Ft. Montagu! A small, yet sturdy little fort that was made up of only the strongest of limestone that has seen action in New Providence more than once. Just how did it ever come into existence? Well, the story is a fairly straightforward one.
Ft Montagu was built in the year 1741 by the orders of Royal Governor John Tinker. At that time, there was only one fort contracted in New Providence: Fort Nassau. Knowing that having only one fort as a means of defence was not going to be enough, he ordered the construction of Ft Montagu as a means of protecting New Providence’s eastern front. This process was overseen by a military engineer known as Peter Henry Bruce. By the year 1742, the fort was completed and was named after the Duke of Montagu. Equipped with 23 cannons and 95 barrels of gunpowder, Ft. Montagu was now fully operational to take on any invaders!
In theory, anyway. In reality, Ft. Montagu’s success rate in fending off attackers was rather poor as it always suffered defeats in battle. Its first operation was in 1776 during the American Revolution. Loyalists inside the fort faced off against Esek Hopkins and the newly established United States Marine Corps during the Battle of Nassau. The end result? The occupants of the fort ignored orders to give three warning shots to the invaders before going home or to Ft. Nassau. Mostly as a result of being vastly outnumbered!
Not the best start. The second, and last, battle it would face was during 1783 when Andrew Deveaux launched a campaign to reclaim the Bahamas from the hands of the Spanish (who had taken over in 1782) and back into the hands of the British. In order to achieve this, Andrew (with only a force of 220 men) launched a surprise invasion of Ft Montagu…only to find that those manning the fort were fast asleep. After threatening to blow up the garrison, the inhabitants surrendered the fort to Andrew. Andrew would later use such a victory to launch his forces into retaking the country from the Spaniards!
Granted, little did either side know that the Treaty of Paris had been signed off already. Meaning the Bahamas had been traded away back to the British in exchange for East Florida. So the fighting wasn’t quite necessary. However, it doesn’t negate the action that took place that day!
In modern times, the cannons that were once there had long since been retired in favour of four models. Yet, while its fighting days are over, the limestone that makes up an old, yet sturdy ally, remains on the beach of its namesake.
Photos taken and article written by Demetri Sands.