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Fort Sewall

Fort Sewall is a historic military fort built in 1833 by the US Army in Marblehead, Massachusetts. It is located at 8 Fort Sewall Ln, Marblehead, MA 01945. Originally named Fort Independence, the fort was named after John B. Sewall (1758-1833), a commander in the US Navy. In 1861, the Union Army took control of the area surrounding Salem and Marblehead and used these two towns as a staging ground for their attacks on southern ports. The Union Army also used Marblehead as a waypoint for slaves who were being taken from the South to freedom in Canada. Thousands of people from all over the country passed through this quiet coastal town throughout the war years. At the height of the war, the Union Army had more than 20,000 men stationed in Massachusetts. They needed places for these men to be housed and fed. Many of these men were coming from the South, where food was scarce and often lacked in quality. The soldiers were housed in barracks, tents and even barns. When the war was over, many of these men went home to find jobs and rebuild their lives. They wanted to start over without the stigma of the war surrounding them.

Fort Sewall, Marblehead MA: Dating back to 1644 and Active During Civil War and War of Independence

The Civil War has been called the bloodiest war in American history. It resulted in more than 620,000 deaths, most of which were due to disease and not direct combat. Still, this war affected every state, every community and every family. You might have read about the prisoners of war from several northern states who had to labor as prisoner-labor in southern plantations during the war years. A lot of them came from Marblehead Massachusetts; for example, Andrew Wiedeman was born there in 1839 and served as a prisoner of war at the Andersonville Prison Camp between August 1864 and May 1865. Marblehead is a small coastal town on the north side of Boston that sits right across Fort Sewall from Salem NH. It is also famous for its role during the American Revolution and later during the wars of independence when it was a strong naval base with dozens of armed ships protecting shipping lanes into New England ports during active times as well as inactive ones such as peace time or an extended period without any military activity. Today it is known as “the Maritime City” and is home to one of the largest historic shipyards in North America where you can see old whaling ships still being repaired or restored for tours today.

Timeline of Civil War in Marblehead

The Civil War began in April 1861 when Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in Charlestown, South Carolina. President Abraham Lincoln immediately called for volunteers to protect the country by force if necessary. The Marblehead community was ill-prepared for war. Most of the townspeople favored neutrality or outright support for the Union. This was the case for not just Union-sympathizing families but for the majority of the town leadership as well. The conflict caused many in the community to reconsider their opinions. An anti-war organization was formed and led by the town’s minister. In response to the draft, several young men went to Canada, sailed to England and deserted from the military. The war was an enormous strain on the community.

The Aftermath of the Civil War in Marblehead

At the end of the war, the Union Army mostly left Marblehead and the area returned to a quiet civilian life. There were a few soldiers left behind who stayed after their terms ended. The people of Marblehead were resilient, though they were struggling economically and dealing with the emotional fallout of war. The town also dealt with the consequences of the war because of its proximity to a military base. Fort Sewall was being used as a training ground for the US Navy and many people in the town were forced to relocate because of the noise and danger of nearby explosions. An old fishing pier was destroyed and the town’s wharf was damaged. In 1865, the war had been over for nearly two years, but Marblehead was still struggling.


Marblehead is one of the best places to visit in Massachusetts. The town is one of the oldest in the state and also a former center of the American Revolution. The town is known for its history, beautiful harbor and stunning coastline. You can visit the historic town, see its maritime history at the shipyard and tour the many museums and historical sites. You can also see the town’s Civil War history at Fort Sewall.



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