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Exploring North Brevard History - Titusville, Florida
Compiled by Michael Knight for our Facebook Page

Fort Ann

Fort Ann was one of approximately two hundred forts that were established during the Seminole Wars. Located near the present-day Kennedy Space Center, the fort may have been the only Seminole War fort established within the confines of the modern boundaries of Brevard County. It was situated beside the Indian River and served as a garrison for United States troops as well as a depot for supplies and equipment. Two participants in the war kept journals and wrote about events that occurred during late 1837 and 1838.

In 1837, General Thomas Sidney Jesup began a military offensive against the Seminoles in order to drive them deeper into the swamps of southern Florida. In command of Jesup’s eastern column was Brigadier General Joseph Hernandez, a native Floridian who established a series of forts along the Atlantic coast.

From New Smyrna, General Hernandez sent a force overland and another by water to find a narrow strip of land that was being used to “haul over” boats and canoes from the Mosquito Lagoon to the Indian River. It was his intention to erect a fortified depot to supply troops continuing down the river. The two forces met at the Haulover.

With some 20 naval personnel manning flatboats, 225 infantry and artillery officers and enlisted men were barged down the waterway. The expedition saw shorelines that “lay in all wilderness of nature: in some spots towering forests rose: the perennial palmetto – the russet-trunked pine – the silver shafted water oak, and a variety of other trees proudly tossed their heads in the wind… “However, when they came to the Haulover area, the landscape changed dramatically, becoming an “open prairie” with little more than sawgrass and scrub palm. After moving over the narrow strip of land from the lagoon, the expedition established a camp on the Indian River side. The lack of woods at the site would limit the building of a defensive structure, even though “a wilderness of cypress and pine forests” existed six miles away across the river.

The expedition reached the Haulover on November 30, 1837. From this date until Christmas 1837, the troops at the Haulover probably lived in tents and enjoyed no other entertainment than military drill by Lt. Col. Pierce. When Lt. Powell arrived with another expedition, he had with him 200 sailors, marines and soldiers. This increased the number of troops in camp on Christmas day to over 400. General Hernandez arrived with an additional 500 troops on December 26, 1837.

The construction of the fort appears in the journals of two eyewitnesses to the event and is described in somewhat different terms. Jacob Mott was a physician who was assigned to the 1st Artillery. Major Reynold M. Kirby commanded a wing of the 1st Artillery.

Dr. Mott sailed with the troops down the waterway and arrived at the Haulover on November 30, 1837. Although he returned with the boats the following day for more supplies to New Smyrna, he was back in camp the next day. After General Hernandez left the camp for the other side of the river on December 7th, Mott records camp life as one of storytelling, hunting and military drill: “still more monotonous; nothing doing, nothing done.” Only the arrival of Lt. Powell and the naval expedition a few days after the main force arrived provided any relief from the boredom of the camp.

Christmas day was a festive occasion for the troops with feasting and music. It is only after the holiday that Mott first mentions anything about a “fort.” He records the building of the fort: “In consequence of our anticipated departure, Lt. Irving of the 1st Artillery was ordered to superintend the erection of some kind of fortification at the Haulover, capable of being defended by one company, which were to remain as a guard when we had left.” This passage is sandwiched between the account of Lt. Powell’s departure with his command on the morning of December 26, 1837 and the alarm from General Hernandez’ camp signifying the arrival of Tennessee Volunteers which occurred on the evening of the same date. The implication is that Lt. Irwin received his order to build a fort on December 26. It further implies that Irwin would have had no more than 4 days to build his fort, since he himself departed the site on December 30, 1837 with the same expedition that carried off Dr. Mott. Lt. Irwin named Fort Ann for “the sweetest girl in Pennsylvania.”

Major Kirby arrived at the Haulover on December 3rd in a supply boat. His account of the building is as ambiguous as that of Dr. Mott. He states: “Completion of the stockade fort being erected at the Haulover was ordered on the 9th of December, to be followed by the erection of another fort on the west bank of the river.” Kirby says nothing else about the fort. No description is given in his journal as to where the trees came from for the construction of the stockade. Certainly, trees were not present at the time in the immediate area of the haulover site. Yet trees were in abundance across the river at Camp Hernandez. To construct a stockade at Fort Ann would have to have been cut on the western side of the Indian River and boated across to the eastern side. Kirby wrote in great detail about the comings and goings of the boats for supplies to different forts.

Unfortunately, he did not leave us with any account of the transportation of timber for the construction of the fort. In addition, no evidence was given for a fort on the western shore of the Indian River either in the two journals or from any “Post Returns” from a camp or Fort Hernandez.

In 1880, J. Francis LeBaron surveyed the area surrounding Fort Ann and drew a map showing an outline of the fort with three sides or curtains and bastions on each of two corners. The fourth side was the Indian River. Within the outline of the sides, LeBaron writes the words parapet and ditch. He titled the outline on the map as “Fort Ann” and encloses the word “earthwork” in parentheses immediately after the title. He also notes the presence of a “glacis 3 to 4 ft. above the terreplein.” The bastions, glacis, and the terreplein are indications of a sophisticated design to the fort. Traditional fort design at the time of the Seminole Wars suggest that Fort Ann probably had pushed up earth around a ditch which in turn was in front of a wooden stockade-like barrier. Behind the barrier was more “pushed up” earth to form a parapet upon which troops would stand to fire over the stockade.

Whatever the design and construction of Fort Ann, it was substantial enough to ward off any potential attack and protect the considerable supplies that were stores there for the establishment of Forts Pierce and Jupiter. The fort was a beehive of intense activity as a depot during the first four months of 1838. Troops from General Hernandez’ campaign returned to Fort Ann on land and in boats innumerable times to obtain provisions for troops fighting in the “everglades” and for those garrisoned at Fort Pierce and Fort Jupiter. According to both Kirby and Mott, United States troops owed their existence to the supplies from Fort Ann.

In April, 1838, the Army abandoned the post at Fort Ann by General Order. Although troops were no longer stationed at the fort, the site may have played a role in another war. Georgianna Kjerulff recounts a story about Fort Ann being used as a Union camp during the Civil War. The former Vice-President of the Confederacy, John O. Breckenridge, was said to have slipped by two Union camps on the Indian River, one at Fort Ann and one at Fort Hernandez, in order to escape to Cuba after the conflict was over. Kjerulff maintains that these camps remained until the hostilities had ended between the North and the South.

Whether or not Kjerulff’s account is apocryphal, Kirby and Mott’s journals give us a glimpse of Fort Ann as an important fort, however temporary, during the Second Seminole War. After the Civil War, the site at Fort Ann had one last useful period. W. F. Futch established a house within the walls of the fort. Apparently the fort was large because it enclosed not only his home, but also an orange grove. Unfortunately, the fort site is on federal land and not open to the general public.

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