Curiosities of the History

Throughout the years of the construction of the Fort of Graça, between 1763 and 1792, many workers died. Right in August of 1764 “four mines were experimented, but there were five disgraces of legs and broken arms and one died right away, wrecked in pieces”.

In 1765, an English miners’ Captain and three soldiers of his Company, from the Regiment of Artillery of Alentejo, stole several times gunpowder that existed in one of the ammunition depots. After being caught, they were all arrested separately. They were judged in the War Council and we have no records regarding the sentence. However, in an identical crime, committed in the same year, a Lieutenant was hanged and after he was dead, they cut off his feet, hands and head and put them at the door of the gunpowder warehouse.

In 1770, the doctor of the Military Hospital of Elvas (back then called Royal Hospital of the Stronghold of Elvas) requested the increase of his salary because, in his hospital, besides having to assist the ailing soldiers of the city of Elvas, that by then had four infantry and a cavalry regiments, he also had to help the workers of the construction. Consequently, he helped over 300 people daily, which became unbearable.

During the construction of the Fort of Graça, since there was a lack of labour resources and the need for the fortification was urgent, the Portuguese King sent to Elvas the inmates of almost every city of the country, in order to become workers.

The village of Vedor, next to Elvas, was created during the construction of the Fort of Graça, through the construction of houses to harbor most of the workers who worked at the construction site, as well as several shops. It received the name of the General Artillery Vedor, Manuel Rodrigues de Ataíde, who had a farm in the premises.

After the great earthquake of 1755, the Marquis of Pombal creates a tax of 4% over the merchandise that entered in Lisbon. With the income of that tax, it became possible the construction of the Navy Arsenal and the Secretary Offices of the Square of Comércio in Lisbon and the Fort of Graça in Elvas, having this last construction costed 769.199$039 réis.

On the interior door of the Fort of Graça, beside a sculptural collection where the coat of arms of Portugal is represented, there is a memorial stone with the following inscription: IOSEPHUS. I. AUGUSTUS. INVICTUS. PIUS.  |  QUO. ADITUM. HOSTIBUS. IN. RELIQUAM. PROVINCIAM. INTERCLUDERET.  |  CURANTIBUS. GUILLIERMO. COMITE. LIPPIENSE. LUSITANORUM. MILITUM.  |  IMPERATORE. SUMMO. ET. SEBASTIANO. JOSEPHO. CARVALIO. MELIO.  |  COMITE. OEYRENSI. MAGNO. CONSILIARIO. ATQUE. ADMINISTRO. HANC.  |  ARCEM. A. FUNDAMENTIS. EXTRUXIT. OMNIQUE. PRAESIDIO. COMMUNIVIT  |  AN. MDCCLXVI.

Which means...

“José I, Augusto, Invictus, Pius, in order to stop the entrance of the enemy in the Province, under the direction of Guilherme, Count of Lippe, general marshal of the Portuguese army, and of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Count of Oeiras, first councilor and minister, established and fully equipped it. Year of 1766.”

During the French Invasions, the city of Elvas was occupied by the French troops, commanded by Junot, on March 11th 1808. While the city had, as Military Governor, the Colonel Miquel, the Fort of Graça now had, as Military Governor, Miquel, the son of the antecessor. When the majority of the French troops move to Lisbon, the city of Elvas is the only one which remains guarded on the South ground border of the country. In the Fort of Graça there were lodged, back then, four Swiss companies and three from the 86th Regiment of Front Infantry. Every gun and ammunition that existed in the city, on the hands of the Portuguese, were placed in the forts, to avoid a revolt. And yet, during the night of July 8th 1808, the military governor of the city and a French engineer were ambushed by the Fountain of Rui de Melo. Miquel is seriously injured and the horses are killed. With Miquel with life-threatening injuries (he would soon pass away after in Lisbon), his son Miquel, governor of the Fort of Graça, ordered the execution of seven Portuguese prisoners next to the location of the ambush.

After the failed military monarchic revolt of April 18th 1925, led by Sinel de Cordes and Gomes da Costa, among others, these are sent, as political prisoners, to the Fort of Graça in Elvas. It will be in the Fort that they will plan the movement of May 28th 1926 that would eventually impose the Military Dictatorship. The one who assumes it is Colonel Passos e Sousa, who would became a Minister, and back then was the Governor of the Fort.

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