Great Guide to Historic Fort Pickens

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 187,524
    Geronimo and 47 other Chiricahua Apaches were imprisoned at Fort Pickens for 18 months from 1886 to 1888. Fort Pickens has one of the more interesting histories of forts that you can visit in the US.

    Brent Lane: Hi! This is Brent Lane, and today I am at Fort Pickens, which is the largest fort that was built to defend Pensacola Bay and the Navy yard.

    Pensacola is Florida's second oldest city and has the deepest bay on the Gulf Coast and it seen ownership changes more than several times in its history. This has been a strategic location for many trying to control the Pensacola harbor and thus control the Pensacola. The fort took five years to build back between 1829 and 1834.

    David Ogden: Fort Pickens is an amazing piece of engineering and construction. It's constructed in five years with roughly 21.

    5 million bricks almost all locally made and it was constructed with slave laborers since it was built prior to the civil war and although it was built for the US government, it was constructed by a private construction company operating under the supervision of a US army engineer by the name of William Henry Chase.

    Brent Lane: This fort was always in the hands of the union and provided the final blow against the confederacy pushing the matter of Pensacola for good. Built in the age of wooden warships and cannon firing round balls, the fort underwent changes in response to advances in weapons technology following the civil war.

    10 gun batteries or smaller forts including one in the middle of the original fort were built from the 1890s through the 1940s, each a response to a particular threat.

    Ginny Scantlebury: It's amazing how well preserved this is after being built so long ago.

    Brent Lane: Interestingly enough, here at Fort Pickens Geronimo and 47 other Cherokee Apaches were imprisoned from 1886 to 1888. David Ogden: Local business people actually got together and petitioned their congressman to get the war department to leave Geronimo here at Fort Pickens and they actually agreed.

    It was intended to be a tourist attraction. I mean from the army's point of view he was just another prisoner, but the fact of the matter was he was so famous that people from Pensacola going through some great links to come out and see him, because in those day we had to take a boat out here.

    Stories are told that he would sell the buttons off of his shirt to tourist and then he would have new buttons sewn on. They became so popular that the Apaches actually had to petition the army to close the fort one day a week so that they could at least do their laundry in private.

    Of the 118 years and so the military history at Fort Pickens, those 18 months are certainly amongst the most famous.

    Brent Lane: Atomic bombs, guided missiles and long range bombers made such forts obsolete by the end of World War II and the army abandoned the forts.

    The fort became a popular Florida state park until the creation of Gulf Island's National Seashore in 1971.

    Following extensive repairs in 1976 the National Park Service reopened Fort Pickens. I'm Brent Lane reporting from the Pensacola Gulf Coast.