Fort Pike

From Jefferson County NY Wiki
from the National Archives
Fort Pike was constructed in the early spring of 1814 under the orders of Cdr. Isaac Chauncey (USN) and under the command of Major Jacob Hindman of the U.S. 3rd Artillery. It was placed adjacent to an earlier, less substantial work known as Fort Volunteer, built during the spring of 1813 by Revolutionary War veterans known as the “Silver Greys.” The work was designed by a Major McKee of the Corps of Artificers, specifically to anchor the eastern flank defenses of Sackets Harbor against an anticipated land and water attack.

Details about the fort are derived only from Corps of Artificer’s maps. The fort is an enclosed triangle with an angled traverse along the bay, another perpendicular to the bay, and the last joining the two. There is a blockhouse on the northeastern corner (not in the as some have claimed), and row barracks along the interior curtain walls. Sixteen embrasures are visible in the faint drawing. Other sources describe it as containing a two story blockhouse with 20 cannon and barracks for 2000 men (Heiner 1938).

Beginning in 1816, Madison Barracks was constructed on adjacent ground, but the fort remained in use after the war. An 1819 letter from Capt. Julius F. Heileman to Smith Thompson, Secretary of the Navy, was written from his headquarters at Fort Pike. This artillery unit was deactivated in 1821 (Heiner 1938). An 1822 report of ordnance stores at various American forts lists Fort Pike at Sackets Harbor as having three 24 pdr, seven 18 pdr, and five 10 inch siege guns, all mounted on carriages with shot. By 1826, Fort Pike no longer appears on the list of active U.S. fortifications. But it appears that Fort Pike was still active, because its guns were fired in celebration of the Fourth of July, 1863 (Heiner 1938).

The 1855 Levy and 1864 Beers and Beers maps show that Forts Pike and Volunteer (erroneously identified in Beers and Beers as Valentine) were intact into the 1860s. The southern embankments were leveled prior to 1880, based on a photograph in the Jefferson County Historical Society archives which shows ordnance stores, the embankments, and the Navy Point Boathouse in the background. It is about this time when improvements were being made to the barracks, and soldiers were reported camped on the area of Fort Pike (Heiner 1938). A post-1887 photograph shows that Fort Pike had been reduced to the remnant embankment visible today, consisting of the bay-side traverse and part of the perpendicular traverse. There are two post 1880s views of the remnant earthwork. In 1898, a military hospital was constructed on the site of Fort Pike, along with roads on either side. The hospital was demolished in 1979. During the 1930s, the Army constructed a communication bunker into the side of the embankment.

Fort Pike received its name from Brig. Gen. Zebulon Pike, who was killed at the Battle of York. It and Fort Kentucky are the only surviving military structures left from the War of 1812 that can be seen today in Sackets Harbor. (A picture of the wall ruins of Fort Pike can be found here)

Heiner, George G., Jr.

1938 From Saints to Red Legs. A.W. Munk & Co., Watertown.

Also See[edit | edit source]

Historic Structures in Jefferson County

Sackets Harbor

Sackets Harbor Battlefield

Sackets Harbor Village Historic District

National Register of Historic Places

Stone Buildings