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Fortberg

St. John USVI Places: Fort Frederiksvaern (Fortberg)
Excerpted from St. John Off the Beaten Track © 2006 Gerald Singer

st john places: fortberg cannon
Fortberg

Fort Frederiksvaern is located at Fortsberg, a peninsula that juts out into Coral Bay separating Coral Harbor from Hurricane Hole. It is on private property owned by the Samuels family. Ask Fred or Faye Samuels at Fred's Bar and Restaurant in Cruz Bay for permission to visit the fort - it shouldn’t be a problem.

Getting There
Take Centerline Road east about a half mile past the Moravian Church in Coral Bay. Turn right on the dirt road near the Flamingo Club. The road passes the Carolina Corral and follows the coast of Coral Harbor before ascending a steep hill and coming to a fork.

The left fork leads up to the fort and the right fork runs down to the water battery.

fortberg outer wall
Outer Wall

There are magnificent views along both of these roads. You can drive to the end of the improved portion of either road, after which it would be best to walk the remaining distance.

Frederiksvaern, constructed at the top of the 400-foot high Fortsberg Hill, was first completed in the early 1720s. In 1780, the fort was intentionally destroyed.

fortberg inner wall
Inner Wall

A round stone wall surrounded by an outer circle of pinguin were the first lines of defense. Within the stone walls of the fort, were the commandant's headquarters, a powder magazine, housing for five soldiers, four gun emplacements, a cookhouse and a mess hall. Three eight-pound cannons covered the approach from the land, and a sixteen-pound cannon faced the sea.

fortberg trail to water battery
Trail to Water Battery

Water Battery
Six more cannons were located at the water battery below the fortification. The cannons at the water battery still exist.

Slave Rebellion of 1733
On November 23, 1733, a group of slaves carrying concealed cane knives killed six of the seven soldiers stationed at the fort and fired a cannon to announce the beginning of the historic St. John Slave Rebellion.

“A number of Negroes from the warlike Amina nation took control of the fort while fulfilling their accustomed job of supplying the place with firewood. They struck down the small contingent of soldiers there with knives, which they had hidden in their bundles of firewood. After they gave their fellow conspirators the agreed-upon signal for the uprising - several cannon shots - the rebellion spread to all the parts of the island...”
- C.G.A. Oldendorp, History of the Evangelical Brethren on the Caribbean Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John

fortberg hill
View from Fortberg Hill

Fort Frederiksvaern is listed in the National Registry of Historic Sites.