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.
Not Included Below
- 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.
|East Coast||Florida & Gulf Coast||West Coast|
1. Fort Knox, Prospect, ME
27. Fort Clinch (1), Fernandina Beach, FL