Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fort Jay (Fort Columbus) in New York City

From Wikipedia.

Continuing with the New York City seaward approach forts.

Fort Jay (Fort Columbus) was a coastal star fort on Governors Island and the oldest defense structure on the island.

It was an earthwork during the American Revolution and occupied for awhile by the Americans.  On 12 July 1776, it engaged the British ships HMS Phoenix and HMS Rose.  It was evacuated when the Americans left the city and then occupied by the British.

It had fallen into disrepair by 1794 and somewhat rebuilt.  In 1797 Congress appropriated$30,117 for a major fort at the site.  The earthworks were replaced with granite and brick walls and enlarged by Major Jonathan Williams and completed in 1808.  At that time it was named for New York Governor John Jay, one of the nation's Founding Fathers.'

It saw no action during the War of 1812.


Castle Williams in New York City

From Wikipedia.

While on New York City's defenses during the War of 1812, I am going to write about other fortifications designed to protect the city from seaward attack.

Castle Williams was a red sandstone circular fortification on Governors Island, opposite Castle Clinton.  Together with Fort Jay (formerly Fort Columbus), they make up Governors Island National Monument.

It was built from 1807 to 1811 under the direction of Lt.Col. Jonathan Williams (for whom it is named) and part of a defensive system including Castle Clinton on Manhattan Island, Fort Wood on Liberty Island and Fort Gibson on Ellis Island.

The fort stood 40 feet high and had a 210-foot diameter with 7-8-foot-thick walls.  There were four levels, each containing 14 casemates capable of mounting 28 cannons.

It saw no action during the War of 1812.  During the Civil War, it was used to house new recruits, garrisoned for defense and later was a prison for Confederate enlisted men.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Castle Clinton in New York City

From Wikipedia.

After some initial confusion between Fort Clinton and Castle Clinton, I figured out which was which.  Fort Clinton was part of New York defenses built quickly in 1814 to defend against an expected British attack.  Castle Clinton, so called because of its appearance, was also a Fort Clinton at one time and also called West Battery.

It was built on a small artificial island at the south end of Manhattan Island which has since been filled in with land fill.  It is located about two blocks from where the Dutch built Fort Amsterdam in 1626.

It was built between 1808 and 1811, designed in part by Jonathan Williams, and was to complement the three-tiered Castle Williams on Governor's Island for the city's protection.  Castle Williams was called East Battery.

Today, Castle Clinton is used as a departure point for visitors going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.


Central Park's Fort Clinton-- Part 3:

Fort Clinton was named for the city's mayor, DeWitt Clinton.  The site had previously been used by British Hessian troops during the occupation of New York City 1776-1783.

From the Central Park web site.

In the 1860s, designers of Central Park recognized the scenic and historic value of Fort Clinton and returned the location to its original topography and the remains of the fort.  By 1900, the remains had eroded and the site was turned into a scenic overlook with rustic fencing, benches and flag pole.

The Central Park Conservancy rebuilt Fort Clinton in 2014 for the War of 1812 bicentennial.  Two cannons were also installed.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Central Park's Fort Clinton-- Part 2: A Tale of Two Clintons, a Castle and a Fort

Last night, I was talking with my friend Kevin, who grew up in Brooklyn, at the American Legion and told him I was writing about McGowan's Pass, Fort Fish, Nutter's Battery and Fort Clinton.  He said he knew all of these places on Manhattan.  But he referred to Fort Clinton as the "Castle."

I didn't know about the Fort Clinton in Central Park being anything like a castle since it was built very quickly.

When I did the search for Fort Clinton this morning, I found out why it was the castle.

It turns out that Manhattan has two fortresses known as Clinton.  The one Kevin was referring to is now called Castle Clinton and is at the south end of the island.  Both of them were named for mayor DeWitt Clinton, though.

So, this is so you won't get confused about the two Fort Clintons.


Central Park's Fort Clinton-- Part 1: Part of City Defenses

From Wikipedia.

Yesterday, I posted about a line of fortifications in New York City's Central Park that were hurriedly built in 1814 for use in stopping a possible British attack that was expected.  This included McGowan's Pass, Fort Fish, Nutter's Battery and Fort Clinton, a line connected with earthworks.

Fort Clinton was in present-day Central Park and was an 1814 stone and earthwork fortification on a rocky escarpment near the present line of 107th Street and slightly west of Fifth Avenue.

It was the easternmost of a connected series of forts, connecting Nutter's Battery on the west by a series of earthworks and a gatehouse over Old Post Road (evidently Kingsbridge Road) at the bottom of McGowan's Pass.

Fort Clinton and Nutter's Battery were in turn commanded by Fort Fish which had a sweeping view of Long Island Sound, northern Manhattan and Westchester County.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Remnant of War of 1812 Fortification Found In New York's Central Park-- Part 2

Other fortifications rebuilt included Fort Clinton, Nutter's Battery and Fort Fish.  But, fortunately, the British never came.  All the above mention fortifications are long gone except for those at McGowan's Pass, which still remain.

In 1990, the Conservancy worked with archaeologists to identify breastworks that have eroded over time at the pass.

On the north side of the pass, citizens drilled a line of holes into rock outcroppings.  Iron rods inserted in them could have helped build a wall linking the three small forts listed in the first paragraph.  These forts guarded the pass and surrounding countryside.

You can still see the holes.  They were recently found during reconstruction of the $2 million Fort Landscape Project in the north end of the park.Foundations of the southeast side of the gate house that had been constructed, almost like a bridge across McGowan's Pass over Kingsbridghe Road.  Evidence of the stone-splitting process known as plug-and-feather was used in the fort built atop rock they were composed of.

The northwest side of the gatehouse and part of the original Kingsbridge Road was also found.

And, You Didn't Think Much Happened in New York City During the War.  --Brock-Perry

Remnant of War of 1812 Fortification Found in New York's Central Park-- Part 1

From the September 24, 2014, New York Times "Excavated in Central Park: Traces of Anti-Redcoat Fortification Never Needed."

In August 1814, America was in chaos.  The British had taken and sacked the capital and held Lake Champlain.  It was becoming obvious that there was a real possibility of an attack on New York.

It was expected that Kingsbridge Road, actually a very rudimentary byway, which ran from the mainland down Manhattan Is;and to New York City, was the most likely avenue of British invasion.

Civilians rapidly fashioned impromptu fortifications, including one at McGowan's Pass in Harlem.  (east side of 107th Street, just south of Harlem Meer.  These were originally built during the Revolutionary War, but now, 200 volunteers spent six weeks rebuilding the city's network of forts.  They fortified McGowan's Pass with a barrier wall and a blockhouse mounting cannons.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Historic Marker Honors Military Hero Winfield Scott

From the Sept. 24, 2014, Pilot On Line.  AP

Dinwiddie County, Virginia.

A state historical marker was dedicated on Sept. 29, 2014, for Winfield Scott, a native son of Virginia.  He was wounded in the war and later promoted to brigadier general.  Scott also led American forces in the Mexican War and early days of the Civil War.

He attended the College of William & Mary and died in 1866.

Did the Cape Fear Region Play Any Significant Role in the War of 1812?

From the April 30, 2010, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "My Reporter" by Meston Vanoe.

No battles were fought in North Carolina, but the British did occupy Ocracoke and Portsmouth islands in the Outer Banks from July 12-16, 1813.  This scared the state and the militia was called out, some going to Wilmington.

Johnston Blakely was a naval hero from Wilmington who commanded the sloop USS Wasp that captured the HMS Reindeer

Captain Otway Burns was from Onslow County and was a leading privateer.  he is buried in Beaufort in a tomb topped with cannons from his ship, the Snap Dragon.  His desk and a model of his ship are at the North Carolina Maritime Museum.

Brunswick County raised a company of volunteers for the North Carolina Militia.

After the war, the government increased the size of the Navy.  Seven ships-of-the-line, the most powerful ships of their day, were built.  One was the USS North Carolina which was launched in 1820 and commissioned in 1824.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Five Things to Know About "The Star-Spangled Banner"-- Part 2: A Shakespearean Connection?

4.  The song lyric's Shakespearean roots.

Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" contained the phrase "by spangled star-light sheen".

From "Taming of the Shrew" come the words "what stars do spangle heaven with such beauty".

But, did the "Star-Spangled Banner" coin the phrase "In God We Trust."  In its 4th verse, it says, "The conquer we must, when our cause is just.  And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'"

5. HOW EMBARRASSING:  Francis Scott Key owned slaves and his descendants supported the Confederacy.  (And, this was before the murders in Charleston in 2015.)

The North adopted "The Star-Spangled Banner" as its unofficial national anthem.  The Confederacy adopted "Dixie" as its unofficial national anthem.  It was written by northerner Daniel Emmett.

Just the Facts.  --Brock-Perry

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Five Things to Know About "The Star-Spangled Banner"-- Part 1: Amateur Poet

From the September 10, 2014, Daily herald by Juliet Linderman.

1.  What does it have to do with Baltimore?  The Battle of Baltimore

2.  Francis Scott Out-of-Key.  Key was only an amateur poet and probably tone deaf and described by his family as non-musical.

3.  200th Anniversary.  The city was commemorating the 200th anniversary of the September 11, 1814, attack.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Eleazor Wheelock Ripley-- Part 3: War of 1812

Eleazor Ripley was wounded at York and also participated in the battles of Sacketts Harbor and Crysler's Farm.

In April 1814, he was promoted to brigadier general and commanded the Second Brigade of Major general Jacob Brown's Left Division in the Niagara Campaign.  At the Battle of Lundy's Lane, his brigade captured and held British cannons until the Americans could withdraw.  However, Brown accused Ripley for losing those guns.  Ripley demanded and got a court martial to clear his name.

He briefly commanded Brown's division during the Siege of Fort Erie after Brown had been wounded at Lundty's Lane, but he was replaced by Brigadier general Edmund Pendleton Gaines.

Ripley was conspicuous in the repulse of the British assault on Fort Erie on August 16 and the American sortie from the fort on September 17, 1814, where he was wounded again.  he was awarded the Congressional Gold medal for his action at Fort Erie.  This was the precursor of the Medal of Honor.

Ripley later moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1815 and left the Army in 1820.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Eleazor Wheelock Ripley-- Part 2: From Maine/Massachusetts

From Wikipedia.

Born 1782 and died March 2, 1839.  American soldier and politician.  Eventually rose to the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Army and was a U.S. representative from Louisiana 1835-1839.

Born in New Hampshire, he was the grandson of Eleazor Wheelock, founder of Dartmouth College.  He graduated from there in 1800 and practiced law in Maine (a part of Massachusetts at the time).  he was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives 1810-1811 and Senate in 1812.  (He probably opposed the War of 1812 as most of New England did.)

After the outbreak of war, he organized the 21st U.S. Infantry Regiment and was given the rank of lieutenant-colonel.  Promoted to colonel and commander of the regiment in March 1813, most of his soldiers were from Maine and Massachusetts.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Eleazor Wheelock Ripley-- Part 1: Hero at Fort Erie

From History of the 21st U.S. Infantry 1812-1813.

Like the last person I wrote about, William Goldsmith Belknap, who was another officer involved in the operations at Fort Erie, Upper Canada during the War of 1812.

Colonel of the 21st U.S. Infantry, Eleazor Wheelock Ripley led troops at the September 17th sortie from Fort Erie and cited for bravery and ability.  He received a severe wound and had to go to Buffalo where he recuperated for three months. where he hovered between life and death.

Congress voted him its thanks and he received a Gold Medal.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

William Goldsmith Belknap-- Part 3

William  Belknap was involved in may battles during the Mexican War and brevetted to colonel for gallantry in Gen. Zachary Taylor's Rio Grande Campaign.  He was inspector general at the Battle of Monterrey, became a lieutenant colonel  September 26, 1847 and brevetted to brigadier general on February 23, 1847, for service at the Battle of Buena Vista.

After the war he commanded Fort Gibson in Oklahoma, then Indian Territory, from 1848 to 1850.

He died of dysentery on November 10, 1851 while searching for a location for a military post to protect California-bound settlers and Texas emigrants.

He was also the father of William W. Beknap who became a Union general during the Civil War and was later Secretary of War under President U.S. grant from 1869 to 1876.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What Does Brevetted Mean?

In the last entry, I mentioned that William G. Belknap was brevetted three times during the course of his long military career.  Some folks might not understand what this means.

When a person is brevetted in the U.S. military, this means that they attain a higher rank, but without the pay or most of the privileges that go with it.

This often happens at retirement.  But often it also takes place as a reward for gallant service.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

William Goldsmith Belknap-- Part 2: Brevetted Three Times

From Wikipedia.

Born September 7, 1794 in New York.  Died November 10, 1851.  Career soldier, brevetted three times for service during three wars: War of 1812, Second Seminole War and Mexican War.  Eventually rose to the rank of brigadier general and served as commandant of Forts Gibson, Washita and Smith.

He was a lieutenant in the War of 1812 and wounded in the sortie from Fort Erie on September 17, 1814.

Was made captain on February 1, 1822 and major on Jan. 31, 1842.  Brevetted to lieutenant-colonel; March 15, 1842 for his service in the Second Seminole War in Florida.

In 1828, Captain Belknap assisted in the establishment of Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.


Monday, September 21, 2015

William Goldsmith Belknap-- Part 1: Wounded Twice at Fort Erie

From the Chronicles of Oklahoma.

Born 1794.

Appointed 3rd lieutenant in 23rd U.S. Infantry April 5, 1813.  In October was promoted to 2nd lieutenant.  While a 1st Lt. at Fort Erie, he was wounded August 15, 1814.  He was wounded again on the September 17 sortie from Fort Erie.

Later, he commanded Fort Gibson, Fort Washita and Fort Smith.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

David Riddle

2nd. lieutenant 15th Infantry, April 9, 1812

Brevet captain July 25, 1814 for gallant conduct at the Battle of Niagara.  Brevet major on September 17, 1814 for gallant conduct during sortie from Fort Erie.