Fort Pickens
Gulf Coast Seashore National Park

Pensacola, FL

January 17, 2000

In Pensacola, we found lots of old and some not so old military history. We had camped in the Gulf Coast Seashore National Park, which runs quite a way along some sand islands near Pensacola. With water on both sides, and miles and miles of sand dunes, there was no end to the enjoyment of just walking or biking through the natural beauty. A bobcat even crossed our image15path on one of our travels. At the very end of Santa Rosa Island which holds the campgrounds, is the remains of Fort Pickens. The massive battle structures loom up out of the sand dunes like giant monsters from some forgotten star wars episode. The area was part of the Coastal Artillery Defense System maintained by the image13Army until the idea of coastal artillery defense became obsolete at the end of WWII. Most of the giant guns were scrapped in the 50s but the old Fort has managed to hang on to a few for historical value. "Like the rings of a tree, the changes to Fort Pickens tell a story for those who can read it." We found image05the Fort itself to be massive, dark and gloomy, as we wandered down its dark corridors and into its hidden rooms, wondering what secrets its walls could tell of the days when men dashed from barracks rooms at the sound of alarm bells to raise behemoth guns slowly up and out to sea to face an enemy that never appeared. The Fort was begun in 1829 and built continuously image06off and on until its final abandonment in 1947. Building Fort Pickens was a challenge. The plan called for millions of bricks to be assembled on soft sandy soil and tons of cannons to be mounted atop the walls. This tremendous weight required precise balancing.

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