Fort Warren (Massachusetts)

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Fort Warren defended the harbor at Boston, Massachusetts, for over 100 years. It served as a prisoner-of-war camp during the American Civil War.

The stone fort is located on the 28-acre Georges Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor, where it once commanded the main shipping channels. Construction of the penatagonal-shaped granite fort began in 1833 and was fully completed shortly after the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the island fort served as a secure prison for Confederate prisoners of war. The Confederate diplomats involved in the Trent Affair, James M. Mason and John Slidell, were incarcerated at Fort Warren from November of 1861 until January of 1862. Other notable Southerners held at Fort Warren were generals Richard S. Ewell, Isaac R. Trimble, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr. and Lloyd Tilghman, former Vice President of the Confederate States of America Alexander H. Stephens, and Cabinet member John Henninger Reagan.

The fort remained active through the Spanish-American War and World War I. It was re-activated during World War II, when it served as a control center for the harbor mine operations, a precaution in case of anticipated attacks by German U-boats. It was permanently decommissioned in 1947.

Fort Warren belonged to the Federal government until 1958, when the state obtained possession from the General Services Administration. In 1961, the fort was reopened to the public after initial restoration efforts. Today, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) maintains and administers the fort, which is the centerpiece of the Boston Harbor Islands, a national park area. An estimated 100,000 tourists visit the fort each year, using a series of ferries to access Georges Island.

Fort Warren is listed as a National Historic Landmark.


  • Schmidt, Jay, Fort Warren: New England's Most Historic Civil War Site, Boston: Unified Business Technologies Press, 2003. ISBN 0972148949.
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