Fort Clinch, Florida

Fort Clinch, Florida by Jud McCranie, Wikipedia

Fort Clinch, Florida by Jud McCranie, Wikipedia

Fort Clinch is a 19th-century masonry coastal fortification built for the seacoast defense of northeastern Florida in 1847. The location near the northernmost point of Amelia Island has long been used as a fortified site beginning with the Spanish in 1736. The purpose was to protect the entrance to Cumberland Sound and the mouths of the Amelia and St. Johns Rivers.

Fort Clinch, Fernandina, Florida about 1885

Fort Clinch, Fernandina, Florida, about 1885

The building of a pentagon-shaped fort began in 1847, and in 1850, it was named for General Duncan L. Clinch, who fought in the War of 1812 and was an important figure in the First and Second Seminole Wars. The brick fort has five corner bastions and several structures in the interior courtyard, including a two-story barracks. It was designed to mount 70 heavy artillery pieces but was never fully armed. Construction continued until 1867.

After the Civil War began in 1861, the Florida Militia occupied the fort and used it as a safe haven for Confederate blockade runners. In March 1862, General Robert E. Lee ordered the abandonment of the fort to use scarce troops in other areas. It was then re-occupied by Union forces, giving them control of the adjacent Georgia and Florida coasts. They used it as a base of operations during the rest of the war. It was never attacked during the war.

In 1869, the fort was placed on caretaker status until 1898, when the Army garrisoned it during the short Spanish-American War. In September, it was abandoned again and gradually deteriorated.

Fort Clinch, Florida Aerial courtesy Wikipedia

Fort Clinch, Florida Aerial courtesy Wikipedia

In 1935, the State of Florida bought the fort and surrounding 256 acres, and in 1936, the Civil Conservation Corps began to restore the fort, build a museum, and develop the grounds for a state park. Fort Clinch State Park opened to the public in 1938. It was closed to the public during World War II and used as a communication and security post. It was re-opened to the public after the war ended.

The fort was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Today, Fort Clinch State Park includes the restored two-story barracks, the prison and guardhouse, and a two-story warehouse. A museum adjacent to the Visitor Center provides visitors with the history of Fort Clinch, artifacts, historical weapons, displays, and a short video introduction to the life of a Union Soldier.

Fort Clinch Parade Ground showing the Barracks, Warehouse and Officer Quarters Foundations, by John Stanton, Fort Wiki

Fort Clinch Parade Ground showing the Barracks, Warehouse, and Officer Quarters Foundations, by John Stanton, Fort Wiki

The 1,400-acre state park also provides several trails, camping, fishing, and water activities along its shoreline. The park is open daily. It is located on the northernmost point of Amelia Island, at 2601 Atlantic Avenue, in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.

Also See:

The Civil War

Florida Forts

Forts Across America

Forts Photo Gallery