Fort Hamilton Seal
|Active||1825 - Present|
|Type||US Army Garrison|
|Garrison/HQ||Brooklyn, New York|
|Colonel Eluyn Gines as of 25 July 2012|
|Captain Abner Doubleday, Captain Robert E. Lee|
Historic Fort Hamilton is located in the southwestern corner of the New York City borough of Brooklyn surrounded by the communities of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, and is one of several posts that are part of the region which is headquartered by the Military District of Washington. Its mission is to provide the New York metropolitan area with military installation support for the Army National Guard and the United States Army Reserve.
On July 4, 1776, a small American battery on the site of today's Fort Hamilton (the east side of the Narrows) fired into one of the British men-of-war convoying troops to suppress the American Revolution. HMS Asia suffered damage and casualties, but opposition to the immense fleet could be little more than symbolic. The very significant event however marked one of the earliest uses of the site for military purposes.
The War of 1812 underscored the importance of coastal defense and helped to promote a new round of fort building. The cornerstone for Fort Hamilton was set in place on June 11, 1825. Six years and a half million dollars later, the fort was ready to receive its garrison.
Though references to the structure as Fort Hamilton occur as early as 1826, it was not officially named for the former Senior Officer of the United States Army and first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, until the twentieth century. In 1839 the Federal government gave permission to New York State's 27th Regiment to drill at the fort, thus qualifying it as the nation's first National Guard training camp. The following year, it allocated $20,000 to improve the fort's armaments, and Captain Robert E. Lee was assigned the task of improving the defenses of the fort as well as those of other military installations in the area. Lee served as Fort Hamilton's post engineer from 1841 to 1846. Lieutenant Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson also served at Fort Hamilton and Captain Abner Doubleday served as the post commander in 1861.
During the Civil War, Fort Hamilton's garrison expanded. A ship barrier across the Narrows assisted Fort Hamilton and its sister forts on Staten Island, now called Fort Wadsworth, in protecting the harbor against the possibility of Confederate raiders. The forts also provided troops to help put down the New York Draft Riots of 1863. Rifled cannon made vertical-walled masonry fortifications obsolete during the Civil War, and in the last decades of the nineteenth century great advances in military technology brought a whole new generation of long-range guns mounted in inconspicuous emplacements. In the two World Wars, Fort Hamilton served as a major embarkation and separation center.
In 1948, the last coast defense gun was removed from Fort Hamilton.
The following units were established at Fort Hamilton:
- 5th Coast Artillery 1924
- 12th Infantry Regiment: October 20, 1861
- 21st Infantry Regiment: May 20, 1862
In the 1960s, Fort Hamilton also served as the home for the United States Army Chaplain and Chaplain Assistant School as it moved from the recently closed Fort Slocum. Hundreds of army and National Guard Chaplains and their assistants were trained here for active duty and reserve ministries to soldiers and their dependents. The school was later moved to Fort Jackson, South Carolina where it now resides.
Fort Hamilton is the last active military post in New York City.
At present, U.S. Army Fort Hamilton Garrison is the home of the New York City Recruiting Battalion, the Military Entrance Processing Station, the North Atlantic Division Headquarters of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the 1179th Transportation Brigade and the 722nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron. Fort Hamilton also supports many reserve and National Guard units. In October 1997, Fort Hamilton came under the command of the Military District of Washington and in October 2002, under Army Transformation, Fort Hamilton became part of the Installation Management Agency - Northeast Region.
Construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the early 1960s did away with several historic structures, including Fort Lafayette, which was located near the Brooklyn shore where the bridge tower now rises from the water. During the same period, efforts toward saving the historical heritage of the Narrows increased. Part of the army's contribution to preserving this heritage is in the Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton.
The original fort later became the Officers' Club and now houses the Community Club. The caponier, a miniature fort guarding the main fort's gate, now houses the Harbor Defense Museum. Other notable landmarks include the Robert E. Lee House, where Lee, then a captain, resided while commander of the garrison, and Colonels' Row, six historic townhouses that used to house senior officers. All of these structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the 2000s, the historic parade field that once lay behind the old New York Area Command (NYAC) Headquarters Building and the Military Personnel Office, former site of numerous ceremonies and festivities, was developed into swiftly built privatized housing. The historic flag pole and cannon are still present at the site, near the old headquarters building and across from the Post Exchange barber shop.
In 2007, the historic, brick barracks, located on the plot of land within Pershing Loop on the eastern portion of the base, which formerly housed the New York Area Command's Ceremonial Platoon and Military Police Company, was demolished. The ceremonial platoon, consisting of only infantrymen, once performed funeral honors and ceremonial functions (such as deployment as color guards in New York City parades, or firing cannons to start the New York City Marathon), in the greater N.Y. area, including Long Island, New York City, as well as parts of New Jersey, along with the 26th Army Band unit that was similar to the Old Guard in Washington, D.C.
The last of the NYAC Ceremonial Platoon left in 1995-1996.
In popular culture
- Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195116348. page 636
- To Live in the Oasis,Money Won;t Help, but a Uniform May, by E C Gogolak, New York TImes, 23 July 2013
- To Live in the Oasis,Money Won;t Help, but a Uniform May, by E C Gogolak, New York Times, 23 July 2013
- "...Reaching New York on the night of April 10, 1841, in a period of very bad weather, Lee soon discovered that his task was not as interesting as he had hoped it would be — that it was laborious but technically not difficult. His instructions were to institute somewhat elaborate repairs at Fort Lafayette, and to make various changes in Fort Hamilton, particularly in the parapet, so as to adapt it to barbette guns." "Five drab years end in opportunity", from R. E. Lee: A Biography by Douglas Southall Freeman, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York and London, 1934
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