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UDC learns about Fort Clinch

Mar. 12—THOMASVILLE- The John B. Gordon 383 UDC heard the chapter's historian, Sheila Tucker, present a program called "Fort Clinch, Fernandina, Florida" this past week. She first gave some history about Fort Clinch. This fort was named after General Duncan Lamont Clinch (1787-1849). He was considered a hero of the Seminole War. He was a Congressman from Georgia. Fort Clinch was named for him in honor of his service to his country.

The first fortifications at the site began in 1736. But it didn't become that valuable for use until about a century later. Following the War of 1812, it was decided that the country needed more protection from outside foreign countries.

Tucker told the group that "Construction of Fort Clinch began in 1847 with masonry and stone built mostly by civilians and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in hopes to protect the coast of southern Georgia." At the beginning of the War Between the States, only two-thirds of the fort had been completed. Cannons had not yet been mounted on the walls.

At the beginning of the War Between the States, the Confederate States of America had the control of the fort and established fortifications and batteries on Amelia Island and the surrounding areas. As the Union began to gain control of coastal and southern Georgia, General Robert E. Lee ordered to evacuate. The Union troops then entered in March of 1862. The Union added some more details to the fort, but did not complete it. By 1869 Fort Clinch was again empty.

"The fort was cared for by the U.S.Army until 1898, when the sinking of the USS Main sparked the Spanish-American War. Fort Clinch again was used as a barracks and ammunition depot. Fortification, which included mounted guns and laying of minefields outside the walls were made. Less than a year later, the fort was abandoned again," said Tucker.

In 1926, the fort was sold by the Army to private businesses, because the fort didn't serve any strategic value. Many of the old bricks began crumbling and sand began piling inside the fort thanks to the Atlantic storms.

Tucker told that "In 1935, Fort Clinch became one of Florida's first state parks." It was in 1936 that the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began restoring the buildings inside the fort. They constructed the museum, campground and park roads. They removed massive amounts of sand and debris from the fort itself. There is a monument located on the park grounds dedicated to these workers.

During World War II, Fort Clinch served a final mission as a joint operations center for surveillance and communications. After the war, it was returned to the state of Florida to be reopened to the public.

Today Living Histories are presented there in period clothing. These re-enactments include First Weekend Confederate and Union Garrisons, candlelight tours and larger-scale reenactments. Sheila Tucker and her husband Bruce have participated in these Living Histories. When they participate, Sheila is the "Iron and Wash Woman" for the officers and Bruce is a "Surveyor's Assistant."

After telling the history of Fort Clinch, Tucker presented a Power Point Presentation showing when she and her husband participated. Tucker said, "I always enjoy participating in Living Histories because we are helping to preserve our nation's history. When children come, and see it first-hand and watch us reenact true history, then the students remember it and get more interested."

The meeting was presided over by President Mary Margaret Tyson Quiggle.