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Exploring The History Of The Forts In Pensacola Florida

Visit the historic forts in Pensacola Florida on the Gulf of Mexico after spending the day relaxing on Pensacola Beach.

With this guide, discover all there is to explore, from Santa Rosa Island to Fort Pickens. I have also placed a link at the end of this article of all the fun things to do in Pensacola as well as Santa Rosa Island.

The Pensacola Naval Air Station, home to the Blue Angels, is a present day military installation part of the Federal Government under the DOD.

This naval base is the primary training facility for all U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard officers pursuing designation as naval aviators and naval flight officers.

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The Pensacola Naval Air Station Historic District is nearby. Today you can see the surviving buildings and historic sites of the Pensacola Navy Yard.

The air station took over, as well as buildings related to the early years of aviator training by the United States Navy.

Unfortunately, you cannot visit NAS PENSACOLA unless you are with someone with DoD clearance. This is the information provided on the website:

The National Naval Aviation Museum is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. to current Department of Defense (DoD) ID cardholders. Access to NAS Pensacola is limited to Department of Defense (DoD) ID cardholders (active duty service members, retirees, and their families). 

Don’t let that stop you from exploring though. Many of the forts, especially those that are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore are open for visiting.

Blue Angels Pensacola NAS

In many of the forts in Pensacola Florida and other surrounding historical areas, you will find visitor centers and gift shops. The folks that man these centers and shops are a wealth of information. Ask questions.

Let’s Explore The Forts In Pensacola Florida

Embark on a journey through Pensacola’s rich history by exploring the historic military forts that protected Pensacola Harbor nestled along the Gulf of Mexico.

From Santa Rosa Island to Fort Pickens, you’ll find plenty of cultural attractions and stunning sights that will make your trip unforgettable.

You may be familiar with the Gulf Islands National Seashore from some of my articles recommending the beaches. Adding in a trip to the forts in the Pensacola area is a history buffs dream come true.

The seashore is part of the National Park Service. Fort Pickens and nearby Fort McRee, Fort Barrancas, and Advanced Redoubt today are part of Gulf Islands National Seashore and will provide you with years of history in this area of the United States.

History of Fort Mcree

Fort Mcree was built in 1838. It started on the tip of barrier island Perdido Key and is a great example of defensive architecture.

Part of the three forts built in the 1830s with Fort Barrancas and Fort Pickens, Fort Mcree received its permanent name in the 1840s.

This fort was designed with star-shaped fortifications surrounded by moats in order to protect the city from naval attacks.

In 1861, Union forces bombarded the fort and the Confederate soldiers were not able to keep control of the fort. Confederate forces abandoned the fort in 1862.

Today, visitors can tour the grounds and explore a variety of exhibits including American Revolution-era cannons, barracks, and outdoor displays of weapons used during World War II.

Fort Barrancas

Fort Barrancas and the Fort San Carlos De Barrancas

One of the three forts mentioned above, and just west of Pensacola lies Fort Barrancas, another Fort in Pensacola Florida. It played an important part of the United States’ military defense strategy for U.S. Soldiers during the Civil War.

Unfortunately, you cannot visit this fort at this time. This is the update from the website:

Fort Barrancas and Advanced Redoubt are located on Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, which is currently closed to the public.

Fort Barrancas was built by the Great Britain and the English. During the American Revolutionary War, the Spanish captured the Fort and renamed it to San Carlos de Barrancas.

This fort was not only used during the Civil War by both the Union Army and the Confederate Army, it was also used during the Spanish-American War, and the Second World War.

The visitor center and forts are closed as of this writing.

Bateria de San Antonio

While visiting the forts of Pensacola, Florida, be sure to explore the historic Bateria de San Antonio. It was built in 1797.

This fort was constructed as part of the Spanish defense system of the entrance channel to Pensacola Bay from the Gulf of Mexico.

As a shore battery overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Island, this fort was under Spanish Control until 1814 when the British took control of the semicircular fort.

It is a reminder of a bygone era when this area was an important military outpost for Spanish colonial powers in North America.

Today Bateria de San Antonio stands as one of the best-preserved examples of 18th-century Spanish military architecture in the Pensacola region of western Florida.

Fort Pickens

Historic Fort Pickens is one of four historic forts found in the Pensacola Bay Area and the largest of the forts on the west end of Santa Rosa Island.

This fort was designed and constructed to defend Pensacola Bay and the Pensacola Navy Yard and Depot from foreign attacks from enemy ships.

Construction of Fort Pickens by the United States in 1829, it occupied a prominent place on the western end of Santa Rosa Island and has served an integral role throughout military history.

Fort Pickens

During the period of reconstruction following the American Civil War, Fort Pickens was used as a Confederate troops prisoner-of-war camp and later under Union control and Union hands as a military post.

Built on the western end of Santa Rosa Island, and is a pentagonal fort. Workers that built this military fort were not only skilled tradesman but slave labor as well.

A lot of blood was spilled during the building of this fort as the army force enslaved men to build and repair it.

This did not stop the fort from becoming a destination on the Underground Railroad as many freedom seekers sought to emancipate themselves.

The masonry fort is named for Brigadier General Andrew Pickens, a Patriot who fought with distinction in South Carolina during the American Revolution. It was originally designed by Colonel William H. Chase of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Federal troops moved to Fort Pickens the same day the state of Florida seceded from the Union.  Two days later, Alabama and Florida state militias occupied Fort Barrancas, Fort McRee, the Advanced Redoubt, and the Pensacola navy yard.

This resulted in a tense stalemate in Pensacola that rivaled that at Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter in the months before the Civil War began there.

An important part of American Culture, the Confederate army abandoned Pensacola in May 1862, and Fort Barrancas saw no further combat.

During the late 1890s the army installed new gun batteries. These long range weapons eliminated the need for a concentration of guns that were used for coastal defenses.

Today, visitors can explore many parts of the fortification including nearby Battery Cooper, and Battery Worth. This Fort is open and is located on Fort Pickens Rd.

Enjoy a self-guided tour through Fort Pickens Discovery Center then head over to visit the miles of beaches with white sand.

There is an entrance fee, but it is worth it. In addition to visiting one of the most important southern forts, you also have access to Langdon Beach.

Access to the beach is by walking the Dune Trail that will take you on a boardwalk through the sand dunes. The beach is located right on the Gulf of Mexico.

Enjoy a lunch in a Fort Pickens area pavilion with restrooms, picnic tables and showers. Camp sites are also available in Fort Pickens.

Fort San Carlos De Austria

Historic fort San Carlos de Austria located two miles south of downtown Pensacola. It was originally built by the Spanish in the late 1700s but has since been rebuilt many times.

Initially part of a three-way war between European Powers Spain, France and England, this fort would go on to be part of the War of 1812 and the confederate and union troops during the Civil War.

Spanning 200 acres, this fort is now home to numerous birds, butterflies and wildlife.

Unfortunately as mentioned above, this fort is located in the NAS, Naval Air Station Pensacola, and not open at this time for the public to visit.

Today after many centuries of military service, these forts are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The best time to visit these forts is when you are on a Pensacola Beach vacation. Enjoy taking a step back in time to see the progress of history in this part of the United States.

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About Denise

Denise Sanger lives a life split between her love for fitness and her passion for travel particularly to the BEACH.  Denise also has a love of marketing and lives in beautiful Suwannee County, Florida. You can find out more about Denise here: About Denise

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