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THE HISTORY AHD COHSTRITCTIOB OF FORT CARROLL, MARYLAND
A thesis prepares as a requirement for membership in
TAtJ BETA PI
Maryland Beta Chapter
John Andrews, Jr,
April 23, 1937
First conceived In 1819, and later built beginning
in 1847, Port Carroll, which was to form one of the defensive
units of Baltimore City, was "built in the center of the
Patapsco Elver, near Sparrows Point. Pormed of stone masonry,
brick and concrete, it was to carry a heavy armament of from
S26 to 350 guns, Dae to the changing times and circumstances,
it never reached this stage. The fort underwent changes in
design so often that it was not until 1900 that it was
completed, having even then only 6 guns. Shortly afterwards,
being completely antiquated by the advanced methods of warfare,
it was abandomed.
The fort was an artiflcal Island In the middle of the
river, its stone walls resting on a platform supported on
piling, and Its interior filled with earth. It was to be
built In four stories, but was only completed In one.
Today it is totally deserted. Many ideas have been
thought of to put the site to some useful purpose, but
nothing has been done. Unwanted even by those who control it,
the War Department, what the future has In store for It no
THE HISTORY MD CONSTRUCTION OF FORT CARROLL, MARYLAND
With, the progressive development of the science of
warfare over a century ago, the then present defenses of the
city of Baltimore became rather Inadequate for It's protection.
As Baltimore was one of the growing industrial and maritime
centers of this nation, a means was sought of solving this
problem of the defense of the city, and the solution was
found in the ereetlon of a fort at the entrance to the
Baltimore harbor, in the center of the Eatapsco River, This
fort was called Fort Carroll, so named in honor of Charles
Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration
of Independence, and one of the most famous of Maryland's
Fort Carroll, at the time It was begun, was
destined to be one of the best engineering works of it's kind.
Had it not been outpaced by the changing trends of warfare,
it would have been able to successfully resist the best naval
guns of that period. Then too, it's faces look down the
channel along which ships must come, and the fire from the
guns that would have been on these sides could have raked
the ships from stem to stern. It's heavy, thick stone walls
could have withstood the poundings of the largest guns, and
it's own complement of armament could have sent to the
bottom more than one of the attackers. Indeed, from it's
appearance, it seems to be one of those stanch piles of the
middle ages that have so well stood the tests of time.
As early as 1819, a fort In the lower Patapsco was
proposed. At this time, the Board of Commissioners for
Reoonnoltering the Chesapeake Bay drew tip sketches for a
fort that was to he built in three teirs and a platform.
The artillery for this proposed works was to consist of 159
pelces, to be mostly distributed on the teirs. It was to
have garrisoned 835 men In the case of an attack, and of
these men, 318 were to be artillerists. As a peace time
establishment it waa to garrison 60 men. However, this
proposal was not acted upon, possibly because no need was
felt for It,
In 1839, Colonel Joesepb G. Tot ten, who was then
Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army again recommended a
strongly garrisoned fortress to be erected off of Sollers
Point in the Patapsco, as had been proposed in 1819, He
pointed out the fact that the only defensive works between
Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay was Port McHenry. He also
went bo far as to draw up plans for this fortress, and his
plans formed the basis of the design that was finally adopted.
This recommendation was made every year until 1846 by
Colonel Totten in his annual oongessional report.
Baring this same period, a petition was made to
the Senate of the 26th Congress, for the erection of
fortifications on the site before mentioned, by several of
the leading citizens of Baltimore. All of this probably had
the desired effect, for on March 6, 1846, the State of
Maryland ceded land on which to erect the fort to the
United States, it "being specified that this land was to be
used for military purposes only, and Congress appropriated
$30,000 to begin the construction of the batteries.
Preparations were made for beginning the work in
1847, under the direction of Major C.A. Ogden of the U.S.
Corps of Engineers. Surveys were made and construction sheds
and storehouses were built. On March 1, 1848, the actual
construction was begun, and in November of that year, Major
Ogden was relieved of the super intendenoe of the work by
Captain and Brevet-Colonel Robert E. lee.
Some difficulty was evidently encountered in 1849
as to proper ownership and title to the land, for there is
a record of the leasing land for the fort, thru Major C.A.
Ogden, from one Augustine Taney. Prom this it might be assumed
that Taney thought that the United States had encroached
on his water rights and on this basis based his claim. As
the records Bpecify the leasing of lands for the fort, it is
not to be supposed that what land was leased was any other
than that on which the fort was constructed.
Prior to this time, the fort had been called Camp
Carroll, but on November 4, I860, the post was officially
named Port Carroll by the War Department in it r s General
Order no. 38, Headquarters of the Army.
Every year from 1848 up to 1864, Congress made
appropiations to carry on the work. It never appropiated
at any one time sums greater than $100,000, but the total
amount that it did authorize for the construction up to
July 2, 1864 was |l t 375, 000, Howhere near this amount was
spent on the fort during these years, as reports show up to
the ena of the fiscal year 1887 only |l,125,779 # 18 was used*
It is quite probable that the unused money was returned to
the U.S. Treasury.
The work was carried on slowly thru the 1850*8, with
probable interruptions in 1855 and in 1857, when the plans
for various parts of the fort were revised. In 1852 , Colonel
Robert E. Lee was relieved of the construction work to go to
West Point as It's superintendent, and he was succeeded by
Captain H. Br ewer ton, also of the Army Engineers. Around
1857, It was decided that to the fort proper a permanent
wharf should be added, and the plans for this were drawn and
submitted and it's construction begun. Subsequent revisions
were made during the following years, and these unaoubtly
did not add to the speed of the construction.
After the work had been almost halfway completed, It
was found that the whole structure was settling, and on August
5, 1865, orders were given by the Chief of Engineers of the
War Department to abandom the project to erect fort Carroll.
There is also another reason to explain the incomplete stage
of the forts construction, and that Is that much of the stone
prepared for it's walls was built into a similar fort, the
RipRaps, in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Work, however, did not completely oease. It
continued thereafter slowly or intermittently during many
years, and the work of the construction changed hands several
times, transferlng from Captain Brewerton to Lt. Col. Charles
N. Turnbull ana then later to Colonel William P. Cralghill.
Itarlng the time that the fort was in charge of Colonel
Craighill, and the higher authorities had decided not to
"build the fort higher in masonry, he suggested that what
masonry then stood he covered with earth, that was then "being
removed from widening and deepening the nearby channel, to
the proper thickness, and thus convert the fort into an
earthwork. This plan was not accepted as Congress was not
then in a receptive mood for doing anything with works of
defense, and so Fort Carroll stood for many years in it's
incompleteness an eyesore and an object of derision to the
passersby who knew nothing of it's possibilities.
The design had been outgrown by the changing trends
in military tactics and weapons, ana so in 1887, it was
proposed to modify the plan of the fort so as to enable it to
recleve the heaviest rifled guns of that time, protected by
masonry and armor. This work was authorized and the
remodeling of the existing work was carried out slowly and
was ultimately completed on September 30, 1900, when the fort
became one of the garrisoned posts of the United States Army.
This date marks the end of any actual construction on the
fort as a military work.
Fort Carroll is located in the middle of the
Pa taps co River, on a bar known aB So Hers Point Flats. It
lies about six miles from the entrance of that river into the
Chesapeake Bay and about four or five miles below the modern
city of Baltimore. It is situated about four or four and a
half miles below the historic Fort MoHenry, and is from forty
to fifty yards from the Craighlll ohannel, the channel that
leads to Baltimore. Prom the map below can "be seen it's
position in relationship to Sollers Point and to Hawkins Point,
those stretohes of land that lie nearest to it . The "bearings
given in this map are taken off of the exact center of the
island on whioh the fort rests, and at this date their
precision is to be doubted, as the time at whioh they were
asertained was in 1849 #
OfiiL. T/tyt o/Z&_
(-OCftTtoM o^ f%xr CaesaotL (V)d
The fort Is hexagonal In shape, and is built on an
artificially cons true tea Island, in fact, it f i walls themselves
forming an integral part of the island, "being it's boundaries.
Occupying 3.4 acres. It was originally intenaed to have ^alls
approximately 60 feet high and to have from 925 to 350 guns.
It was to be "built In three telrs in casemates, which are
"bomhproof ohambers occupied "by cannon, and one telr in "barbette,
surmounting the three telrs In casemates, a "barbette being an
open platform or earthen mound on which cannon are mounted.
Being arranged in this form gave the fort a great deal of
effective fire power. It was for this reason that the fort
was so designed, as against the older "but more prevalent type
of fortification as the "bastion type, which was In general one
in which the cannon were mounted in the open on projections
extending from the main walls of the fort. At this period
there was a great deal of controversy raging "both in this
country and in Europe as to whioh type of fortifications was
the best. The following quotation, taken from an English work
on fortifications, by Sir Howard Douglas, and maae by M,
Montalembert, a French engineer. Is In favor of the polygonal
system, or German system. It runs, "His observation is, that
the safety of places depends on the covered fires whioh they
can oppose to the attack of the works. * I flatter myself T ,
he says, f that I have succeeded In gathering together within
a small space the greatest fire of artillery and musketry of
whioh any idea can be formed, with apertures so multiplied
that the men may breathe witk as much freedom as In the open
air. ....... It will not be possible to doubt that the
double batteries of guns and the triple batteries of musketry,
are so usefully placed in the fortress that they will be capable
of destroying and reducing to dust all of the methods of attack
that an attacker can form against them: hence the impregnability
of such fortress necessarily follows". The essential principle
of the Montalembert system is that the artillery of the place
should always be superior in number to that of the attackers.
For this he proposed to construct, in masonry, vast casemated
works, having several stages or telrs of guns completely
protected from the fire of the enemy. These facts probably
greatly infulenced the designer of the fort, as it was to be
completely built on essentially this same principle, then so
prevalent in western Germany, as for instance. Port Alexander,
While the polygonal design was retained, the work was
only carried up to above the first teir of casemates, into the
second teir, In connect Ion with the subsequent revisions
of plan, the second teir was afterwards removed, and from this
point the work was converted into a more modern battery. These
later batteries were more or less a reversion to the old
bastion type of fort, which seemed to spring into new favor
after the polygonal system had been found to have many
disadvantages under actual warfare conditions. Some of these
disadvantages were, first, the angle of fire from the guns was
limited, and that the size of the guns was restricted by space
requirements, and secondly, the complement of men required to
handle these guns was too great to permit efficient operation
in the comparitively small enclosures.
As the fort was built in the middle of the river on
land totally submerged to a depth of from twelve to fifteen
feet, it actually is an island artificially formed. The
first step in this construction was the building of the outer
walls to form the boundaries of the island. These walls are
of granite masonry supported on a wooden grillage at the mud
line, which in turn rests on a triple line of piling driven
as far as it would penetrate into the underlying gravel,
about twenty seven feet. Operations were handled from two
construction platforms, one on each side of the wall. The
top of these platforms were slightly above the water level
and each was supported on three lines of piling driven only
into the sand and mud of the river bottom. The masonry of
the underwater section of the wall was laid with the aid of the
diving bell, the general design of which is shown on the sketch.
This diving bell was a hollow \ //
shell without a bottom, of a
suffioent size to permit men
to work inside. It worked on
the principle that the air in
the top of the bell was
compressed and retained, thus
preventing the water from
rising In the bell more than
a limited extent. This
supply of air was constantly
replenished by means of a
hand air pump. The bell
Itself was raised anft lowered by means of a portable, hand
operated orane which moved on wooden rails on the working
The general character of the initial construction
as described above, as well as the general form of the fort
and island, is shown on the plan on Plate A, It may be added
here, as It is not given on the plate, that the length of
each side of the fort is 241.5 feet.
The outer wall is of granite masonry, laid in the
coursed Ashler style, all courses being of uniform two foot
thickness. The first seven courses are ten feet wide, and are
laid with vertical faces. The next five courses, which
brought the wall well above the water line, are of varying
width, and the outer face is on a batter of one in two. From
this point on, the outer wall Is eight feet wide, and is again
laid with a vertical face. Above the eighth course, the wall
Is faced on the Inside with a brick and concrete lining. Some
details of the wall construction are shown on the sections on
After the outer walls had been brought above the
water line. Initial steps were taken towards filling the
enclosed area. Sheet piling of seasoned oak timber was driven
adjacent to the inner face of the wall. This was driven to
a firm penetration and out off approximately at the water line.
Behind this a platform 62 feet wide and supported on 17 lines
of piling was built. All piling was capped with squared
timbers on which a solid timber deck was laid. The fill was
then made from material dredged from the river bed. The
dredge used In these operations was of a bucket type mounted
as a pendulum on a fixed mast on a scow, and was operated by
a steam winch. The material for the fill was loaded into mud
soows and taken into the the inolosure thru an opening left in
the outer wall especially for that purpose. This opening was
subsequently closed when the filling had reached a stage
permitting this to be done. The height of the finished fill
was approximately six feet above the mean low water.
The inner walls and casemates were built directly
on the 62 foot platform, and were of briok filled with concrete.
Plate C shows in detail the construction of the casemates as
originally designed and partially built. The casemates
consisted of a series of low vaulted chambers with connecting
openings. Each chamber was to be the emplacement of a cannon,
which was to fire thru a loophole in the outer wall. Photo 1
shows a view looking thru one of these casemates. Attention
is oalled to the heavy thick walls and partitions, and to the
concrete slab floors. The floor of the first teir of casemates
as built coincided with the finished level of the Interior fill.
In this view, at the end of the series of chambers, can be the
loophole in one of the chambers at the angle of the two walls.
In the intersection of all the walls, which were all exactly
the same with the exception of the side on which were the
barracks, was a circular stairoase, leading to the upper teirs,
as can be seen in Photo 3. immediately in back of these
stairways were the magiaine chambers, where powder and shot
were stored. These rooms are totally enclosed except for one
small arched doorway, and were provided with slate slabs as
Photo ' 1
as floors instead of concrete. Ventilation was provided by
slits which extended entirely thru the walls with two right
angle turns • Several of these rooms can be seen in plan at
the ends of the barracks on Plate D. Also shown are the circular
staircases and the ventilation slits mentioned.
Photos 3 and 4 show two views of an end casemated
chamber. On the left wall of Photo 3 can be seen one of the
ventilation slits which led to a room directly on the opposite
side of the wall. The remains
of a gun track can be seen on
the floor toward the rear of
chamber, the loopholes, one of
which is shown in Photo 4, are
immediately to the right of
this track. These loopholes
were provided with iron
shutters that could be closed
when desired. Photo 3 also
shows the high grade of
brickwork, all the walls and
partitions of the casemates
being laid in English bond*
One side of the fort formed the barracks, as shown
on Plate D. The main entranoe to the fort led thru this side.
As originally designed, the first floor of the "barracks was to
contain the storerooms, the washing and ironing rooms, the
kitchens, and several bedrooms. Mess rooms were to be on the
second floor, while the third and fourth floors were to be
mainly given over as sleeping chambers. Photo 5 shows the
interior wall of the first floor of the barracks, with the
main entrance in the center. A view leading thru the entranoe
to the outside is shown in Photo 6, and the main entranoe
gateway also shown in Photo 7 from the landing wharf.
Interlor walls and
partitions of the barracks
were also of brlok, but of a
much lighter construction.
The wall facing the Interior
of the fort as shown In Photo
5 was laid in Flemish bond.
The drainage from the interior
of the fort was conveyed thru
piping to a series of six
sewers which were built under
the barracks, and passed thru
openings into the outer wall.
A section thru one of these
sewers is shown on Plate B.
A wharf was provided
opposite the main gate as a
means of entry Into the fort.
This wharf was a masonry
platform, about 25 feet square,
built on piling In the same
fte in* 1 5 t-i 6owo.
manner as the fort. It was
connected with the entrance
gate by a hinged wooden
gangplank that could be
dropped when necessary. Photo
8 pictures the wharf and the
side of the fort containing
the barracks* ana Photo 7 also shows where the wooden gangplank
was to be.
It Is not altogether el ear as to how the fort was
to he supplied with water » but at some time or another an
artesian well was bored in the center of the fortress and
there were also prorided what appears to he cisterns located
below the floor level in several of the barrack chambers.
These were evidently built after this portion of the fort had
been completed* for there are signs of the floors removal.
There were also installed sometime later than the building
of the casemates three water tanks in one of the casemates
sides. The cisterns were probably used for washing water and
the tanks for drinking purposes. The artesian well was not to
he used except in the case of an emergency. Photos 9 and 10
show views of the cisterns and of the water tanks.
As has been previously mentioned, the original work
was never carried beyond the second teir of casemates, and in
1887, when decision was made to modify the existing structure,
all of the masonry above the first teir was removed on all
except the two southern sides, and a layer of asphalt 1c
material was spread over the roof of the first teir. On the
two southern sides of the fort, the masonry was removed down
to the fourteenth course of outer wall. All of the stone that
was taken off was deposited in the river immediately in front
of the walls. On the two southern sides the mountings for
three batteries were built. Each of these batteries contained
two guns, one with 12", one with 5", and one with 3" cannon.
Galleries and magixines were built below the 12"
gun emplacements, construction being in brick and oonorete
wlth steel and concrete arched roofs. The exterior faces of the
galleries are of stone masonry. Provisions were made for
handling ammunition by the use of overhead tramways and
elevators to the gun platforms*
Plate E shows in detail the construction of the
12" gun battery* A concrete parapet 6.5 feet high was built
in front of the gun platforms and the space between these
parapets and the outer wall was filled with dredged material.
Photo 11 is the front of the 12" battery viewed from the
interior of the fort. The connecting upper gallery between
the two guns in this battery is shown in Photo 12. It is on
this gallery that the ammunition was delivered from the
elevators, whioh were loaded from the lower gallery which
Is shown in Photo 13* This is taken thru the passageway
between the ammunition chambers on the left and the elevators
on the right.
The two smaller batteries were placed on the side
adjacent to the 12" battery, their mountings being much
simpler, and they having no provision for the meohanloal
handling of ammunition. As in the case of the larger battery,
the ammunition was stored below the gun platforms, and was
carried by hand to the guns up open stairways. The general
plan of these batteries, as well as the 12" battery is shown
on Plate F,
In addition to the major items of construction as
outlined above, a power house, range finders, and other
equipment necessary for the proper operation of the fort,
as Indicated In Plate F t was built.
Al though the fort was officially completed on
September 30, 1900, and became one of the posts of the
United States Army, it was never garrisoned by more than
a skeleton force. Within a very few years, it became
practically obsolete as a means of coast defense.
In 1905, a revocable license was granted by the
War Department to the Department of Commerce and Labor for
the occupation of part of the fort by a lighthouse keeper.
From this it may be assumed the fort's lighthouse was built
at that time, together with a frame building for the
lighthouse keepers living quarters,
Evidence of the decreasing importance of Fort
Carroll as a military reservation is shown by the fact that
in 1908 it became a sub-post of Port McHenry, and in 1911
a sub-post of Fort Howard, In 1920, it was finlally
abandomed as a military post. During these years it was
occupied by only a few enlisted men acting as caretakers.
In March, 1921, the equipment of the post was transferred
to Fort Howard.
With the abandonment of the fort, permission was
given to the Department of Commerce and Labor, in a revocable
license, permission to use the entire reservation for
lighthouse purposes. Then the present automatic lighthouse
was built, doing away with the need of a lighthouse keeper,
and thus leaving the fort completely unoccupied, save for a
legendary cat, who was said to haunt the fort for many years.
The frame building that was the abode of the lighthouse
keeper was destroyed in 1924 by a fire.
On several occasions In the past fifteen years, the
War Department attempted to dispose of the property, but
due to the stipulation in the original deed of the land from
the State of Maryland that the land was to be used for
military purposes only, no final action was ever taken to
carry this out*
During 1921, Mayor Broening of Baltimore suggested
that upon the site of Fort Carroll it might be advisable to
erect a large statue of Lord Baltimore, rivaling in siae that
of the Statue of Liberty in Hew York, This idea had been
concieved earlier, by Mayor Mahool, in 1909. In addition,
there was to be a huge electric sign reading "Welcome to
Baltimore". However, nothing was ever done about this.
Also later was proposed to put a radio station there, but
again interest was not aroused.
The fort is a reminder of the changed aspects of
warfare. It would have been able, with it f s original design,
at the time of the design, to be among the most powerful of
defensive units. This was demonstrated by the fact that Fort
Stunt er, in Charleston harbor, a fort very much of the same
kind as Fort Carroll, was attacked by the powerful fleet of
Admiral Dahlgren in the Confederate War, and was almost
totally uninjured. Today, however, it is a different story.
Bo fort of any type Is of any value t Ho mere pile of earth
and masonry can today withstand the batterings and poundings
of modern aircraft and long range guns. And so It Is, with
time as with man, progress has been made, and leaves In it's
wake, those relics of the past*
Abandoned for human occupancy, Fort Carroll Is
occasionally visited by ouriousity seekers or pionicers , but
during most of the time it shows no signs of any life and.
In fact, is the tomb of many land birds driven out over the
river during storms. But it still remains in a remarkably
good state of preservation and the almost untouched lines
of it's masonry bear silent witness to the excellence of it's
design from a structural standpoint and the unquestionable
high standard of workmanship which was used in it's building.
• r- •
Panoramic view of Fort Carroll
This is a view looking toward the southern sides
of the fort. On the left is the "barracks, and on the right
the 12" gun emplacements. The small "building in front of the
gallery on this side is the power house. In front of the
"barracks, on the ground, are what is evidently part of one
of the range finder towers. Far in the distance can "be seen
1- Files on Fort Carroll-Pratt Library, Baltimore, Md.
Article from the Sunday Sim, "by Douglas F, Woolley-1929
2- Maryland Historical Magazine, March 1906
Artiole- f Baltlmore and it's Defenses, Past and Present 1
by Genera! William P. Craighlll
3- History of Baltimore City and County-1881
by J. Thomas Scharf
4- Guide to Baltimore, hy Allan K. Bond-1921
5- f A Treatise on the Modern System of Fort if loat Ions 1 1859
by Sir Howard Douglas (English)
6- War Department
Historioal section of the Intelligence Department
7- Office of the Adjutant-General, U.S. Army
Old "Records Department.
/ Power House
2 Light Ho Keeprrs Qrs.
3 S'ouad Room
4- Ci sterns
5 Hitch en & Mess Room
B Bott Towson
B"! " Winchester (Arnnsttadj
B" « McFurland ■■ ,
M" Mine Field //
T.5 Tide Sta. M[
B.M Bench Morh \\
Augastin 2- 3" B.P.
S M ?v -isi