Spanish-American War Memorial, Plant Park, University of Tampa


This historic cannon in Plant Park faces Kennedy Blvd. An impressive turn-of-the-century coastal defense gun, it memorializes the important role Tampa played in 1898 during the Spanish American War and symbolically points south towards Cuba.

The inscription on the cannon's monumental base describes it as an eight-inch (203 mm) gun on a "disappearing carriage" taken from Fort Dade, an old coast defense fort on Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Up until World War II, this was true.  After World War II, it became false.



George Dewey (December 26, 1837 – January 16, 1917) was an admiral of the United States Navy, often referred to by historians as the "hero of Manila." He is best known for his victory in the Spanish territory of the Philippines (without the loss of a single life of his own forces due to combat; one man died of heat stroke) at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. He was also the only person in the history of the United States to have attained the rank of Admiral of the Navy, the most senior rank in the United States Navy.
The USS Maine was a second-class pre-dreadnought 19th-century battleship of the United States Navy which exploded and sank in Havana Harbor, Cuba, on February 15, 1898.  The sinking precipitated the Spanish–American War and also popularized the phrase Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain! Two hundred and sixty-six men lost their lives as a result of the explosion, and eight more died later from injuries. Captain Charles Sigsbee and most of the officers survived because their quarters were in the aft portion of the ship. Altogether, there were only 89 survivors, 18 of whom were officers. Originally thought to be caused by a Spanish mine, in subsequent years the cause of the sinking of the Maine became the subject of much speculation. The cause of the explosion that sank the ship remains an unsolved mystery.



The true story of this cannon is a bit more complicated than the inscription describes. The original Fort Dade gun described on the base was placed in Plant Park in November 1927, but was donated to a steel scrap drive during World War II. Following the war, this eight-inch (203 mm) cannon of similar vintage was obtained from Fort Morgan, Alabama and installed on the 1927 memorial's vacant plinth. The new gun is mounted on the top portion of a 1918 railway gun carriage dating from World War I rather than the "disappearing carriage" of the original Fort Dade cannon.



This 1930 photo of the memorial in Plant Park shows the original cannon from Ft. Dade on its original mount.


The 8-inch cannon in place on its disappearing carriage at battery McIntosh, Ft. Dade, Egmont Key, 1918




Fort Dade was a military outpost on Egmont Key.  Egmont key was first surveyed by Spanish explorers in 1757. In 1761, the English named the island Egmont Key for the Earl of Egmont. With the rest of Florida, it passed back and forth between Spain and England and finally to the United States in 1827.  In 1847, concerns with hazardous navigation at the mouth of Tampa Bay led the construction of the first lighthouse. The Great Gale of 1848 swamped the island and all but destroyed the lighthouse.  In 1858, the lighthouse was replaced.

Defense considerations during the Spanish-American War in 1898 led to the construction of Fort Dade.  Being a sister fort to Fort Desoto it saw little to no action. The island was used as a Seminole prison at one time.  The mosquitoes made living there unbearable at times.




8-inch Gun Railway Mount M1918

Originally this gun was mounted on a rail car, however, it was removed from the car for display here.  It was designed during WW1 to take advantage of the large number of 8-inch disappearing guns emplaced in our coast defenses that were rapidly being outranged by the weapons found on ships. By removing them from their the disappearing carriages and mounting them on railway carriages, they could be used in France as heavy artillery during WW1. However, the war ended before they were fully fielded.  After WW1, these weapons were utilized as mobile seacoast guns by the Coast Artillery. They could be utilized at many locations along the coasts, and were relatively easy to move and prepare for firing. The railway carriages had heavy "outriggers" that would brace the carriage against the shock of the gun firing, and prevent damage to the tracks.

See more photos of this memorial, the source of information about this cannon.





Dedicated to Thomas H. Derrick, department commander of Florida United Spanish War Veterans, 1934-1935, by Department Auxiliary, U.S.W.V,
June 19, 1935.



Minarets of the H.B. Plant Museum, just behind the war memorial.



The cannon points just to the left of the Falk Theatre, across Kennedy Blvd, formerly the Park Theare.  Park Theatre was opened in 1928 as a vaudeville/movie theatre. During the 1940's it was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary E.J. Sparks. By the early 50s, it was part of the Wometco chain.  In 1962 it became the David Falk Memorial Theatre, operated by the University of Tampa as a performance facility.  Falk/Park Theatre at Historic Theatres in Tampa



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