We were home visiting with family recently and my niece told us how she was taking a trip to Fort Frederick State Park with her class. The field trip got the wheels in my head turning, remembering back to my trip to there in grade school. I only remember the size of the old stone fort and the long distance it seemed from home. I decided to look up some facts about the fort and pass them along to you.
Fort Frederick: A Star of a Fort
The stone fort is a classic example of a star fort, a design that is typically a hexagon or pentagon with angled corners. The corners or bastions not only give a panoramic view of the battlefield and great firing positions, but also don’t provide a flat surface for artillery impact, so shells make glancing blows. The bastions at Fort Frederick are filled with earth, making them simple hills to climb for artillery and forces inside the fort to get into firing position.
Fort Frederick was built in 1756 to protect the frontier settlers during the French and Indian, war which brought England and its colonies in conflict with the French and the Indians. A unique quality for the fort is its size, considering it was a frontier fort. The curtain walls, the thick walls that connect the positions on the corners, are 179 feet (55 m) long, 17.5 feet (5.3 m) high and 3 feet (0.91 m) thick at the base. Other examples of this architectural style are the fortifications at Bourtange, restored to its condition in 1750, Groningen in the Netherlands and Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
The fort was in service during the American Revolution as a prison for British soldiers and during the American Civil War, federal troops were based there to guard the C&O Canal (running along the Potomac River from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, D.C.). The Civilian Conservation Corps restored the fort’s walls during the 1920s and began converting the abandoned fort into a 585-acre state park. If you are interested in the 18th century and frontier life early America we highly recommend a trip to this out-of-the-way monument.
The fort is open every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day and on the weekends in spring and fall. You will find staff and volunteers dressed in 18th century clothing demonstrating daily life tasks in the frontier days of the fort. It’ll take an hour and 47 minutes to drive there from Washington, D.C. You can camp or picnic at the park, but we recommend taking most of what you want with you. The town of Big Pool, the closest town to Fort Frederick, doesn’t have much more than a gas station. We personally recommend visiting the park during the day and spending the night in Frederick, Maryland 45 minutes east.
DO NOT GET CONFUSED just because its Fort Frederick doesn’t mean it’s near Frederick, Maryland. (You can’t imagine how many people make that mistake!)