Fort Barrancas is a U.S. military fort and National Historic Landmark in Pensacola, Florida. The fort is located within Naval Air Station Pensacola, which was later built around it. From 1787 to 1838 the fort was known as Fort San Carlos de Barrancas. The fort was renamed Fort Barrancas in 1839.
Fort Barrancas sits atop a hill, is connected to a sea-level water battery, and overlooks Pensacola Bay. The Spanish fort was dramatically expanded upon and reconstructed with brick between 1839-1844. On April 15, 1947, following WWII, Fort Barrancas was deactivated by the United States Army due to changing requirements. The fort was then designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and was transferred to the control of the National Park Service in 1971. Fort Barrancas underwent extensive restoration from 1971-1980 before being opened to the public.
Fort Barrancas was built on a site of numerous previous forts, including Fort San Carlos de Austria which was built by the Spanish in 1698. Fort San Carlos de Austria was attacked by Indians under the leadership of some English traders in 1707, but the fort was not taken. Then, in 1719, Pensacola was captured by French forces and the fort was destroyed.
In 1763, following the French’s defeat by the British in the Seven Years’ War, Britain exchanged some territory with Spain and took control over West Florida. The British used this site to build the Royal Navy Redoubt in 1763, fortifying the harbor. In 1779, the Spanish joined the war against the British during the American Revolutionary War, even though they never officially became American allies. In 1781, they took Pensacola, and after the war the Spanish were back in control of West Florida. Fort San Carlos de Barrancas was completed in 1797. Barranca is the Spanish word for bluff, which is the natural terrain feature the fort is built upon.
In 1814, Fort Barrancas was the scene of the American victory at the Battle of Pensacola during the War of 1812. The battle was fought between American forces which were led by General Andrew Jackson along with some Indian allies, and the allied forces of the Spanish, British, and Creeks.
In 1818, the Spanish fort exchanged fire with an American battery over a few days, but the Spanish ultimately surrendered the fort, leaving Pensacola in American hands. Fort Barrancas was reconstructed and expanded upon from 1839-1844, making it stronger so it could defend against ships entering the harbor as well as attacks from land.
Stronger, ironclad ships developed during the Civil War made forts like Fort Barrancas outdated. The fort was then used as a storage area, signal station, and small arms range by the Army until 1946. In 1947 Fort Barrancas was deactivated, and the United States Navy incorporated it into Naval Air Station Pensacola. In 1971, the Gulf Islands National Seashore was established to be managed by the National Park Service and Fort Barrancas was included in this.
Fort Barrancas Today
The fort is now operated as a visitor center for the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and visitors can tour the restored fort to learn about its history. The Gulf Islands National Seashore has many other recreational activities you can participate in as well, including fishing. If you’re looking to get some fishing in between touring the forts, look no further than Rock Bottom Fishing Charters!