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Following Fort Blunder...
The only remaining walls- Bastions B, C, and curtain II
It is the south-facing front that is most visible to travelers crossing Lake Champlain on the Rouses Point Bridge. To these travelers, the fort looks almost undamaged. The Depression-era demolition started just above Bastion B at the southeast and continued north. With the exception of several rows of stone from the top of the walls, the entire south-facing walls are largely intact on the outside.
After spending several minutes inside Bastion B, we climbed up to the barbette tier before heading west inside the structure. Here at last, we could get a sense of what the fort was like before it was assaulted by the demolition crews. Despite the fact that much of the earthen terreplein that protected the rampart was gone, and several rows of stone had been removed, the view from the top of the fort was impressive. Looking back over the parade we couldn't help but notice just how much of this great structure had been removed. The great bridge to the south still stands of course. Despite a major re-build a few years ago, the approaches on the east and western shores and probably the large pull-off on the Vermont side are made up of materials taken from the fort. There is a strange sort of irony that, in this bridge, many believe the fort may have served its most useful purpose. This writer believes that the fort served as an effective deterrent to invasion and war.
The view from the top- The Barbette Tier
After taking a number of photographs from the top of the massive walls, we went back inside the south curtain and headed west towards the SW bastion. We could finally view what fort defenders would have seen. Peering through the rifle slits, or loopholes, was oddly disconcerting for this writer. I could imagine what it would have been like to attempt to fire at ships and men through these holes while those same men were attempting to batter down the very walls that protected me. I could almost hear the deafening roar of the massive 32-pounders and Rodman guns above, below and beside me. The stone cavern surrounding me became almost claustrophobic.
Yet, this was one fort that never heard the roar of these guns fired in anger.
Within the fort walls
Once again within the walls of Curtain II, we were impressed with the massive brick arches that supported these walls. Third-System Totten-designed forts were built to hold cannon and carriages of enormous weight. Each section designed to hold one of these guns was bracketed on each side by these arches. Graffiti of course, "decorated" most bare walls. Fort Montgomery was built with three tiers of openings, or embrasures. The lower level, on the curtain, or main, wall was laden with rifle loopholes. Obviously, these openings were for firing at attackers with rifles. The lower sections of the bastions held emplacements for 24-pounder flank howitzers, another anti-personnel weapon. These guns would have fired grapeshot, rather than solid shot. The second tier had openings for another 17 cannon within the walls still standing. Each of these massive guns were to swivel on wheeled carriages built of wood or iron. They were connected to the opening, or embrasure, by a massive iron pin, called a pintle.1 Many of the openings for the flank howitzers still firmly clutch these pintles.
(Click on the thumbnails to see a large image.)
Bastion C to the southwest. Here, the long south front met the landward
front or gorge, the Officer's quarters.
The author is grateful to the Clinton County Historical Association, Powertex, Inc., Feinberg Library and the late Ralph Gilpin for permission to publish images from their collections.
John R. Weaver II, "A Legacy in Brick and Stone-
American Coastal Defense Forts of the Third System, 1816-1867." Pictorial
Histories Publishing Company, Missoula, MT 2001 20-21, 43.
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