About This Location
Fort Trumbull, nestled near the mouth of the Thames River on Long Island Sound in New London, Connecticut, is a historic fortification rich in American history. Managed as the 16-acre Fort Trumbull State Park by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, it is a place where history reverberates through the walls of time.
The original fort was built in 1777 under the recommendation of Governor Jonathan Trumbull, a figure so prominent that the fort was named in his honor. This strategic location was meant to protect the Connecticut government's seat and played a significant role in the American Revolutionary War.
However, the fort is perhaps most infamous for its capture by British forces led by Benedict Arnold, a notorious traitor in American history, in 1781. Arnold's raid was a pivotal moment during the Revolution, marked by the fierce battle and subsequent capture of Fort Trumbull and its sister fort, Fort Griswold.
Throughout the 19th century, Fort Trumbull underwent several renovations and expansions, reflecting the evolving needs of the U.S. military. The fort that stands today was built between 1839 and 1852. This new structure, designed under the supervision of Army engineer George Washington Cullum, was a five-sided, four-bastion coastal defense fort. It was equipped to accommodate a substantial number of artillery pieces, making it a formidable stronghold during its time.
During the Civil War, Fort Trumbull served as an organizational center for Union troops. It was briefly commanded by John F. Reynolds, a major general who played a significant role in the war. The fort was also under the care of Ordnance Sergeant Mark Wentworth Smith, the oldest active duty enlisted soldier in the history of the Army at that time.
In the late 1800s, the fort's artillery was updated to include Rodman smooth-bore guns, and by the 20th century, it was equipped with more modern weaponry to defend Long Island Sound. However, its role gradually shifted from military defense to education and research. It served as the site for the Revenue Cutter Academy, which later became the United States Coast Guard Academy.
The fort was also used as the Merchant Marine Officers Training School during World War II and played a role in developing sonar systems as the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory. It was finally closed in 1996, ending its long service as a federal military facility.
Today, Fort Trumbull State Park is a place of historical significance and recreational enjoyment. The main fort, open to the public, offers an elevator to access its upper portions and a museum housed in the former officers' quarters. The park hosts concerts and other special events, making it a vibrant part of the community.
Visitors can park at the main lot off East Street in New London, with no charges for parking or accessing the park grounds. While the Visitor Center exhibit area requires an admission fee, the park grounds, including the fort, are open year-round, offering a unique blend of historical exploration and scenic beauty.
Fort Trumbull, with its storied past and enduring presence, stands as a testament to the evolution of military architecture and the tumultuous history of the United States. It invites visitors to step back in time and experience the echoes of a past era, all while enjoying the picturesque surroundings of Long Island Sound.