The park's proximity to the sea on all three sides
offers visitors sweeping views of Buzzards Bay and the Elizabeth Islands.
Stereo binoculars mounted along the paved walk/bike paths allow visitors the
opportunity to view close-up the 270-degree panorama of the city's outer
harbor, Clark's Cove, Buzzards Bay, and the myriad fishing vessels inbound and
outbound from New Bedford, America's #1 top dollar commercial fishing port.
History of Fort Taber Park Landmarks
The Old Stone Fort; "Fort Taber"
In 1840, when a Board of Engineers met in Boston to
plan a defense operation of the Atlantic Coast, New Bedford was considered
important because of its fine harbor and industrial base. Major R. Delafield,
(considered the "Father of America Seacoast Artillery") and Captain
Robert E. Lee (later to become Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate Land
Forces) drew up plans for a granite fortress at Clark's Point. The amount of
$50,000 was authorized for the construction of a pentagonal-shaped, three-tier
fort, which was designed for 70 guns. In 1857, the government paid $7000 for
Edward Wing Howland's farm as the site for the fort. Building began in 1857
after construction of a stone pier on the east side of the Point, used for
unloading the granite. Old whale ships were used to transport the stone from
Sullivan, Maine. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the fort's walls had only a
few courses in place. On May 1, 1862, Lt. Henry Martyn Robert
(author of Robert's Rules of Order) was appointed Superintendent of
Construction. The first cannon were installed in 1863. In June 15, 1869, a
lighthouse was built on the northeast bastion to replace the original Clark's
Point Light. The end of the Civil War in 1865 rendered the stone fort obsolete
and by 1871, its construction was halted. The third tier was never completed
and the unused blocks may still be seen along the shore. The Army officially
named the fort in honor of New Bedford native, Lt. Colonel Logan Rodman, of the
38th Massachusetts Infantry, who fell at the head of his Regiment in the
assault on Port Hudson, LA in 1863. However, during its construction, the fort
was locally dubbed "Fort Taber" after Isaac C. Taber, New Bedford's
Mayor during the Civil War. To this day, local residents call it Fort Taber.
Although the fort never "saw the flame of battle," it served as a
deterrent to those who may have envisioned New Bedford and its valuable whaling
fleet as a rich target.
Fort Taber is currently closed to the
public awaiting interior restoration, pending federal and state grant
opportunities. Visitors may peer into the fort quad via holes in the gun
casements on the fort's east face. Restoration in 2001of Clark's Point
Lighthouse atop the fort, (which stands independent of the fort's earthen
roof), concluded the city's initial phase of exterior work to the fort. Total
refurbishment of the fort's interior and repairs to its roof is tentatively
scheduled for completion by 2005-2006.
The Earthen Works Fort
An earthen works fortress was the original Fort Taber. Though long removed, its
exact location is known because of the detailed map, which was rendered by
Captain Henry Martyn Robert, Superintendent of Construction for the Stone Fort,
which replaced it. Captain Robert later gained fame for his definitive book on
parliamentary procedure, Robert's Rules of Order. At the outbreak of the War
Between the States, the stone fortress was only a small number of courses in
height. The concerned citizens and whaling merchants of New Bedford, with the
support of Mayor Isaac C. Taber, rebuilt the an earthen works battery and
equipped it with the old battery of three cannons and added two cannons from
Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven. On May 11, 1861, it was dedicated and named in honor
of Mayor Taber. The earthen works fortress boasted three 24-pound smoothbore
coastal cannons and two 12- pound rifled cannons, all of which were mounted
upon wooden barbette carriages.
The New Bedford Home Guard was stationed at the
fort from 1861 to 1862, when the massive stone fort, which locals continued to
refer to as Fort Taber, replaced it. The U.S. Army never recognized the name
"Fort Taber." However, in 1898 it named the military reservation at
Clark's Point, including the stone fort, in honor of Civil War hero and New
Bedford native, Lt. Colonel Logan Rodman.
The Post Exchange Building; "P-28"
The Post Exchange Building was constructed in 1906, as part of the
Endicott-Taft period of strengthening the nation's coastal fortifications. It
was constructed according to a standardized plan produced by the quartermaster
general's office. "P-28" is typical of such buildings except for its
wood frame construction, for most contemporary buildings erected at New England
coastal forts were made of brick. The Post Exchange Building originally had an
office, reading room, store, lunchroom kitchen, billiard room, several
storerooms, and a bowling alley. The building continued to be designated a Post
Exchange through the 1930's. In 1941, it was described as "Regimental
Headquarters". In 1945, it became the " Non-Commissioned Officer's
The Post Exchange Building is one of
three original military buildings remaining from the Fort Rodman era and is the
most historically significant extant wood structure. In 1990, the City of New
Bedford began its efforts to renovate the Post Exchange Building as part of the
new Fort Taber Park plan following guidelines established by the Advisory
Council for Historic Preservation and the Massachusetts State Historic
Preservation Office. The building was moved to its present location in 1996
were it was restored and partially modified for its new uses and as an
important feature of Fort Taber Park.
The Two East Batteries
This large battery on the east side of Fort Taber was named in honor of Col.
William Walcott, who served during the civil war. The battery operated into WW
II. By late 1942, with the fading threat of a coastal invasion, Battery Walcott
was declared surplus, and its guns were removed. It is a twin of Battery
Barton, located on the west side of Fort Taber.
This battery is a small emplacement located between Battery Walcott and Fort
Taber. It was named in honor of 2ND Lieutenant William Gaston, of the First
U.S. Dragoons, who was killed in action on may 17, 1858, while fighting the
Spokane Indians on the Snake River, Washington Territory. It was equipped with
rapid-fire guns to defend the harbor mine fields.
The Three West Batteries
Battery Cross Located to the immediate west of Fort Taber, this battery was
named in honor of Captain Charles E. Cross, U.S. Engineers, brevet colonel,
U.S. Army, who was killed in action during the Civil War at the Battle of
Fredericksburg, Virginia, on June 5, 1863. The battery was equipped with two
5-inch rapid-fire guns whose primary use was intended to counter enemy
invasions via amphibious landings.
Located immediately west of Battery Cross, this small battery was named in
honor of 2nd Lieutenant Presley O. Craig, 2nd U.S. Artillery. A Massachusetts
native, Lt. Craig was killed in action at the Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, on
July 21, 1861. It was equipped with two 3-inch rapid-fire guns for general
harbor defense. Its guns were removed in the 1920's.
Named in honor of Col. William Barton, who served which distinction in the
Revolutionary War, this battery is a reverse plan of Battery Walcott to the
east. It was armed with an 8-inch disappearing gun identical with that of
Battery Walcott. By late 1942, with the fading threat of invasion of the
Continental United States, Battery Barton was declared surplus. Its guns were
removed and scrapped in early 1943.
Battery Milliken - The Northwest Battery
This battery was named in honor of WWI hero, 2nd Lieutenant Alfred W. Milliken,
6th Army Engineers. A New Bedford native, Milliken was the first officer from
the city to die in WWI. He was killed in action on May 30, 1918 at
Warfusse-Abancourt Villars in France, at the battlefront of the German army's
spring offensive. Milliken was awarded a posthumous citation by Gen. John J. Pershing for
"distinguished and exceptional gallantry." More than 10,000 people
attended the dedication ceremonies in 1920 when this Battery was named in Lt.
Milliken's honor. The battery was completed in the early 1920's and housed two
immense 12-inch rifles that had a range of 16 miles and provided protection for
all of Buzzards Bay. Battery Milliken also featured underground magazines and a
generating plant. It was the first barbette battery erected in New England. In
1935, the battery was modified to meet bombproof specifications and maintained
well over sixteen feet of re-enforced concrete and tons of earth over each gun
for protection against air and sea bombardment.
The range of Battery Milliken was 29,300 yards at 45 degrees elevation and
encompassed a portion of the Elizabeth Island Group and the Southern approach
to the Cape Cod Canal.
All five batteries of the Fort Taber/Fort Rodman installation are fine examples
of the so-called Endicott-Taft Era of Coastal Defenses.
Fort Taber Park, with its buildings, fort and the lighthouse is wholly owned
and operated by the City of New Bedford, under the management of the Board of
Park Commissioners. Requests for permission to hold public events at city parks
and park buildings must be submitted in writing, attention to the Director of
Parks, at least eight weeks in advance of an event. For more information,
contact the Parks Department: (508) 991-6295.