Fort No. 3: The Lost Civil War Forts of St. Louis

I was looking around on the Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis recently when I came across this exciting find: a remnant of one of the old Civil War forts that formed a ring around the then much smaller city of St. Louis. I identified the fort as Fort No. 3, which guarded the approaches to the city near what is now the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Intriguingly, eleven years after the war ended, the bastion was still sitting in what would become the Benton Park neighborhood, slowly deteriorating but still recognizable.

I found this ground plan for Fort No. 3 (and No. 4), which is composed of the standard components of forts during the war. The outward walls were most likely packed dirt, and there was a block house at the back of the structure. I was intrigued by the fact that it seems St. Louis was not surrounded by a circumvallation wall, as Washington, DC or Richmond, Virginia possessed. Certainly all vegetation and other buildings would have been cleared out in front of the fort for clear firing sight lines to the west. Below is a map of all ten forts; many of them had very strange shapes with projecting bastions on all sides.

And of course, no discussion would be complete without looking at the same spot as it is today: the dense and beautiful stretch of Lemp Avenue just north of Lynch Street. I believe the reason Lemp makes that strange dogleg about twenty feet to the east is due to the existence of Fort No. 3 when the neighborhood was finally platted out. The surveyors merely routed the street around the earthen ruins, and 150 years later, the Civil War still leaves its mark on Benton Park.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Maher - Kirkwood says:

    Cool! While the Civil War Museum at JB probably has this – send it to the museum anyway.
    While not a Civil War buff, I still know a bit about our history – but this was totally new to me – let alone that there were TEN of these around here!
    I also learned a new word to hopefully toss out some day: “Circumvallation.” Gotta wait fior the right context, though…

  2. Adam Arenson says:

    Nice find! I am announcing it to my The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War audience.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Adam, thanks for dropping a line; your book looks really interesting!

  3. sublunar says:

    While I like the idea of this theory, I ‘m not sure the size of the fort necessitated the routing of the street in said fashion. Secondly, notice that all of the streets in that part of town are offset just like Lemp Ave is. Namely, McNair, Missouri and Indiana.

    Judging by the plates*, I would estimate Fort #3 to have been roughly south of where the Sydney Street Cafe is now.

    *bottom left corner of Plate #37 and top left of Plate #27


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