Warbirds and Airshows
By David D Jackson

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Fort Barrancas, FL  Ft. Concho, TX   Ft. Clatsop, OR   Fort Greenville, OH   Ft. Hawkins, GA   Fort Jefferson, FL   Fort Jefferson, OH    Ft. Langley, BC   Ft. Martin Scott, TX   Fort Morgan, AL   Fort Moultrie, SC   Ft. Pitt, PA    Ft. Recovery, OH   Fort Sumter, SC   Ft. Wayne, IN   

  Historic Forts
Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park, FL  - March 25, 2013

This fort is really sort of out in the middle of nowhere.  Actually it is in the middle of nowhere but in the 19th century was also in a very strategic location.  It was built to guard several neighboring islands that had decent harbors that could be used by an adversary that wanted to control the Gulf of Mexico and attack American shipping going from the Mississippi River to the east coast of the country and really became very important to the US after it made the Louisiana Purchase.  This fort never fired a shot in anger nor was it attacked.  During the Civil War it was used to incarcerate Union prisoners who had dodged the draft, deserted or were considered to be undesirable for other reasons.  If one was not shot for desertion the sentence was life.  Not much of a life if you were here.


Our first look at this imposing structure 75 miles west of Key West, FL.  Imagine back during the Civil War that you are arriving on a sailing ship as a prisoner.  This fort ona  ten acre island with no water, no shade, no anything will now be your home for who knows how long.  While here you will wear a chain with a 30 pound ball on it.  Even worse, what if you were a Union soldier and this was your new duty station?  You would have to ask yourself what had you done to deserve this? 


Normally one sees photos of fort in the bright sunshine associated with the Keys, but today it was obviously windy and overcast resulting in choppy waters and light rain at times.


Due to the rain a little moisture got on the lens for the next couple of photos.  This structure used to be a coaling station that was put in during the Spanish-American war for the steamships of the era.


There are four groups of people that go out to Fort Jefferson.  The first group are persons like me interested in both history and forts.  Next there are birders as this is on a migration route and the are plenty of birds to see not only here but on islands we pass on the way in and out. Third there are snorkelers as there are some coral reefs on the island to swim around, and although on this day it wasn't the greatest for it, many still went in the water.  And then there are campers.  These are hardcore as they have to bring everything in with them including food and water and then haul out their trash.  The campground is in the area with trees on the left side of the photo.  I think I counted four rangers and then there was the person that was in the gift shop that live in the fort, not counting any spouses or dependents.  Their supplies are brought out to them once a week.  The day I was on the island the person in the gift show told me they were having problems with the electric generators due to the storm that came in overnight. 


 

 
A moat surrounds the fort for not only protection but in theory it was part of the sewage disposal system.  On the side opening to the Gulf of Mexico the latrines all drained into the moat.  In theory at high tide it would float away the sewage that was in the moat as had worked at other forts like this.  But here the difference between low and high tide is only six inches.  So the toilets were essentially backed up.  Or as is sometimes said in the vernacular there were a lot of turds floating in the punch bowl.  Great duty station!

 
At each corner of the fort, as in all forts for many generations, were bastions.  These protruded out from the wall so fire could be directed down the walls on anyone trying to scale them to gain entrance into the fort.  In later years in wooden forts of the US they would also be called blockhouses but they served the same purpose.


Note the different color of the some of the 16 million bricks used to construct the fort as the fort was under construction for many years and the source of the building materials changed.  Everything to build the fort, and maintain the garrison and prisoners had to be brought in by boat. 


Here we see more bastions and part of the moat where the latrines would have drained into.


The fort was never really completed and all of the cannon mounted as due to the soft foundation of sand it was built on it started to settle and the walls cracked, as can be seen here.


Time to head inside.


The lighthouse.


The island is about ten acres and the interior of the fort is 9.5 acres, making it the third largest fort among the seacoast defense forts in size of the interior.  Fort Monroe in Virginia was the largest with 40 acres and Fort Adams in Rhode Island was number two with 20 acres.  Directly in front of us is the foundation for the enlisted men's barracks.


Here we are at the other end of the barracks.


This is the magazine for all of the explosives on the island.


Note the thickness of the roof to protect against mortar fire.  The cannons of the time period Fort Jefferson was built and used were for the most part only able to shoot horizontally.  It wasn't until later that artillery was able to fire high arching shells that could have penetrated the arched roof.


This is rather interesting as it is a hot shell furnace.  Cannon balls would be loaded on the left side up towards the top and then slide down to the bottom at the right as indicated by the iron crosses on the side.  The cannon balls would come out hot which when fired from one of the fort's cannons could set a wooden ship on fire.


This is were the hot cannon balls came out.


Another view of the furnace, the magazine, and part of the 9.5 acre interior and parade ground.


 Looking down the wall this bastion could defend against attackers.  The fort is undergoing constant restoration as many parts of the walls are missing.  Actually due to budget issues the National Park and Fort may be closed in the future which would be most unfortunate.


This view from the third and top level shows remains and foundation of the officer's quarters.


This close-up shows that the brick construction for the officer's quarters were three bricks thick.


Another view of the parade ground from the top level. At the right one can see the top of the circular granite stairs that were used within the fort.


This photo shows the construction of the stairways with granite shipped in from New England.


My ride out and back.  Unlike the garrison and prisoners at the fort I only stayed for four hours on the island and then able to sail back to civilization at Key West.

Fort Barrancas, FL  Ft. Concho, TX   Ft. Clatsop, OR   Fort Greenville, OH   Ft. Hawkins, GA   Fort Jefferson, FL   Fort Jefferson, OH    Ft. Langley, BC   Ft. Martin Scott, TX   Fort Morgan, AL   Fort Moultrie, SC   Ft. Pitt, PA    Ft. Recovery, OH   Fort Sumter, SC   Ft. Wayne, IN         
 

 


 
Home  Indiana Museums    Indiana Tanks on Outside Display   The Beginning    Revisions   First Flight of P-38F Glacier Girl  
USS Theodore Roosevelt    WWII Aircraft Manufacturing Sites    Gateguards
 2007 Airshows   2008 Airshows  22009 Airshows   2010 Airshows    2011 Airshows    2012 Airshows   2013 Airshows   2014 Airshows    2015 Airshows  2016 Airshows    2017 Airshows 
Aviation Museums of the Pacific Northwest
   Display Helicopter Locations   CAL FIRE   PV-2 Harpoon Photos     F6F Hellcat Photos
   Warbird Sightings   WWII US Air-Air Victories   Guest Photos    Indiana Warbirds   Featured Photos  Other Items   Links

Historic Sites   Historic Forts   Historic Texas Independence Sites   Pre-Historic Sites   Historic Manhattan Project Sites   GM Heritage Center


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