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The Eastman Forts
Map of the U.S. showing Eastman Fort Locations
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Fort Mackinac
Michigan (1761)

Fort Mackinac takes it name from the island on which it stands. Located on a high bluff, it overlooks the Mackinac Straits connecting Lakes Huron and Michigan. The fort is no longer an active military installation, although it figured prominently in the early history of the area. The French first fortified the south shore of the straits early in the eighteenth century. In 1761 the British occupied that fort during the French and Indian War, but they abandoned it in 1763 after an Indian attack caught the garrison by surprise. The British returned to the site in 1764. In 1780, believing the fort vulnerable to attack by American forces during the Revolutionary War, the British garrison moved to Mackinac Island. Although they ceded that fort to the United States in 1795, British forces captured it in 1812. American forces experienced a serious defeat in a futile attempt to recapture the fort in 1814. With the end of the War of 1812, however, Fort Mackinac finally became permanent U.S. property in 1815.

At the time Eastman painted the fort, its reservation encompassed a little over two square miles, and it had a garrison of about forty enlisted men and four officers. In 1875 most of the reservation became a national park, leaving only about 100 acres for the post. The reduced Fort Mackinac remained an active post until 1895, when the state of Michigan acquired it for a public park.

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Fort Mifflin
Pennsylvania (1771)

Fortifications on Mud Island, site of Fort Mifflin, predate the Revolutionary War. The island is in the Delaware River, seven miles below Philadelphia. The British started building the first works, known locally as Mud Fort, in 1771. A British bombardment destroyed the first fort, occupied by Patriot forces, in 1777. In 1795 a new fort erected on the site was named in honor of Pennsylvania's first governor, Maj. Gen. Thomas Mifflin of the Continental Army. In 1798 work began on a new masonry structure to replace the older works, and the new fort was completed two years later. The post was abandoned and reoccupied several times during the nineteenth century. Fort Mifflin was garrisoned during the Civil War, and Eastman was in command when the war ended. As the Army reduced its force structure at the end of the war, the post's garrison grew considerably smaller. The 1875 Surgeon General's report on hygiene noted that although the post had quarters for "one company of artillery," the facility was "in charge of an ordnance-sergeant."

Fort Mifflin became a National Historic Landmark in 1915. During World War I the post was used to store munitions, and its final contribution to national defense was to host an antiaircraft battery during World War II.

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Fort Trumbull
Connecticut (1775)

The structure depicted by Eastman is the third fort constructed on the same site with the same name. In 1775, recognizing the necessity of protecting harbors from British occupation, the General Assembly of Connecticut ordered fortifications prepared between the mouth of the river Thames and the town of New London. Named for Governor Jonathan Trumbull, the first Fort Trumbull, completed in 1777, was apparently a primitive affair designed solely to cover the river. Its fatal flaw, an open landward side, allowed British forces, led by the American Benedict Arnold, easily to overrun the fort's 23-man garrison from the rear and put New London to the torch in 1781.

In 1812, again responding to the threat of British occupation, a new, more powerful redoubt was erected on the site. Although British warships remained near the mouth of the Thames River for much of the War of 1812, this fort, in conjunction with its companion on the opposite shore, apparently provided sufficient deterrence to prevent the fleet from attempting to enter the harbor. In 1839 a new fortress replaced this second fort. According to the 1870 Surgeon General's report on barracks and hospitals, it incorporated "all the latest improvements in the science of defense and gunnery." The completed 1839 fortress appears in Eastman's painting.

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Forts Tompkins and Wadsworth
New York (1776)

When Eastman painted this scene, the installation at the top of the hill was known as Fort Tompkins and the fortification at the waterline was Fort Wadsworth. Over the years, however, these fortifications, located on Staten Island west of the Narrows outside New York harbor, have had a variety of names.

In 1776 the British occupied and fortified the island along the waterline. When their occupation ended in 1783 the fortifications became known as Fort Richmond, the name of the local New York county. In 1812 Staten Island, by the U.S. property, received additional fortifications. The new post built on the height was named Fort Tompkins, after Governor Daniel D. Tompkins of New York. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, the War Department issued General Orders No. 161 redesignating Fort Richmond as Fort Wadsworth "in memory of the gallant and patriotic services of Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth who was killed at the head of his command in the battle of The Wilderness."

In 1902 Headquarters of the Army General Orders No. 16 applied the name Fort Wadsworth to all the fortifications on the west side of the Narrows and at the same time gave names to each of the individual batteries on the island. The fortifications that had been named Fort Wadsworth were designated Battery Weed for Stephen H. Weed, a brigadier general of United States Volunteers during the Civil War.

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Forts Scammel and Gorges
Maine (1808)

The U.S. government acquired the property of Forts Scammel, on the right in Eastman's rendition, and Gorges, on the left, early in the nineteenth century to build fortifications that would protect the harbor at Portland, Maine, from hostile invasion. Work on Fort Scammel began in 1808, the same year Eastman was born in Brunswick, a small town about twenty-five miles northeast of Portland. The fort was built on a twelve-acre site on House Island at the mouth of Portland's harbor. It was named for Alexander Scammel, the commander of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment, who was killed at Yorktown in 1781. A lighthouse presently occupies the site. Construction of Fort Gorges, located on Hog Island, did not begin until 1857. It was named for Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the seventeenth century British Lord Palatinate of the Province of Maine. Work on the fort was completed about the time the Civil War ended, but it played no role in that conflict.

Although the Inspector General's 1872 report on Army posts noted that both forts were about to undergo extensive renovation, neither was ever armed or garrisoned as planned. Plans at that time apparently called for Fort Scammel to contain seventy-one guns and Fort Gorges ninety-five. The closest either fort came to active service was in World War I when Fort Gorges was used as a storage site for torpedo mines.

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Fort Delaware
Delaware (1812)

Fort Delaware is located in the Delaware River on Pea Patch Island about forty-two miles downstream from Philadelphia. The island was first fortified with earthworks during the War of 1812. After a number of intermittent attempts to erect a permanent fort, Congress in 1847 appropriated $1 million to construct a permanent masonry fort on the site, and work began the following year. When the fort was finally completed in 1859, it had cost an additional million dollars. It was garrisoned by federal forces in 1861.

The fort was designed to mount 252 guns, and eventually 131 were installed. During the Civil War it saw use primarily as a prison for Confederate soldiers. The prisoners taken at the Battle of Gettysburg were held here. According to the 1870 Surgeon General's report on Fort Delaware, the prisoners of war "were confined in wooden barracks outside the fort," and "the greatest number imprisoned here at one time was about 12,000."

The Army maintained a garrison at the fort until its inactivation in 1870. The Spanish-American War and World War I provided impetus to reactivate Fort Delaware and modernize some of the gun emplacements, but it never fired a shot in anger. The state of Delaware assumed responsibility for the fort in 1944 and now maintains it as a tourist attraction.

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Fort Snelling
Minnesota (1819)

Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, Fort Snelling was established in 1819 on a bluff 100 feet above the river line. The stone buildings and walls shown in Eastman's rendering were constructed in 1830. The formidable bastion, named for Col. Josiah Snelling, commander of the 5th Infantry, which built the first defenses on the site, was never attacked of even seriously threatened.
The fort was a frequent frontier assignment for Seth Eastman. He served here with the 1st Infantry as a lieutenant and a captain and commanded the post a number of times during his career. In 1857 Eastman surveyed the reservation around the fort in preparation for its sale to land developers. The land was platted as a townsite, but with the onset of the Civil War the state of Minnesota stepped in and used the post as a training center for volunteers who joined the Union Army.

After the Civil War the U.S. Army returned and headquartered the Department of Dakota at the fort. Troops stationed at Fort Snelling participated in a number of the Indian campaigns and the Spanish-American War. During the two World Wars it served as a recruiting and training center. It remained an active Army post until 1946, when it was turned over to the Veterans Administration. In 1960 Fort Snelling became Minnesota's first National Historic Landmark.

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Fort Taylor
Florida (1822)

Fort Taylor now stands on Key West. The island became U.S. property when the Navy hoisted an American flag over it in 1822. The Army established a barracks on the north shore of the island in 1831, and in 1845 construction of Fort Zachary Taylor began on the southwest side, on a sandy shoal about 400 yards offshore. Three of the fort's four bastions overlooked and controlled the water approaches to Key West. When the Civil War began in 1861 the post was ready to be garrisoned, and Union forces occupied it during the entire war.

Between the end of the Civil War and the end of the nineteenth century, the Army periodically abandoned and then reopened the installation. In 1870, for example, the Surgeon General reported that the quarters "are not in good condition" and that "the fort is occupied only by a guard." A modernization program between 1898 and 1905 reduced the fort's original three stories to one so that modern coast artillery could be mounted on the original bottom tier. As shown in Eastman's painting, water completely surrounded the fortress during most of its existence, but in the mid 1960s the Navy dredged and filled the area between the fort and Key West, making the installation an integral part of the island. Fort Taylor became a National Historic Landmark in 1968.

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Fort Defiance
New Mexico (1851)

When Congress commissioned Eastman to paint military installations, Fort Defiance had already been abandoned for some time. The Army had first used the site as a base of operations in 1851. By 1852 the fort boasted a number of pine log and adobe structures built around a parade ground. For ten years the post housed elements of several regiments while they engaged in campaigns against the local Indians. In 1860 Companies B, C, and E of the 3d Infantry successfully defended the fort against a Navajo attack. The onset of the Civil War in 1861 caused the Army to abandon the installation, although it saw a flurry of activity when Kit Carson briefly occupied the fort in 1863.

No record exists of Eastman's ever having spent and time at Fort Defiance. He was assigned to frontier duty with the 5th Infantry, however, when it had elements occupying the fort, and it is certainly possible that his duties took him to the post. Since Eastman virtually always carried materials for sketching during his travels, he may well have captured an image of Fort Defiance before its evacuation.
The title of the painting places the fort in New Mexico, and during the fort's active service it was in New Mexico Territory. In 1863, however, with the creation of Arizona Territory in what had been the western part of New Mexico, the site became part of Arizona.

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Fort Rice
North Dakota (1864)

Established during the Sioux campaigns in 1864 on the western bank of the Missouri River, Fort Rice had a brief and uneventful life as an Army post. The Secretary of War named the fort for Brig. Gen. James Clay Rice, who had been killed in Virginia in May 1864. The original buildings, cottonwood logs with sod roofs, were built by the 30th Wisconsin Infantry. In 1868 the post was rebuilt; the original buildings were destroyed and new ones erected on their sites. The new fort was a quadrangle, 864 by 544 feet, surrounded by a 10-foot-high stockade. By 1875 the post included 4 company quarters, 7 buildings for officers, a hospital, a bakery, 5 storehouses, a library, a magazine, and a guardhouse. There were corrals, stables, and another storehouse outside the stockade.

Although the Inspector General reported in 1872 that the post was "generally very healthy," in 1870 the Surgeon General had portrayed the area surrounding Fort Rice as being "generally sterile, and sparsely timbered and watered. . . . Drought is one of the chief difficulties, but not the only one--for what the drought spares, the grasshoppers are apt to devour."
By 1878 Fort Rice had outlived its usefulness, and the Army abandoned it. In 1884 it was turned over to the Interior Department. Today part of the site is a state park that included several reconstructed buildings from the fort.

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