In an age before nuclear bombs, precision guided missiles, and other sophisticated instruments of war, the best means of defending a nation was a well fortified harbor. Pensacola Beach, on the panhandle of Northwest Florida, is home to some of the world’s whitest beaches; it’s also the site of Fort Pickens and several coastal artillery batteries that defended its shores until the conclusion of the second world war. Today, Fort Pickens and its surrounding batteries are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The area is managed under the National Park Service and the U.S. Department interior. There are 200 campsites at Fort Pickens. For the last week Rebecca, my two boys, and I pitched a tent and called this little piece of seashore our home. This is the photo journal we’ve captured from that experience. I hope you enjoy.
Fort Pickens is a pentagonal historic military fort on Santa Rosa Island in the Pensacola, Florida area. The fort is named after a hero of the Revolutionary War, Andrew Pickens. The fort was erected in 1834 and remained active until 1947.
A corner of Fort Pickens (Bastion D) was completely destroyed in 1899 when a fire ignited a powder magazine being stored there. The explosion was so massive it showered bricks and debris all across Pensacola Bay.
Interior walls of Fort Pickens with the Navy’s Blue Angels in background
My eldest son, Noah, rests atop the brick walls of the fort.
Old Glory flies still flies proudly above the old fort’s walls.
During the Civil War, Fort Pickens was positioned in Confederate territory but remained in the hands of Union troops for the duration of the conflict.
On October 25, 1886, Geronimo and 15 of his Apache warriors arrived at Fort Pickens as prisoners of the U.S. Army. The Apache spent many days working hard labor at the fort in direct violation of the agreements made at Skeleton Canyon. Eventually the families of Geronimo’s band joined them at Fort Pickens, and then they all moved on to other places of incarceration. While incarcerated at Fort Pickens, Geronimo became an unwilling tourist attraction for the local area.
The Apache war-chief Geronimo imprisoned at Fort Pickens (circa 1886).
In forty days they took me from there to Fort Pickens (Pensacola), Florida. Here they put me to sawing up large logs. There were several other Apache warriors with me, and all of us had to work every day. For nearly two years we were kept at hard labor in this place and we did not see our families until May, 1887. This treatment was in direct violation of our treaty made at Skeleton Canyon. – Geronimo
Rebecca standing within the haunted walls of the fort.
Rebecca stands outside one of the numerous massive arches that reinforce the fort’s structure.
Massive smoothbore cannons were used at Fort Pickens during the Civil War. The barrel of each gun weighed 10,000 pounds and each cannonball weighed an astounding 300 pounds.
Noah and Jonah pose beside one of those huge cannons.
Rusted ironworks that once positioned the big guns defending the fort.
Touring the fort with a fishing pole in hand. Who says I’m no good at multi-tasking?
My sons and I seek shade on the covered porch of the Fort Pickens Museum.
A view of the Florida Gulf Coast beyond the antiquated walls of Fort Pickens.
The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels regularly practice their aerial maneuvers over the skies of Fort Pickens.
Big John with some family at Fort Pickens campground.
Jonah is too cool for school as he prepares to tear up the bike trails.
Along the biking/walking trails between the camp site and Fort Pickens.
The longest residents of Fort Pickens.
Battery Worth was in operation from 1899 to 1942. During its operation it housed eight 12-inch mortars inside of two separate gun pits.
When smoothbore cannons and wooden ships were eventually replaced by rifled cannons and iron-clad ships, old brick forts such as Fort Pickens were no longer adequate for harbor defense. By the 1930’s, the task of defending Pensacola Bay fell on the 13th Coast Artillery Regiment. Nine of these concrete batteries still stand today for visitors to explore and revisit as a part of America’s coastal defense history.
Battery Worth fired projectiles weighing up to 900 pounds and had a maximum range of 9 miles.
My babydoll and I snapping a selfie at Battery Worth.
My family and I outside of Battery Worth.
It was these guns here that made those 12-inch mortars obsolete.
Breaking and entering…
Sometimes it requires a bit of work to acquire the complete tour.
The spectacular view from inside Battery Worth.
Noah taking a breather on the cement walls of the battery.
Rebecca and Noah scramble down the steps of Battery Worth.
My baby snapping another selfie.
Even Noah’s too big to break in through the bars of Battery Worth.
These guns protected Pensacola Bay from Japanese planes and German U-boats during WWII.
World War II Lookout Tower
Battery Pensacola mounted two 12-inch rifles on disappearing carriages capable of firing 1,070 pound shells up to 8 miles off shore.
Jonah scans the coastal waters for enemy craft.
Rebecca and I were lucky enough to capture a beautiful sunrise on Pensacola Beach.
Thank you for reading about our trip to Fort Pickens. Please feel free to explore other areas of my blog, leave a comment, and share some love on social media. I hope you visit my site again real soon.