Saturday, January 5, 2008
Fort Barrancas, 1861
The wartime image at right shows Fort Barrancas near Pensacola as it appeared in 1861 while occupied by Confederate troops. The irregular dress and lax manner of these men shows that they had not yet undergone the training implemented by General Braxton Bragg for his "Army of Pensacola" during the summer and fall of 1861.
Although Bragg is controversial for his later role as commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, there is no dispute that he was one of the best officers in the Southern service when it came to organizing and training raw troops. The men he trained at Pensacola became crack fighters and performed spectacularly at the Battle of Shiloh the following spring.
The artillery seen in this photograph later took part in the massive bombardments that rocked Pensacola Bay in November of 1861 and January of 1862. These gunners, along with others assigned in earthwork batteries and nearby Fort McRee, battled Union artillerymen firing from Fort Pickens across the bay. Although the massive cannonades ended in stalemates, they were the represented the most severe bombardments in Florida history.
Fort Barrancas today is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is open to the public on a daily basis. Located aboard the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the fort can be accessed via the Pine Forest Road exit off Interstate 10 (which leads to Blue Angel Parkway and the west gate of the Naval Air Station). Just follow the signs for the Naval Aviation Museum and the sentry at the gate will give you a pass to visit the forts, museum and historic Pensacola Lighthouse.
For more information on the fort, look back through our archives here and you will find modern photographs and more that I posted in November.