Self Guided Tour of Fort Knox -Script
This page/website is the property of the Friends of Fort Knox. This page written/compiled by Roger Bennatti
Welcome to Fort Knox, America’s First Fort Knox. Fort Knox is part of the State of Maine’s Historic site system and is operated by the Friends of Fort Knox in partnership with the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Let’s begin with answers to the most commonly asked questions. There are two rest rooms at the fort, one is located to the left of to the Visitor's Center (the Visitor’s center is the brick building off to your left as you purchase your ticket, and is a great place to begin your visit) The other restroom is located on the grounds at the south side of the Fort (at the picnic area). Water fountains are located at the Visitor's Center outside of the rest rooms along with vending machines for soft drinks and bottled water, to the right of the restrooms. A second water fountain is located near the Fort pavilion south of the Fort (near the picnic area)
A gift shop is located inside the Visitor's Center and is run by the Friends of Fort Knox. Educational materials, souvenirs, apparel and light snacks are available at the gift shop. Proceeds from the sales at the gift shop help support the Friends’ of Fort Knox ongoing fort restoration efforts.
An obvious first question would be “why is the fort here?” The answer is rather simple…the fort is here because the British successfully invaded the area twice, before the fort was built. A short walk to the Visitor’s Center is a great place to start our journey. This former Torpedo Shed was restored and the surrounding area landscaped by the Friends of Fort Knox. This three-year restoration project (from 1999-2001) cost in excess of $900,000. While in the Visitor’s Center feel free to pick up a map to help guide you on today’s journey. Our story begins in the corner of the Visitor’s center at the panel titled Conflict on the Penobscot River.
At the time of the American Revolution the British had great interest in the lands along the Penobscot River and to the east, which were then part of the rebellious Massachusetts colony. The area had a rich supply of lumber for masts and shipbuilding and would also serve the British as an effective base from which they could control the coastal waters from what the British referred to as pirates, but the colonists referred to as privateers (which is a private person or ship authorized by the government to attack foreign shipping during wartime.) At the time, the closest naval base for the British was at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
To enforce British interests, the British crown ordered a fort to be constructed on the east side of Penobscot Bay. 700 British troops sailed into the Bay in June 1779 and began building this post, Fort George in present day Castine about 13 miles downriver from the present Fort Knox.
Massachusetts sent a large naval fleet of 18-armed vessels, 24 transports, and around 1,500 troops, vastly outnumbering the British forces, to expel the British from Castine. What followed was the greatest American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor…and in terms of total ships lost, still is the greatest single naval defeat in US history. As a result, the Penobscot River and its lands to the east came under British control. Even after the American Revolution ended in 1781, England continued to occupy the eastern section and raid the coastline until 1784. There is a copy of a painting by a British artist displayed here, which portrays a British view of the American defeat. The ships displayed represent the British ships, and the flames in the background represent American ships that were grounded and set ablaze by their crews to avoid capture. All but two ships were set ablaze by their crew. The British captured the remaining two ships.
The second successful British attack occurred during the war of 1812. From their base in Nova Scotia the British seized Eastport, Machias and Castine in 1814. British ships sailed up the unprotected Penobscot River, defeated outnumbered US forces, captured the town of Hampden, and took control of this and the entire area to the east until the war ended in 1815.
After the war of 1812 the US government clearly saw the need for a system of fortifications to protect our coastline. In 1821 the Department of War’s Board of Engineers undertook a coastal survey to plan for this system of forts. One of these planned forts was to be at the mouth of the Penobscot River to help protect coastal trade and ensure a safe haven from which the navy and private vessels could act against enemy intrusions. This location was particularly timely in that this area was relatively close to New Brunswick, part of the British colony Canada, at a time when Maine’s border with neighboring New Brunswick, was in dispute. Fortunately this dispute was settled diplomatically in 1842 with the signing of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.
The construction of Fort Knox (Named after Henry Knox, George Washington’s Secretary of War) began in 1844 and continued (with numerous work stoppages due to funding problems) until 1869…at that time the fort was still not quite finished. An obvious question would be “what wasn’t finished?” Probably the most important parts left unfinished were the barracks and officer’s quarters…which then leads to the next question….”Where then did the soldiers reside?” These questions can best be answered by proceeding to the right of the double doors in the Visitor’s Center at the Panels titled Troops at the Fort and Civil War and Beyond.
The only times there were soldiers in any number residing at the fort was during the periods of the Civil War and Spanish-American War. Troops were sent to Fort Knox (which was still under construction) in 1863 to help protect the area from Confederate raiders who were terrorizing the Maine coast. During that year these raiders had burned or captured 20 vessels including the Tacony, which was seized near Mount Desert Island. There was also a fear that the British would enter the war on the side of the Confederacy, which would have obvious negative effects on North East coastal shipping and ports. Barracks and storage buildings were constructed as outbuildings for these troops (a photo of the Barracks is shown in the Panel titled Troops at the Fort) …whose numbers varied throughout the period as some were reassigned after training and new replacements arrived. These soldiers stayed at the Fort through November 1865 after which the only remaining soldiers were from the Army Corps of Engineers, overseeing the remaining construction.
During the Spanish American War some feared that the Spanish would attack the East Coast. For that reason over 500 soldiers from Connecticut were sent to man the fort. These troops were quartered south of the fort in the area that is now the picnic area. Their encampment included tents and some storage buildings. A photo of this encampment can be found at the Civil War and Beyond Panel.
By this time the guns at Fort Knox were considered obsolete so the decision was made to mine the Penobscot River for its defense. These were (at that time) referred to as Buoyant Torpedoes. These torpedoes (an example is hanging in the Visitor’s Center) were connected by cables, which ran along the riverbed into the fort to batteries and switches and could be detonated remotely from the fort in order to sink the enemy shipping (which never came). At the conclusion of the Spanish-American war these troops returned to Connecticut. In 1900-01 a brick torpedo shed/storehouse was constructed. This structure now houses the Visitor’s Center, Gift shop and the office of the Friends of Fort Knox. This was the final structure to be built as part of Fort Knox. 1900 also ended the military career of the longest serving Ordnance Sergeant/Keeper of the Fort at Fort Knox with the death of Leopold Heygi who served at the fort from 1887 to 1900. Sergeant Heygi is buried in a local cemetery.
At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, all troop activity at Fort Knox ceased. From 1900 to 1923 the only military presence was that of a series of ordnance sergeants who served as the keepers of the fort.
On December 4, 1923, the Fort was turned over by the Federal Government to the State of Maine and was officially received by Governor Percival Baxter on June 9, 1924 where the deed clearly and wisely stated that the Fort was to be used for no other purpose than to serve the public.
Well…let us now head out from the Visitor’s Center. Proceed out to the three interpretive panels outside the visitor’s center. Feel free to pause the program here to read the information on these panels.
Our story will continue just beyond these panels, where we have a clear view of Battery B. below. The friends of Fort Knox engaged a local contractor in the fall of 2010 to rebuild Battery ‘B’ and adjacent demibastion retaining walls. In addition, this approximately $40,000 project undertook stabilization work on the wharfs and extensive erosion control efforts.
Across the river is the village of Bucksport, which was settled in 1763 by Jonathan Buck and a group of settlers. This settlement, then known as Plantation #1 was in 1789 renamed Buckstown and then later Bucksport. Of course these were not the first settlers in the area. The Red Paint People were a pre-Columbian culture indigenous to the New England and Atlantic Canada regions 5000 years ago. They were named after their burials, which used large quantities of ochre, normally red, to cover both the bodies of the dead and grave goods. They lived on the coasts and rivers, fishing and hunting. Some coastal sites of these peoples show evidence of year-round occupation.
To the left of the village of Bucksport is the Verso Paper Company. The structure connected to the tallest smokestack contains a biomass boiler, which uses mostly wood waste, with a small amount of natural gas used only to ignite the boiler at start up. Burning the wood waste generates steam to power a 25-megawatt turbine generator, which supplies the mill with heat and electricity as well as supplying energy to the power grid. Most of the steam used is condensed and recycled back to the beginning of the process, reheated and used again.
Below is Battery B – One of two shoreline batteries. The original emplacements that were designed for 24 or 32 pound guns were redesigned before any guns were installed to accept much larger 10‑inch Rodman guns and one 15-inch Rodman gun. The brick structure you see below is a hotshot furnace, a structure used to heat cannon shot to red heat that would then be fired into the hull of a ship to set it ablaze. The Friends of Fort Knox restored this structure in 2003. In that the shot from the Rodman guns were much too large to be used in a hotshot furnace, these structures were never used.
Also in Battery B is a 15-inch Rodman tube lying on its side (minus its carriage). Scrap dealers returned this tube to the fort around 1942. It weighs about 49,000 pounds, and was cast by the Cyrus Alger Co., South Boston in 1865. Its cost at the time was about $7,000.
Two types of ammunition were provided for such a 15-inch gun--a 450-pound solid shot, and a 330-pound explosive shell carrying a 17-pound bursting charge. We shall see a complete 15 inch gun with carriage in just a while when we arrive at Battery A.
Let us now proceed to the left of the white building ahead and stop by the fence at the top of the embankment. The fort was built into a hillside …much of the rock that was blasted from the hillside was used to build the road we were just walking on as well as the embankment we are standing on. Below you can see the original wharf of Fort Knox. The granite at Fort Knox is from Mount Waldo, a few miles upriver. The granite was brought to the fort by galamander and oxen along local roads or by barges to the wharf, where they were lifted off the barges by derricks and transported up to the building site by either steam lift or a galamander and oxen.
The steep bank we are overlooking was meant to be a deterrent to anyone attempting to attack the fort from the river. Once they reached the flat area, on which we are standing, they might think “thank god that’s over”….only to be greeted by what I refer to as the Fort Knox welcoming committee. If you turn to look at the fort you will see a series of loopholes or rifle slits. Soldiers inside the fort would fire on the enemy trying to climb the embankment from these narrow slits while still remaining, for the most part, under cover. You may also notice small indents or dimples in the top center of each block of granite. They are not bullet holes as many of our young visitors believe but rather places where large hooks called dogs could grasp the blocks when the derricks were maneuvering them.
The white building or Doghouse we are standing next to is the way to (or from) Battery B and the Wharf. If you want to explore Battery B and/or the wharf on your own, feel free to stop the program at this time. We will continue the program by the three interpretive panels ahead near the entrance to the fort.
Feel free to read the interpretive panels in order to gain more information concerning forts of this age. The Friends of Fort Knox funded most of the interpretive panels you see here at Fort Knox in 2003.
If one was to climb the embankment in this area they may be pleased to see that there are no loopholes or rifle slits facing them. The cannon openings or embrasures are well over one’s head and are intended to fire on enemy ships in the river. If you look at each opening you will see heavy iron shutters. These are called Totten Shutters, after Joseph Totten, the inventor of these devices. When the gun was moved forward for firing the shutters would open. The recoil of the firing gun would close the shutters, protecting the gun crew while they reloaded.
If you look to the right you will see the northern demibastion, a section of the fort protruding from the main wall of the fort with two cannon openings near the ground. These cannon would be flank howitzers. We shall see some examples of these when we enter the fort and visit the bastion. To your left you will see the bastion (with the flag flying above it) with more of these smaller embrasures or flank howitzer cannon openings. You should be able to clearly see one flank howitzer muzzle in one of the embrasures. Anyone standing in the area you are presently in would be subject to a deadly cross fire from the flank howitzers on either side of you. These guns would fire something called canister and were most certainly anti-personnel weapons. These "flank howitzers" fired a canister or tin can filled with 1-inch iron balls into the flank of the enemy that would act like a giant shotgun shell and devastate anyone within range. The fort was designed to hold 20 flank howitzers which would be located in the two demibastions of the fort (North and South front corners, the bastion and in various places in the ditch or dry moat (we shall be visiting this area later in the tour). All of these were aimed along approaches that attacking infantry might use.
After all this talk of death and destruction now would probably be a good time to point out that Fort Knox was never attacked and never did fire a shot in anger. It is very likely that gun crews stationed at the fort did some sort of artillery practice but we only have two notable mentions of guns being fired at Fort Knox.
The first mention occurred on the Fourth of July, 1865, when Maine paid tribute to its last surviving veteran of the Revolutionary War --William Hutchings of Penobscot, then 100 years old, by holding an event for him in Bangor. Former Vice-President Hannibal Hamblin was one of the guest speakers.
As a revenue cutter transported Mr. Hutchins up the river and past the guns of Fort Knox fired a salute of welcome. The article states, “ As the Revenue Cutter steamed past Fort Knox, the old fort's great Rodman guns gave a salute to the old soldier who was standing on the ship's bridge. The resounding roar is said to have caused many windows to shatter across the river in Bucksport.”
The second mention of cannon firing occurred 18 years later, to the day. The article states, “The salute of 1883, during the Bucksport Fourth of July celebration, was according to some to be the last great salvo fired from the fort's many cannons. Soldiers from Fort Williams, Portland, were transported to Fort Knox to man and fire the weapons. Again, all windows not open in Bucksport and Verona Island (the new and present name given Orphan Island) were either cracked or broken.” So in short, the only “battle damage” Fort Knox caused was the breaking of some windows in Bucksport
Before we enter the fort, let us take one short detour in order to look at the largest shoreline battery of Fort Knox; Battery A. Proceed past the entrance of the fort to the Binocular Spotting Scope, at the edge of the embankment in front of the bastion….at this point you will should a good view of Battery A.
Battery A was by far the most impressive gun battery at Fort Knox…containing over 30 cannons…2 - 15 inch Rodman guns with the rest being 10 inch Rodman guns. This was probably the most important gun battery for a number of reasons.
First it is located at the narrowest point in the river, meaning any enemy ships would be close and relatively easy to hit.
It is located at a point where the river takes a number of bends…meaning any sailing ship would have to tack…which would slow their progress, once again making them an easy target.
And lastly, the guns are located at river level meaning that whether they were firing solid shot or exploding shells (with waterproof seacoast fuses) they could fire close to the river and the projectiles would skip like a rock on a pond…hitting the ship close to the waterline…and almost certainly sinking it. A common question some people ask is “How did they fire through the trees?” the answer (as you might expect) is “the trees are relatively young and were not here when the fort was “active”.
This very impressive gun battery is visible quite some distance downriver from the fort…one wonders if an enemy fleet, seeing this impressive display of gun power would decide to retreat rather than face the fort’s wrath.
The structure you see near the 15 inch Rodman is the original Powder Magazine for Battery A (that was re-roofed by the Friends of Fort Knox in 2006). This is the oldest structure at Fort Knox. If you wish to more closely inspect Battery A, feel free to pause the program at this time. The Doghouse (white building) ahead and to your right, contains stairs which will lead you to Battery A. We shall continue our tour of Fort Knox at the entrance to the fort.
This is the Sally Port or entrance to Fort Knox. The name comes from the Latin word “salire” meaning to jump or leap forth…so the word actually means, “the leap forth door”. Note the massive granite archway in the entrance…this was built to support a 10-inch Rodman gun that was placed directly over the Sally Port…uncommon for such forts. The concrete paving stones you are standing on were installed to reduce soil erosion. Lets now take a left and enter the actual fort.
The rooms you see to your left are called casemates. These would each hold two 10-inch Rodman guns. At the time of the building of the fort these were considered to be “bomb-proof” structures. Most of the brickwork is original, though some bricks that were damaged have been replaced. Much of the mortar you see here has been replaced recently through a restoration project funded by the Friends of Fort Knox. The white deposits you see here and throughout the fort are deposits of limestone or calcium carbonate and are the result of rainwater leaching through the mortar. A roof restoration project by the Friends of Fort Knox and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands funded by contributions and a state bond issue did help remedy (if not completely eliminate) the problem of water leaking through the roof).
If you walk into the next section you will enter the bastion of the fort. Here you will see three of the original flank howitzers on their gun carriages. These “giant shot-guns” would provide flanking fire…firing along the front wall of the fort at anyone attempting to attack. These three flank howitzers in the bastion combined with the one on display in the visitor’s center (that were restored by the Friends of Fort Knox in 2007) give Fort Knox the largest single collection of such flank howitzers in the country. The metal rails you see on the floor are called traverse rails…when aiming the guns they could be rolled left or right along these rails. After firing the cannons, the next step would be to sponge the gun to cool it and remove any burning residue before reloading. This would obviously require water. The large “manhole cover” you see, in floor of the bastion, is the cover for a large spring fed cistern (one of the several water supplies in the fort in that the river was a freshwater/saltwater mix and not potable)
If one looks at the traverse rails facing the river you can see that they are clearly larger than those of the flank howitzers, meaning these must have been for larger cannon. What types of guns were here? Lets take a short walk up the next few casemates and find out.
What we have here is a 10-inch Rodman gun. You will notice above the cannon openings or embrasures at the peak of the arch, vents that would allow gun smoke to be drawn from the Casemate. This gun would use about 20 pounds of black powder to send projectiles out into the river. Solid shot for this gun weighed about 133 pounds. Exploding shells weighed less, around 100 pounds. Some actual shells (NOT loaded with explosives) are stacked nearby. The explosives and fuse would be placed in the round hole. The notches on either side would be where soldiers would attach hooks for carrying the shell to the cannon. (Refer to the nearby interpretive panel for more details). This gun was cast by the Fort Pitt Foundry, Pittsburgh, PA in 1865 and weighs about 15,000 pounds. Its cost in 1865 was about $1,800.
Lets now proceed to the spiral staircase and check out the roof of the fort. (If you wish to skip this portion of the tour and avoid the climb, we shall continue our tour at the base of the 2nd spiral staircase at the other corner by the northern powder magazine.
Each of the steps of the spiral staircase is hand-cut and finished, with each step supporting the one above. One should be advised to climb the stairs on the outer portion of the step where there are more areas to place one's foot and to hold onto the handrail provided. Halfway up you will notice an opening that would have connected, via a wooden walkway, to the 2nd floor of the southern powder magazine. This would have supplied the guns on the roof with black powder, but, in that the roof was apparently never gunned, this was never used. Inventory of the Fort in 1897 indicated some chassis and carriages in place for 8" guns but no actual guns in place. The guns on the roof were probably designed for 8" guns. We have 27 front pintle guns along the perimeter of the roof. There are three center pintle guns on the roof, one in each rear corner and one in the center of the front.
The terreplain (sod roof) literally means “full of earth”. This contained the water collection system that apparently fed some cisterns in the fort and also was the 19th century equivalent of an energy absorbing bumper. Absorbing and dissipating the energy of any shot or shell landing on the roof...protecting those in the casemates below. The raised semi-circular platforms that many of the cannons would have sat on are called barbettes, after the olde French and/or Latin word for beard. The flagpole on the roof has been anchored to a pintle (The pin on which a gun carriage revolves) Raising the flagpole from the parade ground to this position on the roof had the advantage of making it more visible to people across the river.
If you approach the parapet, the front protective wall of granite that would protect soldiers and artillery from enemy fire, you will see that it slants downward toward the river…to help deflect any shots that hit it above and away from the soldiers. You may also notice rectangular shaped holes in the top of the parapet. These are the tops of ventilation shafts designed to drawn smoke out and away from the casemates. Feel free to stop the program here so you can enjoy the view at your leisure. Whenever you are ready please proceed carefully down the northern staircase to visit the Northern Powder Magazine (Restored by the Friends of Fort Knox in 2011).
You will notice that the metal fixtures in powder magazines are brass due to that substances spark resistance. All nails in the floor would also be recessed and plugged with wood to avoid sparks. Soldiers would have to follow very specific rules of behavior around powder magazines. Officers could not wear their swords due to the danger of sparking and soldiers had to remove shoes (with exposed nails in the soles) and put on canvas booties. Note that the doors also have metal rods running through them to strengthen them and to make it difficult to chop through them with an ax. Each powder magazine has air vents to help keep the powder dry. The barrels would be stored as shown in the magazine, stacked on their side, usually three tiers high. The powder in these barrels were packed with sufficient space for movement of the grains when these barrels were periodically rolled to prevent caking of the powder
Upon exiting the Powder Magazine, please take a right in order to proceed to the bakery. On your way to the bakery you will pass by two storage rooms on your right. The largest of these two storage rooms would probably be for general storage while the smallest would be for ordinance: Rifles, Rifle ammunition, and perhaps cannon projectiles.
Walk up the stairs ahead to enter the bakery area. As you enter the bakery you will see the large oven. This oven was designed to cook each soldier’s daily ration of 1 and one half pounds of bread. At fifteen feet deep and 10 feet wide it could hold nearly 400 loaves of bread at a time. A cast iron cook stove would have heated water, stews, and other items. The dark passageway at the right of the oven leads to the back of the oven. This was necessary during construction. Afterwards it probably would have been used as an area to dry wood when the oven was to be used. If you wish to explore this area bring a flashlight and be careful…there is limited headroom in certain areas.
“Uphill” from the oven is what would have been the enlisted men’s quarters. Bunk bed’s would have filled these rooms and doors in the outer wall would have opened to walkways to the wooden barracks that were never built. Fifteen windows in this area were restored and/or replaced by the Friends of Fort Knox in 2013. At the very end of this area you will notice a set of wooden stairs. These allow you to peer into the large aboveground cistern. The cistern and adjoining room were restored and reopened by the Friends of Fort Knox is 2008. This 27,000-gallon cistern was fed by pipe from a natural spring some 1400 feet uphill from the cistern. This was intended to supply various areas of the living/cooking quarters with water. Feel free to stop the program at this time to explore these areas. We shall continue the program at the grassy parade ground just outside the bakery.
The main parade ground functioned as the physical and organizational center of post life. It was the fort’s assembly area, where military drills and ceremonies would take place. You will notice stone squares in the parade ground. These would be for food and/or fuel storage, and would have served as the basement of a multi-story barracks, that were never built. These openings would serve as vents and access to the casemated storage areas below. Food to be stored would be passed down through the holes. Access to the casemated storage is also possible by means of a trench running along the west wall. There would have been footbridges connecting the barracks with the quarters and the latrines (which are the three lower doors you see on the wall of the enlisted men’s living quarters. Feel free to stop the program at this time to explore these areas. We shall continue the program at the officer’s quarters (left hand white door) (This area was restored by the Friends of Fort Knox in 2004)
As you enter the white door (Labeled “Officer’s Quarters”) and take a right, you will enter a section of the officer’s quarters. These officer’s quarters were never used as such, though during the Spanish-American War some of these were remodeled into reading rooms for the soldiers with desks and book stacks. What you see here is a representation of what the officer’s quarters may have looked like if they had been used as such. This exhibit was given to Fort Knox by the Maine State Organization of the Daughters of the American Revolution, from the Hoffmann Administration. The small rooms at the rear with bars on the windows would have been latrines for the officers. When leaving these officer’s quarters and re-entering the parade ground, please take a left in order to proceed to the next section of officer’s quarters. The door will be on your left at the corner.
Straight ahead (as you approach the door) you will see a dark opening in the wall of the fort…What this opening leads to is some access to plumbing. If you peer into this opening with your flashlight you will see a large pipe to your left…directly ahead is some of the bedrock that the fort was blasted into that served as much of the fill for the embankments, etc. This rock is part of the Penobscot Formation, a sulfide-rich schist derived from black shale. It is of presumed Cambro-Ordovician age (approx 500 million years old).
Once you enter the door to the officer’s quarters, please walk up the stairs and at the top of the stairs take a right to enter what is technically called a scarp gallery (A long enclosed passage along the inner side of the ditch or dry moat) but we call (for an obvious reason you will soon see) Two-Step Alley. At the top of the granite stairway you will notice the loopholes or rifle slits to your left. These loopholes are facing south (towards the new bridge.) If the enemy would climb the slope by what is now the picnic area, and reach the other side of the ditch, they would be exposed to fire from these loopholes. Note the ventilation holes above the loopholes (not all that effective...but better than nothing.)
As we round the next corner, we enter two-step alley. Almost all the materials here are original. Be aware that wherever a granite pillar protrudes from the wall there is a step down. Note that there are places where the rock in the wall is from the blasted bedrock (aka the Penobscot Formation) rather than the Waldo Mtn Granite....an early example of recycling. All the loopholes to your left along this long passageway are facing the glacis (glasee), the gentle slope that rises from the parking lot to the fort.
As we round the final corner, we are now facing North...upriver towards the Verso mill. Through the loopholes one can see Battery D, which contains emplacements for 7 Front-Pintleguns and 4 Center-Pintleguns. These probably would have been
8-inch guns, though none are listed in the 1897 inventory. These guns would have been used to cover the defense of the northern approach on the river.
After you walk by the two storage-rooms we visited earlier, you will pass by the rear of the northern main powder magazine. Note the slits or vents in the walls of the powder magazine for keeping the barrels dry. These vents do not allow a clear path into the magazine but rather follow a zigzag like path to keep out gunfire, etc...for obvious safety reasons.
As you continue your walk, you will finally enter the northernmost casemate. Most casemates have two locations for venting the smoke from the cannon fire…one vent at the top front and the large opening in the rear. The location of the main powder magazine makes a rear vent impossible so you will notice that this particular casemate has two ceiling vents. If one peers up through these vents one can see how much material (brick and soil) is above these casemates to protect them from the falling enemy projectile of the era.
Let us now proceed down the stairs to the ditch otherwise known as a dry moat.
Above and to your left are the loopholes we were looking out of previously. The stairway ahead and to your left would lead you to the Battery D we saw earlier. Feel free to stop the program at this time to explore this area. We shall continue the program at the entrance to Long Alley (the other side of the ditch)
Proceed through the doorway and take a right. You are now in the northern demibastion. Note the Totten shutters for the two emplacements of two 24-pound flank howitzers, which would have been here. As mentioned previously, their function would be the repelling of enemy infantry. You will also notice a small cover for a cistern and the rear vent for a day-use magazine, which is a smaller magazine to store the powder for these 24 pounders.
There is also a short shooting gallery off this room to your left, which faces the river. We peered into these loopholes at start of the tour
As we leave the demibastion we will walk by the dark entrance to the day magazine. If you walk past the powder magazine and up a few steps you will proceed into a section of the counterscarp gallery, which is different from any other in the fort. There are pedestals under each Loop Hole. The Loop Holes are high up on the wall because of the level of dirt in the Ditch. This Gallery, like the others, would create a crossfire on the northern Ditch.
If you continue walking you will reach two additional emplacements for flank howitzers. These guns covered the length of the northern Ditch. These also would fire canister. Notice the rear vent for yet another powder magazine. This magazine would provide powder for the two batteries located in this corner.
If you make a turn past this magazine you will see two additional emplacements for howitzers. These guns covered the length of the ditch along the back of the fort.
You should now proceed up a long narrow incline and across the back of the fort. This, for obvious reasons, is known as long alley. You will note that there are Loop Holes along the entire length of the gallery. If you look through the Loop Holes and upward, one can observe the Loop Holes of the scarp Gallery (also known at two step alley) on the other side of the ditch. Infantry manning both the Scarp Gallery and the Counterscarp Gallery would create a deadly crossfire, one side firing high, while the other side fires low.
If you continue walking you will soon arrive at the southwest corner of the fort. Two additional emplacements for 24-pound howitzers (firing canister) would be placed here. These guns would cover the length of the southern ditch. A magazine for their powder supply is nearby. Feel free to inspect the magazine, but remember to be careful, flashlights are needed.
If you proceed down some short steps and down a slight incline, past more loopholes, you will enter the Casemate inside the demibastion at the south end of the counterscarp. Note the two emplacements for the 24 pound flank howitzers, as well as the smoke vent in the top rear of the demibastion and at the rear of the powder magazine.
As you walk out the demibastion you will re-enter the ditch. The set of stairs to your immediate left will lead you to the picnic area. If you proceed across the ditch, back into the inner fort and up the stairs, you will enter the southern casemate. Ahead is the 10-inch Rodman we visited earlier. If you walk down the inclined ramp and take a right, you will exit the fort at the Sally Port. At the Sally Port please take a left to return to the Visitor’s Center.
We thank you very much for your visit to Fort Knox…if you haven’t already done so, please visit the gift shop located inside the Visitor's Center that is run by the Friends of Fort Knox. Educational materials, souvenirs, apparel, and light snacks are available at the gift shop. Proceeds from the sales at the gift shop help support the Friends’ of Fort Knox ongoing fort restoration efforts.
We hope you have enjoyed your Friends of Fort Knox audio tour and are impressed with this tremendous National Historic Landmark. If you would like to help the Friends continue to preserve this historic asset please consider making a donation or becoming a Friends member. Membership forms may be found in the Visitor Center or on our web site fortknox.maineguide.com
Have a wonderful rest of your day!