The Fort O’Brien State Historic Site is a great place to be a part of a unique experience. Visitors spending the afternoon picnicking, walking, relaxing, and exploring are common sights at this historic location in Machias Maine. The fort was originally built in the late 1700’s and has been completely destroyed at least two times during the course of its storied history. However, it continues to guard the Machias River. While it has changed dramatically over the last century, it remained active over the course of three wars, the American Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War. Unlike many forts in the Northeast, especially Maine, Fort O’Brien has been fairly active throughout its history of conflicts.
Fort O’Brien was built in 1775 and saw the first official naval battle of the Revolutionary War which was fought just off of its shoreline. It was then completely destroyed by the British fleet later the same year. The fort was initially designed to play the important role of protecting the Machias River and the surrounding towns. This purpose never altered throughout the entire history of the fort.
It was rebuilt and refortified in 1777. Unfortunately, the British destroyed the fort again in 1814. However, the earthworks were well preserved and were used to erect a battery of guns in 1863.
In 1923 the United States Federal Government decided to deed the site over to the State of Maine. It was made a State Historic Site in 1966 and has been maintained by the Bureau of Parks and Lands ever since.
While visitors stroll around the area, many will get to see a bronze cannon, known as “Napoleon”. This cannon is very unique as it fired 12 pound cannonballs, canisters, or spherical case shot. The tube of the cannon weighs an astounding 1216 pounds and was created nearby at the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee in Massachusetts during the year 1862. “Napoleon” originally sat on a carriage made of wood, which in its own right weighed another 1128 pounds. That total combined amounted to almost 2500 pounds of combined weight. The cannon was designed to fire a cannonball 1600 yards because that is the distance it takes to cross the mouth of the Machias River.
Plan your trip to the Fort O’Brien State Historic Site accordingly, because it is only open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. It will continue to provide visitors with some insight into the battles that raged in the Northeast as well as a picture perfect view of the iconic, rocky Maine Coastline.