Military Wiki
Fort Adams
Newport, Rhode Island
Type Coastal Artillery Post
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1799; 1841
In use 1799-1824; 1841-1953
Controlled by United States
Commanders Captain John Henry

Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island, was established on July 4, 1799 as a First System coastal fortification. Its first commander was Captain John Henry who was later instrumental in starting the War of 1812.


The first Fort Adams was designed by Major Louis de Tousard of the Army Corps of Engineers. This fort mounted 12 cannon and was garrisoned during the War of 1812 by Wood's State Corps of Rhode Island militiamen.

After the War of 1812, there was a thorough review of the nation's fortification needs and it was decided to replace the older Fort Adams with a newer and much larger fort. The new fort was designed by Brigadier General Simon Bernard, a Frenchman who had served as a military engineer under Napoleon. Bernard designed the new Fort Adams in the classic style of Vauban and it became the most complex fortification in the Western Hemisphere.

Construction of the new fort began in 1824 and continued at irregular intervals until 1857. From 1825 to 1838 construction was overseen by Colonel Joseph Gilbert Totten, the foremost American military engineer of his day. In 1838 Totten became chief engineer of the Army and served until his death in 1864.[1]

A section of historic Fort Adams in a neglected state (1968)

The new Fort Adams was first garrisoned in August 1841, functioning as an active Army post until 1950. During this time the fort was active in five major wars (the Mexican-American War, American Civil War, Spanish-American, World War I and World War II) but never fired a shot in anger.

During the Mexican War Fort Adams was briefly under the command of Brigadier General Franklin Pierce, who would be elected President of the United States in 1852.

The War Department was concerned about the political sympathies of Marylanders during the Civil War, so the United States Naval Academy was moved in 1861 from Annapolis Maryland to Fort Adams. In September 1861, the academy moved to the Atlantic House Hotel in Newport and remained there for the rest of the war. Among the midshipmen assigned to the Naval Academy while it was at Fort Adams was Robley D. Evans who was wounded at Fort Fisher, North Carolina in 1865 and later commanded the Great White Fleet in 1907 on the first leg of its epic around the world voyage.

In 1862 Fort Adams became the headquarters and recruit depot for the 15th Infantry Regiment. This regiment, along with several others, was organized into a regiment of three eight-company battalions, with the 3rd Battalion formed at Fort Adams in March 1864.

As time went by, the fort's armament was upgraded to keep up with technological innovations. Major kinds of ordnance used at the Fort included muzzle loading cannon in the 19th century, breech loading, rifled artillery pieces in the early 20th Century and anti-aircraft guns during and after World War II.

Fort Adams also served as the headquarters for all fortifications in Narragansett Bay, as well as, a training center in both world wars. In the Second World War a peak strength of over 3,000 soldiers were assigned to the Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay. In September 1940 the 243d Coast Artillery Regiment of the Rhode Island National Guard was mobilized and sent to Fort Adams to reinforce the Regular Army's 10th Coast Artillery Regiment. The two regiments garrisoned several coast defense forts and anti-aircraft installations under the Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay. As the war progressed, the number of troops was gradually reduced to about 500 by the end of the war in 1945.

Another section, 1968

In 1953, the Army gave Fort Adams to the Navy, which still uses some of the grounds for family housing. In 1965, the fort was given to the state of Rhode Island for use as Fort Adams State Park. In 1976, Fort Adams was declared a National Historic Landmark. In 1994, the Fort Adams Trust was formed, which provides guided tours at the fort and oversees ongoing restoration work at the fort.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower lived at the former commanding officer's quarters (now called the Eisenhower House) during his summer vacations in Newport in 1958 and 1960.

Thornton Wilder, author and playwright, whose 1973 novel Theophilus North is set in Newport, served a three-month enlistment in the Army's Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Adams in World War I (rising to the rank of corporal).

Since 1981, the Fort Adams grounds have been host to the Newport Jazz Festival, and the Newport Folk Festival.

In 2012, the park was the official venue for the America's Cup World Series in Newport.

Notable Persons Associated with Fort Adams[]


See also[]


  1. Ann Johnson, "Material Experiments: Environment and Engineering Institutions in the Early American Republic," Osiris, NS 24 (2009), 53-74.

External links[]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).