I recently had the opportunity to visit Fort Clinch State Park, which is located on the northern most barrier island at the mouth of the St Mary and Amelia rivers. This particular fort has an interesting history that dates back prior to the Civil War. The fort was garrisoned several times during the Civil War (both Federal and Confederate troops), Spanish American War, and again by the Coast Guard during World War II. It is one of the eight original Florida State Parks, and if you visit on a weekend when the fort is garrisoned (re-enactors), it is also one of Florida’s best, especially if you’re looking for an interactive, living history lesson.
When the fort is garrisoned, walking through the main gate is like walking back in time. I was impressed at the detail that has been put into the maintenance and presentation of the fort as a living history museum. Watching the guards drill, hang out in the barracks, even sewing and mending their uniforms, added a unique level of immersion experience. Even the store was open with candy and other sundry items available for sale.
I also enjoyed watching the federal troops drill. In this case it was firing the field cannon.
But for me, the icing on the cake was just being able to explore so much of the fort and get a feeling for how soldiers lived and worked during the Civil War. You can climb the ramparts, explore storage rooms and living quarters, and hang out with guards, who will tell you about their duties at the fort.
And if you’re lucky, you just might be treated to pipes and drum corps.
If you never have taken the time to visit Fort Clinch, you’re missing out on a truly unique Florida experience.