10 Historic US Forts That Shaped American History

10 Historic US Forts That Shaped American History

The U.S. has an impressive military history, something that becomes apparent when you look at how many forts and garrisons litter the American landscape. From the first landings of Europeans in what is now New England, to the Spanish colonists from coast to coast and the French imperialists to the north, the U.S. has had conflicts from the very beginning; many U.S. cities had their start as military outposts. If you want to better understand U.S. history—or experience “living” history—there’s no better way than paying a visit to at least 1 of these 10 historic forts.

10. Fort Vancouver -Washington

Unlike some of the other forts on this list, Fort Vancouver in Washington state was established with commerce, not defense, in mind. The outpost was established by the Hudson’s Bay Company along the Columbia River during the winter of 1824–25, near present-day Portland, Oregon. In 1846, the trading post was closed as unprofitable; 3 years later, the Americans established army barracks on the same site. In 1866, the fort was destroyed by fire, then rebuilt. It remained an active site during both World Wars, and remained active until a forced closure in 2011. It was already on the National Historic Register, and had been since 1961. Today, you can tour the fort and visit some of the restored buildings, such as the Bake House and Blacksmith Shop, where workers employ historically accurate techniques in their reenactments of life in the fort.

Fort Vancouver Washington

9. Fort Verde -Arizona

While forts are typically associated with the Eastern Seaboard and New England, as part of the legacy of British colonialism, there are forts that dot the U.S.’s western frontier as well, such as Fort Verde in Arizona. Today, the site is part of the Fort Verde State Historical Park in the town of Camp Verde. The park offers visitors a living history museum that attempts to preserve the site as it existed during the Apache Wars. In the late 19th century, settlers near the Verde River requested state protection from Native American tribes that were raiding their crops; a sudden increase in the settler population had disrupted the tribes’ traditional lifeways. Over approximately 20 years, the army built several camps and forts, until they were abandoned in 1891. Four of the 22 original buildings survived until 1956, when preservation activities began. The museum opened in 1970.

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