If you ever think maps don’t matter, maybe this story may change your mind.
Today in 1816, an American military official awarded a contract to build a fort.
And, in doing so, he helped teach the world of how important it is to know what you’re doing, and to know where you’re doing it.
This was not long after the War of 1812, and the U.S. wanted to put in some permanent fortifications in case hostilities broke out again with the British, who controlled Canada.
The fort was to be built on the northern end of Lake Champlain, between New York state and Vermont.
New York had even offered land for the project.
For two years, crews built what was supposed to be a 30 foot tall fort.
And a well-armed fort at that: any ship that tried to head south in the lake past the border would face hundreds of guns and cannons.
There was only one problem.
There had been a surveying error early in the project, and the construction site was further north than it was supposed to be.
In other words, the Americans were building a fort to defend themselves from British Canada… in British Canada.
The U.S. stopped all work on its fort, and local residents took the stones from the site for their own purposes.
Eventually officials in Washington and London worked out a treaty to move the American border a bit further north, and a U.S. fort would be built in the area, known as Fort Montgomery.
But the original project, the one that had been inadvertently built in the wrong country, would get a name of its own: Fort Blunder.
If you hang around Tumblr you may encounter some very happy history buffs today.
They say a monk known as Herbert of Reichenau wrote in the year 1021, a very busy year in European history, that quote “My brother Werner was born on November 1.”
So they’re wishing Werner of Reichenau a happy 1000th birthday.
Fort Blunder, America’s Most Embarrassing Gun Battery (New England Historical Society)
The chronicle of the monk Herbert of Reichenau (Elucubrare on Tumblr)
Fort Montgomery photo by Mfwills – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikicommons