|Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island|
To read previous parts of the series, please visit Part #1 - Fort McRee, Part #2 - Fort Barrancas or Part #3 - The Advanced Redoubt.
The key to the defense of Pensacola, its vital harbor and the Pensacola Navy Yard, Fort Pickens was the largest of the four masonry forts designed by the U.S. Army to protect the channel leading into the harbor. Like the other forts (McRee, Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt), it was intended to operate as part of a system of defense. Unlike the other forts, however, it alone could be held independently even if all of the others fell.
|Massive Rodman Gun atop the Tower Bastion|
The walls of the fort were built of strong brick masonry and mounted two tiers of heavy cannon. The lower tier of guns were mounted in casemates which provided them with superior protection against enemy fire. The upper tier of guns were mounted en barbette atop the walls of the fort.
|Casemates of Fort Pickens|
The fort came under fire three times during the War Between the States. The first time was during the Battle of Santa Rosa Island on October 9, 1861, when Gen. Braxton Bragg sent Brig. Gen. Richard "Dick" Anderson across the bay with 1,100 men from the Army of Pensacola to attack the outer camps of Fort Pickens in retaliation for a Union raid on the privateer Judah at the Pensacola Navy Yard. Please click here to read more.
|Inside Fort Pickens|
The third battle took place on January 1, 1862, when Union and Confederate gunners again unleashed on each other. Like the previous bombardment, however, this action also ended in a stalemate.
|Artillery of a later era at Battery 234 near Fort Pickens|
Fort Pickens held prisoners and in October 1864 some 600 liberated slaves were brought to the fort by Union forces returning from the Battle of Marianna.
The fort remained in Union hands throughout the entire war and later was used to imprison Apache warriors and families, including the famed Apache leader Geronimo. It was modernized and used in the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II and the western tip of Santa Rosa Island today is one of the best places to explore the history of the evolution of America's coastal defenses.
To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortpickens1.