The smoke had scarcely cleared from the battlefields of the American Revolution when the new country found its maritime commerce threatened by France, its once friendly ally. The French experienced their own revolution and the new government encouraged their navy to help support the war by capturing commercial vessels in the West Indies. On March 20, 1794 the U.S. Congress responded to the threat by appropriating funds to organize a navy department and construct defensive forts at the most important seaports. The newly authorized navy sailed to the Mediterranean and after taking 85 French vessels, the Quasi War with France ended. From 1801 to 1805 the navy was engaged in the war with Tripoli but there was no threat to our shores. The forts were abandoned and allowed to fall into disrepair.
Second Fort System
At the end of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte became Emperor of France and a series of European conflicts known as the Napoleonic Wars began. The United States tried to resist being drawn into the fray by declaring neutrality but demanded free trade with all Europe. Britain and France declared a naval blockade of each other's ports and both countries preyed on the American merchant fleet. When the conflicts moved into the Caribbean, the United States Congress thought the war dangerously close and authorized a second fortification system. Almost every important seaport received a few batteries but like the first system most of these forts were built of earth and wood. Congress never intended the forts to be the only defense. They also provided funds for a large militia force to augment the small regular army and support the defensive forts. Fort Warburton was one of the forts built under the second fortification system.