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"Fort DeSoto" Fort De Soto Things to Do Tip by Ewingjr98

Fort De Soto Things to Do: 11 reviews and 50 photos

  the data booth
by Ewingjr98
  • the data booth - Fort De Soto
      the data booth
    by Ewingjr98
  • - Fort De Soto
  • - Fort De Soto
  • View from the top of the fort - Fort De Soto
      View from the top of the fort
    by Ewingjr98
  • - Fort De Soto

Robert E. Lee, in 1849, recommended that Mullet and Egmont Keys be fortified. It was not until the Union blockade of Tampa that the islands were occupied from 1861 to 1865. In 1889 a quarantine station was established on Mullet Key for those entering the city via boat; this quarantine site operated until 1937.

Fort DeSoto was constructed from 1898 until 1906 and named for Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Fort DeSoto along with nearby Fort Dade contained batteries of artillery and mortars to protect Tampa Bay from invasion. The fort was only active until 1923, but since 1910 it had been almost totally abandoned. Pinellas County purchased the fort in 1938 , but the government reacquired the fort in 1941 for use as a bombing range. Pinellas County repurchased the island in 1948, and it was connected to the mainland in 1962. The park was dedicated the following year in 1963.

Fort DeSoto during the Spanish American War:

The Tampa area was an essential staging area for the troops heading off to Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War in 1898. The seeds of this war were in the Cuban independence movement and the eventual sinking of the USS Maine. The war against Spain began on May 1, 1898, when Commodore Dewey's naval squadron defeated the Spanish squadron at Manila in the Philippines. The war continued with the capture of Guam on May 2, 1898, and the attack on Puerto Rico began on May 12, 1898.

Though the US maintains control over Puerto Rico and Guam until this day, the invasion of Cuba is the most famous chapter in this war's history. Theodore Roosevelt, then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, worked with Colonel Leonard Wood to organize the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, which became known as the "Rough Riders;" Roosevelt was appointed a Lieutenant Colonel and the unit's second in command. On May 29, 1898, 1,060 men of the Rough Riders traveled by rail to Tampa, Florida, where they made camp at various sites in and around the city, alongside some 30,000 other troops sent for the invasion. Seven military camps were established in the Tampa area: Fort DeSoto, Fort Brooke, Palmetto Beach, Tampa Heights, Ybor City, West Tampa, and here at Port Tampa. The fancy Tampa Bay Hotel (now the University of Tampa's Plant Hall) was the headquarters for the expedition while awaiting the invasion of Cuba. In May of 1898 this park on an island called Mullet Key became an overflow camp for some of those preparing for the invasion of Cuba. In November of the same year construction began on Fort DeSoto, much of which is still in its original condition.

In late June, about 15,000 troops sailed to Cuba to begin the assault. The famous Battle of San Juan Hill took place on 1 July 1898, resulting in a siege of the city of Santiago de Cuba. On July 3, the US Navy attacked the Spanish squadron in this port city, destroying the fleet. Yellow fever took a huge toll on the soldiers occupying Cuba, and by early August they were ordered to withdraw from the Island. On August 12, 1898, the Protocol of Peace between the United States and Spain was signed, ending the war.

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  • Updated Sep 27, 2009
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