The Battle of Chestnut Neck – In 1777, the village of Chestnut Neck, on the Little Egg Harbor River, had become a haven for continental privateers harassing British shipping. A small wooden fort with the capacity of 8 to 10 guns was built in September 1777. Sir Henry Clinton who was in charge of the British and headquartered in New York City, sent a fleet of nine ships with three hundred British regulars and one hundred Jersey Loyalists with orders to drive out the “nest of rebel pirates” at Chestnut Neck, then proceed upriver to destroy the ironworks at Batsto which helped supply General Washington’s army. The residents of the area were alerted about the impending British attack, providing time for the privateers and their cargo to put to sea and the militia to man the fort. On October 6, 1778, the British drove the defenders from the fort, and scuttled ten captured British ships while burning the town and warehouses. But the ironworks were saved and a year later Chestnut Neck was again functioning as a base for privateers. A monument (pictured) with a statue of a minuteman atop, erected in 1911 by the Daughters of the America Revolution, can still be seen just off Route 9 near the site of the battle.
During the War of 1812, at Somers Point, NJ, an earthen fort was built, near the Great Egg Harbor River, which commanded the inlet and harbor. It was built in the shape of a semi-circle, 50 feet in diameter with walls 6 1/2 to 10 feet high, and manned 24 hours a day with cannon but never saw action, and had disappeared by the late 1800’s. Today the Somers Point 1812 War Memorial stands at Bay Ave. and New Jersey Ave., near where the fort once stood.
Construction on the Fort at Sandy Hook (variously called Fort Lincoln or Fort Hudson) was begun in 1857 and stopped in 1867. The fort was designed by then Captain Robert E. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers, who later became General of the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederacy. The fort was never completed and saw no action during the Civil War. The majority of the fort was cannibalized to help build Fort Hancock, also located at Sandy Hook, but a portion of one wall of this earlier fort still remains.
Fort Hancock remained on active duty during WWI. By mid-April 1918 the fort contained over 4,000 officers and soldiers who maintained the coastal fortifications.
On the beach at Cape May State Park in Cape May, NJ, stands a large concrete structure. Battery 223 is one of three fortifications built to assist Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen, Delaware. The battery was built with six-foot reinforced concrete walls, a blast proof roof and the entire building was covered with earth. Designed to survive a direct hit from an enemy aircraft or battleship, it featured 6–inch guns which had a nine-mile range. Construction was completed June 23, 1943, but its defenses were never challenged in anger. (There is also a nearby lookout tower of the same vintage.)
At Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, there is a monument to those killed in an accidental Nike Ajax missile explosion on May 22, 1958. Fort Hancock was, during this period, being used as a Nike missile base whose mission was to protect New York City during the Cold War. Fort Hancock is now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and is open to visitors year round.