Friday, February 22, 2019

Battle of the Beaches

Pensacola Lighthouse, view from Pensacola Bay. Note: During the Civil War, the lighthouse was all white.
*Leave comment for chance to win copy of new book.

By Marilyn Turk

Pensacola, Florida, has been the site of several battles between countries vying over its deep-water harbor that's protected from the Gulf of Mexico by a barrier island known as Santa Rosa Island. In the late 1700’s, Spanish forces defeated British forces for control of the area. However, in the War of 1812, American forces led by Andrew Jackson fought both British, Spanish and their allies for possession of the Florida territories, ultimately winning in 1814. And in the Civil War, the battle was between the northern states and the southern states of America.

On January 10, 1861, the state of Florida seceded from the United States, making it one of the first southern states to do so. Subsequently, Confederate troops attempted to take over the army garrison stationed at Fort Barrancas, just to the west of the city of Pensacola. The Union forces managed to repel the Confederates, then sneaked out during the night by ship to Fort Pickens, a fort on Santa Rosa Island just across the Pensacola Bay.

Over the next few months, the opposing forces exchanged cannon fire sporadically. By the end of the year, over 7000 Confederate troops under the command of General Braxton Bragg were positioned on the mainland at Fort Barrancas across from 2,000 troops under Colonel Harvey Brown at Fort Pickens. In October, Bragg ordered an attack on Fort Pickens that was unsuccessful. Brown decided to retaliate and in early November, attacked Fort McRae, a Union-held fort on an exposed peninsula at the mouth of the entrance to the bay.

Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island today

For two days, cannons at Fort Pickens and two Union ships in the Gulf of Mexico heavily bombarded the fort, partially destroying the fortification and killing several Confederates. Fort McRee was virtually useless after the attack, but neither side conceded defeat, and Confederates remained in control of the mainland.

Confederate troops on top of Fort Barrancas.
Note lighthouse is background.

However, in May of 1862, after New Orleans fell into Union hands, the Confederate forces at Fort Barrancas and the surrounding area of Pensacola were called away to fight elsewhere, burning buildings, lumber mills and docks in their wake to prevent the Union forces from using them. 

Pensacola came under control of the Union forces where it would remain throughout the Civil War.

Looking from the top of the lighthouse today to the
peninsula where Fort McRee used to be.

Today, Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Lighthouse are on the grounds of the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. Both are open to tourists. Fort Pickens, on Santa Rosa Island, is also open to tourists and is managed by the federal parks system. 

My newest book, Rekindled Light, is set in 1869 Pensacola when the town rebuilds after the Civil War.

The war destroyed their engagement. Misunderstandings keep them apart. Will a mysterious arsonist be the only one fanning a flame or can their love be rekindled?

Marilyn Turk 
Historical fiction flavored with suspense and romance

Marilyn Turk’s roots are in the coastal South. Calling herself a “literary archaeologist,” she loves to discover stories hidden in history. She is the author of two World War II novels, and the Coastal Lights Legacy series set in 1800s Florida—Rebel Light, Revealing Light, Redeeming Light, and Rekindled Light—featuring lighthouse settings. Marilyn’s novella, The Wrong Survivor, is in the Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides collection. She also writes for the Daily Guideposts Devotions book.

Website: @


  1. Interesting post, Marilyn. I don't know a lot about Florida history, so this was fun to learn about.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Linda. I'm happy to share with a fellow history-lover!

  2. Interesting! Thanks for letting us know about it.

  3. Wow,an interesting post filled with history. I look forward to reading Rekindled Light, as I've enjoyed the previous books in this series. Blessings!

  4. some wonderful history about these light houses. I enjoy reading about light houses. There is mystery and romance surrounding them. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  5. I share your love of lighthouses, Lori. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Very interesting history! Now I want to go see that area myself :). Thanks so much for the giveaway.
    bettimace at gmail dot com

  7. Great post. I have always loved Pensacola’s history. You bring it alive!

  8. Love Lighthouses my favorite is Cape Hatteras here in NC.
    Visited four so far.

  9. Hi Elma, I've visited those on the Outer Banks too. I loved Currituck, mainly because I love the setting, but of course, Cape Hatteras is pretty.