Third System

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Fort Massachusetts Exterior - 22.jpg
Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island, Mississippi, a Late Third System Fort.

Third System (1816-1867)

In 1816, following the War of 1812, Congress appropriated over $800,000 for an ambitious seacoast defensive system which was known as the Third System. A Board of Engineers for Fortifications, appointed by President James Madison, visited potential sites and prepared plans for the new forts. The Board's original 1821 report established the policy which would remain in place for most of the 19th century. The original report suggested 50 sites, but by 1850 the board had identified nearly 200 sites for fortification; however, fortifications were only actually built at 42 of these sites.

The main defensive works were large structures, based on the Montalembert concept, with many guns concentrated in tall thick masonry walls, usually built on the sites of earlier forts. Construction was generally overseen by officers of the army's Corps of Engineers. Smaller works guarded less significant harbors.

Early in his career, Brig. Gen. Joseph G. Totten was a member of the first permanent Board of Engineers who helped establish principles of Third System coast defense construction. Totten oversaw the construction of the massive Fort Adams (1) in Newport, Rhode Island (1825-1838). He was appointed Chief Engineer of the United States Army (1838-1864) and was involved with all Army Corps of Engineers activities from fortifications to harbor improvement until his death in 1864.

See Also:


Third System Forts (1816-1867) (edit list)
East Coast Florida & Gulf Coast West Coast

1. Fort Knox, Prospect, ME
2. Fort Popham, Phippsburg, ME
3. Fort Gorges, Portland, ME
4. Fort Scammel, Cumberland County, ME
5. Fort Preble, South Portland, ME
6. Fort McClary, York County, ME
7. Fort Constitution (2), Portsmouth, NH
8. Fort Warren (2), Boston, MA
9. Fort Independence (1), Boston, MA
10. Fort Taber (Fort Rodman), New Bedford, MA
11. Fort Adams (1), Narragansett Bay, RI
12. Fort Trumbull, New London, CT
13. Fort Schuyler (1), Throgs Neck, NY
14. Fort Totten, Throgs Neck, NY
15. Fort Hamilton (1), New York City, NY
16. Fort Richmond (1), Staten Island, NY
17. Fort Tompkins (1), Staten Island, NY
18. Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook, NJ
19. Fort Delaware, Pea Patch Island, DE
20. Fort Carroll (1), Baltimore, MD
21. Fort Monroe, Hampton, VA
22. Fort Calhoun (1) (Wool), Hampton, VA
23. Fort Macon, Morehead City, NC
24. Fort Caswell, Oak Island, NC
25. Fort Sumter, Charleston, SC
26. Fort Pulaski, Savannah, GA

27. Fort Clinch (1), Fernandina Beach, FL
28. Fort Taylor, Key West, FL
29. Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, FL
30. Fort Pickens, Pensacola, FL
31. Fort McRee, Pensacola, FL
32. Fort Barrancas, Pensacola, FL
33. Advanced Redoubt, Pensacola, FL
34. Fort Morgan (1), Mobile Bay, AL
35. Fort Gaines (1), Dauphin Island, AL
36. Fort Massachusetts, Ship Island, MS
37. Fort Pike (1), New Orleans, LA
38. Fort Macomb (1), (Wood), Chef Menteur, LA
39. Fort Jackson, Port Sulphur, LA
40. Fort Livingston, Barataria Island, LA

41. Fort Point (Fort Winfield Scott), San Francisco, CA
42. Fort Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA


Not Included Above

  • Appurtenant structures. Fort Winthrop, for example, in Boston Harbor is not listed as a fort.
  • The following are also not part of the list of 42:
  • Northern Frontier forts, as Totten did not include them in the system in his reports. He listed them as a separate entity. He stated that the forts of the Third System were to be manned by militia artillery, while the Northern Frontier forts were to be manned by regular army. This seems like a minor difference, but it was really representative of a whole different philosophy of defense.

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