Yesterday we arrived here at Ft. Pickens campground on the Gulf Islands National Seashore, across the bay from Pensacola, FL..and what a greeting! Immediately I noticed the fighter jets high above us. We are directly across from Pensacola Naval Air Station too! Have I mentioned my infatuation with military aircraft?? Maybe it was loving the movie “Top Gun”, followed by our son’s duty onboard the USS JFK aircraft carrier..Den and I got to take a parent’s cruise on that floating city in August 1990, and they launched aircraft from the flight deck in international waters..Anyway, I digress…I am sooooo loving this place!
Above is our campsite…#3 in A loop. This loop is pretty small and the spaces aren’t very spacious. Our firepit just might light up the scooter strapped onto the back of the big motorhome just behind us to the left..He is so long he is hanging almost into our campsite. No worries, though..I’m already smitten with the white sand and the nice weather..NO WINTER COATS! This morning Den and I decided to take our walk over to the Fort..We were told we are about 1 mile from it, so we got our map and wandered down the trails…
There is a nice network of walking nature trails here…MacGyver( A.K.A. Mac Audubon) says that nest is most likely an Osprey nest..Since I am no “Jane Hathaway”,,,I’ll take his word for it..
OK, hem hem..The class will come to order! No gum chewing or unnecessary chatter…and please keep your hands to yourselves. You are about to get a History lesson here…so TRY not to fall asleep!
“This fort was built by skilled African-American slaves brought up from New Orleans. It was begun in 1824, and completed in 1834…and used until 1947. Ironically, the only real action the fort endured occurred when the country was at war with itself. Fort Pickens was one of four seacoast forts in the South that remained in Union control during the Civil War. In 1861, Union forces at Fort Pickens faced Confederates holding the mainland. The two forces came to blows November 22nd and 23rd of 1861. Confederate forces had taken 2 other forts and a navy yard across the bay that year, and the Union forces put up a fierce battle. With the assistance of cannon fire from two warships, the Union re-took those forts and the naval yard..”
And now, class, I will insert a collage to give you a little taste of the many aspects of Fort Pickens……(Quit complaining, class..I actually took about 50 photos, so count your blessings!)
“Captives from Indian Wars in the West were transported to the East Coast to be held as prisoners. From October 1886 to May 1887, Geronimo, a noted Apache war chief, was imprisoned in Fort Pickens, along with several of his warriors. Their families were held at Fort Marion in St. Augustine.”
We walked all around that wonderful fort. You could see where the big cannons were placed , and there was still one cannon in particular that was quite amazing…
The 15” Rodman cannon is the largest smooth bore cannon every used in the U.S.Army. Obviously, I look ridiculous in my jeans and sneakers standing next to this piece of American history! (Do take note the I am touching it…That is what I do to “channel” history.) Since I don’t have a clue how this actually worked, I will let the next photo explain with the real deal loading this puppy up.
“In this photo of that Rodman cannon, the 10-man crew prepares to fire. Four men carry the ball with a sabot attached. (another attached sabot is atop the stack on the left). One man has sponged the barrel to extinguish any sparks from the previous shot, while 2 others handle the 50lb powder charge in a cartridge bag, and another man below the barrel holds the ramrod. The officer at the breech is checking the aim with a removable gun sight, and the 10th man waits to bring up the next powder charge, in the box on the left…”
This fort is very large and takes a good couple hours to do it justice. They are still working at restoring some other parts of it. Below is an aerial photo of Ft. Pickens to give you an idea of the size….
This old fort still stands as it did over 100 years ago. For over a century, Fort Pickens protected the coastline from foreign invasion. This process continued until missiles, airplanes and bombs made harbor forts obsolete.
This fort is a great reason to visit …but the birding is also pretty darn good too! MacGyver and I got a bonus walking on the trail back to our campground…
I thought I saw 2 Blue Herons in this tree..But, look closely in the first photo and see if you can find the third…These dudes were not the least bit upset with us standing by them and gawking..I took advantage to get a couple close ups…
The 2 on the lower branches were oblivious…but Mr. Crabby on the top branch gave me the “snake eye”..OK, I
get got the picture!
Well, so far this trip has been GREAT!..and tomorrow it will get even better when we drive across the bay to tour the Pensacola Naval Air Museum…I just bet you can hardly WAIT for that history lesson…tehee…(hey, at least I’m posting a little more often…be careful what you wish for, kids!)