One of the country’s best-preserved Civil War forts can be found in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Although it was used during the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and World War II, Fort Clinch never saw combat.
Construction began in 1847. The fort was to be part of a network of garrisons, and together they would protect the Atlantic coastline from foreign invasion. It had been under construction for 14 years, was two-thirds finished, and had no cannons installed when the Civil War began in April 1861.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the fort was occupied by the Confederacy, and served as a safe haven for blockade runners. However, Union troops were quickly gaining control of coastal Georgia. Under threat of attack, Confederate troops were evacuated and Union forces took control in 1862. Three years later, the war was over and by 1869 the fort stood empty and incomplete.
In 1898, the Spanish American War began. The fort was then used to house soldiers and ammunition. Weapons were mounted and a minefield was created around the complex. But when the war ended a few months later, it was again abandoned.
In 1926, the government sold it to private individuals. who sold it to the State of Florida in 1935. The fort had deteriorated through the years, but was restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. In 1938 it opened to the public.
When World War II began in 1942, it was used by the military as a coastal surveillance site. It also housed a directional beacon used by seaplane pilots in training. At this time, the fort was surrounded by barbed wire and the beach was patrolled by horseback.
I have been to many forts, but Fort Clinch is one of my favorites. I love to wander grounds and explore the hidden rooms and walkways.
A walk on the beach completes the day.
Fort Clinch State Park is located at 2601 Atlantic Avenue, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034.
Florida State Parks, History of Fort Clinch
Legends of America, Fort Clinch, FL
Florida Department of State, Museum of Florida History, Fort Clinch
Historic American Landscapes Survey, National Parks Service, Fort Clinch State Park