What you may not know about fort Montagu.

Strategically located at the eastern end of the island of New Providence is the islands oldest existing fort, Fort Montagu. It is also the smallest but its impact in world history is the largest of all the forts. Next to Fort Nassau, fort Montagu has seen its share of action.

Prior to the construction of For Montagu there was another structure there perhaps a more rudimentary fort that dates back between 1725-1728. Under governor John Tinker the charge was given to Peter Henry Bruce to construct a more formattable… Fort.

The fort was named after the General John, 2nd Duke of Montagu, Master General of the Ordnance, 1740c when it was completed in 1742. Across the harbour on Hog Island was a small battery call Bladden’s battery which was named after Governor Tinker’s son John Bladden.

The Fort was small but combined with the battery they were armed with 6 and 18 pounder cannons for the defense of the eastern harbour entrance.

Fort Montagu

How many forts are in Nassau?

Technically speaking presently there are no forts in Nassau but there are three forts on New Providence. There once was one fort in Nassau that was attacked many times and eventually burnt and finally destroyed in 1897.

The issue here is that most person confuse the city of Nassau and the actual island of New Providence. Nassau is the Capitol of the island New providence which is one of hundreds of island in the Bahamas.

However Nassau is also the Capital of the country of the Bahamas hence why the confusion tends to come about. It’s similar to how most people say Atlanta in response to location but Atlanta is a city within the state of Georgia, which is in the United States.

The Island of New Providence presently has 3 forts that are historical sights and are open for visitation but there were once four. The fourth fort, Fort Nassau was demolished in 1897 and the British Colonial Hilton hotel now sits on its location.

The forts of New Providence are;

  • Fort Nassau (no longer exist)
  • Fort Montagu
  • Fort Charlotte
  • Fort Fincastle
  • Old Fort Bay (a private fort located on the western side of the island)
fort Montagu

Who built Fort Montagu?

The small fort in the Bahamas at Montagu was built by Peter Henry Bruce between 1741 and 1742. He was an engineer with great accolades but also a soldier which made his skills useful for the building of a fort. The arrival of Mr. Bruce to the Bahamas was no coincidence as he was brought in during a time of war.

It was during this time that The War of Austrian Succession was ongoing in Europe and began to spill over into the Americas. The Bahamas being a British colony was to play a small part in this war hence the Crown commissioned Peter Henry Bruce to renovate Fort Nassau and to oversee and complete the construction of Fort Montagu.

The Spaniards had a long running off and on war to capture the capital and the British were determined not to give it up. Peter Henry Bruce wrote about his life and experiences while in the Bahamas. It has been discussed on several occasions with the Bahamas Historical Society. You can find more about his memoirs HERE.

Why was fort Montagu built?

The capital of New Providence is known as Nassau and most person tend to call the entire island Nassau. The Capital was protected by Fort Nassau while Fort Montagu was built as an advanced military line to protect the entrance to the eastern harbour that led to Nassau.

In the years from the initial land fall of Columbus, the annihilation of the indigenous population of Tainos and the abandonment of the Bahama islands, the Spanish came back and claimed the lands as their own.

The Bahama islands had little natural resources to fuel the industrial revolution hence the Spanish initially abandoned the islands. Soon after the British took a few of the island and eventually the Elutherian Adventurers a group of English puritans seeking religious freedom in the 1600’s settled on one of the islands.

This technically placed the islands back into the hands of the British. However the Spanish had taken control of the nearby island of Cuba and caught wind of the settlement and hence the battle to gain control of the island began.

This duel continued for many years with the British gaining the upper hand and developing city’s and plantations throughout the island.

Eventually Charles Town was established. This city would grow into becoming the city of Nassau. Charles town became the target for not only the Spanish but for pirates that sailed the Bahama seas. This meant frequent attacks of the city.

Fort Nassau was built to protect the city and then to protect the entrance to the eastern harbour Fort Montagu was built. What many did not know was that was a small battery located on Hog Island/Paradise Island that assisted Fort Montagu in protecting the harbour.

Fort Montagu

Where is Fort Montagu Located

Fort Montagu is located at the eastern entrance to the Nassau Harbour about 2 miles east of downtown Nassau. Access is free and can be visited by catching a local bus or a taxi. It was strategically placed there to protect the entrance of the harbour from sea attacks.

This tiny fort in conjunction with For Charlotte was to make a formattable defense. However because Fort Montagu predates For Charlotte this defense was not yes set up.

The capitol city of Nassau was originally located at a site between the present bridges that take traffic to and from Paradise Island. However this location was not a good idea and the city was attached and destroyed a few times.

The capitol was soon moved to its present position further east and fort Nassau was built to protect it. This helped but not enough as the capital continued to be attacked from ships that entered the harbour from the east.

Eventually Fort Montagu was commissioned to be built at the eastern end of the harbour as a first line of defense

fort montagu

Raid of Fort Montagu in 1776 civil war

A question that is often ask about the Bahamas is, why was the Bahamas attacked during the America Revolution. The Bahamas was not attached but instead Fort Montagu and Fort Nassau was raided by American soldiers.

This is not such a straight forward question as the Bahamas itself was not attached as there was already a long standing feud between the Spanish and the British long before the raid hence this historic event was because it was carried out by American soldiers during the American revolution.

In 1776 the Bahamas was a very different place than it is today. Great Britain controlled the Bahamas as a colony and African slaves were caught in a war not of their making.

Military Strategy and Spies

During the Civil War of America gun powder became in short supply to the Americans however word got out that there was a stash somewhere in Virginia. The American soldiers set sail for Virginia but did not know at the time that the gun powder was sent to the Bahamas for safe keeping.

When word of this intel reached the Americans the set sail on a mission to capture the gunpowder and any other military weapons that could help them fight the war.

The Americans set a plan to make land fall a few miles away from Fort Montagu, work their way up the beach and capture the Fort and take the stock pile of gun powder. Again in the game of spies and intel this plan reached the British forces who moved the stockpile from Fort Montagu to Fort Nassau.

On March 3, 1776 200 continental marines made landfall on New Providence and seized Fort Montagu to find out that the gunpowder was not there. They proceeded to advance on the capital seizing Fort Nassau the following day.

Unfortunately for them the Governor of the Bahamas at the time Governor Montfot Browne had already shipped the gunpowder out the country back to America. The American soldiers took what they could find and left to continue the war in America.

These soldiers would later become the first marines in the United States Navy.

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