Fort Taber and Fort Rodman form a historic military base and public park located at Clark’s Point in New Bedford, just down the road from East Beach. The fort dates back to before the Civil War, and the park now boasts its own military museum and playground for kids, as well as the Clark’s Point Lighthouse. There are also a pier and stereo binoculars to take in the park’s excellent view of Buzzards Bay and the Elizabeth Islands.
Though there were no actual battles that took place at the fort, there are historical reenactments presented by the Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Historical Association. The association also offers seasonal living history programs on local military history, from King Phillip’s War to World War II. More information on these events is available by contacting the FTFRHA at
The fort was built to defend New Bedford Harbor, one of the nation’s most robust industrial centers, in the 1800’s. Located at the mouth of the Acushnet River, the harbor’s geography provides a natural shelter from coastal storms, but not from international hostilities. Despite Fort Phoenix across the harbor, the British successfully raided New Bedford in the American Revolutionary War, and it was clear that the harbor needed more protection.
The local and national push to construct a permanent fort began in the 1840’s. Granite sourced from nearby Fall River and as far as Sullivan, Maine was delivered to New Bedford for construction. However, the fort was not completed by the start of the Civil War, and just off the coast, Confederate warships destroyed whaling ships caught on the open sea. They presented a real threat to the city of New Bedford and one of the Union’s major transport centers.
Instead of waiting for state and federal funding, New Bedford’s mayor, Isaac C. Taber, ordered an earthworks fort built to protect the city. Made of plowed earth, the fort was completed and outfitted with brass and iron cannons, and began defending the Clark’s Cove and Acushnet River approaches to New Bedford in 1861. It was named Fort Taber after the mayor of New Bedford.
While the earthwork fort was active, the granite fort—or Fort Rodman, after Union officer William Rodman of New Bedford—was built around it. At two stories tall, the granite fort was impressive and effectively deterred Confederate raiders from attacking the area. After the Civil War, the fort remained active through World War II, and many additional bunkers and batteries were built.