Fort Clinch State Park - Fernandina Beach, Florida
Fort Clinch State Park - Fernandina Beach, Florida
Fort Clinch State Park
The walls of the masonry fort were imcomplete and
not yet ready for battle when the Civil War came to
Florida's Amelia Island in 1861.
Fort Clinch State Park
The sally port of Fort Clinch
welcomes thousands of
visitors each year to the
historic Florida fort.
Guns of Fort Clinch
The fort was incomplete when
Florida left the Union in 1861.
Its guns never fired a shot in
Fort Clinch State Park - Fernandina Beach, Florida
Amelia Island's Historic Fort
Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: July 17, 2013
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Forts of the Florida Coast
Restored Quarters
The interior rooms of the fort
have been restored to their
appearance at the time it was
held by Confederate and then
Union troops.
Walls of Fort Clinch
The two shades of brick
reflect work done on the fort
done before and after the Civil
Begun in 1847 on the northern tip of Amelia
Island, Fort Clinch is a Third System defense
built to defend the harbor at the mouth of the
St. Mary's River.

The historic fort was never completed but is
now the centerpiece of Fort Clinch State Park
Fernandina Beach, Florida. In addition to
the fort, the park features trails, picnic areas,
campgrounds, beaches and more.

The inlet that divides Amelia Island, Florida,
from Cumberland Island, Georgia, is one of
the most historic in the nation. For hundreds
of years it has provided access to the harbor
formed by the junction of Cumberland Sound
with the Amelia and St. Marys Rivers. Here
the port cities of Fernandina and St. Marys
have thrived for more than 200 years.

The Spanish planted what is now called Old
Town Fernandina on the northern end of
Amelia Island in 1811, but over the next four
years the settlement and its small fort would
change hands repeatedly, falling to pirates,
adventurers, revolutionaries and the United
States before finally being returned to
Spanish hands.

To prevent a repeat of this chaos, a large
defensive work - Fort San Carlos - was built
facing the Amelia River at today's
Plaza Historic State Park. Just west of today's
Fort Clinch State Park, San Carlos was
completed in 1816 and protected the town
through its last years as a Spanish village.

When the United States gained possession
of Florida in 1821, the earthworks of Fort San
Carlos still stood. Over the decades that
followed however, the need for a permanent
fortification on the northern end of Amelia
Island became obvious. Finally, work began
on Fort Clinch in 1847.

A Third System fortification - like Fort Pickens
in Pensacola, Fort Pulaski in Savannah and
Fort Sumter in Charleston - the new fort was
named for General Duncan Lamont Clinch. A
prominent officer of the War of 1812 and
Seminole Wars, Clinch had family ties to
nearby St. Marys, Georgia. The name was
given to the post when the general died in

When Florida seceded from the Union on
January 10, 1861, Fort Clinch was still far
from complete. The engineering officer in
charge of its construction, Captain William
H.C. Whiting, called the idea of it being used
for either defense or offense "absurd."

The fort's walls had still not reached their
planned height, its casemates were
incomplete and it had not yet been equipped
with cannon. A War Department summary of
the arms and ammunition on hand at
Florida's military posts prior to the outbreak
of the War Between the States (Civil War) did
not list a single cannon, musket or pound of
gunpowder at Fort Clinch.

State militia organized in Fernandina after the
secession of Florida, but did not immediately
move on Fort Clinch. State officials were
content instead to let the laborers at the fort
continue their work at the expense of the U.S.
Government. This odd arrangement went on
until April 1861 when militia forces finally
occupied the fort when actual conflict erupted
between North and South.

As late as August 1861, Amelia Island was
armed by only four 6-pounder field pieces,
"badly mounted" in an incomplete battery.
Col. W.S. Dilworth of the 3rd Florida Infantry
appealed for a company of artillery and help.

Help did come, but slowly. By November
1861 there was an untrained battalion of
artillery on Amelia Island and guns had
arrived from St. Augustine and elsewhere for
use in arming Fort Clinch and sand batteries
being erected nearby.

It was not enough. On February 24, 1862,
Gen. Robert E. Lee (then commanding the
coastal defenses in Florida and Georgia)
ordered the troops and guns withdrawn from
the island.
Lee's orders came too late. Southern troops
were in the process of removing their cannon
and leaving the island when a major Union
expedition arrived offshore. The remaining
Confederates withdrew as Union gunboats
shelled a departing train loaded with
civilians. Fort Clinch was reclaimed by the
U.S. Army on March 4, 1862.

A newspaper correspondent accompanying
the expedition reported a few days later that
Fort Clinch had mounted seven guns when it
was recaptured, five were
en barbette and
two were in casemates.

Work continued on the fort through the rest of
the war, but it was never completed as
planned. Occupied again for a brief time
during the Spanish American War, it was
already a state park by the time of World War
II. The military closed it to the public during
that war, but returned the fort to the state
when the threat of foreign attack ended.

The fort has been restored and in addition to
its walls, bastions and guns, also offers
visitors the chance to explore barracks,
supply rooms and more. Its northern walls
provide a spectacular view of Cumberland
Island, the mouth of the St. Mary's and the
Atlantic Ocean.

Fort Clinch State Park also features a marsh
overlook from which the
Amelia Island
Lighthouse can be seen, beaches, a fishing
pier, bird watching exhibit, picnic areas,
playgrounds, bike and hiking trails and

Other historical features include the old
military road that once led to the fort and
ruins of the facilities that supported the light
station that once operated near the fort.

The Egans Creek Marsh borders the west
side of the park and is a phenomenal place
for enjoying the natural environment of a
coastal marsh. Its access points are popular
for birding.

Fort Clinch State Park is located at 2601
Atlantic Ave., Fernandina Beach, Florida. The
park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset, 365
days per year.

An entry fee of $6 per vehicle ($4 if only one
person is in the car) or $2 for pedestrians
and bicyclists is charged. There is an
additional $2 per person fee to visit the fort.

Fort Clinch is the only Third System fort on
Florida's entire Atlantic coast.

Please click here to visit the official state park
website for more information.
Coastal Marshes
Fort Clinch State Park is a
great place to explore the
nature of Florida's Atlantic
Hiking, Biking & Birding
The park offers miles of trails
and paths that are popular
with hikers, bikers and bird