Fort Wool is a decommissioned island fortification located approximately one mile south of Fort Monroe in the mouth of Hampton Roads. Now known as Rip Raps Island, the fort has an elevation of 7 feet and sits near Old Point Comfort, Old Point Comfort Light, Willoughby Beach and Willoughby Spit, adjacent to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT). Fort Wool was one of more than forty forts started after the War of 1812 when British forces sailed the Chesapeake Bay to burn the Capital. Designed by Brigadier General of Engineers Simon Bernard, an expat Frenchman who had served as Napoleon's chief engineer, Fort Wool was constructed on a shoal of ballast stones dumped as sailing ships entered Hampton's harbor and was originally intended to have three tiers of casemates and a parapet with 232 muzzle-loading cannons, although it never reached this size. Originally named Castle Calhoun for the Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, Fort Wool was built to maintain a crossfire with Fort Monroe, located directly across the channel, thereby protecting the entrance to the harbor. In 1902, as a result of the Endicott Board's findings, all of the original fort, except for eight casemates, was demolished and new fortifications were constructed. The new armament mounted on five batteries of two to four guns remained in place for decades, with modifications made from time to time. Only six of the original three-inch guns remained in 1942, when two were sent to nearby Fisherman Island. A modern battery of two new long-range six-inch guns was constructed over one of the old Endicott period batteries during World War II. The fort was decommissioned by the military in 1953.
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