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Historic Fort Jefferson

June 13, 2021

Fort Jefferson was built to protect one of the most strategic deepwater harbors off the coast of the United States on Garden Key island in the Dry Tortugas National Park.  It helped to protect the peace and prosperity of a young nation. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. National Park Service photos including by D. Diaz  and Glenn Gardner.)
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Fort Jefferson was built to protect one of the most strategic deepwater harbors off the coast of the United States on Garden Key island (about 14 acres) in the Dry Tortugas National Park. And while its construction involved nearly 30 years (1846-1875) ... it was never finished nor fully armed.

Yet, it was a vital link in a chain of coastal forts that stretched from Maine to California. Fort Jefferson, the most sophisticated of these, was a brilliant and undeniable symbol that the United States wanted to be left alone. And while passing ships could easily avoid the largest of Fort Jefferson’s guns, they could not avoid the warships that used its harbor.

Though never attacked, the fort fulfilled its intended role. It helped to protect the peace and prosperity of a young nation.

Note ... In enemy hands, the Tortugas would have threatened the heavy ship traffic that passed between the Gulf Coast (including New Orleans, Mobile and Pensacola) and the eastern seaboard of the United States. It could also serve as a potential staging area, or "springboard" for enemy forces. From here they could launch an attack virtually anywhere along the Gulf Coast.

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Dry Tortugas National Park ...The remote 100-square mile park is located about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The park is mostly open water with seven small islands, including Garden Key. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the Dry Tortugas is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequents the area.

Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. National Park Service photos including by D. Diaz  and Glenn Gardner.

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