Fort Frederica National Monument | FORT FREDERICA MILITARY SITES

Cannon display and the ruins of Fort Frederica's powder magazine

Cannon display and the ruins of Fort Frederica’s powder magazine

There are three military-based stops of interest at Fort Frederica National Monument: the powder magazine of Fort Frederica itself, the remains of the military barracks, and the location of the northeastern town bastion. You can visit all three on your own. Information about the sites can be found in a free park brochure available at the Visitor Center and on information panels located throughout the park. Ranger-guided tours of the fort and town are given each day, but the tour only stops at the powder magazine.

FORT FREDERICA

Fort Frederica refers to an actual fort within the walled town of Frederica, an English outpost on St. Simons Island established in 1736 by James Oglethorpe to protect Savannah from an attack by the Spanish. At the time, the town was the most remote outpost in a territory that was claimed by both Spain and England.

12-pounder cannon at Fort Frederica National Monument guards the Frederica River

12-pounder cannon at Fort Frederica National Monument guards the Frederica River

Fort Frederica was built on a small bluff overlooking the Frederica River. Construction began in February 1736 under the command of Oglethorpe, and it was built by some of the original settlers of Frederica. An initial earthen structure was completed within a month. Named after the son of King George, Frederick Louis, Fort Frederica was improved and expanded upon over the following years, eventually evolving into a four-sided fort of brick and tabby construction with bastions at each corner, a dry moat, and a palisade wall. Between fifteen and twenty cannon were mounted when the fort was in full operation. The fort was used strictly by soldiers standing watch over the river and not as a barrack. Until a separate barrack was built in town a few years later, the soldiers lived in huts set up outside the fort unless they could afford a home in the town.

Replica of a typical soldier's hut at Fort Frederica

Replica of a typical soldier’s hut at Fort Frederica

The fort was manned by Oglethorpe’s 42nd Regiment of Foot and portions of the Highland Independent Company, which was headquartered in nearby Darien, Georgia. About 200 soldiers were stationed at Frederica. In 1738, Fort St. Simons was built at the south end of the island, and additional soldiers were stationed there.

To reach the fort site, take the paved path at the back of the Visitor Center and follow it to the entrance of the town of Frederica. The fort ruins lie at the end of Broad Street, the wide, grass avenue running through the center of the park. This was the main road through the town when it was constructed.

Broad Street with Fort Frederica at the far end

Broad Street with Fort Frederica at the far end

All that remains of the fort is a portion of the powder magazine and the foundations of some of the interior buildings uncovered during an archaeological excavation in the mid 1950s. The magazine once held the fort’s supply of gunpowder. It is also believed that the sally port, or main entrance, was part of the structure, plus there was an additional room for the guards stationed at the fort.

Fort Frederica powder magazine

Fort Frederica powder magazine

The foundations of the north and south storehouses have also been unearthed. The storehouses held supplies for both the fort and the town. The three-story North Storehouse, built in 1736, also served as a courthouse and church. John Wesley himself preached here in April 1736. His brother Charles was the full time minister for the town, though he only lived in America for six months before returning to England. John stayed for two years, and while he came to Frederica on occasion, he was the full time minister of Savannah.

North Storehouse foundation of Fort Frederica

North Storehouse foundation of Fort Frederica

The South Storehouse was built two years later. Like the North Storehouse, it was as three-story structure. The bottom two floors were used as storage, while the top floor served as the chapel, taking over church services once conducted at the North Storehouse.

South Storehouse foundation at Fort Frederica

South Storehouse foundation at Fort Frederica

The dark bricks on top of the lighter bricks of the exposed storehouse foundations are from the 1950s excavation. These were laid on top of the original bricks for protection. The excavated sites have also been covered in shells to help with erosion and to keep weeds from growing on the site.

The original blacksmith shop was also located and identified during the excavation, though all that remains is a small section of its brick foundation. The site was identified by the finding of over 5,000 artifacts pertaining to gun and armor maintenance, splattered lead from musket balls, and other iron and copper relics.

Foundation of the Fort Frederica blacksmith shop

Foundation of the Fort Frederica blacksmith shop

On display are three 12-pounder cannons. The highly corroded and pitted gun is believed to be original to the fort, having been left behind as the structure deteriorated. Surprisingly, it was never stolen over all those years. The other two cannon are authentic and of the time period, but were never at the fort when it was in operation. The carriages on all cannon are reproductions.

Cannon thought to be original to Fort Frederica

Cannon thought to be original to Fort Frederica

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that efforts to preserve what remained of Fort Frederica began. Prior to that the fort sat on the banks of the Frederica River slowly deteriorating for nearly 200 years.


BARRACK RUINS

Entrance gate to the barracks at Fort Frederica

Entrance gate to the barracks at Fort Frederica

From the ruins of the powder magazine, take a right (if facing the water) and follow the path around to the only other large structure in the park. A tower and foundation is all that remains from a military barracks built in 1742. The barracks could house about 100 soldiers, half the number stationed at the fort. Officers and soldiers who could afford their own houses had one in town, otherwise they lived in thatched huts surrounding the barracks.

Possible design of the Fort Frederica barracks based on historical records

Possible design of the Fort Frederica barracks based on historical records

The structure that still stands is the entranceway into the barracks. It is constructed of tabby (a concrete-like mixture made of crushed shells and sand) and the walls are three feet thick. It is believed that the entire barracks was constructed in this manner.

Side view of barrack ruins at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island

Side view of barrack ruins at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island

Inside the entrance tower of the barrack ruins at Fort Frederica

Inside the entrance tower of the barrack ruins at Fort Frederica


NORTHEAST BASTION

Upon leaving the barracks, follow the path straight towards the woods. This leads to a corner of the original town site where a pentagon-shaped bastion was built as part of a palisade and moat fortification around Frederica. The defenses included two bastions, this one on the northeastern corner of the town wall and another on the southeastern corner. Each could be manned by up to 100 soldiers plus a few cannon.

Location of the northeastern town bastion at Fort Frederica

Location of the northeastern town bastion at Fort Frederica

Construction of the wall and moat began in 1739 when the threat of war with Spain was looming once again, but they were not completed when Spain invaded St. Simons Island in July 1742. Luckily, Spanish soldiers never made it past the halfway point between the abandoned Fort St. Simons where they were headquartered and Fort Frederica, having been stopped at what is now known as the Battle of Bloody Marsh. The fortifications were completed after the battle. Another attack by Spain was possible until peace was made in 1748.

A bastion is located at the corner of a fort and protrudes out from the fort walls. This allows armed men and cannon located in the bastion to shoot parallel along the wall at enemies who cannot be shot at by those stationed directly above on the wall itself. In the case of a masonry fort, the bastion was part of the structure and built from the same materials. However, the bastions that were part of the fortification around the town of Frederica were free-standing, two-story wooden towers surrounded by a much lower earthen wall.

Example of coverage possible by men stationed in a bastion

Example of coverage possible by men stationed in a bastion

Nothing remains of the tower today. The five corners of the bastion were discovered during a 1957 archaeological excavation, and these are now marked with wooden posts. The earthen wall can still clearly be seen, though it certainly has eroded in height from the time that it was built. You can also get a good look at the moat from this location.

Wooden posts mark the corners of the original bastion at Fort Frederica

Wooden posts mark the corners of the original bastion at Fort Frederica

Remains of the original moat around the Frederica town site on St. Simons Island

Remains of the original moat around the Frederica town site on St. Simons Island

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Last updated on April 4, 2022
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