Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fort Pickens - Santa Rosa Island, Florida

Fort Pickens
Battered over the years by hurricane, war and even a massive accidental explosion, the old brick walls of Fort Pickens continue to defy man and the elements at the western end of Florida's beautiful Santa Rosa Island.

Surrounded by the most beautiful beaches in the world, the brick walls of the historic fort stand in stark contrast to the gleaming white sands that attract millions of visitors to Northwest Florida each year. It is a little known fact that Fort Pickens was almost the spot where the Civil War began 150 years ago.

Aware that state troops from Alabama and Florida were gathering to seize the fortifications at Pensacola Bay, Lieutenant Adam J. Slemmer of the U.S. Army moved his tiny garrison across the bay from Fort Barrancas on the mainland to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island in January of 1861. With fewer than 100 men, he held the fort and refused three demands that he surrender from Colonel William H. Chase, who commanded the growing force of Southern troops arrayed against the fort.

Fort Pickens
Built in 1829-1834, the huge five-sided fort was designed to sweep the entrance to Pensacola Bay with the fire of hundreds of cannon. With Fort McRee across the channel and Fort Barrancas on the mainland, it presented a formidable defense against any attack by a foreign navy. In Union hands, however, the fort also bottled up the entrance to Pensacola Bay preventing Southern forces from making use of the harbor there and the outstanding navy yard captured from Federal forces.

With more than 1,000 men at his disposal, Colonel Chase was moving in the direction of storming the fort and taking it from its small garrison when, unexpectedly, President James Buchanan agreed to the so-called "Fort Pickens Truce" on January 29, 1861. The truce provided that Federal forces would not try to reinforce the fort so long as Southern troops did not move against it. The agreement halted militia forces in their tracks and prevented the looming battle at Fort Pickens from taking place. Bloodshed was averted, but Fort Pickens would remain in Union hands throughout the war and Pensacola as a port was of no use to the Confederacy.

To learn more about Fort Pickens, please visit

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