Fortress America: The Forts That Defended America, 1600 to the Present

by J.E. and H.W. Kaufmann, Da Capo Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2004, $40.

I have a thing for coastal defenses and have tracked them from Fort Hunt to Fort Flagler on Puget Sound to Fort de Russy in Hawaii (on Waikiki Beach, no less). Until I read Fortress America, I had little idea that such visits were just scratching the surface, both in time and geography. Authors J.E. and H.W. Kaufmann claim there are few places in the continental United States located more than 50 miles from some fort. The multitude of structures past and present documented in this book includes coastal fortifications against external threats and inland defenses against internal ones, such as Indians, the British and Mexicans. Keyed to historical eras and methods of architecture and weaponry, ranging from wood to stone and from guns to missiles, Fortress America will likely become the basic reference work on the subject. (Although Fort Washington, it must be noted, is in Maryland, not Virginia, as stated in one caption.) Abundant tables, drawings, maps and sidebars show how Americans achieved “homeland security” in days gone by.


Originally published in the May 2006 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here