Fort Taylor now stands on Key West. The island became U.S. property when the Navy hoisted an American flag over it in 1822. The Army established a barracks on the north shore of the island in 1831, and in 1845 construction of Fort Zachary Taylor began on the southwest side, on a sandy shoal about 400 yards offshore. Three of the fort's four bastions overlooked and controlled the water approaches to Key West. When the Civil War began in 1861 the post was ready to be garrisoned, and Union forces occupied it during the entire war.
Between the end of the Civil War and the end of the nineteenth century, the Army periodically abandoned and then reopened the installation. In 1870, for example, the Surgeon General reported that the quarters "are not in good condition" and that "the fort is occupied only by a guard." A modernization program between 1898 and 1905 reduced the fort's original three stories to one so that modern coast artillery could be mounted on the original bottom tier. As shown in Eastman's painting, water completely surrounded the fortress during most of its existence, but in the mid 1960s the Navy dredged and filled the area between the fort and Key West, making the installation an integral part of the island. Fort Taylor became a National Historic Landmark in 1968.