Historic Figures

William Henry Chase picture

William Henry Chase was the supervisory engineer for the Gulf Coast for almost thirty years. He was born in 1798, graduated from West Point in 1815, and resigned from the Army in 1856 to become a commercial promoter in Pensacola, Florida. Chase oversaw the construction of seacoast forts defending the approaches to New Orleans, Mobile and Pensacola. Acting for his adopted state of Florida in 1861, Chase presented the demand to Lt. Slemmer for the surrender of Fort Pickens. After the Civil War, Chase continued to promote Pensacola, where he died in 1870.

Rachel Donelson Jackson

Rachel Donelson Jackson accompanied her husband Andrew to Pensacola in 1821. While General Jackson oversaw the transfer of authority from Spanish to American administration, Mrs. Jackson provided one of the earliest descriptions of the area and its inhabitants. Pensacola was "a perfect plain; the land nearly as white as flour, yet productive of fine peaches, oranges in abundance, grapes, figs, pomegranates, etc." Pensacola Bay was " the most beautiful water prospect" she had seen. The residents were just as interesting, a melting pot in which whites were the minority, all spoke Spanish and French, and some spoke four or five languages.

Andrew Jackson

Hero of Horseshoe Bend, the Battle of New Orleans, and seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837, Andrew Jackson was also the first provisional governor of the Territory of Florida in 1821. He presided over the ceremony in Pensacola marking the transfer from Spanish to American control, and planned the first road from Pensacola to St. Augustine, the two largest towns in the territory. Jackson's administration in Pensacola was brief. He resigned within a year and returned to Tennessee with his family.

Rosamond Johnson picture

Rosamond Johnson's family

Army Private Rosamond Johnson, Jr. was the first Escambia County resident to die in the Korean War on July 26, 1950. He had successfully carried two wounded soldiers to safety and was returning with a third when he was fatally wounded. He had joined the military at age 15 and died at 17. He posthumously received the Purple Heart August 21, 1950 and several veteran groups are still working to see if Johnson deserved additional military honors. During the early days of an integrated military it was not uncommon for recognition to be overlooked for black troops.

Pensacola beaches were racially segregated at the time of Johnson's death; the Gulf beach area was a popular area for blacks. After the Korean Conflict the county-owned recreational area was renamed to honor its fallen hero at the suggestion of the Sunset Riding Club, Inc. The club leased the land in 1950 from the county for the sole use of bathing, beach and recreational facilities for "colored citizens." Although the lease was canceled in 1956 the name Rosamond Johnson Beach remained. The area became part of Gulf Islands National Seashore May 8, 1973. A permanent monument in his honor was erected at Johnson Beach on June 10, 1996. Guest speaker, retired Army Maj. Gen. Mike Ferguson of Pensacola and the Veterans of Underaged Military Service, said the real heroes of the war - those who make the ultimate sacrifice - can never receive enough recognition. "There is no medal that signifies hero. You couldn't invent a medal to signify hero."

In grateful memory of
Private Rosamond Johnson, Jr.
RA 14 289 828, Infantry
Who died in the service of his country
in the military operations in Korea
on July 26, 1950

He stands in the unspoken line of patriots who have
dared to die that freedom might live, and grow, and
increase its blessings.

Freedom lives, and through it, he lives - in a way that
humbles the undertakings of most men.

He crossed the 38th parallel three times. The first two times, he carried back wounded. The third time, he got killed before he could make it back.

May 18, 1933 - July 26, 1950


Andrew Pickens picture

Andrew Pickens was born in 1739 in Pennsylvania. His family then travelled south and settled in the Waxhaws region of the Carolinas. After serving in the militia against the Cherokee Indians, Pickens settled down in South Carolina near the Georgia border to become a farmer, marry and raise a family. After war broke out, he became a militia captain. He served at Ninety-Six, South Carolina, Snow's Campaign and Williamson's expeditions against the Indians.

On February 14, 1779, Pickens defeated Colonel Boyd at Kettle Creek, Georgia. He briefly surrendered and went on parole following the Surrender of Charleston in May 1780. After returning to action, he participated in the Battle of Cowpens, Siege of Augusta, Siege of Ninety-Six and Battle of Eutaw Springs. He closed the war with campaigns against the Indians. After the war he served in the state assembly and Congress. He died in 1817


Adam Slemmer picture

On January 12, 1861 Lieutenant Adam Slemmer refused to surrender Fort Pickens. When requested to surrender by representative of Florida and Alabama governors, Lt. Slemmer replied that he "was here under the orders of the President of the United States, and by direction of the General-in-Chief of the Army," that he "recognized no right of any governor to demand a surrender of United States property; that my orders were distinct and explicit." Because of his actions, Fort Pickens remained in Union control for the entire conflict.

Last updated: May 11, 2016

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