Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fort McClellan, Union redoubt at Pensacola (Forts of Florida #6)

Lee Square, site of Fort McClellan
Lee Square is a beautiful oasis of peace surrounded by the busy traffic of Pensacola's famed Palafox Street. It is also the site of Fort McClellan, a little known fort of the War Between the States (or Civil War).

Fort McClellan was the "point" of the A-shaped fortifications that Union troops built around Pensacola in the fall of 1862 after they took possession of the historic old city without firing a shot. Confederate forces evacuated Pensacola Bay after it became clear they could achieve nothing significant from their presence there.

To defend the city itself against surprise raids by Confederate cavalry, Union engineers designed and supervised the construction of a line of fortifications that consisted of breastworks, abatis, artillery positions and a redoubt (Fort McClellan) to surround Pensacola. The works took the shape of a gigantic "A" with its base being Pensacola Bay and the tip of the "A" being atop the hill overlooking the city where Lee Square exists today.

Lee Square in Pensacola, Florida
The protect this point, from which Confederate guns could have fired down into the city, the Federals built Fort McClellan. It was described in a report to Brig. Gen. Lewis G. Arnold on September 13, 1862:

The redoubt is built on the site of the old Spanish fort San Miguel, an eminence which commands the town and vicinity; is a half bastion, with flanks and wings running back to meet the abatis on each side; is furnished with two 30-pounder Parrott rifles, one 10-pounder Parrott rifle, two 12-pounder field howitzers, and two roomy magazines; is closed at the gorge and flanked by its on fire as well as that from positions occupied within the lines. - Capt. Henry W. Closson, US (September 13, 1862).

Colonial era cannon at Lee Square
The fort and attached defensive lines were designed by Major Zealous Tower, Engineer Corps, and Captain Henry Clossen, chief of artillery on General Arnold's staff.

Fort McClellan was never seriously challenged by Confederate forces and remained an important part of the land defenses of Pensacola until the end of the war. It subsequently eroded away and eventually was replaced by today's Lee Square.  No trace of the fortifications remain today.

Lee Square, ironically, is named for Gen. Robert E. Lee while the fort that once stood on its site was named for his onetime opponent, Gen. George B. McClellan.  Located on Palafox Street up the hill just north of downtown Pensacola, the park is home to Pensacola's Confederate monument.

Dedicated on June 17, 1891, the 50-foot high monument pays tribute to "Our Confederate Dead." It was originally planned for Tallahassee, but the location was moved to Pensacola after most of the donated funds for its erection were made by residents of that city.

Uniquely, the statue atop the monument is believed to be the best representation ever made of a Confederate soldier.

Learn more about historic Pensacola by visiting

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