Fort Nelson, named in honor of Thomas Nelson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was erected by Virginia during the American Revolution. It was located on the south banks of the Elizabeth River, just west of the City of Portsmouth and opposite the City of Norfolk. The fort was originally constructed to protect the harbor between those two cities. The property, formerly known as Windmill Point or Mosquito Point, was owned by Robert Tucker, Esquire of Norfolk. It was sold to the United States government in 1799. The site is now on the grounds of the Portsmouth Naval Hospital.
The Fort was erected in response to the bombardment of both Norfolk and Portsmouth by Lord Dunmore in the summer of 1776. The fort is described as being fourteen feet high with a parapet of fifteen feet thick. The fort was armed with a number of heavy canons and was large enough for large stores of food. In May 1779 Portsmouth was ordered to evacuate after the British captured the fort and the City of Portsmouth. The fort was destroyed during this seizure and was quickly rebuilt. In 1794, the United States Congress appropriated three thousand dollars to build Fort Nelson and Fort Norfolk. The fort is described in 1809 as having a star configuration and housed troops at least until 1811. At some point between 1811 and 1829, the fort fell into disrepair and is noted as being in ruinous condition. The remaining bricks from the fort were used in 1829 to rebuild Trinity Church in Portsmouth at the intersection of High and Court Streets.
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