How to Research a Military Fort

By David A. Fryxell Premium

Q. How could I find out more about Fort Adams in Newport, RI, where my maternal grandfather was stationed when he met my grandmother?
A. The National Archives’ Northeast Region office in Waltham (Boston), Mass., has administrative records from Fort Adams in record group 392, Records of the US Army Coast Artillery Districts and Defenses, 1901-1942, as well as related records in record group 77. In 1901, the Artillery Corps was divided into field artillery batteries and coast artillery companies under newly created artillery districts. Each district consisted of harbor defense forts, such as Fort Adams, along with minefields and land defenses. In 1913, the coast artillery districts were redesignated coast defense commands. These records document activities at forts Adams, Banks, Constitution, Rodman, Stark, Warren and Williams, and include correspondence, memorandums and orders. Fort Adams also served as a training center during both world wars.

At its peak during World War II, more than 3,000 soldiers were assigned to the Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay, headquartered at Fort Adams. These included the 10th Coast Artillery of the US Army and the 243rd Coast Artillery Regiment of the Rhode Island National Guard. In 1953, the Army transferred ownership of Fort Adams to the Navy.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower lived at the former commanding officer’s quarters (now called the Eisenhower House) during his summer vacations in Newport in 1958 and 1960.

In 1965, the fort and most of the surrounding land was given to the state of Rhode Island and became Fort Adams State Park. The fort was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Since 1981, the Fort Adams grounds have been the site of the Newport Jazz Festival and the Newport Folk Festival.

You also can learn more about the early history of Fort Adams, established July 4, 1799, through the Fort Adams Trust.

From the May/June 2014 Family Tree Magazine