In its heyday, over 100 years ago, Ft. Strong on Boston's Long Island had one of the greatest concentrations of coast artillery in the Boston Harbor defenses. Today, in 2010, its concrete batteries stand derelect and decaying, cracked, and overgrown. But the history of the fort remains a thought-provoking journey, through the gun emplacements themselves, and into the nooks and crannies of the history of the Coast Artillery.
[NOTE: Access to Long Island is limited, and a manned guard house controls access to the causeway which is the only way to get there. The island is managed by the Boston Health and Hospitals Corporation, and hosts various human service and treatment programs, plus a large summer camp for Boston youth. ]
The fort was conceived as part of the Endicott System of coast defense, a nationwide construction program that began in 1890 and extended up through World War I. Construction work on the fort's major batteries, Hitchcock and Ward, began in 1893 and was completed by 1899. Five 10-inch guns were installed in a massive three-story concrete gallery which ran from Battery Hitchcock on the northwest (three guns) to Battery Ward on the southeast (two guns), and was concealed just behind the peak of the tall cliff at the northeast end of the island, about 100 ft. above the water.
The big guns were on disappearing carriages, dropping down behind the tall parapet for loading, and then revolving back up to peek over the parapet for firing. Once these big guns were installed, a pair of Armstrong 4.7-inch rapid fire guns on pedistal mounts was added (in 1898-99), creating Battery Drum on the northwest edge of Battery Hitchcock, looking down over the narrow harbor entry point between Long Island and Deer Island (Ft. Dawes).
Then, in short order, four batteries of twin 3-inch guns were added for close-in defense of the mine fields and shiping channels near the island, and a large mine casemate was built to control all the mines in the sourthern approaches to Boston Harbor. By WW2, two of the 3-inch batteries (Stevens and Basinger) and the mine casemate remained on duty, but the other larger guns had all been decommissioned, victims of obselescence in the 'teens and 1920s.
One hundred years ago, however, Ft. Strong held its own in the harbor arms race. Its 15 guns (not counting AA guns or guns under 3-inch calibre) rivaled the 20 guns at Ft. Standish on Lovell's Island, the 22 guns at Ft. Andrews on Peddock's (which included a total of 16 of the huge 12-inch mortars), the 16 additional 12-inch mortars at Ft. Banks in Winthrop, and the 10 guns of Ft. Revere in Hull.
Regarding old survey markers, the author has recently recovered three: MY4479 on top of the magazine of Bty Basinger, MY4579 on the floor of the Basinger CRF bunker, and MY0007 (central point and stem only), about 75 ft. NW of Gun 3 of Bty Hitchcock. MY4581, about 80 ft. N of Gun 1 of Bty Hitchcock, has been searched for extensively, but not yet recovered. The other marks previously set on the island are believed to have been lost.
For more details on Fort Strong's defenses, please see the sub-sections in the main menu underneath this section.