ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Bateria de San Antonio, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Bateria de San Antonio, Florida
|Bateria de San Antonio
Completed in 1798, the historic Spanish Water
Battery is a surviving masonry fortification from
Pensacola's colonial era.
Bateria de San Antonio
A model in the Visitor Center
at Fort Barrancas shows the
Water Battery as it appears
Spanish Water Battery
Cannon mounted on the
rampart of the battery could
skip solid shot across the
water and into enemy ships.
Bateria de San Antonio - Pensacola, Florida
Water Battery of Fort Barrancas
|Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Update: July 19, 2012
Colonial Forts of the South
Stairs lead to the top of the
bombproof. Infantrymen were
stationed there to defend the
battery during times of attack.
The wood-lined gunpowder
magazine of the Bateria de
San Antonio was restored by
the National Park Service.
Bateria de San Antonio
Fort Barrancas rises above
the white walls of the Water
Battery. Spanish, U.S. and
Confederate forces all made
use of the fortification.
The Bateria de San Antonio, also called the
Spanish Water Battery of Fort Barrancas, is a
historic masonry fortification at Pensacola
Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.
Now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore,
the battery dates from the colonial era and is
open to the public daily. It is accessed via a
tunnel from Fort Barrancas.
The history of Bateria de San Antonio can be
traced back to the American Revolution. The
British, who then controlled Florida, had built
a fort atop the red clay bluffs or barrancas of
Pensacola Bay. Called the Royal Navy
Redoubt, this fort was designed to prevent
enemy warships from sailing into the bay.
In 1781, however, the Spanish fleet of
Bernardo de Galvez stormed into Pensacola
Bay suffering little damage from the guns of
the redoubt. The general's allied forces went
on to capture Pensacola in one of the least
known but most significant battles of the
It turned out that the Royal Navy Redoubt was
a strong fortification, but its position high on
the bluff had rendered it fire ineffective. The
Spanish, who regained Florida at the end of
the American Revolution, learned from their
success and when they rebuilt the fort on the
barrancas they employed a significantly
Beginning in 1793, they built Fort San Carlos
de Barrancas on the bluff. The primary fort
was a bastioned work of earth and logs that
stood where Fort Barrancas can be seen
today. The Spanish invested their greatest
expense and labor not in the primary fort,
however, but in a masonry water battery that
stood below it closer to the level of the bay.
Called the Bateria de San Antonio (in English
the "Battery of St. Anthony"), the water battery
was of semi-circular design. Its curved face
was a modern architectural feature of that
day that allowed the cannon of the battery a
maximum field of fire against enemy ships
should they move into the bay.
Because the Bateria's cannon were mounted
near the level of Pensacola Bay, they could
send cannonballs skipping across the
surface of the bay and into the sides of ships.
This would make them much more effective
than the guns of the Royal Navy Redoubt had
been during the American Revolution.
The curving rampart of the battery was low
and a second level of cannon in the main fort
above could fire directly across the top of it at
any enemy that attempted to storm the bay. It
is true that the log and earth was of Fort San
Carlos de Barrancas did not possess the
strength of the masonry rampart of Bateria de
San Antonio below, but combined they could
sweep the bay with cannon fire and offered
the Spanish an affordable means of defense.
Inside the fort was a bombproof, also of
masonry construction, which provided shelter
for men, ammunition and supplies during an
Completed in 1797, the Bateria is the third
oldest standing fortification in Florida and
one of the oldest in the continental United
States. Among Florida forts still to be seen
today, only the Castillo de San Marcos and
Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine are older.
The earth and long design of San Carlos de
Barrancas caused it to deteriorate quickly. It
required constant repair and rebuilding, but
the water battery was much easier and less
expensive to maintain.
In 1814, despite Spain's declared neutrality
in the War of 1812, British troops were given
permission by the Governor of Pensacola to
occupy San Carlos de Barrancas and other
defenses of the city. After Pensacola was
used as a base of operation for the British
attack on Fort Bowyer at Mobile Bay, the irate
Americans struck back.
Led by Major General Andrew Jackson, U.S.
troops stormed Pensacola on November 7,
1814. Jackson then set his sights on the
...[O]n the 8th I was preparing to storm
Barancas, when I heard several explosions in
that direction, detached 200 men with one of
my aids, who returned in the night with the
information that the Forts was Blown up all
combustible matter consumed, the cannon
spiked and dismounted except two, and the
Village adjoining Burnt.
The British left and the Americans quickly
withdrew as well. The two forces battled
again two months later at the Battle of New
The Bateria de San Antonio was quickly
repaired and the Spanish rebuilt the log and
earth fort on the top of the bluff. Less than
four years alter, however, Andrew Jackson
returned to Pensacola.
The First Seminole War erupted in November
1817 when U.S. soldiers attacked a village of
Lower Creek Indians, sparking the Battle of
Fowltown. Native American forces retaliated
at the Scott Massacre of 1817 during which
34 soldiers, 6 women and four children were
Ordered to the frontier, General Jackson
invaded Florida where he defeated the
Indians at the Battle of Miccosukee, took the
Spanish post of San Marcos de Apalache
(Fort St. Marks) and overran the Seminole
village of Suwannee Old Town. Learning that
warriors were being supplied by the Spanish
at Pensacola, he marched west across the
Florida Panhandle and occupied Pensacola.
The Spanish governor, Jose Masot, withdrew
to the Barrancas with his command. Jackson
followed and positioned cannon to bombard
the fort. With his forces ready for battle, the
American general demanded the surrender
of the fort. Masot refused and on the morning
of May 28, 1818, as U.S. troops built ladders
to scale the walls of the fort and the Bateria
de San Antonio, the Spanish cannon opened
The battle was brief. Having defended the
honor of his flag, Masot surrendered later in
the day. American troops held Pensacola
until that winter when the city was once again
returned to the Spanish.
The Bateria de San Antonio became an
American fortification for good on July 17,
1821. Florida had been ceded by Spain to the
United States and the Spanish flag came
down over the battery for the last time.
Recognizing the need for stronger defenses
of Pensacola Bay, the United States built a
series of strong masonry fortifications there.
As part of a new plan for the defense of the
Barrancas, work was initiated to modernize
the old Spanish water battery. Beginning in
1839, construction crews added a rear wall
to the battery, mounted cannon en barbette
on its ramparts and built an infantry gallery
on top of the bombproof from which soldiers
could use musket fire on any attacking force.
On the site of the earlier log and earth forts,
the Americans built Fort Barrancas, a strong
masonry fortification. Combined with the
reconditioned Water Battery, it functioned with
Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island and Fort
McRee on Foster's Bank to sweep the bay
with fire from hundreds of cannon.
In January 1861 Fort Barrancas and the
Water Battery were seized by State forces
after the U.S. troops assigned to garrison
them withdrew to Fort Pickens. Confederate
soldiers held the forts at the Barrancas until
1862. U.S. troops returned when Southern
forces evacuated Pensacola the Stars and
Stripes once again flew over the battery.
Beautifully restored by the National Park
Service, the old Spanish fortification is now
part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. With
Fort Barrancas, through which it must be
accessed, the Bateria de San Antonio is
open to the public daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:45
p.m. in March - October and from 8:30 a.m. to
3:45 p.m. in November - February.
The two forts are free to visit and feature a
visitor center, picnic area and walking trails.
Please click here for more information.
Light in the Tunnel
The Bateria de San Antonio or
Water Battery is connected to
Fort Barrancas by a tunnel
that provides the only access
into the old Spanish work.