A 19th-century masonry coastal fortification, Fort Clinch was built as part of the Third System of seacoast defense by the United States. The fort is located on a peninsula near the northernmost point of Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida. It lies to the northeast of Fernandina Beach at the entrance to the Cumberland Sound in Florida.
First fortified in 1736 by the Spanish when they held the colonies in Florida. From 1936 on, various nations controlled have garrisoned and fortified the site to protect the entrance to the St. Marys River and Cumberland Sound. At the end of the Second Seminole War, the United States started construction on the fort, and in 1847 named in Fort Clinch. The name was to honor General Duncan Lamont Clinch after his death in 1849. General Clinch fought in the War of 1812 and was an important figure in the First and Second Seminole Wars. With a pentagonal shape, both inner and outer walls consist of almost five million bricks.
In early 1861, Confederate forces seized the fort and used it as a haven for Confederate blockade runners during the first year of the Civil War. With the development of the rifled cannon and improved weaponry, the fort’s brick walls were vulnerable to attacks and thus became obsolete. Robert E. Lee in March 1862 ordered the abandonment of the fort to use scarce troops in other areas. In early 1862, federal troops re-occupied the fort taking control of the adjacent Georgia and Florida coasts. The base was used as Union operations in the area throughout the Civil War.
In 1869, the fort was placed on caretaker status and remained so until 1898. At that point, the Army garrisoned it during the short Spanish-American War. By September of that year, the Army abandoned the fort again. Gradually, the fort deteriorated.
As one of the projects for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, workers began the restoration of the fort. By 1935, the fort was restored to the Civil War era and the State of Florida bought 256 acres, which included the abandoned fort.
Finally, in 1972 the fort was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. State Park personnel reenact military life at the fort as a Union base during the American Civil War. The park is open from 8:00 a.m. until sundown, year-round.