|Mathews County Historical Society, Inc.||
Fort Nonsense Historical Park
Fort Nonsense Historical Park, a joint project of Mathews County Historical Society, Inc., the County of Mathews and the Virginia Department of Transportation, celebrated its grand opening May 10, 2014. The creation of this gateway park to Mathews County took over ten years to accomplish. MCHS owned the property, applied for grants and when received transferred ownership to the county. The fort has been essentially untouched for over 150 years. It has been preserved rather than restored as a monument to the determination of the citizens of Mathews to protect the Confederacy from attack.
The trails lead past earthworks of infantry redans and redoubts much as they were early in the war. An elevated walkway allows access behind a planned artillery position. Viewing sites have been established with interpretive signage created by Civil War Trails. Overlooking the intersection of Highways 3 and 14 is a 3.0-inch, 10 pound Army Parrott Rifled Cannon, a gift to the historical society.
History of Fort Nonsense
This military earthwork was built in 1861 under the supervision of 2nd Lt. William Henry Clarke, CSA using black enslaved labor to prevent Union forces from advancing westward from the Chesapeake Bay toward Richmond. There were no battles waged in Mathews County. However, the county was the scene of intense partisan activity on behalf of the Confederacy. Not only did Mathews farms provide food for Confederate armies, salt was a vital commodity and its production was a minor industry. The numerous creeks and inlets provided safe haven for county watermen, known as the "Confederate Volunteer Coast Guard" to smuggle food from Eastern Shore and to harass Union shipping moving up and down the Bay. The most notable of these partisan commerce raiders were John Taylor Wood and John Yates Beall.
These activities prompted Union forces to come down hard on Mathews County and three major sweeps were conducted to put a stop to these activities. The largest of these Union attacks was led by Brigadier General Isaac Wistar in October of 1863. It involved hundreds of infantry, two cavalry units and two units of artillery as well as numerous army and navy gunboats. Although cattle and grain were taken, boats and salt works destroyed and other prisoners taken, Wood and Beall were never captured in Mathews. All of these attacks came from Gloucester which was under Union control early in the war. Because these attacks came from the west, the fort was facing in the wrong direction. The legend is that a local citizen remarked, "My, what a piece of nonsense". It has been called Fort Nonsense ever since.