Since Pokemon Go took over America in July, players have been exploring the world like never before! People are traveling to parks, cities, and even historical sites to try to catch em’ all. But sadly, the same game that encourages people to explore their culture has created a monster that is destroying some of the country’s most important landmarks. Among these is the first true American fort in history.
In May 13-14, 1775, the first nautical battle of the American Revolution took place off the shore of Fairhaven, Massachusetts when the local militia, under the control of Nathaniel Pope and Daniel Egery, captured two British sloops in Buzzard’s Bay. Shortly after the battle, the town petitioned to create a fort at Nolscot Point for the protection of the beloved sea line. So the fort was built over the next few years by Capt. Benjamin Dillingham and Eleazer Hathaway. It was prepared with eleven cannons, several of which were captured by John Paul Jones. Sadly, the fort was then attacked and destroyed when the British stormed the harbor on September 5-6, 1778.
The troops marched internally along the west shoreline of the Acushnet River to Acushnet, then approached south through Fairhaven to Sconticut Neck. As the British troops were marching down the coast, they drove a group of 34 local militiamen under Timothy Ingraham from the fort. They burned the barracks, broke up the gun platforms, and destroyed all but one of the cannons. The fort was rebuilt after this attack in 1778, and it was named Fort Phoenix after the mythical bird which rose from its own ashes. Before the war of 1812, the fort was enlarged by Sylvanus Thayer, who later came to be “Father of the Military Academy” at West Point. In June of 1814, the fort resisted an early morning attack by British in landing boats from the HMS Nimrod.
Fort Phoenix was damaged during the Civil War by troops who alternated duty between the Fairhaven fort and the newer Fort Taber in New Bedford. Eight 24-pound cannons were put in at the beginning of the war; only five remain at the fort today. Finally, in 1876, Fort Phoenix went out of service. It was revived about 350 years later when it was purchased for the town by Lady Fairhaven in 1926. Since then it has been maintained by the town as a public park until finally, in 1973, Fort Phoenix was awarded a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Unfortunately, this title created to preserve the historic fort is instead destroying it. Fort Phoenix is now suffering a different kind of damage – not the heroic and courageous damage that was done in the past for the protection of the land and its peoples, but damage by local civilians. Caretakers of Fort Phoenix say that the damage is being done by players of the new smartphone game Pokemon Go. Gary Lavalette, the volunteer caretaker at the fort in Fairhaven near the Rhode Island state line, has said individuals have been leaving trash, defacing historic structures, and freely urinating. He told WLNE-TV that a stone wall was taken apart with a crowbar, and parts of the property looked dismantled because people have been digging holes in the ground. The Fairhaven Historical Commission says hundreds of Pokemon Go players have been grouping at the fort, habitually at night, because rare Pokemon can be found there. Fort Phoenix has been around since 1775 – hopefully, the damage will stop since this is a historical place and it should be kept in good condition in honor of the soldiers that fought there for the independence of our country.