Fort Duffield in Kentucky – a different kind of fort

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a fort as “a strong or fortified place; especially a fortified place occupied by troops and surround with such works as a ditch, rampart, and parapet.”

When visualizing a fort the wooden or stone structures come to mind. Fort Duffield is different in that its ‘walls’ are constructed of earthen mounds.

History of the fort:
The Commonwealth of Kentucky hopes for neutrality during the American Civil War came to an early end when, on September 4, 1861, Confederate troops under the command of General Polk occupied Columbus, Kentucky to harass Union river traffic on the Mississippi River. Two days later Union troops under the command of General Grant countered by taking Paducah. The Union then began searching for a strong defensive position from which to protect Louisville. At the confluence of the Ohio and the Salt Rivers at West Point, the perfect location was found.

Built in November, 1861, Fort Duffield was occupied by the 37th Indiana and the 9th Michigan regiments and was also used as a supply base for Union troops stationed at Elizabethtown, Kentucky. From its location on a high hill overlooking the Ohio River and across to the hills of southern Indiana, the fort protected not only the river and Indiana from Confederate troops but also the Dixie Highway and the L&N railroad.

The unusual construction of the fort walls did not mean a lesser fort; in fact the fort was never fired upon. By early 1862, the fort was abandoned as troops were needed elsewhere.

Fort Duffield is believed to be the oldest Union Civil War fortification in Kentucky and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visiting the fort:
Visiting the fort today one can still see remnants of the original walls. Other sights to see are the cannon emplacements, replica log cabin quarters, a cemetery, and magnificent views.

Fort Duffield is located 7.5 miles south of the Gene Snyder Freeway and 9 miles north of Fort Knox’s main entrance on Dixie Highway (US-31W) in West Point, Kentucky. The park is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to dusk. The fort can be reached using a hiking trail from the parking lot (insider tip: wear comfortable shoes – this is not a hike for sandals or motorcycle boots). The hike up the hillside is about a quarter mile long and quite arduous which may explain the reason the fort was easy to defend; anyone trying to storm the fort may have passed out from exhaustion before reaching the fort’s walls.

Contact information for the fort:
Fort Duffield Heritage Committee
16706 Abbott’s Beach Road
West Point, Kentucky 40177
Phone: (502) 922-4574
Email: FortDuffield@insightbb.com

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