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

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