Historical Marker #599 at Riverfront Park in Newport commemorates the Newport Barracks, an important nineteenth century military facility.
The Newport Barracks were erected in 1803, when General James Taylor, founder of Newport, convinced his cousin, future president James Madison, to establish a military post in northern Kentucky. Shortly thereafter, the Newport Barracks was built on five acres of land donated by Taylor. The city founder personally oversaw the construction of the site.
The barracks played an important role in the War of 1812. During the conflict, the post served as a prison for enemy troops, as well as a mustering point for enlisted Kentuckians, who ventured north to fight the British, Canadians, and Native Americans. By 1814, more than four hundred enemy soldiers were also held within its walls. During the war, General William Henry Harrison quartered troops and supplies at the site.
By the 1820s, the facility was converted into a recruiting depot and was later enlarged to facilitate the processing of men for the Mexican-American War in 1846-1848. During the Civil War, the Newport Barracks functioned simultaneously as a hospital and political prison for Confederate sympathizers. After a Union victory, the establishment fell into a dilapidated state and was significantly downsized in the mid-1870s.
The Newport Barracks experienced a period of rejuvenation when, in 1878, it became the headquarters for the U.S. Army's Department of the South. The post prospered until the floods of 1882 and 1884 damaged the buildings beyond repair. A decision was then made to relocate the post to higher ground in Fort Thomas in the late 1880s. The former location on the river was deeded to the city of Newport in 1894. It now serves as the Gen. James Taylor Park and as a reminder of Kentucky’s military heritage.