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Amelia Islander

Holiday Encampment at Fort Clinch State Park

Dec 02, 2013 06:18AM
Since 1736 the site where Fort Clinch now stands has been occupied off and on by troops because it sits at the entrance to the St. Marys River and the Cumberland Sound. Construction of a fort, later named Fort Clinch, was begun in 1847 after the end of the Second Seminole War. The actual compound is pentagonal in shape, with both inner and outer walls, and consists of almost five million bricks. There are corner bastions and embrasures in the outer walls and several structures in the interior courtyards, including a 2-story barracks. The fort was named in honor of General Duncan Lamont Clinch after his death in 1849. General Clinch fought in the War of 1812 and was an important figure in the First and Second Seminole Wars.

Confederate forces seized the fort in early 1861. It then provided a safe haven for Confederate blockade runners during the first year of the Civil War. However, rifled cannon had rendered its brick walls obsolete and in March 1862 General Robert E. Lee ordered its abandonment, preferring not to tie up scarce troops in its defense. Federal troops re-occupied it in early 1862. This gave the Union control of the adjacent Georgia and Florida coasts and the fort then served as the base of Union operations in the area throughout the Civil War.

On December 6 and 7, Fort Clinch’s monthly Living History event decorates for the holidays. Volunteers in Civil War-era attire portray daily life at the fort as it was in 1864 - activities will include black powder artillery demonstrations and marching drills, as well as soldiers and civilians taking up duty in the laundry, infirmary, and kitchen. Volunteers in Civil War era costume place boughs of fresh greenery on the mantles of every room in the fort, put up and decorate a period Christmas tree, and portray daily life as it was during the War of the States. The ladies string berries and popcorn to decorate the tree, as fires burn in the fireplaces, while soldiers answer questions about being stationed at Fort Clinch.

Fees include the $6 per vehicle park entrance fee, plus $2 per person Fort admission. For more information call 277-7274, or visit www.floridastateparks.org/fortclinch.