Fort Zachary Taylor
Key West, Florida

Contributors:
1. Paul Taylor, FL and  and
2. Richard Edling, PA
3. Scott Ashmore, TX
 
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Links:
1. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
2. FortZacharyTaylor.com
3. FortTaylor.org
4. Fort Zachary Taylor: Wikipedia
5. Fort Zachary Taylor: NPS

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"Named after U.S. President Zachary Taylor, this fort was the islandís principal defense in the Civil War, and administrative headquarters to the Federal Navyís East Gulf Coast Blockading Squadron, making it arguably the most important fort in Florida during the Civil War. Originally located one thousand feet offshore on a 63 acre shoal, the construction of the three story, trapezoid shaped fort began in the mid-1840ís with the intent of its five foot thick walls being to stop hostile invasions. Military personnel were able to access the fort via a 1000 foot causeway that connected it to the land. Items such as sanitary facilities flushed by the tide and a desalination plant which produced drinking water from the sea were several new innovations available to its garrison. Like its neighbor in the Dry Tortugas, Fort Jefferson, it was hampered in its 21 year construction period by constant shortages of men, material and outbreaks of Yellow Fever. The forts formidable arsenal however, proved to be ample deterrent to Confederate attack as the fort was in Union hands throughout the war. During the war, almost 300 seized Confederate blockade-running ships had been detained in its harbor and guarded by its 10 inch cannon which had a range of up to three miles. Modernization efforts occurred in 1898 during the Spanish-American war resulting in the elimination of the top two stories to facilitate the installation of newer weapons, including filling the original casements with sand. In 1947 the US Army turned control of the fort over to the Navy. Further renovations through the years included filling in the water around the fort rendering it landlocked, though a moat was built around the fort in 1989. The net result of these changes is that this historic site bears little resemblance today to its Civil War prominence. Beginning in 1968, excavations within the fort uncovered numerous stockpiles of guns and munitions from the Civil War, some of which are now on display at the fort. This display represents only a fraction of the still-buried munitions which gives Fort Taylor the distinction of having the largest collection of Civil War armament in the U.S. Fort Taylor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and in 1973 was designated a National Historic Landmark. The aforementioned historical changes in topography coupled with erosion over the decades have now rendered the fort surrounded by land, which has allowed for the creation of a manmade beach for swimming and snorkeling. There is also a picnic area and concession site."

Paul Taylor's book, Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide, is available from Pineapple Press at www.pineapplepress.com, or, signed copies are available direct from the author. Contact Paul at pandmtaylor@comcast.net
  
Photos/text this page courtesy of Paul Taylor, FL (2001)    
  

Enlarge Early 20th-century postcard image of Fort Taylor. Note the fort's offshore location, its original foot causeway and the structure's three-story height

 

The remnants of Fort Taylor, down to one-story. The fort is now land-locked though a moat, which can be seen at far right, fully circumvents the structure

   
 

Another view taken farther away and off to the left of view #2

 

Interior view of Fort Taylor

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