Sunday, June 9, 2019

Fort Clinch, walkaround

Fort Clinch, please note that North is in the upper right corner
courtesy GoogleEarth

     I have only had the pleasure of visiting Fort Clinch once in my lifetime. This massive masonry fort guards the mouth of the Saint Mary's River, Florida. Begun in 1847 as part of the Third System of forts intended to deter foreign attacks (memories of the White House being burnt no doubt drove the decision-making process) and constructed of over five million bricks it still hadn't been finished when the Civil war broke out. 

just inside the main gate,
 scanning left to right across the parade ground

the heavy cannon were mounted on top of the earthen embankment without any other protections, their assumed enemy would be ships in the river thus they were not given cover from small arms fire
it was probably assumed that flying brick shards were more of a threat to gun crews than the odd chance of hitting an individual crewman with a cannonball from several hundred yards out to sea

the entirely black paint-job may be regulation for fortress guns,  
I confess that I'm not sure if this is correct

the interior of the officer's quarters adjacent to the main gate

visitors are banned from using the stairway due to a lack of railings
the main barracks building

a rifle port, the wall is free standing and does not contain the earthen embankment

the reason the fort was built here, in the 19th century a ship entering the harbor would be sailing against the prevailing wind and currents and would have been a sitting duck for the fort's cannon

the inside of the wall, 
the footpath runs around the interior with rifle ports at regular intervals along it's circumference

massive pintle-mounted rifles command the waterway and the surrounding flat countryside 
when the fort was built the outer islands were barren sand banks largely devoid of vegetation

I managed to lose my notes but I believe that these are eight inch rifles,
 someone correct me if I'm wrong and I will amend my annotations

the inner face of one of the seaside bastions

a view down into the inner face of the wall from the top of the embankment

another view along the wall from the same position as the previous photo

and a view along the top of the embankment

a gun mount without the carriage and cannon

views down into the courtyard from the top of the embankment 

restoration efforts continue as funds are available,
 barracks are being rebuilt/restored

metal roofs and copious drainage to deal with the tropical downpours that hurricane season brings

I believe that this concrete battery was a later effort to update the fort 

the river is only about three miles across and the navigable channel is much narrower and closer

another view of the inner face of a bastion, all the windows and doors
 would have been closed with massive iron-bound wooden doors and shutters

the foot path was interrupted at each bastion by a covered portal, 
the open doorway would have been sealed with a massive door leaving just the rifle slots open 

the interior of a bastion

looking out into the courtyard from the interior of a bastion, 
the tunnel passes through the earthen embankment

a rifle slot looking along the outer face of the wall

a cannon port looking along the outer face of the wall

the interior of the bastion showing the cannon portal (left) and rifle slot  

a view of the facing bastion, 
the two small dark spots at ground level are the cannon portals
 and the other tall rectangles are rifle slots

more of the later (and very ugly) upgrades

the inside top of one of the seaward bastions, freshly restored 

the stairwell down into the bombproof

another look along the seaward face
the odd gray grate in the bottom of the picture is a vent to dispel smoke from the inside of the bastion

the view across the St. Mary's River

the fort is at the narrowest part of the channel, less than 1200 yards

a passageway through the earthen embankment
 between the parade ground and the footpath inside the wall

the entryway from the parade ground into a bastion 

a view of the top of the embankment from the footpath inside the wall

looking west along the wall from the northern bastion

fields of fire from the northern bastion gun mount
I was standing over the pivot point of the mount 
facing west

and facing east 

the cannon are truly massive

as far as I am aware none of the Third System fort were ever given their full complement of cannon
 I can't imagine a ship having a chance against one if they had,
I think it was Nelson who said "It is a fool of ship's Captain who fights a fort"

one of the features of the Third System that I always found
 odd was that the barracks often over topped the walls, 
making observing the fort easier and offering a flammable and fragile target to attackers

looking down at the parade ground from the northwestern bastion

the sheer number of bricks used is mind-blowing

a view along the inside of the wall

barracks details, they certainly are handsome buildings

interior furnishings were decidedly Spartan

a drawing of the fort displayed in the museum
I wish that had been able to get a better photo of it

the landward approach, the fort is nearly invisible behind the outer rampart

chain and axle for lifting the drawbridge

a view through the main gate

another rifle-port

in the outer ditch on the landward side,
no way in and nowhere to hide, an attacker's nightmare

this view shows just how badly the barracks betrays the fort's location to an attacker

the gateway from inside the earthworks

one of the massive wooden doors

     If you enjoyed this walk-around I have posted several other similar adventures of my Fortified Places Tab


  1. It look like there is a mix of 8 inch and 10 inch Rodman guns. Note the thicker muzzle on the nearest gun in your photo #47.

    1. Thanks for the info

      I took notes while I was there, wrote down everything that was on each cannon (they are very conveniently numbered) for the life of me I can't remember why I didn't just take a picture!