We went on a history field trip this Friday. We met up with fellow homeschoolers to tour Fort Adams. It was a breezy, cool day and rain was in the forecast but we didn't care. On our way into Newport my boys pointed out the Ida Lewis lighthouse and several of the mansions we saw on our harbor cruise this summer. I was surprised at all that they had remembered; they were able to tell me a facts about each place we saw.
We arrived early and walked around the outside of the fort overlooking the harbor. We had been surprised to see two huge cruise ships in the harbor when we were crossing over the bridge and the boys were thrilled to be able to see them a bit closer. We took note of how many levels were on the ships and watched people being ferried back and fort from the ships to the town. Ian tried his hand at photography and captured a few photos for me.
We met up with our friends, purchased our passes and headed out on a guided tour of the fort. The guided tour is the only way to see down in the tunnels, into the officer's quarters and off the top of the ramparts. We were amazed at the sheer size of the fort once we were inside the walls. Here are some of the facts (as remembered by the boys!):
- The local townspeople did not appreciate the cannons going off during drills.
- Whole families actually lived inside the fort-- women and children included. Officer's quarters often had up to 4 or 5 rooms and had fancy adornments like ceiling medallions.
- The kids who lived in the fort had to be educated and attended the local school.
- The grassy field inside the fort walls where the men trained was called the parade.
- Three other forts could fit inside on the parade including fort Sumter, fort Mc Henry, and Ticonderoga. (though we're not 100% sure we got the names of the other forts correct!)
- There are listening tunnels underground built on the land side of the fort to protect them from an underground assault.
One of the entrances to the tunnel Inside the tunnels!
- They had a lot of defenses and a whole army would have had a hard time getting inside it
- The army gave it to the navy, the navy wanted to tear it down but the state wanted to preserve it as a historical landmark so it was turned over to the state.
- The roof is grassy to protect the fort in two ways-- as camouflage and absorb the impact of cannons or fire coming in.
- The stairs are sloped to make it slippery and dangerous for enemies to invade.
- The walls around the cannons were made out of bricks to absorb the shock of misfires. The rest of the fort was made out of granite and shale. All supplies were found nearby in New England.
- They imported workers from Ireland to help build the fort since Newport didn't have a lot of people in it at the time.
- They had a three tiered layer of defense: The top of the fort held canons that shot chain cannons that would break the enemies masts, the second layer of the fort held cannons that shot the deck of the enemy ship with a type of ammunition that would scatter and spread out, on the bottom layer of the fort they would heat up the cannons and shoot them at the water level of the ships causing holes in the wooden ships and also causing fires to break out on the dried wooden vessels until iron-sided ships were built.
- There was a fire in the fort that broke the decking that used to go off the barracks
Honestly, I didn't think they were paying attention to much of what the guide was saying. I kept reminding them to be quiet but they had seemed pretty uninterested at the time. I figured as long as they remembered one or two things later on our day was not a waste. It's always amazing to see what they came away with and what facts they remembered versus which facts I remember. All in all it was a wonderful day chuck full of local history.