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Built in 1799, Fort Adams was established as a First System coastal fortification, built to protect the United States? coasts further in case a war will break out with Europe. The legendary Captain John Henry was its first commander. The fort was designed by Major Louis de Tousard from the Army Corps of Engineers.

As Captain Henry played a major part in starting the War of 1812, the area saw some action, leading to a thorough review of how much the nation needs a good fortification system. This helped in paving the way for the construction of a newer and bigger fort that will replace Fort Adams. The replacement was finished in 1841.

Fort Adams was used for about every war that took place since. Only in 1965 was it discharged from military duties, with the armed forces donating it to the state of Rhode Island to be used as a state park.
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