The first thing you should know is that this Ft Pickens is an area in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. There is also a Ft Pickens State Park so it got a little confusing when I was looking for national park camping.
The history of Fort Pickens can also get a little confusing. The first area you run into is Battery Langdon which is massive bunker which was completed in 1923. Big guns were concealed inside.
And then a little further along the road you enter the fort area.
Notice that the sign says 1834 so just when was this fort built and used??? Fort Pickens is the largest of four forts built to defend Pensacola Bay and its navy yard. Major William Henry Chase, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, supervised the project which was begun in 1839 and completed in 1834. It was used up until 1947
As you follow the road towards the fort, you can see the massive walls and the large cannon mounted on top of the walls.
You can see the layout of the fort in the diagram below.
Over 21.5 million bricks were required to build the fort. Most were made locally on the mainland and barged over to the island. A company named Underhill and Strong of New Orleans provided a work force of skilled African-American slave labor to construct the fort. Remember, this was built prior to the Civil War. The climate was unfriendly, and the workforce suffered through yellow fever and heat exhaustion. The only real action the fort endured occurred when the country was at war with itself. It was one of four seacoast forts in the South that remained in Union control during the Civil War. In 1861, Union forces at Fort Pickens faced Confederates holding the mainland. They fought in Octer and November of that year. The Confederates abandoned Pensacola to bolster defenses in north Mississippi and west Tennessee. In May 1862, Union troops raised "Old Glory" over the navy yard, Forts Barrancas and McRee and finally over Pensacola. There is a ranger guided tour of the fort but, if you miss that or prefer exploring on your own, there is a brochure for a self-guided tour available in the Visitors Center inside the entrance to the fort.
This cannon is inside a casemate which is an interior gunroom. Fort Pickens was designed to mount about 200 guns. Each gun required a crew of eight cannoneers.
To support the weight of the fort on the sand, engineers resorted to one of the oldest of designs, the arch. There are 3 acres of open ground in the center of the fort. There were 850 men camped in this area in 1861.
When new artillery was able to penetrate the brick of the original fort, Battery Pensacola was built with reinforced concrete in the center of the fort.
This is a view of the bay from the top of the fort.
This is a view of the inside of the arches. It was amazing how much cooler it was inside these open arches.
Close-up of the cannon on top of the fort.
The self-guided book did not give an explanation of the houses just outside the fort but they did have a movie showing in one of them later in the day and I believe there was a museum mentioned as well.
There were staircases going up to the top of the fort in several places.
Pets were not allowed so it was a good thing that the Traveling Longdogs were napping back at Steve's house.