Fort Frederick
Big Pool, Maryland

The French & Indian War (1754-1763) was part of England and France's never-ending quest to rid one other from the earth. This conflict naturally enough had to involve their colonies as well, which in this case meant the settlers and Native Americans in...y'know, America.

In 1756, at the request of Governor Horatio Sharpe (1718-1790), £6000 was appropriated by the colony of Maryland to build a fort along their frontier with what is today the viciously warlike state of West Virginia. The fort, built on the banks of the Potomac River in the far west of Maryland, was named for Frederick Calvert (1731-1771), the sixth and last Baron of Baltimore (and fourth Proprietor of Maryland). Calvert was an English aristocratic jerk who fled Maryland after being tried (and acquitted) for the abduction and rape of a local girl. When the fort in question was being built, however, he was still somebody worthy of toadying to.

Starfort watchers will no doubt have noticed that Fort Frederick's walls, though shaped in that pleasing starfortish shape, are suspiciously thin (a mere three feet thick at the wall's base). Generally a starfort's walls would be considerably thicker, and the bastions would have plenty of room for cannon atop. Fort Frederick was never intended to withstand fire from artillery. Twas primarily built as a refuge for settlers threatened by Indians (who, fortunately for white folks everywhere, had no artillery), and it was correctly reasoned by the fort's designers that the French would have a difficult time indeed dragging enough artillery to matter this far west. There was room for artillery in the fort, however, in the form of earthen ramps supported by woodwork, against the inside of the fort's walls.

Settlers were most certainly threatened and chased about by Indians in 1757 and 1758, and British soldiers and local militia, stationed at Fort Frederick, went on numerous expeditions into hostile territory, prodding at the Indians in a preemptive, salutary manner.

While Fort Frederick was never directly attacked, it served its purpose as a refuge for trembling settlers and as a base from whence mighty blows of justice were dealt to those nasty injuns. From 1777 to 1783, the fort was used as a prison camp for upwards of 1000 British and Hessian troops, captured during the fun of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

After the war, some dude named George Washington (1732-1799) vigorously promoted the idea that numerous canals should be utilized to connect the eastern seaboard of the US to the Great Lakes and Ohio River regions. Washington founded the Potowmack Company in 1785 to work in that direction. In 1825, the Erie Canal, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean through upstate New York, was completed. This concerned southern traders, who were worried that this northern route would dominate the new nation's economy, so the Potowmack Company's holdings were ceded to the Chesapeake and Ohio Company, which was dedicated to working that canal magic in the south.

The C&O Canal, built from 1828 to 1850, connected the Chesapeake Bay at Alexandria, Virginia with the Ohio River at Cumberland, Maryland. Unfortunately for canalofiles, before its last shovelful of dirt had been slopped onto the bank, the C&O had been rendered obsolete by the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad, which traveled much the same route as the canal.

Fort Frederick had been rotting, uninhabited and unloved, since the end of the American Revolution. Once the US Civil War (1861-1865) rolled around, all of these canals and railroads seemed to make for awful tempting targets for the Confederacy, so Fort Frederick was regarrisoned by Federal troops and used as a gun emplacement, watching over the C&O Canal and B&O Railroad. Union troops stationed at Fort Frederick found their daily lives almost identical to that of their French & Indian War-era forefathers: The necessities of feeding themselves and keeping up ample stocks of firewood still consumed most of their time.

On Christmas Day 1861, the 1st Maryland Infantry, garrisoning Fort Frederick, fought what is described as a skirmish with Confederate raiders. The mean ole rebs were shooed away and the obsolete canal and non-obsolete railroad were saved (at least the portion of canal and railroad that were close to the fort). There was no further rebel activity in the immediate vicinity, so federal troops, bored, left Fort Frederick in mid-1862.

The fort rotted for the next sixty years. In 1922, the state of Maryland acquired Fort Frederick and its surrounding land, for use as its first State Park. The fort's deteriorating walls were restored in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program instituted by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) to usefully employ upwards of 2.5 million American men who won't doin' nothin' else during the Great Depression. The CCC also developed the land, which had been mostly used for farming, into a State Park. Two of the fort's barracks were reconstructed in 1975.

Today, Fort Frederick State Park fills 585 acres of western Maryland and offers camping, fishing, biking, picnicking and dudes dressed up in heavy homespun clothing in the summertime, which I'm sure they find pleasant.

Muchas gracias to Starfort fan Jerome Sale, who alerted me to Fort Frederick!