TwHP Lessons

Fort Pickens
and the Outbreak of the Civil War

[Cover photo] Aerial view of Fort Pickens, Santa Rosa Island, Florida.

[Cover photo] Battery at Fort Pickens, Santa Rosa Island, Florida.
(Gulf Islands National Seashore)


he peaceful surroundings--white sugar-sand beaches, clumps of golden sea oats, and the soothing sounds of coastal waves pounding on the shores of a long barrier island--belie the serious purpose of Fort Pickens, located on Santa Rosa Island in Florida. One of the largest brick forts built in the United States, Fort Pickens provided the setting for a serious effort by a small group of men to avert or at least postpone the outbreak of the Civil War. Months before the firing on Fort Sumter, the Southern forces at nearby Pensacola, Florida, worked to find a way of seceding from the Union without initiating bloodshed.

Fort Pickens and nearby Fort McRee, Fort Barrancas, and Advanced Redoubt today lie within Gulf Islands National Seashore. They provide an intriguing setting for the important events that occurred in the Pensacola area just prior to and during the Civil War.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. 1861 map of harbor defenses for Pensacola

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Civil War in the Pensacola Area
 2. Major Chase Versus Lieutenant Slemmer
 3. Key People and Critical Decisions

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Aerial view of Fort Pickens
 2. Diagram of Fort Pickens
 3. Aerial view of Fort Barrancas
 4. Diagram of Fort Barrancas

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Surrender or Not
 2. Researching Pensacola in the Civil War
 3. Isn't It Ironic?
 4. Military Installations in the Local Community

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Gulf Islands National Seashore

This lesson is based on Fort Pickens, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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