Sitting atop a hill in Cape Girardeau, Missouri lies the well-preserved remains of Fort D, a Civil War fortification constructed in 1861 by Union troops. This historic site offers a window into the past, letting visitors experience what life was like at the fort during those tumultuous times.
Fort D was one of several forts built to defend Cape Girardeau, a strategically important Mississippi River town. Construction began in August 1861 under the direction of Lieutenant John W. Powell of Illinois. Powell recruited soldiers from the area to man the fort, designated as Battery F, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery.
Remarkably, the earthen walls standing at Fort D today are the original ones built in 1861. A palisade wall of upright logs once enclosed the rear of the fort. Inside the walls, five large cannons were mounted, ready to fire 32-pound and 24-pound ammunition over a mile away. At its peak, Fort D garrisoned Union troops from Midwestern states, though it never saw combat.
Beyond the earthworks, a stone blockhouse constructed in 1936 by New Deal works programs invites visitors inside. Displays and exhibits provide background on the fort’s history and key figures like John Wesley Powell, who famously led the first expedition through the Grand Canyon after losing an arm at the Battle of Shiloh.
Walking along the restored parapets, one can vividly imagine Fort D as it was during the Civil War – Cannons pointed, troops on watch, the air tense with the possibility of conflict. Today, the fort sits peacefully overlooking Cape Girardeau, serving as a living memorial to the past.
Fort D is the only intact Civil War fortification remaining in the area, offering a uniquely immersive experience. History buffs and anyone interested in Cape Girardeau’s colorful past should make time to visit this hidden landmark. With incredible restoration and sweeping views, Fort D brings a critical chapter of America’s story back to life.
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