About Fort Clinch
Fort Clinch on Amelia Island in Florida is a fort built in 1847 as part of the Third System defence plan. The Third System was a plan instigated by the US government following the War of 1812 to improve the country’s coastal defences and, with its pentagonal shape and brick structure, Fort Clinch is a typical example of the fortifications constructed under this plan.
Fort Clinch history
The entrance to the Cumberland Sound and the St Mary’s River has been of vital importance to the people of Florida for close to 300 years. The first fortifications on the site began in 1736, but it wasn’t until almost a century later that Fort Clinch as we know it today began to take shape.
Following the widespread destruction of the War of 1812, the desire to protect the country from other nations in times of conflict grew.
Construction of Fort Clinch began in 1847, with visions of a triumph of masonry and stone built mostly by civilians and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the coast of southern Georgia. However, by the outbreak of hostilities at the start of the Civil War, only about two-thirds of the fort had been completed and cannons had yet to be mounted on the walls.
At the start of the Civil War the fort came by default under Confederate control, which established fortifications and batteries on Amelia Island and the surrounding area.
Occupied by Confederate forces when the war began in 1861, it was taken by federal troops when a withdrawal was ordered by Gen. Robert E. Lee the following year.
The garrison operation was greatly reduced in the years following the Civil War and eventually ceased altogether. In 1898, the fort was reactivated for several months during the Spanish-American War.
After sitting empty for a number of years, the fort was sold by the Army to private entities in 1926 as it was no longer thought to be of strategic value. The years of neglect began to tell on the old brick walls, as pieces crumbled and sand began to pile inside thanks to Atlantic storms.
In 1935, the state of Florida purchased 256 acres which included the abandoned fort. It was the beginning of a program to acquire adjacent lands and begin the development of one of the first and finest state parks in Florida. The Civilian Conservation Corps was responsible for the initial building and development of the park. It was formally opened to the public in 1938.
Fort Clinch today
Today, Fort Clinch is part of the Florida State Parks network, allowing visitors to view the original building. Park rangers are on site to provide an insight into the building.
Visitors to the fort today can tour bastions, guard rooms, a prison, barracks, hospital, kitchens and even a blacksmith’s shop, all found inside the brickwork walls and furnished as they would have been during the Civil War and Union occupation.
Daily tours with period reenactors depicting garrison life bring the fort to life for visitors.
Getting to Fort Clinch
Fort Clinch State Park is located near Fernandina Beach, Jacksonville and Kingsland.