Fort Clinch is a brick fortress on the northernmost tip of Amelia Island, Florida. It was built to guard the mouth of the St. Mary’s River and to protect the port of Fernandina Beach where goods were shipped into the area.
It was named after General Duncan Lamont Clinch, a soldier who fought in the First and Second Seminole Wars. Construction of the pentagon-shaped fort began in 1847, at the end of the Second Seminole War. Progress was slow going. In 1860, only a portion of the walls were complete and some of the buildings. No cannons were in position.
Though Fort Clinch was a haven for Confederate soldiers during the first year of the Civil War, in 1862 it became the Union’s base of operations in the Florida-Georgia area for the remainder of the war.
Construction was nearly completed in 1867, just about the time the fort was deactivated. Advancements in weaponry made the fort obsolete.
The State of Florida bought the site, which is now Fort Clinch State Park, and restoration on the fort took place in the 1930s. The fort opened to the public in 1938, closing only during the years of World War II when it was used as a communications and security post.
It was fun wandering around the grounds and investigating the buildings and inner walls of the fort. It was very quiet that day. Hardly any visitors were there, so it was a bit eerie. But the way everything is set up — inside the buildings, the beds, tables, supplies — you could almost travel back in time and experience what the soldiers experienced who were stationed at Fort Clinch.
If you would like to get a more accurate picture of life at the fort, or if you’re a Civil War history buff, visit Fort Clinch on the first weekend of the month where “living historians” recreate life at the fort. Soldiers perform marching drills, artillery demonstrations, and civilians cook, do laundry, make candles and perform other activities of daily life at the fort.
Dates of Visit: January 2012
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