Thanks to a partnership between Key West Art & Historical Society, Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, some 600 area students have the opportunity to explore coastal fortification history through a series of upcoming in-class and field trip activities and events. On Friday, February 2, students will visit Fort Zachary Taylor, the Civil War headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s East Gulf Coast Blockading Squadron, to participate in Civil War Days, an annual living history event running through February 4 that portrays life at a Federal fortress during the years 1861-1862.
On Saturday, February 3 and Sunday, February 4, students and their parents can return to the Fort independently to attend 1:00pm presentations by law professor, practicing criminal attorney, historian and Civil War reenactor Lt Col Bernie Siler. Sponsored by The Society, Siler’s Saturday presentation is titled, “A Harsh Reckoning: the Trial and Sentencing of the Lincoln Conspirators.” His Sunday “African Americans in the Naval Forces” presentation will focus on the experience of thousands of African-American’s who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
During America’s deadliest war, Key West stood as a central force for blockade efforts along the Gulf of Mexico. Though there were more than 237 named battles between the Confederate and Union States, during the four-year war that spanned over thousands of locations, no blood was shed on or around the island.
“It’s important to share the story of our Third System of Coastal Fortifications with students of Key West,” commented Adele Williams, Society Director of Education. “The construction of the Forts and Martello towers were part of the most ambitious project undertaken by the government since independence. This historical immersion is part of The Society’s commitment to youth programming—educational initiatives that aim to inspire a greater sense of place and historical understanding about our island home. Our other youth-based initiatives include ArtCamp!, Museums & Me, Professional Day workshops, and continued educational outreach partnerships with the National and State Park services.”
Prior to Civil War Days at Fort Zachary Taylor, popular Key West-based historic reenactor Rick “Deadeye” Wheelus will conduct in-school presentations to prepare students for the experience. Later in the year, select classes will also visit Fort Jefferson, the largest all-masonry fort in the Western Hemisphere, once garrisoned by Union troops.
For more information, contact Adele Williams, Society Director of Education, at 305.295.6616 extension 115. Detailed descriptions of the various youth program sessions offered and registration information can be found at KWAHS.ORG/EDUCATION. Your museums. Your community. It takes an island.