Fort Jefferson is built on a remote island in the middle of nowhere. It’s way out there, even via today’s modern transportation. Imagine the year 1846, when construction on the fort began. Why did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers build a fort in the middle of nowhere?
If you look a map of the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits, you may be able to answer this question yourself. It’s a strategic location for shipping channels that run from the New Orleans area of the upper Gulf , around the Florida Keys, and up the Eastern Seaboard. In the 1800s, it was easier to ship goods via this route than to carry them across land.
Another look at the map shows that Fort Jefferson is ideally located to protect the United States from ships cruising near its southern boundaries. Dry Tortugas was also an important deep water anchorage. Ships from all over the world would stop here to get shelter from storms, resupply, or fix their vessels. By controlling the Dry Tortugas, the U. S. controlled one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
U.S. warships anchored here and served as a reminder of who was in control of the area. If Fort Jefferson were to fall into enemy hands, the U.S. would have faced threats and danger. The fort would have served as a staging area for warships to attack the mainland. The entire Gulf Coast would have been threatened.
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