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Setting the Stage

Pensacola, Florida, is located on one of the best deep water harbors on the Gulf Coast. Large ships can pass through the entrance and enter the protected bay. The Spanish, French, English, and the Americans recognized that Pensacola Bay’s entrance provided the key to the defense of Florida’s panhandle. When Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819, the U.S. Navy selected Pensacola Bay as the site for a navy yard.

Beginning in 1829, Americans built four forts in the area--Pickens (1829-34), McRee (1835-39), Barrancas (1839-44), and the Advanced Redoubt (1845-56)--to defend Pensacola and its navy yard from possible attacks by foreign powers. The strategy was to build up defenses that appeared so formidable an enemy would be deterred from attacking. At Pensacola this buildup was successful as no foreign country ever did attack the forts. The American Civil War, however, made for a different story.



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