Fort San Carlos De Barrancas – Pensacola Looks to the Past

I look down as I walk across the moat. There are slits in the walls of this brick and mortar fort. Usually the moat would be filled with water. Surely this is some different design, because if there were water in this moat, the fort would be flooded. What are they for? I wonder.

On each side of the entrance there’s a large iron roller with heavy chains wrapped around it sitting at the ready to raise the drawbridge in case of an attack. I walk inside and down to the narrow passageway along the sides of the fort where these slits are to explore.

As with all forts, there is a lot of history here. Fort Barrancas has had several owners over the years. The Spanish, French and British all took turns occupying her before the American Confederate Army took over. The Spaniards built the water battery, named ‘Bateria de San Antonio’, in 1797 as well as the earth and log Fort San Carlos de Barrancas above it. To protect the harbor, gunners in the battery fired smoothbore cannon shots at ship masts or skip shots across the surface of the bay hoping to hit the wooden ship hulls at the waterline.

Under the supervision of William Chase, 60 slaves took five years and over 22 million bricks to build the new masonry fort in the 1840s. Built for foreign invasion protection, the only action this fort ever saw was during the Civil War. The Confederates held the fort until they abandoned Pensacola in the spring of 1862. The Union Army took over and in April of 1865 assigned several Colored Troop regiments to guard the fort for the final major battle outside of Mobile, Alabama.

Fort Barrancas and its Advanced Redoubt are part of a three-fort system that protects the Pensacola harbor from invading ships. Fort McRee and Fort Pickens are the other two. Together they kept invaders at bay. During the Civil War, the Confederate and Union soldiers fought against each other in this system. The only fort left standing in good condition was Fort Barrancas.

Some historians say the first shots fired on Union troops came from here on Jan. 8, 1861 starting the Civil War before the firing on Fort Sumter in April of 1861.

I find my answer to the slits in the walls. They are called ‘loopholes’. This fort, and its Advanced Redoubt have dry moats. The crisscross of fire from the riflemen would catch the enemy by surprise in a deadly shootout.

The Advanced Redoubt was the inland protection for the fort system. The way she was built marked an end to an era in coastal fortification. It’s masonry walls that were filled with cement, were transitioned into reinforced concrete batteries that resisted cannon fire better than brick did

This fort system is a great part of our country’s history and worth a visit when you’re in the area. The Fort is at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Civilians can go on base as long as they show ID, like a driver’s license, at the gate. Follow the signs to 3822 Taylor Rd., Pensacola Naval Air Station. At For Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt there are scheduled tours daily at 2:00 pm and on Saturday at 11:00 am. The visitor center is opened March-October from 9:45 am to 4:45 pm and November-February the hours are 8:30 am to 3:45 pm. For more information you can call 850-455-5167.

While you’re on base, you might also want to visit The Pensacola Lighthouse and the National Naval Aviation Museum. You can read my articles about them here. Enjoy your day today, whatever you do.

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