At one end of Santa Rosa Island in Florida is one of the United States’ historical maritime venues. Fort Pickens, named after American Revolutionary war general, Andrew Pickens. Construction began in 1829 and would be completed in 1834.
Fort Pickens saw extensive use during the U.S. Civil War. It was one of the few U.S. naval bases not to be controlled by the Confederacy at some point during the war. This was in large part due to a Union leader realizing that Fort Pickens was larger and easier to defend than other Union bases in the area. He abandoned the other posts and focused efforts on Fort Pickens. The first major Civil War fighting in Florida would happen on Santa Rosa Island near Fort Pickens.
Combat technology in the years following the Civil War would make the brick fort obsolete for military purposes. It would be used instead as a prisoner camp. It’s most famous resident, of any era, was probably the Apache war hero known as Geronimo. He would be sent to the island after his surrender ending the Apache War in 1886. He would remain at Fort Pickens until 1888 when the Apache prisoners were moved due to concerns about the possibility of a Yellow Fever outbreak.
Today, Fort Pickens is a part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, a part of the National Park Service. The park also includes other Civil War sites in Northern Florida as well as Fort Massachusetts, on Ship Island off the coast of Mississippi. The Fort is open to the public and is located on one end of Santa Rosa Island.
“Stories – Gulf Islands National Seashore.” U.S. National Park Service – Experience Your America. http://www.nps.gov/guis/historyculture/stories.htm (accessed July 6, 2013).
“Fort Pickens.” Tulane University. http://www.tulane.edu/~latner/Pickens.html (accessed July 6, 2013).