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Fort Slocum Artillery
Fort Slocum Artillery
Fort Slocum, New York was a US military post which occupied Davids' Island in the western end of Long Island Sound in New Rochelle, New York from 1867 - 1965. The fort was named for Major General Henry W. Slocum, a Union corps commander in the American Civil War.
Military use of this island dates in fact to 1861, when the 3rd Regiment of the Irish Brigade established its Camp Carrigan. The next year, 1862, Davids' Island was leased by the U.S. Government. This marked the first use of Davids' Island by the regular Army. At that time, De Camp General Hospital was established to serve thousands of wounded individuals from the battlefields of the American Civil War. By late 1862, De Camp was the Army’s largest general hospital, housing more than 2,100 patients. Originally, De Camp General Hospital treated only Union soldiers, but following the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the War Department opened it to care for hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers. Even though a prison camp had been established on Hart Island in 1865  Davids' Island soon held more than 2,500 Confederate prisoners of war. Most had recovered by October, and they were moved to prisoner-of-war camps elsewhere.
A ferry connection was established from Neptune Island, under the control of Simeon Leland. At the end of the war, Congress authorized the island's purchase for military purposes and it was conveyed to the United States in 1867. From this date, the Federal government had operated its own ferry to and from Neptune Island. In July 1878 Davids’ Island was made a principal depot of the U.S. Army General Recruiting Service, taking over this assignment from Governors Island. This marked the beginning of the installation’s longstanding mission as a recruitment and training center.
As the post on Davids’ Island grew, the Army invested in new brick construction of more than 20 new buildings, including officers’ quarters, enlisted men’s barracks, mess halls, hospital buildings, and support facilities. It was later converted to a coastal artillery defense post  and was given the name Fort Slocum after Major General Henry W. Slocum, U.S. Volunteers. Construction of fortifications on the island resulted from the recommendations of the Endicott Board on Fortifications, an 1886 study of America’s coastal defenses. The study called for better protection of ports such as New York Harbor and Davids Island became part of its system of defenses. Between 1891 and 1904, artillery batteries were erected at three places on the eastern half of the island—Battery Practice near the southeastern shoreline: Battery Practice, mounting among others the 15" muzzle-loading smoothbore black-powder gun (still on display at the island); the state-of-the-art Abbot Quad heavy mortar batteries, Haskin and Overton, mounting a total of 16 breech-loading 12" rifled guns, at the southeast end of the island; and two adjoining medium-range breech-loading rifled gun batteries, Fraser and Kinney, on the northeastern shore. With improved naval gunnery at the beginning of the 20th century, these batteries became obsolete, and Ft. Slocum was removed in 1907 from the Artillery District of New York. (Despite the presence of postcards, including those in the New Rochelle Public Library, there were never large-caliber breech-loading disappearing guns placed at Davids' Island.)
At the start of the 20th Century the Davids' Island had become the East Coast assembly point for units being assigned to America’s new overseas operations. By the onset of World War I it had become one of the busiest recruiting stations in the country, processing 100,000 soldiers per year and serving as the recruit examination station for soldiers from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New England states. Between 1917 and 1919, over 140,000 recruits passed through the post. In fact, Recruit Week in December 1917 brought so many recruits to Fort Slocum that an overflow had to be housed in New Rochelle.
From 1946 to 1949, Fort Slocum housed Headquarters First Air Force. It was renamed "Slocum Air Force Base" in June 1949; this only lasted for a year before being turned back into an Army post in June 1950. From 1955 to 1960, Fort Slocum housed Nike Ajax air-defense battery NY-15. The missiles were stored in underground silos on nearby Hart Island, with the radar and control base situated on Davids' Island. In July 1960, after only five years of operation, Nike Battery NY-15 was closed.
From 1951 to 1962, Fort Slocum was the home of the U.S. Army Chaplain School. From 1951 to 1954, Fort Slocum was home to the joint-services Armed Forces Information School From 1954, this was truncated to the Army Information School; from 1964, this was again reorganized into the joint-services Defense Information School, which it still remains at its current home at Ft. Meade, MD. Over the course of this time, troops from the various services, officers and enlisted, male and female, American and allied, were trained in applied journalism; oral communication; radio/TV broadcasting; public and world affairs; and photography. In 1965, the information school was moved to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana when Fort Slocum was deactivated.
Fort Slocum was deactivated on November 30, 1965. During the decades that followed, the facilities of the former Army post were neglected and deteriorated severely and continued to occupy Davids’ Island into the beginning of the 21st century. The ruins were among the factors complicating redevelopment of the island. Beginning in 2004, however, Congress appropriated funds to remove the ruins through a Defense Department program that assists communities in reusing former defense facilities. During the summer of 2008, the city of New Rochelle demolished all remaining structures on the island, including the iconic water tower on the northern end of the island, with plans to turn the island into a park.
Fort Slocum was also the name of a Civil War fort defending Washington, D.C., although it was named for a different Slocum (Colonel John S. Slocum of Rhode Island, killed at the First Battle of Bull Run). The Library of Congress web site contains two photographs titled, Officers, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, Fort Slocum, April, 1865. Since that regiment was never stationed north of Baltimore, Maryland, it is likely that the Fort Slocum referred to was the one in Washington, D.C.
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