How were European forts or castles built in overseas lands?

Oct 2017
152
Australia 🇦🇺
#1
I assume this mostly applies to European trading & military forts during post-medieval times (is that called Modern History?) in Africa & Asia, & I believe in the Americas & Australasia as well during their early years of European settlement & colonization. But this category of ‘European overseas forts’ would probably also apply to Ancient Greeks & Romans during their explorations, trades & settlement in foreign-to-them lands around the Mediterranean & Europe.
I don’t know very much about them nor engineering either, yet have the impression that they were mainly used for administration, storage, & housing. Am I right here?

One curiosity I’ve long had about them which there doesn’t seem to be much information available on is just how were they built.
Were they built by European explorers & settlers, or were they built by local workers recruited by local rulers of the lands cooperating with the Europeans, or a combination of both? Did Europeans ever build forts all by themselves, & how? Where would the materials have come from, Europe or local nearby quarries? Did Non-Europeans like Asians, construct similar forts or settlements in distant foreign lands? One impression I have is that it looks like it would have been challenging for Europeans to build infrastructure themselves in foreign lands, especially tropical ones which are characterized by being unbearably hot & humid, have extreme weather as well as being rife with parasites & diseases, aren’t they?

Please share what you know.

Thanks!
 
Oct 2017
152
Australia 🇦🇺
#3
Local stone. It would be way way way impractical to get the stones all the way from Europe. A governor's marble table, yes. A whole fort worth of stone, nope.

See here for a New World example.
https://www.visitstaugustine.com/thing-to-do/castillo-de-san-marcos

Could be anywhere in Europe and it would still look the same.
Good point. That’s what I was thinking as well, it’s most logical & practical after all.

Would you have any idea as to who designed & constructed the forts, Europeans or locals?
 
Jan 2018
388
Sturgeon Lake Mn.
#4
I used to volunteer with the NPS at the Castillo de San Marcos, a stone fort the Spanish built in St. Augustine Florida. The fort is a full fledged artillery fortification on an Italian trace with four bastions, a ditch and a fine glacis and covered way.

The engineer was a Spaniard named Ignazio Daza. The fort was built of local coquina stone and skilled labor came mainly from Cuba and unskilled labor mainly by the local Indians.

Following is a link to an article on the fort I wrote for the Fortified Places website

Fortified Places > Fortresses > Castillo de San Marcos, St Augustine
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,077
Dispargum
#5
To the extent that European governments and strategists saw their overseas possessions as part of a global scheme of national ambition, sometimes they would send out European engineers and construction crews to build a fort overseas that had all of the features of the best forts in Europe. Other colonial forts were built by amateurs who may or may not know what they were doing. Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York was built by a French engineer between 1755-57. As it was being finished it was inspected by General Marquis de Montcalm who criticized it as too small, inadequate water storage, drinking water of poor quality, the buildings were too tall and vulnerable to enemy cannon fire over the walls, etc. Montcalm may have missed the fact that the fort was located in a valley and exposed to artillery fire from the surrounding high ground.

In the Eastern US most forts were built with walls intended to fight off Indian attacks or attacks by other colonial powers. Few of these forts ever were attacked by Indians. Indians knew they could not capture such a fort and generally didn't try. When Europeans built a fort, the Indians took it as a sign that region had been lost forever so the Indians moved away. Eventually the US army caught on to the fact that their forts were never being attacked. In the Western US, after the Civil War, most forts did not have walls. You are correct that these forts were mostly administrative centers, supply depots, and barracks. If the army wanted to fight Indians they usually had to venture out a great distance from their forts to find any Indians.

Trading posts were often enclosed by walls and were often called forts. The walls were probably to more to protect merchandise from theft rather than pure Indian attacks. However, Indians often went to war with the goal of stealing their enemy's property so a thieving raid and an Indian attack would look a lot alike. I don't recall a walled trading post ever coming under attack either. The walls must have been an effective deterrent.
 
Likes: Picard
Mar 2014
6,633
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
#6
Local stone. It would be way way way impractical to get the stones all the way from Europe. A governor's marble table, yes. A whole fort worth of stone, nope.
All of the cut stone and brick of Fortress Louisbourg (and most every other fort in New France) came as ballast in fisheries vessels (who returned to Europe with cod). The rubble-stone was quarried locally.
 
Likes: Isleifson
Jan 2009
1,258
#7
All of the cut stone and brick of Fortress Louisbourg (and most every other fort in New France) came as ballast in fisheries vessels (who returned to Europe with cod). The rubble-stone was quarried locally.
That's very interesting. I guess it was a matter of not having enough local stonecutters, so it was more economical to cut the stone in France and bring it over as ballast? Still, most of the rock (even it if it rubble) is local.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,570
Portugal
#8
I assume this mostly applies to European trading & military forts during post-medieval times (is that called Modern History?) in Africa & Asia, & I believe in the Americas & Australasia as well during their early years of European settlement & colonization. But this category of ‘European overseas forts’ would probably also apply to Ancient Greeks & Romans during their explorations, trades & settlement in foreign-to-them lands around the Mediterranean & Europe.

I don’t know very much about them nor engineering either, yet have the impression that they were mainly used for administration, storage, & housing. Am I right here?

One curiosity I’ve long had about them which there doesn’t seem to be much information available on is just how were they built.
Were they built by European explorers & settlers, or were they built by local workers recruited by local rulers of the lands cooperating with the Europeans, or a combination of both? Did Europeans ever build forts all by themselves, & how? Where would the materials have come from, Europe or local nearby quarries? Did Non-Europeans like Asians, construct similar forts or settlements in distant foreign lands? One impression I have is that it looks like it would have been challenging for Europeans to build infrastructure themselves in foreign lands, especially tropical ones which are characterized by being unbearably hot & humid, have extreme weather as well as being rife with parasites & diseases, aren’t they?

Please share what you know.

Thanks!
The Castle of “São Jorge da Mina”, in today’s Ghana, was one of the first European fortress build in the Modern Period/Age of Discoveries in 1482.

To build the Castle the Portuguese sent in ships all the stone already prepared from Portugal.

Wikipedia as a relatively good article about it: Elmina Castle - Wikipedia

The Portuguese build many fortress around the world in the Modern Period, in the African Coast, in India, Brazil, etc. Often local labour and local materials were used.
 
Jan 2009
1,258
#9
To build the Castle the Portuguese sent in ships all the stone already prepared from Portugal.
The wikipedia mentioned that they were quarrying stone from a nearby rock. Do you know if this is a similar case to New France above, that the cut stone was brought in but the filling of the walls was with local materials?