"That fort couldn't keep out a one-legged Indian swilling watered-down whiskey mixed with animal entrails."
-- Mevrouw Jackie Lambert
in The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan
Fort Amsterdam stood on the site now occupied by the former U.S. Customshouse at the end of Broadway, below Bowling Green. The Dutch West India Company had grand designs in 1625 when it sent engineer Cryn Frederickszon to lay out the fort. Friederickszon's orders called for a fort three thousand feet around, with walls 40 feet wide at the base and a moat fifty feet across. On early maps, the fort looks impressive, albeit no moat surrounds it.
But the fort never measured up to expectations. When Director-General Stuyvesant arrived in 1647, he described it as "more of a mole-hill than a fortress, without gates, the walls and bastions trodden underfoot by men and cattle." Despite Stuyvesant's best efforts at repair, the defenses didn't improve much. Hogs rooted off the sod he faced the walls with. But when his superiors demanded to know why he surrendered to the British without a shot, Stuyvesant had ample excuse. How could he defend a fort with walls not three feet thick nor eight feet tall in places?