Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fort Nonsense and Alarm Beacons

I previously posted about Fort Nonsense.  On a recent visit I noted two plaques either previously not there or that I'd never read.  It was intriguing: they explored the use of beacons as communications and warning devices used in the Revolution.

Fort Nonsense was built to provide a safe area for retreat of those troops guarding Morristown, New Jersey, in the event of a British attack (which never came).  Morristown is below the hill and to the left as we look out.  The plaque on the right tells us that "[i]n case of enemy invasion or other emergency situations, it was to be set on fire to notify militiamen to go to preselected meeting places and prepare for response to the alarm." The one on the left tells us there were plans for a beacon here, but there is no historical proof one was placed here.  There was to be a line of beacons on the hills, with one on the hill to the south at Summit, which was on the fringe of the battle of Springfield in June 1780; that beacon was said to be activated as the British approached Morristown but were defeated.

In the film Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, there is a dramatic scene showing the force and power of beacons; I found it one of the most beautifully presented images in the series.  We have Aragorn, the king to be, urging the leader of the neighboring country to come to aid:

"Aragorn: The Beacons of Minas Tirith! The Beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid.
Theoden: And Rohan will answer. Muster the Rohirrim. Assemble the army at Dunharrow. As many men as can be found. You have two days. On the third, we ride for Gondor and war."

Not dissimilar to the use explained on the hill at Fort Nonsense.

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