30 November 2007

St Pete Pier

Ok, so this is the St Petersburg Pier. Nothing real special about it, other than I went there, and here's some pictures. Above is lookingat it from the shore. Below is a panorama taken from atop the pier.

This is a local landmark, the Floating Chapel (yes, that's its real name). It is used for weddings and other special ceremonies.
Now several pictures of fish at the small Pier Aquarium.

28 November 2007

Hillsborough River

Ok, so this is Hillsborough state park, where I camped for the weekend since it was the closest state park to Tampa that has camping. But as a note, the campground is very, very crowded and the sites are very small, affording little privacy. So if you want to get into nature and camp this is not the place. The park itself though is quite pretty. It was established in 1938 as one of Florida's first state parks to protect the vital ecology of this portion of the river. An additional feature of this park is Fort Foster, a reconstructed fort from the Second Seminole War. Unfortunetly, the only way to even see the fort is by taking a guided tour into a locked part of the park, which is offered only once a day on weekends. Because of this, I did not get to see the fort, but they have a small interperative center for the fort that is open. Because of this and for anyone who is interested, here is the brief story of the fort. The Second Seminole War began in 1835 (more on this later.) In March 1836, the US Army realized the strategic importance of having a bridge over the Hillsborough river, and constructed Fort Alabama. The fort was abandoned only a few months later and is said to have been destroyed by a booby trap left for the Seminoles. But that winter, Fort Foster was built on the site of Fort Alabama, and was occupied until 1838. The war was not over until 1843 though. The site was donated to the state of Florida by a farmer in 1973, and the fort was reconstructed based on drawings and archeological evidence. It claims to be the only reconstructed Second Seminole War fort, but I am not sure this is true.
This marker commemorates the penny pine forest planted by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1940.
What US Army uniforms would have looked like in the Second Seminole War.
These two photos show artifacts found at the fort site.

This model shows about what the fort looks like
These timbers were part of the bridge that Fort Alabama/Foster were built to guard
Some views of the scenic river

26 November 2007

Desoto NHS

Ok, so this is Desoto National Historic Site, south of Tampa. In 1539, the Spanish Explorer Desoto came ashore in what is now Tampa Bay in search of riches. For the next four years and four thousand miles, he and his army would battle nature and Native Americans as they traveled across the Southeast. This site commemorates his landing and provides living history in a replica Indian village and Spanish camp during working hours. When I got there, the park was shut down, but a walking path allows access outside normal hours. Above is the large cross to commemorate the landing. Below is a marker for the Begining of the Desoto Trail, following his journey across the South.

One of the recreated Indian huts where living history takes place in the open hours.
A view of the beautiful shorline here.
This tabby ruin is not actually connected with Desoto, but is believed to be from a dwelling built by the Shaw familly in 1843. The familly left in 1856 due to a Seminole uprising.
Some of the unique vegetation of the park.
This is the Holy Eucharist monument, it and the giant cross were created by the Catholic Diocese of Venice Florida as a monument to priests throughout Florida, and especially those who accompanied Desoto. Below are a couple more photos of the cross. The lighting was simply spectacular, so I couldn't resist getting creative.

Madira Bickel Mound

Ok, so not much to this post, other than this is the Madira Bickel Mound, just south of Tampa, and a state archeological site. It is one of the few remaining in this area out of many that used to be here.

14 November 2007

Fort De Soto

Ok, so a month or so ago, I took a long weekend down to Tampa Bay. This first stop is Fort Desoto, constructed in response to the Spanish American War in nearby Cuba. In 1898, the railroad magnate Henry Plant (who will be covered later) convinced the Secretary of War and construction began on this fort, and Fort Dade on nearby Egmont Key. An interesting sidenote of the fort is that its construction stayed $16.73 under its $155,000 budget. The two forts were typical of Endicott Era forts, large concrete enclosures covered with dirt, rather than the exposed brick or stone of earlier centuries. Fort Dade consisted of a series of fixed and disapearing gun mounts, while Fort Desoto had two mortar pits of four mortars each. Today, these are the only costal defense mortars in existance in the US. In 1902, work was completed on Battery Bigelow, an additional fortified battery located just in front of the main mortar battery. Bigelow mounted two 3 inch rapid fire guns. It has been lost to time, though some of its collapsed remains can be seen in the surf in front of the mortar battery. In later years, the forts were the site of several military training exercises, and in 1899, the fort was also the site of a quarantine station. After WW2, in 1948, the fort was sold to Pinellas County, who in 1963 created the county park and preserved the fort, which was registered as a historic place in 1977.
Above and below are the foundation remains of some of the support buildings, such as barracks, for the fort.

This tall coquina post once held an observation booth and was surrounded by wooden stairs.

This is looking toward Egmont Key, now a wildlife refuge. It has a lighthouse and the remains of Fort Dade. The key is only accesible by boat, but a ferry service is run at 10 and 11 AM, when weather permits, and return at 2 or 3 PM. I did not get to go due to adverse weather in the morning, so this is all you get to see here.
Looking down into the mortar pit
Back of Fort Desoto
This 6 inch rapid fire gun is one of two at Fort Desoto, relocated as a memorial from Fort Dade.
fuse room, shot room, and powder magazine, inside the fort.

targeting booth just behind the fort. Lookouts atop the fort would relay information to these booths, which would calculate how the mortars needed to be aimed.
Views of the mortars

Flag of the Artillery group posted here

12 November 2007

Hanging Rock

Ok, so the next stop on our tour is Hanging Rock. After the British captured Charleston in 1780, They quickly moved to establish outposts in the backcountry of South Carolina. Ninety-Six was the primary one in the western part of the state, and Camden was the main one in the eatsern/central part, with smaller posts at Rocky Mount and here at Hanging Rock. After Buford's Massacre (last post) local patriots were bent on revenge. General Thomas Sumter, known to the British as the Gamecock, was in charge of partisan activity in this area of the state, and planned to launch a surprise attack on Rocky Mount. Once that proved untangible, they turned there focus to Hanging Rock. On August 5, 1780, Major Richardson Davie (see previous post) led a Patriot force in the early morning hours that quickly overan the surprised Tories manning the compund. This was one of the first battles where "Remember Tarleton's Quarter" was used (see last post). While the Patriots were eventually chased away when the Tories regrouped, they did take valuable supplies and lost only 20 dead, 40 wounded to the enemies losses of over 200, arguably a valuable victory. Even if this was not the most vital or historic battle, it was certainly one of the most scenic, as you can see by the photos of the park.

This was the site of another small battle where Davie captured supplies bound for the post at Hanging Rock. Unfortunetly, later that day, his own group was ambushed by a band of Tories, and he basically broke even.
The nearby marker for James Marion, father of modern gynecology.
This marker just makes me laugh. Critics of historical markers and "history chasers" say that the only thing markers ever say is stupid little things like "George Wahington slept here." Ok critics, you win this round.