Cape Girardeau Forts (1861-1865) - Cape Girardeau,
sitting on the first continuous high ground in
upstream of the
Ohio River, was deemed an important site during the
Civil War for numerous
strategic reasons. In 1861
General Ulysses S. Grant approved the
construction of four forts at strategic locations around the city of Cape
Girardeau. They were named Forts A, B, C, and D.
Fort A was positioned on a bluff overlooking the
Mississippi River at the north edge of town and was meant to defend the
city against Confederate gunboats on the river. The site was located north
of present day Bellevue Street between Lorimier and Spanish Streets. There
is nothing left of fort today.
Fort B was located on a hill now occupied by
Southeast Missouri State University and was built to protect the city from
enemy approaches on the Perryville Road and Jackson Road (now Broadway
Avenue). The fort was open-sided, with earthworks on the north and west
sides. It was well-armed with howitzers and 24 lb siege guns. Nothing is
left of the fort today, but a monument marks the site.
Fort C was near the present intersection of South
Ellis Street and Good Hope Street. Guarding approaches on the Bloomfield
Road, Gordonville Road (now Independence Street), and Commerce Road (now
Sprigg Street), controlling access to the city. During the Battle of Cape
Girardeau, Confederate forces stayed out of range of the fort's cannons.
Though there is nothing left of the fort today, a monument marks the site.
Fort D was located on a river bluff south of
the city, and like Fort A, it was primarily a river defense. It was the
largest and most important garrison in the region and is the only fort
remaining in Cape Girardeau today. The post was constructed by Union
troops at the same time as the other Cape Girardeau forts in 1861. Like
the others, Fort D was designed by Captains Franz Kappner and Henry Fladd
of the Army Engineers. Construction began on August 6, 1861, under the
direction of Lieutenant John W. Powell from Illinois. The design is in a
French bastion form, a triangle with open base. The earthworks faced away
from the river. Reportedly, Fort D housed both 24 and 32-pound cannons,
which would easily control any upriver movement on the
Soldiers who served at the fort reported that "Quaker"
cannons (logs painted black) were used to enhance the appearance of the
armament. In order to keep warm during the winters, soldiers dug
artificial caves in the hillside below the fort. Fort D did not see action
during the Battle of Cape Girardeau and probably never fired it guns in
anger, serving mostly as a symbolic deterrent.
In 1936, the site was purchased by the American Legion
post, and the earthworks were restored to their original height, with some
modifications. A stone building, constructed in the middle of the fort at
the site of the original powder-house, was dedicated to the city and today
is part of the City of Cape Girardeau Parks & Recreation Department.
The earthwork walls remain intact and historical signage
throughout the fort's grounds bring its storied past to life. Fort D is
located at Fort Street and Locust Street in Cape Girardeau. The fort is
open daily from dawn to dusk.
Lieutenant John W. Powell was in charge of the various
forts for some months, recruiting local citizens in Cape Girardeau who
were mustered in as Battery F, 2nd Illinois Artillery. With his troops, he
fought at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, where he lost his arm. After
Civil War, he became famous as the leader of the first expedition to successfully navigate the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
Battle of Cape
Girardeau - Part of the
Trans-Mississippi Campaign during the
this conflict, which was really more of a skirmish than a full-fledged
battle, occurred as Confederate Brigadier General
John S. Marmaduke was pursuing US Brigadier General John McNeil through