In 1898, the United States became involved in a conflict in Cuba, which led to the Spanish American War. This event prompted the citizens of Tampa to demand military defenses for Tampa Bay. The first signs of construction on the Mullet Key military post began in November 1898. On April 4, 1900, the military fort was named Fort De Soto after the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto. Battery Laidley was the primary defense for Fort De Soto. It contained eight, 12-inch M 1890-MI mortars with a maximum range of 6.8 miles at 45-degree elevation. The guns were manufactured by Watervliet Arsenal of Watervliet, New York. The battery had two observation points. When a ship was sighted, the coordinates were
Military - Historic - Forts and Batteries
relayed to the relocating room and that information was then sent to the data booth, where it was posted for the gun crews to view. At that time, the guns would be readied for firing. Each gun required a 12-man crew to manually load and aim it. The guns had a 54-pound powder charge, which was put in after the projectile was loaded. The guns were fired either electrically or manually. Electricity was provided by generator, located in the dynamo room.