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Henry A. S. Dearborn built this second-system fortification as an "embargo fort" in 1808 and named it in honor of Commodore Edward Preble. Along with Fort Scammel, it was built to enforce the unpopular trade embargo that President Thomas Jefferson enacted against Great Britain by preventing Maine merchants from trading with the English. In October 1808, Dearborn ordered a company of soldiers to occupy the fort and instructed them to do whatever was necessary to enforce the Embargo Act against embargo-breaking ships. The embargo was finally lifted in March 1809.
In addition, various units manned Fort Preble during the War of 1812. Among them were elements of the Regiment of Light Artillery, the 21st, 33rd, and 34th Regiments of Infantry, as well as U.S. Volunteers — and in times of crisis local militia. When Winfield Scott and other American soldiers returned from British imprisonment in Quebec, they were landed at Fort Preble. Many of them were emaciated and ill, and some died at this post's hospital.
Soldiers from the fort saw action when Confederate Army raiders entered Portland Harbor on June 26, 1863, aboard a captured ship named Archer. The Confederates captured the revenue cutter Caleb Cushing the next day, and attempted an escape. They were pursued by steam powered ships carrying soldiers from Fort Preble. Light wind made escape impossible and the Confederates abandoned the Caleb Cushing in boats after setting the ship on fire. Twenty-three Confederate prisoners were captured and taken to Fort Preble.
In the late 1800s Fort Preble was modernized under the supervision of Army engineer Thomas Lincoln Casey who is best known for overseeing the completion of the Washington Monument. In the early 1900s several modern Endicott era coast defense batteries were installed at the fort.
The fort remained active through World War I and was used during World War II as a naval net depot for net laying ships and as a control station for the Casco Bay degaussing range. Fort Preble was inactivated in 1950.
In 1952 the fort became the campus of the Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute (SMVTI) which was renamed In 1989 as Southern Maine Technical College (SMTC) and later to Southern Maine Community College (SMCC).
Smith, Joshua M. "Maine's Embargo Forts," Maine History, Vol. 44, No. 2 (April 2009), 143-154.
- "U.S.Navy Activities World War II by State". U.S. Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 2012-03-07.