Forts and the soldiers that have manned them have impacted and shaped New Castle from its earliest days. Forts were built to protect the Island from pirates, Indians, the British, the Spanish and finally the Germans in WWI and WWII. They also served to bring new blood to the island of New Castle. Many soldiers met and married local women and stayed.
Fort Point on Great Island has always been an active military site guarding the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor. It is the oldest continuously occupied military site in the US.
1631- The first settlers led by Captain Walter Neal, brought with them a cannon and built a fort that was called "The Castle".
1666 - The fort was rebuilt as a timber blockhouse and called "The New Castle."
1693 - The Castle was renamed "William & Mary" after the British monarchs. At this time a breastwork (sod, logs and debris construction) with 19 guns was constructed to defend the island during the French and Indian War.
1705 - The first stonewalls were built. During the next 65 years the fort was regularly garrisoned with 4 to 8 men with repairs, enlargements and additional guns being added regularly.
1774 - On Dec. 14 & 15, the first overt act of the Revolutionary War took place at Fort William and Mary. Warned by Paul Revere that the British were coming to seize the powder from the fort. 400 rebels mobilized to take the cannons, gunpowder and small arms from the fort. Later the British ship Scarborough came into the harbor, dismantled the fort and seized two vessels with provisions.
1806- Colonel John Walbach takes charge of the fort with the largest number of forces yet stationed at the fort.
1809- During a July 4th celebration, 14 people died when 350 lbs. of ammunition caught fire and exploded.
1814 - During the War of 1812, fearing a British invasion, Colonel Walbach mobilized his solders and towns people to build a Martello tower (circular masonry fort with a sod roof) which is called Walbach Tower. Its purpose was to protect the town beach against British landing parties.
1840 - Improvements were made which included the granite gun platforms, the structure that we still see today.
1861 - At the start of the Civil War the fort was manned with a 150-man detachment.
1862 - Construction of the massive granite walls, that are so visible from the water today, were begun. This work was halted in 1867.
1897 - Construction began on Battery Farnsworth, located Under the ruins of Walbach Tower. Battery Farnsworth was part of the larger scale Endicott program of seacoast fortification. At the same time the harbor was planted with 21 underwater mines.
1904- Battery Farnsworth was accompanied by Battery Hackleman with two 3" guns to defend against enemy mine sweepers.
1917- Along with many other coastal defenses, two 8" guns from Battery Farnsworth were sent to Europe to be use as railway artillery during WW1.
1940- The Harbor Defenses were garrisoned by the 22 Coast Artillery Regiment at Fort Constitution, Fort Stark, Camp Langdon and Fort Foster.
1944- March 1st the Coast Artillery Regiment was dissolved. Part of the regiment were moved to Camp Hood TX. 1948- The fort was deactivated and turned over to the US Coast Guard.
1961- A portion of the land became a NH State Park.
1973- The park was listed on National Registry of Historic Places and open to the public.
2000- The University of NH acquired 1/2 of the land form the US Coast Guard for Marine science laboratories and classrooms and home for the NOAAS Ferdinand R. Hassler Vessel.
The site of Fort Stark, on the southeast point of New Castle Island known as Jerry's Point, or Jaffrey's Point, has been fortified in one form or another since earliest times. Historian John Albee writes, on this point were probably the oldest defenses along the coast. Here were placed 6 brass pieces given to the colonist by the merchants of London.
1660 - Land granted to Jeremiah Walford (hence the name Jerry's Point).
1746 - Guns moved from Fort William and Mary to Jerry's Point by Theo Atkinson. They were mounted on platforms and were 16, 24 and 32 pounders and it was called Battery Cumberland.
1775 - Fort built at Jerry's Point by the State of NH out of sod, earth and stone walls.
1812-1815 - Captain William Marshal, owner of Jerry's Point, commanded 64 New Castle men during the War of 1812.
1887- Jerry's Point Lifesaving Station was built and manned. A new station was built on Wood Island, ME in 1908.
1901-1905 - During the Endicott Period, Jerry's Point was renamed Fort Stark after New Hampshire Militia General John Stark. Batteries Hayes, Lytle, Kirk and Hunter were completed with 3, 6 and 12" guns.
1940-1944 - During World War II, the Fort was garrisoned by the 22nd Coast Artillery Regiment. The Harbor Entrance Control Post was constructed on top of Battery Kirk.
1948-1950 - The fort was deactivated and turned over to the US Navy.
1953-1980 - Naval Reserve Training unit used the fort for weekly drills.
1978-1983 - The Fort was deeded to State of New Hampshire.
Known today as the Great Island Common. The U.S. Army began acquiring the land in 1909 through several deeds, eventually totaling 32.3 acres. The purpose of the reservation was to house the soldiers from the 22nd Coastal Artillery. It also contained anti-aircraft guns and a searchlight.
1910 - US Army acquired the land through several deeds and it was called New Reservation.
1914 - WW1 used for anti-aircraft training with three 3-inch AA guns.
1937 - Renamed New Castle Military Reservation, providing a home for the 22nd Artillery Regiment.
1941 - Renamed Camp Langdon after General John Langdon, who led the raid on Fort William & Mary before the Revolutionary War.
1948 - Army transferred 27 acres to US Navy for retraining command, complete with officers club.
1963 - Transferred to the town of New Castle; renamed the Common.