Images And Reflection On Two Of Maine’s Mid Coast Forts

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Earlier in the year I visited both Fort Popham and Fort Edgecomb, both in the mid coast region of Maine. Fort Popham being especially interesting as being in the area of the Popham Colony site, the second English settled colony in the America’s. Here are summaries of the both the fort and colony from Wikipedia.

“The Popham Colony (also known as the Sagadahoc Colony) was a short-lived English colonial settlement in North America that was founded in 1607 and located in the present-day town of Phippsburg, Maine near the mouth of the Kennebec River by the proprietary Virginia Company of Plymouth. It was founded a few months later in the same year as its more successful rival, the Jamestown Settlement, which was established on June 14, 1607 by the Virginia Company of London in present-day James City County, Virginia, as the first permanent English settlement in the present United States.

The Popham Colony was the first English colony in the region that would eventually become known as New England. The colony was abandoned after only one year, apparently more due to family changes in the leadership ranks than lack of success in the New World. The loss of life of the colonists in 1607 and 1608 at Popham was far lower than the experience at Jamestown.

The first ship built by the English in the New World was completed during the year of the Popham Colony and was sailed back across the Atlantic Ocean to England. The pinnace, named Virginia of Sagadahoc, was apparently quite seaworthy, and crossed the Atlantic again successfully in 1609 as part of Sir Christopher Newport‘s 9 vessel Third Supply mission to Jamestown. The tiny Virginia survived a massive three day storm enroute which was thought to have been a hurricane and which wrecked the mission’s large new flagship Sea Venture on Bermuda.

The exact site of the Popham Colony was lost until its rediscovery in 1994. Much of this historical location is now part of Maine’s Popham Beach State Park.”

“Fort Popham is a coastal defense land battery at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Phippsburg, Maine, United States. It is located in sight of the short-lived Popham Colony and, like the colony, named for George Popham, the colony’s leader. During the American Revolution a minor fortification stood on this site; in 1808 the federal government built a small battery derisively known as an “embargo fort” on this location as part of the second system of fortifications that guarded the coast. It remained manned until 1815, and saw minor action during the War of 1812.

Construction of Fort Popham was authorized in 1857, but did not begin until 1862 when the Union became nervous about the Confederacy’s newest naval ship design, the ironclad warship, and its possible effect on Bath Iron Works and Maine’s capital city of Augusta, which is located less than 20 miles (32 km) up the Kennebec River. The fort was built from granite blocks quarried on nearby Fox Island and Dix Island. It had a 30-foot (9.1 m)-high wall facing the mouth of the Kennebec River and was built in a crescent shape, measuring approximately 500 feet (150 m) in circumference.

Fort Popham’s armament consisted of 36 cannons arranged in two tiers of vaulted casements. Each cannon weighed roughly 25 tons and fired solid shot, each weighing almost 480 pounds. The back side of Fort Popham was built with a low moated curtain containing a central gate and 20 musket ports.

In 1869 construction at Fort Popham stopped before the fortification was completed. The fort was garrisoned again after additional work was performed during the Spanish-American War and World War I. Construction of Fort Baldwin on the headland above Fort Popham began in 1905 with longer-range guns, which eventually rendered Fort Popham obsolete. The fort, located two miles (3 km) from popular Popham Beach State Park, is now open to the public.”

Fort Popham is a well maintained site and easily accesible. The scale is really quite different than Fort Edgecomb. Fort Popham has immense passages and a broad parade ground. It was never completed and never fired a shot in all the time of its active service.

Fort Edgecomb is quite different as it’s construction is that of a blockhouse. The vista from the hill it sits atop provide a good watch over the bay. The day I went actually was quite cold and the wind afforded it to be a bit colder. Here is the WIkipedia entry about it.

Fort Edgecomb, built in 18081809, is a two-story octagonal wooden blockhouse and restored fortifications located on Davis Island in the town of Edgecomb, Lincoln County, Maine, United States. It is also known as Fort Edgecomb State Historic Site. On October 01, 1969, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and on December 22, 1991, its boundaries were increased to create an historic district.

The fort was built as part of the U.S. second system of fortifications, guarding the then-important port of Wiscasset. Thomas Jefferson‘s Embargo was not popular with American merchants, and it is said that the only time Fort Edgecomb’s cannon were fired was in salute at James Madison‘s inauguration (or, less tactfully, to celebrate his lifting of the Embargo).

During the War of 1812, this post saw considerable activity holding British prisoners of war, many of them brought to Wiscasset harbor by American privateersmen. In 1814, Fort Edgecomb became the center of American preparations to invade mid-coast Maine. It remained manned until 1818, and was reactivated during the Civil War.

Although both of the forts were built in the same time period they are vastly different in design. Fort Edgecomb a traditional blockhouse and Fort Popham an imposing structure towering high. Both forts are open to the public and I believe Fort Edgecomb has tours inside at scheduled times.

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