Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Significance. This fort, constructed by the Spanish during the 18th century, also has associations with the War of 1812 and the Civil War. During the first phase of its history, because of a three-cornered rivalry between Spain, France, and England in which their American possessions were pawns in a worldwide imperial struggle, it was several times destroyed and rebuilt. Originally erected in 1787 during the last Spanish occupation of West Florida on a high bluff called "Barrancas de Santo Tome," it occupied the same site as Fort San Carlos de Austria, which dated from the time of the first permanent Spanish settlement on Pensacola Bay, in 1698, and had been completely destroyed in 1719 by the French. From 1763 to 1781 the British controlled Pensacola. Its capture by a Spanish expedition in 1781 marked the beginning of the last period of Spanish rule. Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, a semicircular structure of Pensacola brick, was a defense bastion in West Florida and, with St. Augustine, a foothold in the Southeastern United States.
Spanish collaboration with the British forces during the War of 1812 led Andrew Jackson to move into Pensacola in 1814. The occupying British force retreated rapidly to their warships after blowing up the fort. When Jackson withdrew to New Orleans, the Spanish returned and began to rebuild it. Four years later, near the end of the Seminole Indian War, Jackson again attacked Pensacola. In accepting the surrender of the Spanish Governor in Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, he in effect seized control of West Florida for the United States. Three years later, in 1821, he returned as provisional Governor of the territory and took formal possession of it at ceremonies in the Plaza Ferdinand VII, Pensacola.
As part of the general tightening of the Nation's coastal defenses, following the War of 1812, during the years 1833-44 U.S. troops strengthened the defenses in Pensacola Bay. Immediately in the rear of and connected to Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, they constructed a four-sided brick fortification, Fort Barrancas; and, as a part of the defensive complex, built Fort Redoubt about 1,000 yards to the north. During the Civil War the three forts were first in the hands of Confederate and then the Union forces.
Fort San Carlos de Barrancas is a Registered National Historic Landmark relating primarily to Spanish exploration and settlement.
The fort was incorporated within Gulf Island National Seashore when authorized in January, 1971.
NHL Designation: 10/09/60
Last Updated: 29-Aug-2005