FORT JEFFERSON IN DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK The Otter Float Plane was awaiting us and about 8 other adventurers and we took off on time. The flight lasted 40 minutes and was spectacular. We flew at 500 ft. so the limpid green and blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico were beautiful. The calm seas afforded us clear views of green turtles, sharks, manta rays, and two submerged wrecks. The fort itself is one of the largest ever built—its interior parade ground alone covers 13 acres. A 19 th century creation, 30 years were consumed in its construction and it was never completed (1846-1875) or fully armed. The original purpose was to protect one of this most strategic deep water harbors in the US. Ships used that harbor for moorage on their constant patrolling of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits. Ft. Jefferson was never actually fired upon. During the Civil War the Union used the fort to support its blockades again Southern shipping. It was also used as a prison for Union deserters and its most famous inmate, Dr. Samuel Mudd, who made the egregious mistake of setting John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg, suffered during his escape after assassinating Abraham Lincoln.
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