KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The roar of cannon fire and the sight of soldiers in Civil War uniforms are to greet visitors at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Friday though Sunday, Feb. 26-28, when the annual Civil War Heritage Days festival transforms the fort into a mid-1860s encampment.
Key West was the only Deep South port that remained in Union hands throughout the Civil War. Fort Zachary Taylor was a vital base for the Union blockade of Confederate ships, and blockade runners captured by Union vessels were forced to anchor in the waters just off the fort.
During the family-friendly festival, re-enactors in period costume are to depict Union and Confederate military personnel, merchants, craftsmen, musicians and civilians of the era. Both Union and Confederate camps will be established on the grounds of the fort and park.
The festival’s main event is a re-created sea battle, set for the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 27, between land forces and blockade runners attempting to escape.
Re-enactors portraying Union and Confederate troops are to board historic Key West vessels to do battle in the waters off the fort. During the fray, a blockade runner is to be captured, followed by the trial of the captain based on an actual 1862 court case.
Other scheduled events include arms inspections, demonstrations of seacoast artillery, re-creations of military maneuvers, period crafts demonstrations and living history demonstrations of “the art of soldiering” and 1860s medical techniques. Re-enactors will host special activities for school groups Friday, Feb. 26.
Friday night’s scheduled highlight is a candlelight tour of the historic fort, while Saturday night is to feature a period dance. Both are open to the public.
Civil War Heritage Days is presented by the Friends of Fort Zachary Taylor, a nonprofit citizen support organization. Festival events take place in the fort, in the surrounding 56-acre state park and in the waters bordering the park.
Fort Taylor and the park can be accessed from an entrance on Southard Street past Thomas Street. Daily entrance fees, which include a pass allowing visitors to leave and return, are $2.50 per person on foot or bicycle, $4.50 for a single-occupant motorized vehicle and $7 for a vehicle carrying two people with a 50-cent charge for each additional passenger. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free.
There are no additional charges for admission to festival events.
For more information, call 305-292-6713 or 305-292-6850. For lodging information in Key West, contact the Key West Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-LAST-KEY (800-527-8539), or visit the Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com.