Designed by French engineer Simon Bernard, Fort Pickens was constructed between 1829 and 1834, mostly using slave labor. It’s part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, located on the Western tip of Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola, FL.
Fort Pickens was the largest of a group of forts designed to fortify Pensacola Harbor, part of an ambitious seacoast defensive program known as the Third System. It was one of only four Southern forts to remain in Union possession throughout the Civil War.
Fort Pickens was designed with many guns concentrated in thick masonry walls and underwent updates as weapons technology kept changing. By the end of World War II, it was considered obsolete, and the US Army abandoned it. The site reopened in 1976 after extensive repairs by the National Park Service.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is a beautiful place, containing old forts and related structures, many in ruins. Fort Pickens is like an extensive labyrinth with tunnels, stairs and windows offering glimpses of the Gulf.
Baron Simon Bernard was a French engineer who became a US brigadier-general of engineers and designed a number of fortifications for the Army. He later returned to France, where he served as the minister of war.