayette, hero of the Revolutionary War. Used by the Union during the U.S. Civil War as a prison. Burned in 1868 and used for a variety of military purposes until finally abandoned in 1946.

Fort Lafayette circa 1904


Constructed between 1812 and 1818 as casemated brick coastal fort with gun positions for some 70 cannons in three tiers. The fort was a 270 foot square sandstone structure with 8-foot thick walls 30 feet high. This was a transitional coastal fort, not part of either the Second System or the Third System of coastal fortifications.

Captain Robert E. Lee was posted in 1841 as supervising engineer for the four forts at the New York Narrows and he spent the next five years working on them. Much of that time he worked on repair and improvement on Fort Lafayette, part of which he had to completely rebuild. No drawings could be found for the Fort and Lee had to recreate them. Only the Mexican War removed Lee from the work on Fort Lafayette.

U.S. Civil War (1861-1865)

During the U.S. Civil War the casemates of Fort Lafayette were used to house both Confederate prisoners of war and political prisoners who had somehow demonstrated support for the southern cause. The fort was listed with a maximum capacity of only 50 prisoners but held as many as 163 at one point. Two prisoners are listed as escaped and two+ are listed as deaths. The Fort came to be known as the "the Brooklyn Bastille".

On 1 Dec 1868, the Fort was swept by a fire that gutted the interior and necessitated a complete rebuilding. Some of the gun platforms on the upper tiers had been constructed with wood floors to save weight. This wood construction fed the fire.

In 1883 the fort was used by Captain Edmund Louis Gray Zalinski to conducted experiments with his dynamite gun.

During World War I and World War II the Fort was used to store munitions for the U.S. Navy.

In January 1960 the Fort and Hendricks Reef were destroyed to make way for the North Tower of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Current Status

Destroyed for construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York.

Location: Hendricks Reef in New York Harbor just off Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.

Maps & Images

Lat: 40.60833 Long: -74.03861



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