Friday, August 26, 2011

Ft. Pickens and the Pensacola Navy Yard

In all the excitement this spring with the start of the CW Sesquicentnnial, I forgot to post this significant event in Florida’s CW Navy history. The Pensacola Navy Yard was considered by some to be second only to the Norfolk Navy Yard in importance. Confederate forces occupied the Navy Yard and adjacent Fts. Barrancas and McRee in January 1861, shortly after Florida’s secession. Just prior to that occupation, in a move strikingly similar to Anderson’s movement out to Ft. Sumter, US Army Lt. Adam Slemmer moved his small garrison of 57 men to Ft. Pickens, on Santa Rosa Island at the mouth of Pensacola Bay. The garrison was supported by the gunboat USS Wyandotte and the supply ship USS Supply, along with 30 additional seamen in the Fort.

Slemmer steadfastly refused several requests by Confederate officers to surrender the Fort. In early February 1861, additional reinforcements arrived in the form of the sailing frigate USS Sabine, the steam sloop USS Brooklyn, and the sailing sloop USS St. Louis. Over the next several months, both sides worked to fortify their positions. In April additional Union troops were landed to fortify the fort garrison, and the steam sloop USS Powhatan,under the command of Navy Lt. David Dixon Porter, brought in needed supplies. Through most of the summer of 1861, things were quiet in Pensacola, but the situation would change by the fall of that year. More on that to come. Drop me an email if you would like to see sources used for this post. Photo sources are the Naval History and Heritage Command and the Florida Dept. of State on-line photo archive.

USN Squadron supporting Ft. Pickens. Shown are the USS Sabine and the USS Brooklyn (center foreground), to the left the gunboat USS Wyandotte, and in the background the USS Supply and USS Crusader.

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