As best that I can remember, the first time I ever heard about Fort Barrancas was when my son and I visited the Pensacola Lighthouse in November 2013. Fort Barrancas is located just down the shore from the lighthouse, but we didn’t take the time to see on that particular day. I’ve wanted to make a return trip to Fort Barrancas ever since, so much so that I put a trip to this old fort on my "bucket list" a couple of years ago.
Fort Barrancas was built by the Spanish in the 1780s, but a number of other military forts had been located on the site dating as far back as the late 1600s. Fort Barrancas came into American hands during the War of 1812 and saw service in that war as well as the Civil War and on up through World War II.
I have always been somewhat intrigued by Fort Barrancas’ interesting Civil War history. Federal forces abandoned the fort on Jan. 10, 1861, well before the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in April 1861. Two days later, Alabama and Florida militias occupied Fort Barrancas, and Confederate General Braxton Bragg took command of the fort in March 1861.
Things rocked on until Nov. 22-23, 1861 when Federal forces unleashed a massive bombardment on Fort Barrancas. Bragg later said that “for the number and caliber of guns and weight of metal brought into action, it would rank with the heaviest bombardments in the world.” Confederate forces abandoned Pensacola later in 1862 and that ended all of the combat operations at Fort Barrancas during the Civil War.
I’ve also been interested in Fort Barrancas because its reportedly haunted. Over the years, visitors have claimed that the fort is haunted by the ghosts of soldiers buried in unmarked graves, the ghosts of yellow fever victims, the ghosts of Apache Indians who were forced to work at the fort and others. Some witnesses have even claimed to have seen the ghost of a Capt. Hale who died from yellow fever and others claim to have taken photos of a soldier aiming a rifle through one of the many gun ports in the fort’s wall.
My son and I toured Fort Barrancas on Wednesday afternoon, and we had a big time. We stopped for a few minutes at the visitor center and the friendly staff there gave us a pamphlet that included a self-guided walking tour. The tour featured 10 numbered stops with descriptions for each, and we took our time touring the fort and checking out each of these stops.
My son and I have toured a number of forts over the years, and we found Fort Barrancas unique for several reasons. Fort Barrancas has a glacis, that is, an earthen slope that hides it from artillery on the landward side. Fort Barrancas also includes at least two underground tunnels that connect different sections of the fort and a scarp gallery that takes you all the way around fort inside the walls.
In the end, how many of you have visited Fort Barrancas? What did you think about it? What other forts or Civil War sites would you recommend visiting? Let us know in the comments section below.