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 American Lighthouse Foundation, Inc.

P.O. Box 565

Rockland, Maine 04841

Phone: 207-594-4174

 

info@lighthousefoundation.org

 

The American Lighthouse  Foundation is a  Non-Profit 501(c)(3) Organization dedicated  to the preservation of America's historic lighthouses.

 

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Remnants of “Fort Useless”

Adds to the Historical Significance of Long Point Light

 

By Bob Trapani, Jr.

 

 
 
Situated atop two high dunes on the very tip of Cape Cod’s spindly finger of soft sand are the eerie remnants of an all but vanished Civil War defense post. Most of the remains of the historic site, which stand in the shadow of Long Point Lighthouse, have been lost to deterioration, but even existing vestiges have been nearly obscured by

Long Point Light and "Fort Useless"

Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.    

The remnants of "Fort Useless" stand in

the shadow of Long Point Lighthouse

 
 

wind-driven sands and sprawling beach grass.

 

Long Point, which overlooks the harbor of Provincetown, Massachusetts, is rich in maritime history that reaches back to the year 1620 when the Pilgrims first visited its protective waters. Eventually the sandy spit at Long Point was settled around 1818, and according to lighthouse historian Jeremy D’Entremont, the remote community reached its peak in the 1850s when about 200 people called the Cape’s fingertip home.

 

A decade later with the approach of the Civil War, the settlements at Long Point had mostly disappeared from the harsh environment of the

 
 

Remnants of "Fort Useless"

Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.    

A close-up view of the dune that served

as the foundation for "Fort Useless"

exposed and ever-changing Cape as people moved their homes over to the mainland in Provincetown. D’Entremont explains why two military batteries were eventually established on the tip of the Cape, saying, “during the Civil War a Confederate warship was seen near Provincetown. In
 
 

anticipation of a possible attack, two forts were built at Long Point close to the lighthouse.”

 

D’Entremont goes on to say, “Local residents called the batteries ‘Fort Useless’ and ‘Fort Ridiculous.’ Luckily no shots were ever fired in the vicinity of Long Point, other than Fourth of July salvos.” Concern over a possible enemy attack on Provincetown Harbor stemmed from the region’s prosperity as an important port town and from the ease of accessing the harbor itself. Lighthouse engineer I.W.P. Lewis once called the harbor “one of the best in the Union – spacious, deep, and accessible at all times without a pilot.”

 

The Provincetown community may not have appreciated the batteries when they sarcastically dubbed them “Fort Useless” and “Fort

 
 

Ridiculous,” but nonetheless, the installations were assigned United States Army personnel under the command of John Rosenthal in 1864, who himself was no stranger to conflicts. Rosenthal had previously fought missions against the Indians when he engaged the Comanches in Texas and the Navahos in New Mexico. Rosenthal served at the Long Point batteries for 12 years and eventually retired in 1885, having moved permanently to Provincetown.

 

Though the two forts never fired a shot in battle, their place in history should be remembered, but sadly, the batteries have all but vanished into the past. According to book Looking Back by Clive

Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.    

Cape Cod Chapter president

Jim Walker untangles a

tattered flag someone placed

on the cross at "Fort Useless"

 
 

Driver of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, “there have been suggestions that the remains of the two forts should be marked in some fashion, but the National Seashore has stated that there is not enough documentary evidence left to justify doing this.”

 

As for the American Lighthouse Foundation and its hardworking Cape Cod Chapter, our mission is to preserve Long Point Lighthouse – but we also are appreciative of the light’s surroundings and its rich history, which includes a moment in time when ‘Fort Useless’ and ‘Fort Ridiculous’ made their mark on shifting sands of Cape Cod. We will remember.

 

"Fort Useless" and Cape Cod

Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.                            

View of "Fort Useless" and the curling

finger of Cape Cod from the lantern

of Long Point Light

 

 
 
 

 

 

 
       
     
 

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