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Fort DeLesseps
1911 - 1955
Panama - Canal Zone

Photos from the private collection of Mr.Vicente Alberto Pascual and Mr. Bob Horanberg.

     Fort DeLesseps was named after Count Ferdinand DeLesseps.  Count DeLesseps won renown as the builder of the Suez Canal in Egypt. Ferdinand thought he could build a canal on the Isthmus of Panama. He subsequently was president of the French syndicate that failed in an attempt to build a sea level canal through Panama in 1881 - 1888.   Long hard years of disease, poor planning and financial catastrophe contributed to the French Canal Company failure to complete the Panama Canal.  

          In 1911, when the original Panama Canal fortifications were being built, the Canal Zone included the western edge and the northern tip of what is now Colon in the area known as Manzanilla Point.  Fort DeLesseps was constructed on this strip of land, in the vicinity of the Washington Hotel.
         Battery Morgan, name in honor of Brigadier General Charles H. Morgan, was established at Fort DeLesseps.  Two 6-inch rifles (Model 1908, M II) on barbette mounts (BC Model 1910) were installed at the battery.  Battery construction was started in 1913 and completed in 1916.
          With a traverse of 360 and range of 15,000 yards, the guns of Battery Morgan supported guns on either flank (Battery Kilpatrick, Fort Sherman, and Battery Weed, Fort Randolph) in protecting the Atlantic approaches from attacks by light naval vessels, including minesweepers and submarines.
          The guns of Battery Morgan were regularly fired for practice in 1916, 1917, and 1918, but were then placed in caretaker status and were not fired again until 1942.  A total of 112 rounds were fired by the No. 1 Gun and 144 by Gun No. 2.  They were last fired on 17 March 1944 and thereafter were not manned.
          Prior to the Fort DeLesseps area being released to the Republic of Panama, the guns of Battery Morgan were dismounted and scrapped.  The battery area is presently deserted and no use is being made of the facilities that remain.
("193rd Inf Bde (CZ) Pamphlet 8701, "World War I Fortifications of the Panama Canal")

          This fort was built on land which had belonged to the original Panama Railroad.  It was located on Limon Bay at the northwest corner of Colon.  The Hotel Washington, whose windows were shattered when the 6-inch rifles were fired, was just across the street.  There was a barge wharf on the Limon Bay side and sidings directly off the Panama Railroad's extension beyond the Cristobal/Colon passenger station. Rail movements were handled by the Panama Railroad.  ("Military Railroads on the Panama Canal Zone", by Charles S. Small,  November 1982)

Armament at Fort DeLesseps:

Battery Morgan 2 - 6" Barbette Mount Rifles

Fort DeLesseps

A small installation located adjacent to the Hotel Washington within the city of Colon., Fort DeLesseps was named in 1911 in honor of Count Ferdinand de Lesseps, the 'builder' of the Suez Canal and the man who let the French atempt to build the Panama Canal.

The property on which Fort DeLesseps was constructed was acquired by the U.S. Army from the Panama Railroad Company.  Jurisdiction over the post, however, was never formally ceded to the United States.

The Coast Artillery post, whose population is 1936 was 190, included eight sets of Captains' quarters, a Headquarters barracks which accommodated 84 men, three quadruplexes for Noncommissioned Officers, a 200-seat 'Recreation Pavilion', and a 3-bed medical station.  These properties, in addition to the guns of Battery Morgan, were located on an area comprised of 3.7 acres.

The 1955 'Treaty of Mutual Understandings and Cooperation with the Republic of Panama' provided for the transfer to the Republic of Panama of Fort DeLesseps, which was no longer considered "required for canal purposes".

("An American Legacy In Panama", HQ U.S. Army Garrison - Panama)

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