“Guardians of Annapolis”: Harbor Defenses

Rough plan of the defences of the harbour of Annapolis in Maryland

Rough plan of the defences of the harbour of Annapolis in Maryland / taken from a penciled sketch made by Brig. General Wm. Winder, 1814.

As early as 1776 the Annapolis Council of Safety petitioned for the erection of several earth fortifications at four strategic points to protect Annapolis harbor. These were at Horn Point, Greenbury Point, Beaman’s Point and Windmill Point. By the late 18th century the bay had become a crucial transportation route for the Continental army, supplies and communications. To protect the colonial capitol, in 1808 these four points of land became the foundations of the following U.S. fortifications.

Spring 1813 – With the arrival of British naval forces in the Chesapeake, Governor Winder reported to the legislature that “due to the defenseless situation of the forts”  he ordered a detachment of 1500 militia to Annapolis for the city’s protection and to supplement the small detachments of U.S troops at the forts.

Fort Severn (1808-1904) – On November 1808 the land was ceded to the U.S. War Department. In January 1809 President Jefferson reported to Congress: ” A circular battery of mason-work at Windmill Point, for the protection and defense of Annapolis is nearly completed – the cannon are mounted. Another battery [Fort Madison]on the bank of the Severn, below the town, is also nearly finished.”

It was described as a circular 14′ high stone masonry work, mounting twelve guns at Windmill Point. During the war it was intermittently garrisoned by Captain Samuel Sterett’s Co. 5th U.S. Infantry, Aug – Dec 1812; Lieutenant Satterley Clark, 1st Regiment, U.S. Artillery, June 1813. In 1845 Fort Severn was transferred to the U.S. Navy for the U.S. Naval Academy and in 1909 was demolished. Today the site is occupied by Bancroft Hall.

Fort Madison (1809-1909) – Located on Carr Point, Fort Madison, was described by U.S. Secretary of War Wm. Eustis in Dec. 19, 1809: “Fort Madison, an enclosed work of masonry, comprehending a semi-elliptical face, with circular flanks, calculated for thirteen guns: with a brick magazine, and barracks for one company.” On April 19, 1813, Fort Madison fired her alarm guns when several Maryland privateers sought shelter from being chased by British warships. The fort remained garrisoned until transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1845. It was removed in 1909. The site is the U.S. Yard Patrol boats across the river from Bancroft Hall. Among the troops who garrisoned the fort were Capt. George C. Collin’s Baltimore Union Artillery, 1st Regt. Md Artillery, Aug 1812.

It was demolished in 1909 by the U.S.Navy, the site to be used for the U..S. Naval Academy.

Fort Nonsense (c. 1808- c. 1815) – Very little is known of the site other than it was located on Carr Point and may have been used during the Revolutionary War as a lookout post through the War of 1812. Located below Fort Madison on a high prominence it appears to have been a small circular earthen redoubt of 2 acres. Remnants of the redoubt have survived of the three forts that had defended Annapolis during the war. Today it is located on U.S. Navy property and is off limits to civilians.

Sources: “Fort Severn, Forerunner of U.S. Naval Academy,” by Ruby R. Duval, Shipmate, Oct. 1958; Correspondence between Gov. Levin Winder and U.S. Secretary of War John Armstrong, March – April 1813, Baltimore Patriot, May 22, 1813.

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Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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