Fort History

On May 13-14, 1775, the first naval battle of the American Revolution took place off our shore when the local militia, under the command of Nathaniel Pope and Daniel Egery, captured two British sloops in Buzzard's Bay.

Shortly afterward, the town petitioned for the construction of a fort at Nolscot Point for the protection of the harbor. The original fort was built by Capt. Benjamin Dillingham and Eleazer Hathaway between 1775 and 1777. It was outfitted with eleven cannon, several of which had been captured in the Bahamas by John Paul Jones.

The fort was attacked and destroyed when the British raided the harbor on September 5-6, 1778, landing 4,000 troops in New Bedford. The troops marched inland along the west shore of the Acushnet River to Acushnet, then came south through Fairhaven to Sconticut Neck. At this time the British drove a group of 34 local militiamen under the command of Timothy Ingraham from the fort, burned the barracks, broke up the gun platforms and smashed all but one of the cannons.

When the fort was rebuilt following the 1778 attack, it was named Fort Phoenix after the mythical bird which rose from its own ashes.

Shortly before the War of 1812, Fort Phoenix was enlarged under the supervision of Sylvanus Thayer, who later became the "Father of the Military Academy" at West Point. In June of 1814, the fort helped repel an early morning attack by British in landing boats from the HMS Nimrod.

Fort Phoenix was manned throughout the Civil War by troops who rotated duty between the Fairhaven fort and the newer Fort Taber in New Bedford. Eight 24-pound cannon were installed at the beginning of the war, five of which remain at the fort today.

Fort Phoenix went out of service in 1876. In 1926, it was purchased for the town by Lady Fairhaven, Mrs. Urban H. Broughton of England, a daughter of the town's benefactor Henry Huttleston Rogers. Since then it has been maintained by the town as a public park.

In 1973, Fort Phoenix was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.