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Fort Jefferson in the Civil War

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Fort Jefferson Fort Jefferson

America's largest coastal fort lies 70 miles west of Key West, which is the furthest point you can drive to at the southern tip of the Florida Keys. This remote spot was chosen to be the site of a fort to guard the entryway to the Gulf of Mexico for ships sailing from the Caribbean, and it became featured prominently in the Civil War. The fort was the subject of a talk by Dr. Michele Williams, a leading member of the Fllorida Public Archeology Network. Her presentation, at the Broward County Library in Fort Lauderdale, focused on its role in the Civil War and a recent archeological dig that sought clues about its past.

These days the fort can be reached by seaplane, but in the 19th century it had to be resupplied regularly by ship from Key West. "There is a constant problem with water,"said Williams. "There is no fresh water. The issue of water and sanitation for just 50 people was not properly addressed until just ten years ago . Imagine what it was like when 1,500 people were crammed into the fort during the Civil War! Sometimes a whole regiment of 1,000 Union troops would arrive at the Fort for a stay often lasting months before they were transferred to Fort Pickens in Pensacola or Fort Taylor in Key West. Williams said Key West, "always stayed Union, while the rest of Florida was Confederate." Despite the surrender of Florida in 1865, it was not officially readmitted to the Union until 1868.

Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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