Fort De Soto

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Fort De Soto (1898-1948) - Construction of this Endicott Period fort began in fall of 1898 on Mullet Key Island, Florida. Named for Hernando de Soto on 4 Apr 1900. Declared surplus in 1928 but reused during World War II. Finally purchased by Pinellas County, Florida, 11 Aug 1948.

Battery Laidley 12" Mortars
Armstrong 6" Gun
Fort De Soto Hospital Foundations.

Endicott Period (1890-1910)

Part of the Harbor Defense of Tampa Bay.

Originally identified by Ltc. Robert E. Lee in 1849 as a strategic location for guarding Tampa Bay. Construction began in 1898 based on the survey drawn by Lee.

Two reinforced concrete Endicott Period gun batteries were completed, Battery Laidley (1900) and Battery Bigelow (1904). The fort was garrisoned between 1900 and 1922 by Coastal Artillery detachments.

On 25 May 1923, the fort was placed on standby status with a single caretaker and the remaining troops left. In 1928 the islands were first offered for sale by the U.S Government but not actually sold to anyone, both bids received were rejected. The 271-acre reservation on Mullet Key was purchased by Pinellas County, Florida, for $12,500, 29 Sep 1938.

Fort De Soto Endicott Period Battery (edit list)
Click on Battery links below
No. Caliber Type Mount Service Years Battery Cost Notes
Battery Laidley 8 12" Mortar 1898-1900-1900-1931 $ 155,652 4 Mortars to Battery Whistler,
Fort Rosecrans, 1917
4 Mortars still in place
Battery Bigelow 2 3" Masking Parapet 1904-1920 $ 13,980 In the surf
Source: CDSG
Fort De Soto Plan 1921

World War II (1941-1945)

Pinellas County sold the 271-acre tract back to the U.S. Government for $18,404 in 1941 at the beginning of World War II. On 22 Mar 1941 Fort De Soto was designated a sub-post of MacDill Field, Florida, it became an Army Air Force gunnery and bombing training center during the war.

Fort De Soto Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1904-08-16 1905-12-15  Capt. Willcox, Cornélis DeWitt 3061
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Pinellas County bought the original 271-acre tract and an additional 613 acres back from the U.S. Government in 1948 for $26,500. In 1963 Fort De Soto Park was dedicated. Period guns and carriages are now displayed including the only remaining installation of 12", M1890M1 Mortars on M1896M1 Carriages in the U.S. and a display of two 6" British Armstrong guns from Battery Burchsted on Fort Dade (3).

Most of the buildings have just foundational remains.

Location: Mullet Key Island, Pinellas County, Florida

Maps & Images

Lat: 27.61277 Long: -82.73534

GPS Locations:



Visited: 28 Jan 2012, 20 Dec 2009

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