Forts Webb, Willys, and Meigs
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Constitution Island Fortifications

West Point Fortifications

The Great Chain 

Hudson River


 Sources and Author's Note   


The three forts were named for the commanders of the militia regiments that built them--and they were batteries rather than forts.

Purpose: Identified by Parsons and Kosciuszko in 1778 as necessary to protect Fort Clinton from southern approaches along the river. 

Forts Meigs, Wyllys and Webb together created an integrated mutually supporting defensive postion.  All three were integrated infantry redoubts and artillery batteries with primary emphasis on the construction of positions to locate and fight the artillery.

Fort Meigs
West Point Fortifications Staff Ride Note Cards 38
USMA History Department 2d Edition, March 1998

Located 150m SE of Fort Wyllys and 60 lower on a steep sided spur astride the approach to Fort Clinton to fire on ships on river or troops approaching along road on bluff.
Construction (began in Apr 1778 probably completed by Aug 1778)
- U-Shaped with the front at the base of the U
- Front wall was strongest with battery facing south and opening to the rear
- Primarily of earth and wood although scarps and ramparts were of stone

- Dry masonry scarp up to 5 high with little talus
- Base of parapet 5-8 thick
- No evidence of gun platforms or embrasures today. But LEnfants 1780 sketch shows one
embrasure. Only foundation walls remain.
- Battery open in back
- May have attempted to connect with Fort Wyllys with parapet (140)
- Ruins to east may have been part of the Meigs complex. 1778 sketch map shows two small fortifications below the battery to the E of the road on the bluff above the river. Kosciuszkos Ruff Map shows a guardhouse and an open work at identical locations.
Manpower provided by Fort Wyllys.

Fort Wyllys
West Point Fortifications Staff Ride Note Cards 39
USMA History Department 2d Edition, March 1998 (Card #1)

Wyllys appears to have been conceived primarily as an infantry fortification from which infantry could deny the ridgeline to the enemy while conducting sorties to protect the artillery in front of Wyllys and Meigs.

Construction (began in Apr 1778). Among best preserved redoubts at West Point
- Redoubt
- Pentagonal shape with 86 yard perimeter

- One embrasure on S side to cover approach up ridge and to support battery
- Bombproof and magazine as early as 1782
-- bombproof had 3 levels each 3 apart
-- lowest section may have been magazine, but CPT Sergents sketch shows it on W wall
-- magazine may still exist beneath the soil in the NW corner
- W wall was thickest (13) and appears to be highest to protect from artillery firing from higher ground to W and S
- Dry masonry ramparts and scarp
- Earth parapets held in place by fascines and timber
- Entry by steps through upper portion of northern rampart

- Mounted three cannon two facing E and one facing S
- Battery mounted two 18 pdrs, three 3 or 4 pdrs
- Dry masonry ramparts and scarp
- Earth parapets (102 in lengtj) held in place by fascines and timber
- Four embrasures cut in the parapets (2-SW, 2-SE)
- Used novel technique to support the wooden gun platform: stone sleepers constructed about 2.5 high and 3 apart (instead of wooden sleepers)
- Huge epaulment built on W side (19x55). Surviving stonework is at least 13 high at one point. Probably capped with timbers and fascines filled with earth.
- Palisade and parapet may have connected redoubt with battery
Manpower: 170 men, entire garrison had to be present to prevent surprise attack
Benedict Arnold (25 Sep 1780): built of stone, 5 high, the Work above plank filled with Earth, the stone work 15, the Earth 9 thick. -- No Bomb Proof, the Batteries without the Fort. Later report indicates that bombproof and battery completed by that winter.
Villefrance (15 Apr 1782) reports that bombproof needs 2 of earth, inside parapet needs to be raised
44 higher than the banquette, south part of wall must be rebuilt, and palisade needed to join the battery
and fort.

Fort Webb
West Point Fortifications Staff Ride Note Cards 41
USMA History Department 2d Edition, March 1998 (Card #1)

Construction (No visible traces remain. . . must rely on Sergeants 1782 sketch)
- Began in Apr 1778; 26 Jul 1778 - regiment posted on outworks, 200 men to complete in two
weeks; named after commander of the regiment that built it.
- 1782 sketch by CPT Ephraim Sergeant showed 4 embrasures, bombproof, and magazine inside
a 134 yard perimeter (twice size of other redoubts)
- Primarily of earth and wood although scarps and ramparts were of stone
- SW guns oriented along ridge toward Fort Wyllys; NW guns oriented toward base of Crown
Hill and SW edge of the plain; other two guns oriented SE corner of plain where enemy infantry would
begin their assault if advancing from the river.

- Cannons, probably two 6-pdrs and four 4/3-pdrs, mounted on raised gun platforms and infantry
aided by raised step (banquette)
- Parapets on W and S thicker (8) for artillery protection
- Benedict Arnold (25 Sep 1780): built of fascines and wood, a slight work, very dry and liable
to be set on fire, as the approaches are very easy, without defenses, save a slight abatis.

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