Fort Hamilton, New York
On the 4th of July 1776, a small American battery on the site of today's Fort Hamilton fired into one of the British men-of-war convoying troops to suppress the American Revolution. HMS Asia suffered damage and casualties, but opposition to the immense fleet could be little more than symbolic. However, the event marked one of the earliest uses of the site for military purposes.
Without ever firing a shot, the forts at the Narrows held a British fleet at bay during the War of 1812 and perhaps saved New York City from the fate of the Nation's capital, burned by invaders. The War of 1812 underscored the importance of coast defense and helped to promote a new round of fort building. The cornerstone for Fort Hamilton was set in place on June 11, 1825. Six years and a half million dollars later, the fort was ready to receive its garrison.
Though references to the structure as Fort Hamilton occur as early as 1826, it was not officially named for the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, until the twentieth century. Captain Robert E. Lee, who served as Fort Hamilton's post engineer from 1841 to 1846, was among the officers assigned to the post during its early history. Lieutenant Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson also served at Fort Hamilton and Captain Abner Doubleday served as the post commander in 1861.
During the Civil War, Fort Hamilton's garrison expanded. A ship barrier across the Narrows assisted Fort Hamilton and its sister forts on Staten Island in protecting the harbor against Confederate raiders. The forts also provided troops to help put down the New York City draft riots of 1863. Rifled cannon made vertical-walled masonry fortifications obsolete during the Civil War and in the last decades of the nineteenth century great advances in military technology brought a whole new generation of long-range guns mounted in inconspicuous emplacements.
In the two World Wars, Fort Hamilton served as a major embarkation and separation center. At present, the United States Army Fort Hamilton Garrison is the home of the New York City Recruiting Battalion, the Military Entrance Processing Station, the North Atlantic Division Headquarters of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the 1179th Transportation Brigade and the 722nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron. Fort Hamilton also supports many Reserve and National Guard units. In October 1997, Fort Hamilton came under the command of the Military District of Washington and in October 2002, under Army Transformation, Fort Hamilton has become part of the Installation Management Agency Northeast Region. Fort Hamilton proudly serves as the Army's Ambassador to the Greater New York Metropolitan Area.
Construction of the Verrazano Bridge in the early 1960's destroyed several historic structures, including Fort Lafayette, which was located near the Brooklyn shore where the bridge tower now rises from the water. But in the same period efforts toward saving the historical heritage of the Narrows increased. Part of the Army's contribution to preserving this heritage is in the Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton.
Fort Hamilton is part of the Army's Residential Communities Initiative. RCI is a military and private sector partnership designed to improve the quality of life for soldiers and their families. Through RCI, the Army partners with a private developer to build, mange, and maintain family housing communities on its installation.