Friday, January 14, 2011

January 14, 1861 - The Occupation of Fort Taylor




Fort Taylor (Florida State Archives)
This is part of a month-long series on the secession of Florida, which took place 150 years ago this month.

January 14, 1861

As news of the secession of Florida and the seizures of forts and other facilities by state troops drifted into the island city of Key West, concern grew among the military officers there that an attempt might be made by secessionist forces on Fort Taylor.

Started in 1845 as a defense for the harbor at Key West, Fort Taylor was designed to mount three tiers of artillery and the original structure towered over the harbor. Still under construction by 1861, it was nearing completion. The engineer in charge of the project, Captain E.B. Hunt, had assembled a force of 60 workmen who were loyal to the Union and pledged to defend the fort, as well as 20 artillerymen who had come into the work to drill on artillery.

Fort Taylor in 1861
On January 12th, however, Hunt requested Captain J.M. Brannan of the First U.S. Artillery who was stationed at the nearby Key West Barracks to take military command of the fort in order to prepare for its defense. Brannan moved his small force of men into the fort on January 14, 1861, 150 years ago today:

In consequence of the secession of this State and the seizure of the forts and arsenals in other Southern States, I have moved my command to fort Taylor, and shall defend it to the last moment against any force attempting to capture it. I have four months’ provisions and 70,000 gallons water, but we cannot stand a siege against any organized army, and therefore should be re-enforced immediately. - Captain J.M. Brannan, U.S. Army, January 15, 1865.

The move by Brannan came before state troops could move to occupy Fort Taylor and assured that the fort would remain in Union hands for the duration of the war. Captain Hunt and his men had already mounted 60 guns in the fort before Brannan's company moved in and the fort had become impregnable for all practical purposes.

If you would like to learn more about Fort Taylor, which is now a Florida State Park, please visit: www.forttaylor.org or www.floridastateparks.org/forttaylor.

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