Northeast Theater Continued (Part Two)
New Castle, New Hampshire 03854(603) 436-1552
Originally known as Fort William and Mary, the sturdy, brick-walled fortification at the entrance to the important harbor at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, played an important role in the Revolutionary War. In 1775 a colonial raiding party seized the fort and carried off five tons of gunpowder and some light cannon. The gunpowder would prove extremely helpful to the Patriot cause during the early months of the conflict. When war with Britain threatened once again early in the nineteenth century, the U.S. government rebuilt the fort, greatly increasing the size and strength of its brick walls. In 1808, it was given a new and more patriotic name—Fort Constitution. Even though it was garrisoned during the War of 1812, Fort Constitution was never attacked. The stout walls of the old fort remain standing and are quite impressive as is the adjacent steel cylinder lighthouse tower. The fort is located just off Route 1B near Portsmouth. An interesting way to see the fort and the lighthouse is from the water, a viewpoint made possible during the summer by Portsmouth ferries and harbor cruises.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
160 Derby Street
Salem, Massachusetts 01970(978) 740-1650 (Salem Visitor Center)
Salem was once one of America’s busiest and most prosperous ports. The Derby Wharf at Salem was built over a 44-year time span and eventually reached a length of half a mile. It served Elias Derby’s fleet of local and international trading vessels, which made him one of America’s first millionaires. Privateers operated out of this port during the War of 1812. A replica of the privateer ship Friendship is open for tours at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Take Route 128 to Salem, then Route 114, onto Derby Street.
Salem, Massachusetts 01970(978) 740-1650 (Salem Visitors Center)
For defense against attack from the sea, the important port of Salem relied on a pair of earth and stone forts. Dating all the way back to the 1600s, Fort Pickering guarded the north side of the harbor entrance. Capping a stretch of high ground about half a mile to the west was a smaller defensive structure known as Fort Lee. A star-shaped earthwork, Fort Lee served as an emplacement for four large guns. Neither Fort Lee nor Fort Pickering has been substantially restored, but therein lies part of their attraction. They are of less interest to casual tourists than to history-minded travelers who wish to quietly contemplate two centuries of the past. Both historic sites are open to the public year-round. Fort Lee is located on Salem’s Neck near Fort Avenue and Memorial Drive while and Fort Pickering is on Winter Island.
Marblehead, Massachusetts 01945(978) 740-0444 (Essex Heritage Area)
To the west of Salem in nearby Marblehead, Massachusetts, is historic Fort Sewall. Gunners here helped the USS Constitution escape a pair of British frigates that attempted to trap the vessel in the narrows off this coast on April 3, 1814. The fort is now a public park.