Fort Schuyler is a preserved 19th century fortification in the New York City borough of the Bronx. It houses a museum, the Stephen B. Luce Library, and the Marine Transportation Department and Administrative offices of the State University of New York Maritime College. It is considered one of the finest examples of French-style fortifications. The fort was named in honor of Major General Philip Schuyler of the Continental Army.
Fort Schuyler was one of many forts built along the east coast of the United States in the aftermath of the War of 1812, when it became brutally apparent that the U.S. coast was poorly defended against foreign invasion. Fort Schuyler was dedicated in 1856 after only 75% completion. The fort was strategically positioned to protect New York City from naval attack through Long Island Sound, guarding the eastern entrance to New York Harbor. It is located on Throggs Neck, the southeastern tip of the Bronx, where the East River meets Long Island Sound. Fort Totten faces it on the opposite side of the river. Their interlocking batteries created a bottle-neck of defenses against ships attempting to approach New York City.
Fort Schuyler, at its peak, boasted 440 guns. Later, it would be fitted with various other pieces throughout the ever-modernization of coastal defense artillery, once including 10-inch and 12-inch guns on disappearing carriages installed on the roof and on the peninsula around the fort. Coastal artillery emplacements at the fort lasted until 1935.
During the American Civil War, Fort Schuyler held as many as 500 prisoners of war from the Confederate States Army and military convicts from the Union Army. It also included the MacDougall Hospital, which had a capacity of 2,000 beds. The fort was well designed for its time, it is said to have had one of the most effective waste removal systems ever seen in a fort from this time period. During its active duty, not one man died from disease.
Fort Schuyler was also a location where units heading to war would rendezvous and be outfitted and trained before being deployed. Such units include the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry "Duryee's Zouaves," and the 69th and 88th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiments (the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Meagher's "Irish Brigade"). From January 1863 until July 1865, the fort itself was garrisoned by the 20th Independent Battery, New York Volunteer Artillery, a unit originally recruited to fight in the war as part of the Anthon Battalion of Volunteer Light Artillery.
Duty at the fort was reported to be a dull assignment as the men took the roles of guards and hospital stewards, not artillerymen. From July until August 1865 the Fort was garrisoned by companies A, B, C, F, G, H and I of the Anderson Zouaves (companies D and E being assigned to Fort Wood on Bedloes Island), upon their return from service with the VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac and duty in the defenses of Washington, D.C. The Anderson Zouaves finally mustered out from Fort Schuyler on August 30, 1865.
The last garrison was removed in 1911, when new structures were built on Fishers Island at the eastern entrance to Long Island Sound.
In the late 1920s Fort Schuyler was placed on the abandoned list by the U.S. Army. When this was done, it was targeted for acquisition by Robert Moses for conversion to a state park as well as a permanent shore base for the New York State Merchant Marine Academy (now SUNY Maritime College). A protracted political struggle ensued, but eventually the academy forces prevailed. The site was then rehabilitated by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression and dedicated to the school in 1938. The college, which was founded in 1874, still occupies the site, and in 1948 was one of the original 29 founding schools to be incorporated into the State University of New York as the State University of New York Maritime College.
The fort has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976