Fort Clinch, FL
Fort Clinch is a Third System masonry fortification built at the far northeastern corner of Florida to protect the vital entrance to the St. Mary’s River and Cumberland Sound. The first fortifications built at the site were constructed by the Spanish to protect their interests in the area in the mid-1700’s. However it wasn’t until after the Seminole Wars, in 1847, that plans were made by the United States to create a substantial and permanent fort. Construction began that very year with the intention that the fort would eventually garrison some 500 men and mount 78 cannon along its walls. Progress on the fort was slow, however, and by the outbreak of Civil War hostilities in 1860 barely two-thirds of the walls were completed and not a single cannon had been mounted for defense. It’s somewhat unsurprising then that, in 1861, local Confederate forces easily occupied the fort. They wouldn’t hold it for long, however. Despite building numerous defenses and earthworks to resist Union efforts to retake the fort the position was seen as simply untenable by Confederate command and, in 1862, General Robert E. Lee ordered the evacuation of the area. Union forces quickly moved in and re-established control of Fort Clinch. The United States would retain control of the fort for the remainder of the war and worked constantly over those years to complete its defenses. Still, Fort Clinch was never completely finished and, in 1869, the Army abandoned it putting it into what is known as “caretaker status”. For the next thirty years Fort Clinch would sit all but empty.
Then came the Spanish-American War. For a short period of time Fort Clinch once again became a full-fledged defensive outpost. Soldiers were once again garrisoned and numerous cannon were mounted atop its walls. Due to the proximity of the fort to expected areas of hostility, namely Cuba and the Caribbean, it was anticipated that Fort Clinch would have an important part to play in the coming conflict. It never was to be. The war ended almost as quickly as it began and Fort Clinch once again reverted to “caretaker status” at the end of 1898. By the 1920’s the United States Army no longer considered the fort a vital asset and in 1926 Fort Clinch and the surrounding property were sold to the State of Florida for use as a recreational area. The fort was restored thanks to efforts by the Civilian Conservation Corps and many of the present-day parks amenities were built at that time also. Only with the outbreak of World War Two was Fort Clinch once again called into service. Tourists were banned from the fort as it was used as a communications and surveillance post for the military. With the end of the war in 1945 the fort was once again returned to the State and it has remained so ever since.
Today the fort sits as the centerpiece of 1,100-acre Fort Clinch State Park, a protected piece of property which boasts camping, boating, picnicking, swimming, and hiking amenities as well. The fort itself has been well preserved and restored and depicts the life of soldiers stationed here at various points in its 100-year history of active military service. In this album I’ll take you on a quick tour of the old fort, highlighting the major structures and features contained within it. It’s a quick tour I’ll admit though. The day we visited it was a very un-Florida-like day with high winds and temps barely above freezing. The cold simply wouldn’t allow me as comfortable and thorough a walk-through as I might have liked. Even so I hope this album can at least give a good introduction to this venerable old fortification and maybe spark an interest in visiting it someday for yourself. So, without delay, I present to you Fort Clinch…as always, ENJOY!!