Pensacola: Fort Barrancas

Fort Barrancas or ‘Fort San Carlos de Barrancas’ is a United States military fort and National Historic Landmark.

A hilltop fort that overlooks Pensacola Bay. Fort Barrancas was built after numerous previous forts, including Fort San Carlos de Austria, which was constructed by the Spanish in 1698. Barranca is a Spanish word for bluff, the natural terrain feature that makes this location ideal for the fortress.

It was attacked by Indians in 1707 but was not taken. In 1719 French forces captured Pensacola and destroyed the old Spanish fort.

Following Britain’s defeat of the French in the Seven Years’ War in 1763, England exchanged some territory with Spain and took over West Florida. The British used this site as a harbor fortification, building the Royal Navy Redoubt in 1763.

More than a decade later, as enemies of the British, the Spanish decided to ally with the American rebels in 1779 during the American Revolutionary War. They took Pensacola in 1781.

After the war, the Spanish retook control of West Florida. They completed the fort San Carlos de Barrancas in 1797.

When the United States purchased Florida from Spain in 1821, it selected Pensacola as the site for a major Navy Yard, which was developed around the Spanish Fort Barrancas. Fort Barrancas was reconstructed and expanded with brick between 1839–1844 on its hilltop overlooking the bay. It was strengthened to defend against ships entering the harbor and against attack across land.

Stronger cannon and ironclad ships developed during the Civil War made masonry forts like Fort Barrancas outmoded. The fort was used as a signal station, small arms range, and storage area by the Army until 1946. Newer weapon technology developed during World War II made coastal defense completely obsolete.

Fort Barrancas was deactivated on April 15, 1947. It and the nearby Advance Redoubt are located on Naval Air Station Pensacola and are both managed as historic properties by the National Park Service. After a $1.2 million restoration project, Fort Barrancas was opened to the public in 1980.

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