• close family • small boat • big world •

Guadaloupe: Fort Napoleon

December 20, 2015

by Nicole
at sea

[We visited Dominica back in April 2015.]

Fort Napoleon is located in Les Saintes in southern Guadeloupe, and we had the privilege to go to the museum there. Originally called Fort Louis, it was surrounded by a wall of clay and badly defended, so it was rebuilt and renamed Fort Napoleon. While it was functioning from 1844 to 1867, Fort Napoleon was mainly a garrison to protect the naval roadstead. It was a short walk up the hill from the harbor to the fort. The building in Fort Napoleon houses a museum, and you can tour the rest of the grounds, too.

The view from Fort Napoleon looks over the anchorage of Les Saintes

Fort Napoleon looks like a trapezoid with a building in the middle. It is actually an octagon, but the sides are arranged in a way that looks much closer to a trapezoid. The barracks are 46 meters long, 20 meters wide, and 10 meters high. On the first level there are powder magazines, a baking oven, a canteen, a kitchen, and guards’ rooms. There is also a cistern, which measures 370 cubic meters.

On the second floor, there are bedrooms; the troops shared the main rooms, and the officers shared the four
bedrooms. The gun platforms were used as a lookout point as well as for defense. The retaining wall, or curtain, is 11 meters high, and towers over the moat. It also strengthens the building and helps support the lower patrol path. It is designed to collect the rain-water running from the ditches. The embankment contains an exotic garden with many different types of interesting plants, some looking like they come from a Dr. Seuss book. The embankment holds eight powder magazines and separates the lower patrol path from the upper one.

Fort Napoleon has two drawbridges, but only one leads out of the fort. The first one is at the front of the fort, and the counterweight is still working to this day. The second drawbridge connects the first story barracks to the upper patrol path. However, since the counterweight system has disappeared, it is now just a footbridge.

Just off of the fort is an old jail, overgrown with ferns. People carved their names and the dates into the walls, and they date pretty far back. We even found one from 1942. This jail is boarded up, but my dad (as usual) prompted our own little tour. We climbed in through a window with a couple of missing boards, and got to explore the jail after all.

Sometime after it was shut down in 1867, Fort Napoleon was turned into a museum, and people are still touring it today. There is an amazing amount of knowledge contained in these rooms. Each room focuses on a different subject. There is one room that displays information about ocean animals, and others that talk about naval history, local sailboats, or model ships. Informative and beautiful, Fort Napoleon is definitely a place I would go again.

There were many displays showing details of local sea battles, including this one. The detail on the ships is amazing!

Here we are discussing Lord Romney's brilliant naval strategy that cut the French line
and forced Admiral de Grasse to surrender in the 1782 Battle of the Saintes.

We weren't the only ones who liked to hang around at Fort Napoleon.

The prisoners might not have gotten out, but the plants have managed to get in.