Fort Pickens

I went to Fort Pickens, located in Escambia County, on 2/5/2017. I completed Escambia County today!!!

According to the ghost town website, 

Fort Pickens was the largest of a group of forts designed to fortify Pensacola Harbor. Constructed between 1829-1834, Pickens supplemented Fort Barrancas, Fort McRee, and the Navy Yard. Located at the western tip of Santa Rosa Island, just offshore to the mainland, Pickens guarded the island and the entrance to the harbor. Its construction was supervised by Colonel William H. Chase of the Corps of Army Engineer. Using slave labor, the fort used over twenty-two million bricks and was intended to be impregnable to attack.  

Following the Mexican-American War, Fort Pickens remained unoccupied, until the time of The Civil War. When Florida seceded from the Union in January 1861, state officials quickly ordered Florida troops to seize key federal forts and arsenals throughout the state. Despite its dilapidated condition, Union Lieutenant Adam J. Slemmer, in charge of United States forces at Fort Barrancas, determined that Pickens was more defensible than any of the other posts in the area. His decision to abandon Barrancas was hastened when, around midnight of January 8, 1861, his guards repelled a group of local men intending to take the fort. Some historians suggest that these were the first shots fired by United States forces in the Civil War. Shortly after this incident, Slemmer evacuated his army, about eighty soldiers, to Fort Pickens.  Florida troops, supported by soldiers from Alabama, demanded the surrender of Fort Pickens.  Ironically, these troops were commanded by Col. William Chase, the same man who oversaw the fort’s construction.  It is recorded that his voice shook and his eyes filled with tears when he attempted to read his formal demand for the surrender.  Federal Lieutenant Slemmer refused to give up the fort, leading to a months-long stand-off and eventually to a fierce battle.  Fort Pickens became a “town” under siege, as Lt. Slemmer and his men were trapped within, surrounded by Confederate forces.  Any means to obtain reinforcements would be considered grounds for attack. On November 22, 1861, a two day bombardment took place. 5,000 Union and 1,000 Confederate projectiles were fired from the big guns.  So enormous were the reverberations from the firepower that thousands of dead fish floated to the surface of Pensacola Bay, and windows shattered seven miles away in the town of Pensacola . When the bombardment ended late on November 23, little had been gained or lost by either side.  Fort Pickens remained in Union Hands throughout the Civil War.  From October 1886 to May 1887, the famous Apache Indian chief Geronimo was imprisoned in Fort Pickens.  His presence made the Fort an unintentional tourist attraction, receiving an average of 20 visitors a day, and one time as many as 459.  Fort Pickens remained a strong military outpost along Pensacola Bay until 1947, when it was decommissioned and became a state park. By Jim Pike


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