Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Fort George - 2

Fort George is quite simply the finest example of 18th-century military engineering you’ll find anywhere in the British Isles. This vast garrison fortress was begun in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden (1746), which crushed the final Jacobite Rising. It took over 20 years to complete and in the event it was never attacked. It remains virtually unaltered today, and still serves as an important military base.

The Jacobite Rising of 1745–6 proved to be the last attempt by the Stewart dynasty to regain the British throne from the Hanoverians. Following Culloden, fought just 8 miles (12km) from Fort George, the government introduced ruthless measures to prevent such a Rising happening again. Fort George was one of them, named after King George II (1727–60).

It was designed as the main garrison fortress in the Scottish Highlands, holding two field battalions and staff officers (some 2,000 men) and an awesome armament of over 80 guns. Lieutenant-General William Skinner was the designer and first governor of Fort George. He mapped out a complex and fascinating interplay of ramparts and massive bastions, ditches and firing steps. The defences were heavily concentrated on the landward side of the promontory, from where an anticipated Jacobite assault would come. The remaining seaward sides were protected by long stretches of rampart and smaller bastions.

Internally, Skinner provided all the buildings required by the large garrison – houses for the governor, deputy-governor and fort-major, blocks for the staff officers and the gunners, two enormous piles of barracks, ordnance and provision stores, powder magazines, workshops and – as an afterthought – a chapel. All are still there, largely as they were built.

Fort George never fired a shot in anger. Later in the 18th century, after the Jacobite threat had evaporated, the fort became a recruiting base and training camp for the rapidly expanding British Army. Many a Highland lad passed through its gates on his way to fight for the British Empire across the globe. Between 1881 and 1964 the fort served as the depot of the Seaforth Highlanders. The regimental museum of the Highlanders (Seaforths & Camerons) is there today. So is the British Army.

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