Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fort Barrancas - Pensacola, Florida

During the first half of the 19th century, the U.S. Government built four major fortifications to defend Pensacola Bay from enemy attack.

Fort Pickens and Fort McRee stood on opposite sides of the entrance to the bay, while Fort Barrancas was built on a commanding bluff long occupied by Spanish defenses to provide extra barrages of artillery fire should an attacking ship make it past Pickens and McRee.

As the Civil War loomed on the horizon during the winter of 1860-1861, Fort Barrancas was the only one of the Pensacola Bay forts actually occupied by U.S. troops. On January 6, 1861, in fact, sentries at the fort fired the first hostile shots of the Civil War when they observed shadowy figures on the opposite side of drawbridge. The men proved to be militia soldiers from Alabama, but they escaped without injury.

Lt. Adam J. Slemmer, the commander of the fort, quickly moved his men across to Fort Pickens, a more easily defended point on Santa Rosa Island. State troops occupied Fort Barrancas and it remained in Confederate hands until 1862. The fort took part in heavy bombardments in November of 1861 and January of 1862 and later served as a Union headquarters for operations in Northwest Florida and South Alabama.

Fort Barrancas is now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore and is open to the public on a daily basis. To learn more, please visit

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