Fort McClary
Protecting Portsmouth Harbor

Kittery, ME

September 12th 2007

Standing across the Harbor from Fort Constitution, is another of the many forts that originally protected the entrance to Portsmouth. Back in 1689, a man named William Pepperrell bought a track of land along the banks of Portsmouth Harbor near the town of Kittery, which was next to his house.  It is believe that he added some earthworks and a small cannon or two to fortify his position.  This eventually became known as Pepperrell's Garrison, or Fort PepperrellIt was most likely intended to prevent unwanted pirates or perhaps French marauders from sailing into port.  However, there is no record of any such incidents.  Very little is written about the area for the next 20 years or so.  Around 1715 the Massachusetts Bay Colony Authority decided to make the first of many upgrades.  A permanent breastwork of 6 guns was designed, but it would be another 5 years before the construction would be complete.  Massachusetts now had the ability to close off the Harbor, a fact not lost on the British naval authority who assigned a Naval officer to to keep the Massachusetts Naval officer from overcharging the ships that arrived.  These changes brought with them a name change as the fortifications became known as Fort Williams, after William Pepperrell. 1775 brought the Revolution and with it families had to decide on which side their loyalties lay.  Although most went with the rebellion, the Pepperrells stayed loyal to the British and soon lost all their land which was confiscated by the state.  The New Hampshire militia manned the Fort until 1779 after which it was abandoned. A period of relative quite and inactivity came over the area. In 1808 Massachusetts ceded the land to the Federal government and a new Fort was constructed. The new Fort was named Fort McClary after Major Andrew McClary who was the highest ranking American officer killed at Bunker Hill.  These new fortifications included rebuilding the original breastworks into a semi-circle and 9 new guns including 4 8 in. howitzers. Barracks, officer's quarters, a cookhouse and mess hall as well as a brick power magazine which still stands today,  1844 saw yet another upgrade.  The hexagonal blockhouse was constructed on the top of the hill.  Its foundation was mortared fieldstone, the first floor was made of cut granite and the upper stories were constructed of wood.  It was the first blockhouse ever built in Maine.  Two riflemen's houses to either side of the blockhouse were also constructed.  Only one still remains. These buildings were designed to prevent an attack from the rear. or side by infantry.  But, New England was a land without threat and the Fort was deactivated in 1846.  With the opening of the Civil War, Captain Mark Wentworth lead the 50 man, mostly old men and boys, of the Kittery Artillery to the Fort.  They would soon be replaced by others, and so on through the entire war.  But New Hampshire was far too north for the likes of a Confederate attack and it again slipped into obscurity. As conflicts continued from decade to decade, additional fortifications and new a bigger guns were added but nothing would come of it.  Finally in 1918 the Fort was deactivated for the last time, although in WWII the blockhouse was used as a lookout for submarines.

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