The History of Fort Adams
Part 3 (1861 - 1901)

Back to Part One Back to Part Two
Civil War Post Civil War Training

Civil War (1861 - 1865)

Fort Adams and U.S.S. Constitution in 1861.
(Lithograph by John P. Newell, 1861. See Newport Mercury, July 13th, 1861.)

When South Carolina succeeded from the Union in late 1860 there was great concern that the animosity between the north and south would result in a Civil War. Because of this the Federal government began to make preparations for war.

On January 11th, 1861 Lieutenant Edson and six ordnance men from Watertown Arsenal arrived to put the fort in order for active use. This involved mounting cannon on carraiges and replenishing the fort's stocks of food and ammunition. (Mercury, January 19th, 1861.)

Fort Sumter was attacked by the Confederates in April of 1861. In reaction Governor Sprague of Rhode Island ordered the Old Guard of the Newport Artillery Company to stand guard at the fort to deter any would be saboteurs. (The Old Guard consisted of about eighty members of the Artillery Company who were too old or disabled to join the 1st Rhode Island Regiment of which the younger members of the Artillery Company formed Company F of the regiment. The Old Guard was commanded by Colonel William B. Swan who had commanded the Artillery Company during the Dorr Rebellion in 1842.)

The Old Guard stood watch at the fort until May 9th when the famed frigate U.S.S. Constitution (also known as "Old Ironsides") arrived under tow with about 70 midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy on board. The academy was moved from Annapolis, Maryland for fear of Maryland being invaded by the Confederates.

The academy moved into Fort Adams and continued its program of preparing the midshipmen to be officers in the Navy. This arrangement lasted only until September 21st, 1861 when the academy was moved to the more comfortable Atlantic House hotel at the corner of Pelham Street and Bellevue Avenue in Newport. Another reason for the move was that the young midshipmen found Fort Adams to be too tempting for frolicing and mischief and their professors decided to move them to a location with less distraction and more condusive to discipline.

Among the midshipmen was Robley D. Evans. He would be commissioned later in the war and was severely wounded the battle of Fort Fisher in January 1865. He would eventually rise to the rank of Rear Admiral and would command the Great White Fleet on the first leg of its epic around the world voyage in 1908. His autobiography, A Sailor's Log, provides great insight into the U.S. Navy of the late 1800's.

From October of 1862 until the end of the war, Fort Adams served as the headquarters of the 15th Infantry Regiment of the Regular Army, under the command of Colonel Oliver L. Shepherd. In this capacity the Fort Adams was used as a recruit depot and new enlistees would report to the fort for induction into the Army, be given their uniforms and equipment and then be sent to join the units of the regiment deployed in the south. (Mercury, October 25th, 1862.)

The 15th was one of nine "super" regiments authorized by Congress in 1861. These regiments were much larger than the standard regiments which had 10 companies and a total strength of about 1,000 men. The new regiments had 24 companies organized into three eight company battalions for a total strengh of about 2,400. As each battalion was almost as large as a regular regiment they could opperate independently of one another.

From October 1862 to May 1863 the fort was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John P. Sanderson of the 15th Infantry. He was succeeded by Colonel Oliver L. Shephered. Colonel Shepherd's command was interupted by the brief tenure of Brigadier General Robert Anderson in 1863 of which there will be more later.

As not all of the regiment could be moblilized at the same time, individual companies (of about 100 men each) were organized at Fort Adams. The Newport Mercury recorded companies being shipped out to the front on August 1st and 20th of 1864 and May 10th, 1865. Although new companies were being sent to the front, on June 17th, 1865 the Mercury reported that the 1st Battalion of the 15th Infantry was being ordered to Fort Adams. This was probably because that battalion, which had been organized early in the war, had seen a lot of action and needed rest.

In early May 1863 the Fort was visited by Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. Secretary Chase was greeted by a 17 gun salute and welcomed by Colonel Sanderson. The secretary then reviewed the troops at the Fort and then moved on the inspect the ships of the Naval Academy in the harbor. (Mercury, May 9th, 1863.)

From August 19th to October 26th, 1863 Fort Adams was under the temporary command of Brigadier General Robert Anderson.

Anderson was a living legend for his noble stand at Fort Sumter at the beginning of the war but was in poor health, atributed to the stress he suffered as a result of surrendering Fort Sumter, which prevented him from active service at the front.

Anderson was assigned to Fort Adams in hopes that by being in a pleasant and healthy environment he would recover from his ailments. This was not to be. In late October Anderson accepted that he was incapable of active service and retired from the Army at his own request. He would live for several more years and died in Nice, France in 1871. He is buried at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

On Wednesday, September 16th, 1863 Private John Cook of Company F, 2nd Battalion of the 15th Infantry was killed while attempting to recover one of the Fort's barges which grounded on the south end of Goat Island. Cook sailed over with Patrick O'Connell in his sailboat Rebecca. O'Connell and Cook hoisted the Rebecca's sail and were hauling in the sheet when the sloop Greenpoint struck the Rebecca on the port quarter, staving in the side and causing her to sink immediately. The sail came down at the same time and entangled both persons so they were carried down with the boat. O'Connell managed to escape but Cook was not so lucky. The Rebecca was raised during the evening and Cook's body was found under the deck forward. (Mercury September 19th, 1863.) Cook was buried in the post cemetery. (Listing of Burials in the Fort Adams cemetery from 1841 to 1879.)

In December of 1863 Lieutenant Colonel Hoffman of the 6th Infantry inspected Fort Adams and found that it could accomodate up to 600 prisoners of war. However, the fort was never used for this purpose. Fort Warren in Boston Harbor was selected as a prison site instead. (Mercury December 19th, 1863.)

Although the Fort was spared the horrors of war that did not mean that its troops were immune from injury. In February 1864 Private Mayo of the 15th Regiment fell off of the fort's ramparts and died a half hour later. He was buried in the Fort's cemetery. (Mercury, February 27th, 1864.)

On March 6th, 1864 two soldiers deserted from the fort after being sent to the guard house. The sergeant of the guard was reduced to the ranks on account of his negligence. (Mercury, March 8th, 1864.)

On March 4th, 1865 a parade was held in Newport to celebrate recent Union victories. The 15th Infantry band of 24 pieces provided music for the occaision. This date coincided the President Lincoln's second innauguration.

On Wednesday, April 19th there was a ceremony of a more somber nature. President Lincoln had been assasinated a few days before and Newport observed the date as his funeral was in progress in Washington. Fort Adams fired a 21-gun salute in honor of the fallen president. In addition, a memorial service was held at the Fort.

Post Civil War (1865 - 1898)

View of Northwest Bastion of Fort Adams c. Late 1800's

After the Civil War, Fort Adams returned to its primary function as a major coastal artillery fort. Although the number of troops stationed here varied the fort typically had a regimental headquarters responsible for all coastal fortifications in New England and was usually commanded by a colonel. Periodically the garrison would be rotated as the two primary assignments for an artillery unit of the time were garrisoning coastal fortifications and defending the western frontier. As the former duty was as easy as the latter was hard the army had a rotation policy to reward the efforts of those who served in the west and to prevent the coastal garrisons from becoming too complacent.

In November 1865 three officers and eight non-commissioned officers of the 3rd Artillery Regiment arrived at the fort. Their mission was to recruit and train a sufficient number of soldiers to man the regiment's companies. (Mercury November 11th, 1865.)

On March 3rd, 1866 it was reported that two companies of the 15th Infantry had left the fort and that only 170 men of that regiment and one company of artillery remained at the fort. It was also reported that the headquarters and band of the regiment would leave the next week. After the departure of the 15th Infantry two additional companies from the 3rd Artillery at Fort Warren would be transfered to the fort.

A week later it was reported that the departure of the 15th Infantry would be postponed until the next Monday (March 12th) and that one company of the thrid artillery arrived at the fort on Monday the 5th and the other would arrive during the next week. (Mercury, March 10th, 1866.)

On June 9th, 1866 it was reported that two companies of artillerymen were sent from Fort Adams in response to the Fenian (Irish nationalist) raids on the Canadian border leaving only 4 soldiers in garrison at the fort. (Mercury, June 9th, 1866.)

On December 8th, 1866 it was reported that Fort Adams was undergoing extensive alteration in order to accomodate the new 15 Rodman guns which would be soon emplaced there.

In 1867 the redoubt in front of the east gate of the fort was modified to serve as a guard house and jail with 4 cells. (National Archives Cartographic Collection, Drawer 28, Sheet 106.)

On June 30th, 1868 it was announced that the Fort's band "will play daily on the parade, Saturdays and Sundays excepted, beginning at 4:30 PM and continuing until the first call for parade on Tuesdays and Fridays and for one hour on all other days." (Mercury, July 4th, 1868.)

In April 1869 two soldiers from Fort Adams (Sergeant Adams and Private McLaughlin) were rescued from the water by a brave young woman named Ida Lewis (1842 - 1911). She was only 16 in 1858 when her father, Hosea Lewis, suffered a crippling stroke and was unable to continue his duties as keeper of the Lime Rock Lighthouse in Newport Harbor. Ida assumed the day to day responsibilities of tending the light and was commissioned as keeper when her father died.

In June 1869 the garrison at Fort Adams presented Miss Lewis a purse of $218 as a mark of appreciation for rescueing the soldiers. (Mercury, June 12th, 1869.) She was awarded a Gold Lifesaving Medal by Congress on July 16th, 1881 for her heroinism. Today, the Coast Guard Cutter Ida Lewis is named after her and stationed in Middletown, Rhode Island. She was credited with saving a total of 18 people in her 50 year career at the light and died in 1911.

In June 1870 a new stable was completed at the fort. It was probably the same building which now is home to the Museum of Yachting. (Mercury, September 25th, 1869 and June 28th, 1870.)

Thomas W. Sherman

In the decade following the Civil War, Fort Adams was graced by the presence of several interesting personalities. These included Thomas W. Sherman (often referred to as "The Other Sherman"), a native of Newport who had served with distinction in the southern theater during the war and was once so grieviously wounded at Port Hudson, Louisiana that the Newport Mercury published his obiturary. Sherman survived and remained on active service despite having a leg removed above the knee. He commanded Fort Adams from 1866 to 1869.

Another commander of note was Henry Jackson Hunt who had served as artillery commander for the Army of the Potomac during the war. Both Hunt and Sherman were beveted to the rank of Major General as a reward for their faithful service during the war.

Henry A. Dupont and 1896 Variation of the Medal of Honor

Another officer of note was Henry A. duPont, the grandson of industrialist E.I. du Pont whose company was the primary supplier of gunpowder to the Army and Navy. du Pont had graduated 1st in his class a West Point in 1861. He was commissioned in the 5th Artillery Regiment and served with distinction in the battles of Opequan, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek. At the end of the war he was promoted to captain and as awarded brevets (honorary promotions) to Major and Lieutenant Colonel. He was stationed at the fort from July 1870 to September 1873 where he commanded a battery of light artillery. (Mercury, June 28th, 1870.)

While at Fort Adams Colonel duPont must have contemplated the coincidence that his grandfather had arrived in Newport from France on January 1st, 1800 and would negotiate his first govenment contract for gunpowder four years later. (The chances are quite good the kegs of gunpowder in the fort's magazines were stamped with the duPont family name.)

DuPont resigned from the Army in 1875 to pursue the family business and, in 1877 he became president of the Wilmington and Northern Railroad. From 1906 to 1917 he served as a United States Senator from Deleware.

In 1898, duPont awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism at the battle of Cedar Creek in 1864. (The long delay in the award should not be considered unusual as most of the medals of honor for heroism in the Civil War were awarded over thirty years after the war's end.)

Sergeant George Uhri (1838 - 1911)

In 1875 another future Medal of Honor recipient was stationed at Fort Adams. His name was George Uhri (also spelled Uhrl) who was an artillery sergeant. Although he was not awarded the Medal of Honor until 1898, he had earned it on June 30th, 1862 at White Oak Swamp in Virginia while a member of Battery F, 5th United States Artillery Regiment.

His citation reads - "Was one of a party of three who, under heavy fire of advancing enemy, voluntarily secured and saved from capture a field gun belonging to another battery, and which had been deserted by its officers and men."

Sergeant Uhri enlisted in 1858 and seved in the Army faithfully until he retired on December 31st, 1886. He died in 1911 in New York City.

For a more detailed overview of his life, click HERE.

In the 1800's the army had a policy of rotating units between various posts and it was not unusual for a soldier to serve his entire career in the the regiment, if not the same company. Due to unit rotations, the troops stationed at Fort Adams would change every few years.

In 1870 a company of artillerymen was rotated to Fort Adams from Fort Warren in Boston Harbor. On September 27th, 1870 the Newport Mercury remarked that the behavior of the soldiers while enjoying free time in town was so disgraceful that, "Some of them appear to forget that they are among civilized people." The Mercury also expressed confidence that the Fort's commanding officer would deal most effectively with the malafactors.

In early Novemeber 1870 250 troops from Fort Adams (comprising three companies of artillerymen and one light battery) were sent to New York to "regulate" the election in New York. As New York was noted for volitile politics (often violent in the 1800's) it was probably felt essential to have soldiers in the city in case things got out of hand. (The notorious draft riots of July 1863 in which hundreds of people were killed were still fresh in the memories of most Americans.) Fortunately, no disturbance happened during this election. The troops left Fort Adams on Monday the 7th, oversaw the election on the 8th and returned on Wednesday the 9th.

Major General Irving McDowell

On Tuesday August 27th, 1872 Fort Adams was inspected by Major General Irving McDowell. McDowell was currently comander of the Department of the East and served with distinction during the Civil War.

On August 6th, 1874 Private Henry Howard (his real name was Carrigan) was on a punitive work detail with two other soldiers. (Soldiers in confinement for minor offenses were usually assigned to work details during the day.) The prisoners attacked their guard and Howard began to run away. The guard was able to bring his rifle to bear and shot and killed Howard.

An even more tragic event occured on July 4th, 1877. Miss Minnie Howard of Newport was on a church picnic in Jamestown and was shot by a bullet fired from the fort. She was severely wounded by recovered. Three soldiers at the fort were firing a rifle across the East Passage without authorization and one bullet accidently hit Miss Howard. The shot was fired by Private Grimm who had 30 years of service in the Army. (Newport Mercury, July 7th, 1877.)

Later in the same year two .45 caliber Gatling guns were added to the fort's armament. The Gatling guns were among the most advanced weapons of their day and would enable the fort to deal very effectively against attacking infantry formations.(Mercury, August 11th, 1877.)

Sham Attack on Fort Adams, November 10th, 1877
(Click for Larger Image.)

On November 10th, 1877 Fort Adams was subjected to a sham attack by the Navy. This was a precursor to Joint Operations which would be integral to 20th Century warfare.

On Tuesday, November 18th, 1879 Private Franz Koop died of injuries suffered the night before. He was, apparently, beaten up and thown into a cistern near the Fort's sally port. (The exact location is unknown today.) The cistern was sealed with a large stone and he was left to die. His was discovered by another soldier and was pulled out. Unfortunately, his injuries were extensive and he died the next morning.

On a Friday afternoon in February of 1881 two musicians from the Fort were attempting to return to the fort by walking on the ice in the harbor. They fell through but were rescued by Ida Lewis, her brother and another man.

On Wednesday, August 23rd, 1882 President Chester A. Arthur, accompanied by Major General Winfield Scott Hancock and former Governor Edwin D. Morgan of New York, vistied the fort to attend a pass and review of the four artillery companies stationed at the fort. The president also witnessed a drill demonstration by the fort's light artillery battery. He then proceeded to Governor Morgan's estate and enjoyed a reception with music provided by the fort's band. (Newport Mercury, August 26th, 1882.)

On October 12th - 13th, 1877 the Army and Navy had war games in the Newport area in which Fort Adams played a role. One of the umpires was Lieutanant Tasker H. Bliss who would serve as Chief of Staff of the Army during the First World War.

In May 1889 the headquarters and companies C, G and H of the Second Artillery Regiment arrived at Fort Adams.

On Friday, July 1st, 1892 Colonel John Mendenhall, commanding officer of the 2nd Artillery and Fort Adams, died of illness at the Fort.

Artillery at Fort Adams

10-inch Rodman Columbiad at Fort Knox, Maine.

Also at this time the armament of Fort Adams underwent significant changes. The old 32 and 24 pounder smoothbores, despite some being converted to rifles, were obsolete and were disposed of soon after the war. More modern guns were brought to the fort including four 100 pounder (6.4 inch) Parrott rifles, thirteen 10-inch Rodmans and eleven 15-inch Rodmans.

15-inch Rodman at Fort Knox, Prospect, Maine.

The 15-inch Rodman was developed shortly before the Civil War and was the largest and most powerful piece of ordnance in the Army until modern rifled artillery was developed in the late 1800's. Two were mounted on the southwest parapet of the exterior front of Fort Adams. Additional pieces were mounted to the south of the fort where Endicott period batteries were later installed. The massive Rodmans were finally scrapped in 1904. Surviving specimens may be seen at Fort Knox in Bucksport, Maine, Forts Sumter and Moultrie near Charlestown, South Carolina and Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.

For more infomation and illustrations on this subject see The Artillery of Fort Adams.

Living Quarters

Quarters One, Circa late 1800's.

In 1875 the Army built a new commanding officers quarters. It was located just south of the redoubt and had fourteen rooms. Its official name was Quarters One but is today better known as the Eisenhower House after President Eisenhower who stayed there while vacationing in Newport in 1959 and 1960.

Officer's Row circa 1890.

Other officers quarters soon followed and by 1885 there was a whole row of handsome houses for the fort's officers. These quarters, with the exception of Quarters One, are now occupied by senior officers stationed at the Naval War College.

Top Part Four

Back to Part One