history

Fort Blunder

Sometimes it’s fun to look back and see the crazy things our predecessors did, either out of ignorance because the science didn’t exist yet, or simple human error.

One of my favorite examples of the latter is Fort Blunder.

If you’re not familiar with the story, Fort Blunder is the colloquial name for an unnamed American Fort…in southern Canada.

Originally constructed in 1816 to prevent attacks by the Canadians and improve fortifications following the War of 1812, the fort was located just where the Richelieu River meets Lake Champlain, which was a major waterway at the time. Controlling waterways in times of conflict–or even in peace–was of huge importance because it meant not only providing fresh water for troops to use, but also a way to move troops and supplies and providing a second front from which to attack the enemy.

President James Monroe came to visit the fort in the summer of 1817 when construction was nearly complete. Shortly thereafter, a problem was discovered: due to a surveying error, the fort was about three quarters of a mile too far north. The Americans had effectively built the Canadians a fort!

The site was immediately abandoned. The very polite Canadians apparently decided that instead of using the fort their enemies had so kindly built them, they would rather scavenge the building materials. Little remains on the original site today.

About thirty years later the Webster-Ashburton treaty ceded Island Point to the US, and they decided once again to build a fort in the area to protect the strategically important area. This time they made sure they were operating in American territory before construction began, and Fort Montgomery was finally completed in 1870. Why did it take 30 years to construct? Well, at the time it was the most technologically advanced fort in the country, and millions of dollars were poured into it to construct everything from a moat and drawbridge to 125 cannons spanning multiple tiers. At its peak, over 400 laborers were employed in the construction.

Fort Montgomery, as it stands today. Image taken from Google.

The fort was eventually decommissioned and sold in the 1920s, and has been largely ignored since. There have been intermittent attempts by historical groups to preserve what remains of the building, which is in ruins. The fort and the island it stands on are currently for sale if you have an interest–and about $995,000 laying around.