Monday, December 30, 2013

Fort Jefferson

A few weekends ago, Kevin and I took a trip down to Key West.  It was my first time driving through the keys and visiting the "southernmost point in the continental USA".  It's charming and picturesque.  And loaded with chickens.  But as lovely as Key West is, my ulterior motive for going there was to visit Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas.

Any Lincoln Assassination buff worth his salt will know that Fort Jefferson was the prison where 4 of the Conspirators were sent to initially serve life sentences due to their flimsy participation in both the assassination and/or the failed kidnapping plot that never actually occurred.  One of the conspirators actually died on the island of yellow fever.  Perhaps the most famous prisoner was convicted conspirator Dr. Samuel Mudd.

Visiting Fort Jefferson would culminate my passion for visiting every site and location that had anything to do with the assassination.  I've lost count of the number of times I've been to Ford's Theater and the Peterson House.  I've visited the Surratt Tavern and Dr. Mudd's House, and I've traveled the escape route several times.  I've even visited Tudor Hall, the boyhood home of John Wilkes Booth.  But the one place I never ever thought I would get to see was Fort Jefferson.

Set on a small island about 70 miles off the coast of Key West, the Fort must be accessed by either boat or plane.  For me, being there was something unimaginable.  To be in the same spaces and see the same views and feel the same walls - it's why history is so exciting for me.  And the assassination story and the people involved will never stop fascinating me.  It's a feeling like I described when I visited John Wilkes Booth cemetery plot this past summer:  that when I stood on his gravesite, despite him dying 101 years before I was born, I was now just 6 feet away from him.  That's what gives me goosebumps about history.

I could give you lots of details about Fort Jefferson and our visit, but I will direct you to my friend Dave's website, BoothieBarn.  I took some photos that he posted so that everyone with the same interest could enjoy.  However, I will post here the video that Kevin created for me.  This really means something to me.  It's haunting and lonely and desperate, which is how I imagine the Conspirators - or any prisoner sent to this desolate place - would feel.

video