Monday, February 16, 2009
Fort George - Pensacola's British Fort
At the intersection of Palafox and La Rua Streets in Pensacola is a small park that preserves a portion of the site of Fort George, a British fort that played a key role in the American Revolution.
A small section of the fort has been reconstructed and visitors can read interpretive panels that explain the history of the site and also inspect two original British cannon of the Revolutionary War period.
Fort George was built by the British after they took possession of Pensacola from the Spanish at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. An important port for the Indian trade, the city served as the King's capital of West Florida.
When Spain and France allied with the American colonists in their uprising against King George III, the British moved aggressively to strengthen their hold on Pensacola. Fort George and two outlying redoubts (smaller forts) were built on the heights overlooking the city and the Royal Naval Redoubt was built where Fort Barrancas stands today.
One of the least known yet most significant battles of the American Revolution was fought for control of Fort George and Pensacola during the spring of 1781. Led by General Bernardo de Galvez, a force of thousands of Spanish, French, Irish and American troops laid siege to Fort George. Heavy fighting took place as the British tried to hold them back.
The critical moment finally came when a mortar shell fell on the magazine of one of the outlying British redoubts, blowing it to bits. Nearly 100 men died in the explosion. The allied forces attacked and captured the ruins, using the position to fire down on the main British works at Fort George and forcing the men there to raise the white flag.
Although it is seldom mentioned in histories of the American Revolution, the capture of Fort George actually produced signficant results for the United States. By ending British possession of West Florida, General Galvez eliminated the possibility that British forces would remained poised on the Southern frontier of the United States following the end of the Revolution. This would prove highly significant during the War of 1812.
The battle also eliminated any British threat to the lower Mississippi Valley, clearing the way for the Louisiana Purchase.
You can learn more about Fort George and its role in the Battle of Pensacola by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgeorge.