As the last part of my St. Pete adventure, I stopped at Fort De Soto to admire the M-1890-M1 12-inch mortars. I’m an eighth-generation Boston Yankee and I was brought up around various Revolutionary and Civil War fortifications and monuments. No summer was complete without taking a boat ride to George’s Island to crawl around Fort Warren, former home to Confederate prisoners of war.
I always thought that the prison trumped the Freedom Trail, with anything having to do with armaments or their accessories most exciting of all. I am the true daughter of a General and I come by it honestly. Give me a replica powder keg over a reproduction piece of table flatware any day.
Fort De Soto was built between 1898-1906 at the mouth of Tampa Bay. The fort’s purpose was to guard Tampa Bay during the Spanish-American War. I parked my car and walked around the battery and then up to the top of the fort, which had wonderful views of both St. Pete and the Gulf of Mexico. I started up the stairway behind three people who were a few years older than I am, and I am ashamed to admit that I did not practice proper stairway etiquette. They, as is the accepted custom, hugged the right-hand side of the stairway, but they were slow and kept pausing to look at some of the vegetation. When they stopped, so did I. One of the women kept turning back to look at me each time the male in the group noticed a special bug or a pattern of decay on a leaf. After the fourth time (and at about the tenth step) I took out my camera and photographed the leaf and then, seeing the chance for a quick getaway (this skill inherent in my genetic code), zoomed up the left-hand side of the stairway two steps at a time. Uphhh! What’s the hurry? said the other woman in the leaf-observing group. I could tell what she was thinking: Fort De Soto was for leisure, not for frantic rushing to be first to the top.
Once atop the fort, national pride swelled when I saw the American flag waving to the east of the fort. I liked this reminder of right and might at a popular beach getaway, although I did keep in mind that what was right to some people may well be very wrong to others. I was just about to pop a quarter into one of those giant old-fashioned binocular machines when one of the leaf-observers paid me back for cutting their group off on way up by cutting me off at the binoculars. In went coin after coin and I wandered off to take some more pictures of trees and shrubs. In the distance I saw what looked to be a pretty spectacular pier, but realizing I had a nearly three-hour drive home made me cut two of the leaf-observers off again as I hopped down the stairs at the southern side of the fort.
Social conventions aside, my visit to Fort De Soto was thoroughly enjoyable. I plan to go back after mosquito season, mosquitoes being the main reason that the fort was unbearable in the summer for the troops stationed there.
This secluded little beach was on the west side of the road into Fort De Soto. It faced what looked to be a appealingly sheltered campground. So attractive was the campground that it made me want to go RV-ing. I have officially become a Floridian.
Two of the 12-inch mortars. Please note that when I first read about the mortars and did not quite grasp that the size referred to the mortar barrel, I thought, That’s pretty small.
Although I’m sure nature puts on a spectacular fireworks show, this would not be the place to watch it.
Looking down into the gun pit.