Fort Pickens
The historic old fort on Santa
Rosa Island was a major U.S.
military post from 1829 until
the close of World War II.
Massive Rodman Gun
Huge cannon like this were
installed at Fort Pickens after
the Civil War.
Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands National Seashore - Pensacola, Florida
Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands National Seashore - Pensacola, Florida
Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands N.S. - Pensacola, Florida
Fort Pickens, Florida
The largest of four forts built to defend Pensacola
Bay, Fort Pickens is located on Santa Rosa Island.
Civil War Fort on Pensacola Bay
Fort Pickens has guarded the entrance of
Florida's Pensacola Bay for more than 175
years. Located on the western tip of Santa
Rosa Island, the fort is part of Gulf Islands
National Seashore.

Built between 1829 and 1834 to defend the
coastal city of
Pensacola and its important
Navy Yard, Fort Pickens was the largest of
the four U.S. forts at Pensacola Bay. With
Fort
McRee on Foster's Bank and Fort Barrancas
on the mainland, it was designed to sweep
the entrance to the bay with cannon fire.

When a threat to the fort finally materialized,
however, it came not from the Gulf of Mexico
but from the mainland. State troops seized
Barrancas and McRee in January of 1861
and then demanded the surrender of Fort
Pickens. Lt. Adam Slemmer refused and it
appeared for a time that the first battle of the
Civil War might be fought for control of the fort.

Violence was averted when officials from
both sides negotiated the Fort Pickens Truce.
Southern troops agreed not to attack the fort
so long as Union forces did not try to
reinforce it.

Federal troops broke the truce following the
attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and
poured additional troops and supplies into
Fort Pickens. The Confederates responded
by assigning General Braxton Bragg to build
an army at Pensacola. Bragg ringed the bay
with artillery batteries and formed an army in
anticipation of a battle for Fort Pickens.

Union sailors and marines precipitated the
fighting at Pensacola Bay when they raided
the Navy Yard and burned the Confederate
privateer
Judah in September of 186. Bragg
responded in October by sending 1,000 man
to attack the camps and outposts of Fort
Pickens.

The
Battle of Santa Rosa Island took place
within sight of the walls of Fort Pickens. The
Confederates were driven off, but both sides
sustained casualties and the camp of the 6th
New York Infantry was partially destroyed.

The battle was followed by a massive artillery
duel that began on November 22, 1861.
Union forces opened fire on the mainland
Confederate fortifications from both Fort
Pickens and warships offshore. Southern
troops responded and for two days the firing
of heavy artillery shook the ground for miles
around.

Fort McRee, exposed to fire from Fort Pickens
in front and the Union navy in rear, was
heavily damaged. Fort Pickens, however,
was not seriously damaged. Neither was
Fort Barrancas, although Bragg reported that
the bombardment was one of the heaviest in
the history of the world.
The two sides exchanged fire again in
January of 1862, but the second
bombardment was much smaller than the
first.

The Confederates evacuated Pensacola in
May of 1862, but Fort Pickens continued to
serve as an important Union post and also
held some Confederate prisoners.

Fort Pickens was used as a prison for
Geronimo and other Apaches in the years
after the Civil War. Additional batteries and
other defenses were constructed in and
around the fort over the years and it remained
an important military post until 1947.

One corner of the fort was blown up in an
accidental explosion during the late 1800s. It
is said that bricks flew all the way across the
bay to the mainland.

Fort Pickens and many batteries dating from
the Spanish-American War, World War I and
World War II eras are now preserved as part
of Gulf Islands National Seashore, which
includes the western seven miles of Santa
Rosa Island.

To reach Fort Pickens from Pensacola
Beach, just head west on Fort Pickens Road
for 10 miles. You will enter the park and
continue on to the fort. Fort Pickens is open
from 7 a.m. until sunset daily. The entrance
fee to the national park is $8 and is good for
one week.

Please click here to visit the official National
Park Service website.
The Lowered Walls
Part of the fort was lowered
when a new concrete battery
was installed on the parade
ground during the 1890s.
Ramparts of Fort Pickens
The cannon of the fort
returned the fire of Southern
troops on the mainland.
Walls of Fort Pickens
Pensacola Bay is visible
behind this cannon atop the
walls of Fort Pickens.
Copyright 2012 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated:
January 1, 2014
Historic Forts in Florida