Egmont Key Lighthouse

The present Egmont Key Lighthouse was constructed in 1858 to replace the earlier 1848 lighthouse. Early in the Civil War, Confederate authorities ordered that the lighthouse lens and other equipment be removed for safekeeping. In August 1861, they were removed to Tampa, and then, in April 1862, to Brooksville. In November 1861, Union naval forces occupied Egmont Key and, for the remainder of the war, used the island as a base of operations for the East Gulf Blockading Squadron. They constructed several structures near the lighthouse and a gun battery on the shore facing Tampa. The lighthouse was used by Union forces as a watchtower for locating Confederate blockade runners. In 1864, a hospital for 30 patients was also constructed. Throughout the war, Egmont Key served as a staging area for Union raids and attacks on Tampa and present-day Pinellas County. By February 1862, Egmont Key was also being used as a refuge for runaway slaves and Florida Unionists fleeing Confederate persecution, and for housing Confederate prisoners. Nearly 200 refugees reportedly stayed on the island in 1863 while awaiting transport to Union-held areas. A cemetery was established just south of the lighthouse for the Union sailors who died while on duty there, the great majority from yellow fever. In 1909, their remains were moved to the St. Augustine National Cemetery as part of the nationwide effort to consolidate military burials. During World War II, the top portion of the lighthouse was removed and replaced with a modern beacon on a concrete deck.