After the War of 1812, the United States built a series of forts along the coasts called Third System forts to protect the country from French, Britis, and Spanish attacks. Of the 42 forts built, most saw little action against foreign countries.

Some forts were used internally during the Civil War. While brick walls were 11 feet thick in places, these thick walls were no match to the "new technology" of rifled cannons utilized during the Civil War. After that war, the forts were soon abandoned as obsolete.

Many of these forts are now national parks and have museums and tours available. The brickwork is these forts are amazing. Kids will enjoy the hidden rooms while adults will enjoy both the history and the beauty of the architecture.

Some of these forts include:

Fort Pulaski – Savannah, Georgia

Robert E. Lee, recently graduated from West Point, was assigned to direct construction of this fort. An estimated 25,000,000 bricks were used. Union rifled cannons were first used against masonry fortifications here in 1862. The thick walls were breached in little over a day, which caused the Confederates at the fort to surrender.

When we were there, we could see a fairy ring in the center of the fort. A fairy ring is a circle of mushrooms. Legend says elves or fairies dance at these rings. Also, check for the alligators in the moat!

Fairy ring on the lawn on the right at Fort Pulaski.

Cannon at Fort Pulaski.

Fort Pickens – Pensacola Beach, Florida

Be sure to watch for the stalactites of calcium growing from the brickwork ceilings. The most explosive event at Fort Pickens was an accident when the stored gun powder blew a section of the fort and sent bricks flying up to 1.5 miles away.

Nearby forts include Fort Barrancas, Advanced Redoubt and the lost underwater remains of Fort McRee. At one point, Geronimo was held here.

The island also contains the ruins of more modern batteries used as defense during World War II. Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas and the nearby Pensacola Lighthouse are also known as haunted spots and have been featured in several TV shows. Also, ask about the Blue Angels practices that are visible from the top of the fort.

Arches in Fort Pickens.

Fort Clinch – Fernandina Beach, Florida

This fort emphasizes the life of soldiers with buildings like an infirmary, barracks and a prison. Confederates held the fort in 1861 but it was abandoned to the Union in 1962. Each month there is a Union Garrison demonstrating military life in 1864. Make sure you walk along the lovely beach. Shark teeth fossils are frequently found here.

Nooks and crannies in Fort Clinch.

Fort Alcatraz or Alcatraz Citadel – San Francisco

Before it was a prison, the island hosted a fort to protect the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. By the late 1850’s, it began to hold soldiers who committed crimes as a military prison. It wasn’t until the 1930’s before it became the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. The penitentiary closed in 1963 but tours are now available from the National Park Service.

Alcatraz Island

These Third System forts make for a great outing for the whole family. Do you have a favorite fort?