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Fort Blunder

What is a Fort Blunder?

The United States went to war in 1812 for various reasons, including Britain’s interference with its trade and the impressment of its seamen, Americans’ aspirations to conquer Canada, and end British influence in North America. Did you know what happened during the war, called Fort Blunder?

To defend against Canadian invasions, the United States began constructing a fort near the New York-Quebec border in 1818. After two years of construction, they discovered the fort was on the Canadian side. They gave up and renamed it Fort Blunder.

The Story Behind Fort Blunder

Work on a modern, heavy fortification at the northern end of Lake Champlain began in 1818. During the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the British launched massive invasions of the United States via the lake. As a result, some of the most intense fighting in the region occurred during both wars.

Repeatedly mighty armies and massive naval flotillas had traversed the narrow reaches of the river between what is now known as New York and Vermont. The small islands to the north, Hospital Island, Ash Island, and Isle aux Noix, had been the scene of frantic military activity and unspeakable suffering as these powerful forces drove north and south along the river.

Jim Millard, America’s Historic Lakes Blogger

President James Madison ordered the fort to be built to prevent this from happening again. The state of New York assisted by transferring a small spit of land known as Island Point to the federal government. In addition, the state gave up 400 acres for a military reservation.

Later, Chief Engineer of the United States, Joseph Totten, The octagonal, 30-foot-tall tower was built under the supervision of the Army. It would have 125 cannons and open fire on British ships passing by.

Surveyors discovered a problem two years and $275,000 later: the fort was being built on the wrong side of the border. The 45th parallel was designated as the border between New York and Quebec in the Treaty of Paris. As a result, the fort built to protect the United States from Canada was located in Canada.

The fort’s construction was halted, and the previously unnamed citadel was given the moniker Fort Blunder. The problem was solved not by moving the fort but by moving the boundary line.

Daniel Webster negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842, following the bloodless and farcical Aroostook War in Maine. The treaty shifted the border northward. The US then began constructing another fort named after American revolutionary hero Gen. Richard Montgomery.

Unlike Fort Blunder, Fort Montgomery was actually armed and garrisoned by the army. It would have been a vital fortification if Britain had entered the Civil War. (Source: New England Historical Society)

Is Fort Montgomery for Sale?

The United States auctioned off Fort Montgomery in the 1920s. Victor Podd, a shipping magnate from Montreal, purchased it in 1983. He offered a portion of the property to New York State as a historic site, but New York declined.

Podd’s sons inherited Fort Montgomery after his death in 1999. They attempted to sell it on eBay and received a bid of $5 million, but the deal fell through. (Source: New England Historical Society)

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