Fort Macon: A History

Article excerpt

Fort Macon: A History. By Paul Branch. (Charleston, S.C.: Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company of America, c. 1999. Pp. xvi, 292. $29.95, ISBN 1-877853-45-3.)

Tucked in among the sand dunes and sea oats on one of North Carolina's barrier islands, Fort Macon is not one of the most significant fortifications in the United States. Nevertheless, Paul Branch provides useful insights into the evolution of U.S. coastal defense programs and fortification technologies. He also provides an interesting picture of politics and personalities in eastern North Carolina. The narrative begins with an overview of Beaufort Harbor, west of Cape Lookout, in the eighteenth century. The colonists who took advantage of the deep water anchorage behind the barrier islands were concerned about seaward defense during the colonial wars and the American Revolution. Early attempts to build defenses along Beaufort Inlet were halfhearted at best, and the Spanish plundered the town of Beaufort in 1747, as did the British in 1782. After independence, plans for coastal fortification included the small Fort Hampton, completed in 1809 but never tested by the British in the War of 1812. This fort was abandoned in the 1820s and lost to beach erosion in 1825. Fort Macon, named for a prominent senator, was constructed between 1826 and 1834. Branch details the political and funding issues behind the project and provides an informative description of the construction processes. …