Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fort Pickens - Pensacola Bay

This view of Fort Pickens was taken several years ago. The road to the fort is still closed due to hurricane damage and, although the fort is still open to the public, it can only be reached by a long walk down Santa Rosa Island or by boat.
It looks like it will be at least a couple more years before the road to the fort can be rebuilt. Santa Rosa Island is extremely sensitive from an environmental standpoint and engineers are also trying to come up with a plan for a road that has at least a chance of surviving another major hurricane.
Fort Pickens was one of the three major fortifications built by the U.S. Army to protect Pensacola Bay from foreign attack. The others were Forts McRee and Barrancas. In January of 1861, realizing that he could not hope to hold the more exposed Fort Barrancas, Lieutenant Adam Slemmer moved his small garrison of U.S. soldiers across the bay to Fort Pickens under cover of night. Southern troops demanded that he surrender the fort, but he refused. Hostilities, however, were averted by the negotiation of the "Fort Pickens Truce." The truce basically constituted an agreement that Southern troops would not attack the fort as long as Union troops did not reinforce it.
Union forces broke the truce following the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter in Charleston by landing additional men and supplies on Santa Rosa Island. Over the months that followed, both sides built up their defenses and erected as many cannon as possible aimed at each other across the bay.
Tomorrow we'll continue our look at Fort Pickens with a posting on the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, now virtually forgotten but one of the most important early battles of the war.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently made the trip to Fort Barrancas and spoke with a very helpful and knowledgeable ranger there about Fort Pickens. He related the problems with the road, that it was wiped out again immediately after it was rebuilt at a staggering cost, so future rebuilding was doubtful.

He said efforts by individuals to charter boats to Fort Pickens had been less than satisfying or reliable.

His hope was that eventually a ferry would be available. There was an earlier effort to reach a quick agreement with an existing ferry arrangement in the adjacent management area in the Gulf, unfortunately Federal departmentalizaion prevented that from being extended across existing boundaries.