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The Two Bombardments of Fort Pickens

Excerpts from "Reading 1: The Civil War in the Pensacola Area"

Before dawn, on October 9, more than 1,000 Confederates landed four miles east of Fort Pickens and advanced against the Union lines. Darkness provided surprise but some soldiers lost their way among the sand dunes and scrub vegetation. One Union camp was taken and burned, but the approaching dawn and fear of Union gunboat attacks on their transport boats led the Confederates to withdraw eastward toward their landing place. In the meantime, Union troops from Fort Pickens counterattacked and the battle became a running skirmish down the island. Finally, the Confederates reached their boats and rapidly crossed the bay to safety. Known as the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, this confrontation was one of the first significant land battles of the Civil War fought in Florida.

Colonel Brown termed the attack a "gross insult to the flag" and was determined to punish the Confederates through a massive display of Union firepower from both Fort Pickens and ships in the gulf. At 10 a.m. Saturday morning, November 22, 1861, an all-day bombardment began. The Confederates did not wait long to respond. The next day both sides continued their bombardments. During those two days, 5,000 Union and 1,000 Confederate projectiles were fired from the big guns. The noise staggered the imagination. So enormous were the reverberations from the firepower that thousands of dead fish floated to the surface of Pensacola Bay, and windows shattered seven miles away in the town of Pensacola. When the bombardment ended late on November 23, little had been gained or lost by either side. At Fort Pickens, one man had been killed by enemy fire and two guns had been disabled (one had burst from too much use). The Confederates did not suffer many casualties or loss of equipment either, despite the fierce bombardment. Fort McRee was heavily damaged, however.

Source: "Reading 1: The Civil War in the Pensacola Area", National Park Services.

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Record Details

Title: The Two Bombardments of Fort Pickens


Florida, Santa Rose Island, Escambia County - Bombardment of Fort Pickens (built 1829-34) on western tip of island, one of a group of forts built to fortify Pensecola Harbor. One of the largest brick fortsin the U.S., where a small group of men tried to avert or postpone the outbreak of the Civil War. When Florida seceded from the Union, it tried to take over Federal Posts, including Fort Pickens. Federal Commander refused to give it up and the bombardment took place on the 8th of October, 1861 and again on Jan. 1, 1862. Thi simage shows the latter. Fort Pickens remained in the Unions hands throughout the war.

Printed in Harpers Weekly. Harper's Weekly, February 8, 1862

HMI - Civil War 1

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