Second System Coastal Defenses (1808-1816)
In 1802 Congress separated the artillerists and engineers into separate corps and directed the Corps of Engineers to create a military academy at West Point, New York. One of the driving forces for establishing the new academy was the need to divorce the United States from its reliance on foreign engineers. In 1807-1808 new concerns over a possible war with Great Britain, prompted President Thomas Jefferson to renew fortification programs; this has come to be known as the Second System.
One common weakness among the typical low-walled open bastion or star forts was exposure to enemy fire, especially to new devices designed to explode in mid air and rain shrapnel down on the gunners. Gun emplacements which were at an angle to the sea were vulnerable to a solid shot running parallel to the wall taking out a row of guns and gunners with one shot. In the late 1770s a French engineer, the Marquis de Montalembert, advocated a major change in the design of fortresses to address these problems. His design protected a fort's gunners by placing most of them in covered casemate walls with openings for the guns. By stacking rows of casemates in high walls more guns could be mounted along shorter walls. This was particularly important for seacoast fortifications, which had only a limited time in which to fire at passing enemy ships. To build these tall forts, walls had to be built of masonry, but be very thick in order to withstand the pounding of cannon fire.
The Second System was distinguished from the First System by greater use of Montalembert's concepts and the replacement of foreign engineers by American ones, many of them recent graduates of the new United States Military Academy.
Again several fine forts were produced, but generally projects went unfinished, and between the First System and Second System little was prepared to resist the British in the coming War of 1812. However, no First System or Second System fortress was captured by the British. The invasion of Baltimore was prevented by Fort McHenry, but undefended Washington was burned. In some cases even incomplete forts were sufficient to deter attack from the sea.
|East Coast||Florida & Gulf Coast|
1. Fort Sullivan (1808), Eastport, Washington County, Maine
12. Fort Constitution (2) (1794, 1807), Portsmouth, New Hampshire
13. Fort Pickering (1794, 1808), Massachusetts
25. Fort Columbus (1807), New York
39. Fort Wingaw (1809), South Carolina
44. Fort Jackson (3) (1808), Georgia
45. Fort St. Philip (1808), Louisiana
46. Sacketts Harbor, New York
54. Fort Lewis (6), New York
- Kaufmann, J.E. and Kaufmann, H.W., Fortress America: The Forts That Defended America, 1600 to the Present, DaCapo Press, 2004, ISBN 0-306-81294-0, page 394-395
- Berhow, Mark A. ed, American Seacoast Defenses: A Reference Guide, 2nd Edition, CDSG Press, McLean, VA, 2004, ISBN 0-9748167-0-1, page 18-22
- Berhow, Mark A. ed, American Seacoast Defenses: A Reference Guide, 3rd Edition - PDF, CDSG ePress, McLean, VA, 2012, ISBN 0-9748167-0-1, page 15-22