Long before the Revolutionary War, the site of present day Fort Phoenix served as a colonist stronghold in the warfare with the Indians. The fort was built prior to 1775 and consisted of breastworks thrown up as a protection for the Fairhaven Battery. Permanent fortifications were erected in 1809.
On September 7, 1778, British troops attacked the fort. The fort garrison fired several shots, spiked the cannons and retreated.. The British then crippled the cannons, destroyed the barracks, burned the gun carriages and platform and blew up the magazine. The next day, Major Israel Fearing of Wareham led a contingent of troops that routed the British. A bronze plaque telling of his valor was placed on a large granite boulder by the Fairhaven Improvement Association on July 29, 1905. Between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the fort was little used. In 1812 the site was again made serviceable, in anticipation of war, being refurbished with a new barracks. During that war the garrison repulsed an attempt to land barges from the British Sloop of War, NIMROD.
In 1841 the batteries were improved with nine 24-pound guns that had a 3-mile range.
On May 4, 1861 the Fairhaven Town Meeting authorized the Selectmen to obtain $5,000 for the defense of the harbor. The fort was again refurbished and first manned by ten privates of Company A, Home Guard, and the Coast Guard. During the Civil War numerous detachments manned the fort.
After the Civil War the fort was in charge of U.S. Army details until 1873 when it was turned over to the Selectmen of Fairhaven, though still remaining in possession of the government. On august 26, 1872 the barracks was set on fire and destroyed by incendiaries, probably from the chimney of the dwelling apartments. In 1884 the remaining five cannons were dismantled and the carriages cut-up for firewood. Prior to this, three cannons had been presented to the Grand Army Post in Cambridgeport for monumental purposes. No mention is made of the ninth cannon. The fort was abandoned in 1876. Sgt. Wetzel, a U.S. Army ordinance officer who had been retired from active army service, had been stationed at the fort as custodian. In 1889 the muskets from the old fort were offered for sale to the public.
In the 1890’s the Fairhaven Improvement Association made many needed repairs to the fort. The guns were purchased William Delano, Esq., a former Fairhaven citizen and summer resident, and presented to the association and town under the stipulation that they be properly mounted on carriages. The association promoted numerous social gatherings and solicited donations to raise the $400-500 to remount the cannons. In 1925 the Federal Government placed the fort on its “surplus list.” In January 1926 John I. Bryant, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, announced that the fort had been purchased from the War Department for $5,000 by Mrs. Urbon H. Broughton (Lady Fairhaven) of London. England, daughter of Henry H. Rogers. The 2 1/2 acre fort was officially turned over to the town in 1933 at a formal ceremony known as Lady Fairhaven Day, during which time a plaque was placed in a ledge in honor of Lady Fairhaven.
Source: Old-Time Fairhaven, Charles A. Harris, Rodney Printing, New Bedford, MA, 1947, 1954