The fortifications covered in this book were built by a surprisingly large number of different groups. The oldest forts on the west coast were built by the Native American tribes of the area. They were followed by the Russians, spreading south from Alaska and the Spanish and then Mexicans coming from the south. Parts of Washington State were claimed by Britain, and both the British Army and the Hudson Bay Company built their own fortifications. Both Russia and Mexican eventually lost their west coast possessions to the United States, and the US Army either took over existing fortifications or built from new. Finally a number of private landowners built fortifications, mainly blockhouses, designed mainly to protect them against Native American raids.
The thing that stands out most in this book is the variety of types and sizes of fortifications built on the west coast in this period. At one extreme are simple wooden block houses, some built by the military and others by private citizens looking to defend their own possessions. At the other extreme are places such as Fort Point, a four level casemated brick and stone fort that could carry 126 large guns and that guarded the entrance to San Francisco Bay. In between there are wooden forts, open barracks, and the fortifications of Alcatraz.
Perhaps one of the most interesting pictures in the book shows Fort Point, which when it was built was a sizable construction that guarded the Golden Gate, being dwarfed by one of the piers of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1934. The illustrations come in a wide range of types. The most valuable are probably the contemporary photographs from the mid-19th century onwards. There is also a good collection of contemporary drawings and paintings of earlier forts, and some high quality reconstructions and modern drawings and plans.
Development of the Forts
Types of Military Fort
The Principal Elements of Defence
Life in the Forts
The Forts at War
The Fate of the Forts
The Forts Today
Author: Ron Field