Prior to closing in 1994 it claimed to be the longest continually garrisoned military installation in the United States. Fort Wadsworth is now part of the Staten Island Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, the site is said to have been continuously garrisoned since another blockhouse was built in 1663, which survived at least through 1808. During the American Revolution the area known as Flagstaff Fort, captured by the British in 1776. It became the responsibility of New York State in 1806, at which time four forts were built on the site with state resources, Fort Tompkins at that time included a red sandstone enclosure containing the 1663 blockhouse. Although these forts were contemporary with the governments second system of seacoast fortifications. Federal rebuilding of Forts Richmond and Tompkins did not begin until 1847, Fort Richmond was named for Richmond County, in which Staten Island is located. Fort Tompkins was named for Daniel D. Tompkins, New Yorks governor in the War of 1812, Fort Morton was possibly named for Major General Jacob Morton, commander of the New York state militia in the War of 1812. Fort Hudson was named for Henry Hudson, a British-born explorer for the Dutch East India Company who explored the river named for him, during the War of 1812 the state expanded Fort Richmond and its surrounding forts. In 1814 money was appropriated to complete Forts Richmond and Tompkins, New York City was not attacked in that war, so the forts never fired in anger. By 1835 Forts Richmond and Tompkins had deteriorated to the point that they were declared unfit for use, some sources state that the new Forts Richmond and Tompkins were initially designed by Robert E. Lee during his tenure as post engineer at Fort Hamilton in the 1840s. Fort Richmond had one front and three seacoast fronts, with an unusual four tiers of cannon totaling 116 guns to seaward. The four-tier arrangement was only duplicated in the United States by Fort Point in San Francisco, Fort Tompkins provided the bulk of the landward defense in the area, with one seaward and four landward fronts. It was unusual in having no embrasures for cannon in the main fort, a seacoast cannon battery was mounted on the roof of the seacoast front, and the rest of the fort had only musket loopholes. It had a ditch on the sides with tunnels to counterscarp galleries providing additional musket fire against enemies in the ditch. Both forts were ready for service, though incomplete, when the Civil War broke out in April,1861. New York City was not attacked by sea in the Civil War, however, they were important as mobilization centers, including Smiths Cantonment near the forts. The North and South Cliff batteries were built flanking Fort Richmond, two small batteries of two and five guns were also built near Fort Tompkins. Following the war, it was determined that masonry forts were obsolete, in the 1870s a large-scale but short-lived program of building new earth-protected batteries near existing forts commenced
Image: Fort Wadsworth 01
A view of Fort Wadsworth from across the Narrows by Seth Eastman, commissioned by the U.S. Army in 1870. Fort Richmond/Battery Weed is near the water, and Fort Tompkins is on the hill.