During the American War for Independence Fort Frederick was revitalized for military purposes. The Continental Congress turned the fort into a prison camp to house captured British soldiers. As a result the fort became extremely overcrowded, and while local militia usually guarded the prisoners, escape attempts were frequent. Following the war, finding no further use for the fort, the state of Maryland sold the fort and 99.5 acres of land at public auction in the 1790's.
Throughout most of the 19th Century, Nathan Williams, an African American who had purchased the property in 1860, farmed Fort Frederick. Williams and his family were very successful in the venture, acquiring additional land and constructing several dwellings, as well as a barn in the northwest bastion of the fort. Also during the 5 years of occupation by the Williams family, one of Washington County's first schools for African Americans was established on the property.
The fort and surrounding grounds were used for agricultural purposes until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. By this time the barracks had disappeared and the fort was little more than a large stonewall. During the winter of 1861-62, a company of Union soldiers from the 1st Maryland Regiment garrisoned the fort. On Christmas Day, 1861, these soldiers skirmished with Confederate
raiders who had crossed the Potomac River. With the main theater of action shifting elsewhere in 1862, the fort was again abandoned. This was the final instance of the fort's use for military purposes.
By the late 19th Century, public interest in preserving Fort Frederick for its historic value increased. It soon became a popular site for patriotic celebrations. In 1922 the State of Maryland acquired the fort and 189.5 acres. During the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established a camp at Fort Frederick. The CCC performed archeological excavations, reconstructed the fort walls, and capped the fort's original building foundations at ground level. The important work of the CCC ensured the preservation of Fort Frederick and enabled the development of the site as a State Park.
With food and equipment in short supply, a wagon such as this would have been a welcome sight at the fort during the Revolution. Courtesy National Park Service.
Soldier of the 2nd Battalion, 71st Regiment of Foot, also known as Fraser's Highlanders. After surrendering at Yorktown in 1781, this regiment was imprisoned at Fort Frederick. Courtesy National Park Service.
Nathan Williams and family photographed near the fort. Nathan is the white haired man seated at right.
During his tenure as owner of Fort Frederick, Nathan Williams dismantled the Northwest bastion in order to construct the barn pictured here.
Throughout the 19th Century the fort's walls deteriorated and became overgrown with vegetation. Livestock often roamed inside as well as outside the walls.
In the course of its use as a farm, livestock pens were constructed inside the fort.
While reconstructing the walls, Civilian Conservation Corpsmen were housed in these barracks outside the fort.
Union soldiers occupied Fort Frederick during the early months of the Civil War. Throughout the war, troops were frequently in the area. Courtesy of National Park Service.
Today, the valuable work of the Civilian Conservation Corps can be seen in the reconstructed walls of the fort.