Talks at Marblehead's Historic Fort Sewall (1644-1922)

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Presentations about key aspects of the development and history of the fort, one of the oldest surviving coastal forts in the northeast. The talks are free.  Donations support maintenance and preservation projects at the Fort. 

The history of Fort Sewall

Established in 1644, the earthwork breast-works fort was fortified in 1705 by order of the Crown, refurbished in 1741-2 under direction of the English Massachusetts's governor's engineer(s), repaired by rebel citizens in 1775, improved after 1794 with brick structures that survive today, and was manned by a garrison during the War of 1812, and again during the Civil War and in 1898.

In 1922 it became a public park when the U.S. government ceded it back to the town.

In 1765, Marblehead was British North America's sixth most populous metropolis, and in 1790, according to the 1st US census, it tied for tenth.

The Fort’s most famous historical moment was on Sunday April 3 in 1814, when the U.S.S. Constitution, pursued by two British frigates, escaped into the mouth of Marblehead Harbor under the protection of the Fort’s guns. Two of the many men and boys in her crew from Marblehead piloted the frigate through the shoals outside the harbor. Even without much ammunition, it was an effective ruse.

With only about 1,000 families living in Marblehead during this time, the Revolutionary War (1,141 Marbleheaders served) and the War of 1812 (1,121 Marbleheaders served) had a dedevastating impact socially and economically.  Even after the peace treaty was signed in 1815, more than half of the imprisoned soldiers were kept for months in Dartmoor Prison, which left hundreds of families destitute.