Fort Constitution, located in New Castle adjacent to the U.S. Coast Guard Station at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, is likely New Hampshire’s most important and interesting military fortification.
Defenses were first established on the site in 1631, and Fort Constitution was originally named Fort William and Mary, after the king and queen of England.
In December 1774 Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth from Boston to warn the colonists of British plans to reinforce the fort, to protect its store of powder. The colonists however surrounded the fort and seized light cannon and 97 barrels of gun powder. Many consider the attack to be the first overt act of the Revolution, and it’s thought that some of the supplies were used in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
“The daring character of this assault cannot be overestimated. It was an organized investment of a royal fortress, where the king’s flag was flying, and where the king’s garrison met them with muskets and artillery. It was four months before Lexington, and Lexington was resistance to attack, while this was a deliberate assault. When the king heard of this capture it so embittered him that all hope of concessions was at an end. It made war inevitable.”
— Rev. Alonzo H. Quint, D.D. ~ 1860
Fort Constitution occupies three acres and includes Portsmouth Harbor Light.
The fort is not staffed, nor are there brochures or other information available.
NOTE: Because access is through a U.S. military installation, Fort Constitution was closed to the public in January 2015.