Located at the western tip of Santa Rosa Island, the massive fort controlled the entrance to Pensacola Bay. It was the largest of the harbor fortifications and despite repeated demands for its surrender, Fort Pickens remained in the hands of the U.S. Army. On the mainland and across the harbor entrance at Fort McRee, the growing Confederate army of General Braxton Bragg had been placing cannon after cannon in anticipation of an eventual showdown with the Federal troops on Santa Rosa Island. That showdown had been delayed, however, by an agreement with the previous administration in Washington, D.C., known as the "Fort Pickens Truce."
|Tower Bastion at Fort Pickens|
As the day progressed, previously dispatched orders were hand delivered to the ships off Fort Pickens by Lieutenant John Worden:
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that immediately on the receipt of your order by Lieutenant Worden, on the 12th instant, I prepared to re-enforce Fort Pickens. It was successfully performed, on the same night, by landing the troops under Captain Vogdes, and the marines of the squadron under Lieutenant [John C.] Cash. No opposition was made, nor do I believe the movement was known on shore until it was accomplished. - Captain H.A. Adams, U.S.S. Sabine, April 14, 1861.
|Civil War Cannon a Fort Pickens|
The violation of the Fort Pickens Truce by the U.S. Government ended the tense but peaceful standoff at Pensacola Bay. Just as the bloodless bombardment of Fort Sumter had done at Charleston, the bloodless landing of reinforcements at Fort Pickens brought about the opening of the War Between the States at Pensacola Bay.
Fort Pickens today is a shadow of its former self. Time and the elements have ravaged the old fortress on Santa Rosa Island, but it remains one of the most significant and fascinating of the Civil War historic sites in Florida. Now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore and managed by the National Park Service, along with Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt on the mainland, it is open to the public daily. To learn more, please visit www.exploreosuthernhistory.com/fortpickens1.