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Fort Jefferson

Watercolor of Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortuga, Florida

The fort was started in 1846 and never completed. It served as a military prison during the civil war. Its most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd who set John Wilkes Booth’s leg after he shot President Lincoln. During a severe outbreak of yellow fever at the fort, Mudd cared for the many sick and was eventually pardoned.

It was sprinkling soon after we arrived. We walked the moat that surrounds the fort before going inside. I sat in one of the archways to paint the inner grounds of the six-sided building. Between March and December these little keys host nesting sooty terns and brown noddies… thousands of them. Also brown boobies and roseate terns. We didn’t see any of these, just the ever present frigate birds floating silently above, and the ghosts of desolate prisoners.

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