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Amelia Island:
The Isle of 8 Flags—Georgia Burial Mounds— French, Spanish, British, & Civil War Forts

By Dr. Greg Little

Florida’s Amelia Island, with the town of Fernandina Beach as its main site, has a storied past and is thought to be the only US locale that has had eight different flags. The island is located in extreme northeast Florida near Jacksonville. A native tribe called the Timucuan inhabited the island when the first Europeans arrived in 1562. The Timucuans were tall with some of the leaders said to be at least 7-feet tall. Modern archaeologists now dispute that depiction by alleging that the natives took their long hair and arranged it somewhat like a beehive making them look taller. The island is about 13 miles long and 4 miles wide at its widest point. There are numerous burial mounds and shell mounds scattered around especially in the natural and park areas.

French Huguenots arrived in 1562 and were greeted by the Timucuans. They established Fort Caroline and a replica of the fort stands close to the original site. In 1562 the Spanish attacked Fort Caroline and killed nearly all the French either at the fort or shortly thereafter when some French escaped on boats but were stranded on a small island. Another fort, called Fort San Carlos, was built in 1816 by the Spanish near present day Fernandina Beach in what is called Old Town. That fort has all but disappeared.

Starting in 1736 a strategic part of the island (now a massive park strewn with sand/shell burial mounds) was used as a military base. In 1847 construction of a brick fort was begun at this site, now a federal park. Fort Clinch is shaped like a pentagon and consists of over 5 million bricks. It is in full restoration today and was never assaulted meaning that it remains intact as a tourist site. It served as a Civil War site, a fort during the Spanish American War, and as a security post during World War II.

Sunday, June 16, 2024