Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Miscellany: Memorial Day at Fort Pickens

Memorial Day is supposedly dedicated to all the men and women who died in military service to the United States. In practice, though, we tend to focus on the major wars (WWII, Vietnam, the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan) and not the smaller ones (when was the last time you saw a ceremony for the Spanish-American war dead?). There are some places where you can remember a large swath of American military history, and Fort Pickens is one of them.

Fort Pickens is a fort in Pensacola, Florida that served the U.S. military for more than a century before being turned into a national park; it was occupied by Union soldiers and used as a coastal artillery battery in order to defend Pensacola and the bay. Geronimo was held prisoner there, too:

Much of the fort has been restored by the Park Service, and you can see firsthand the clash between a traditional Civil War fort (huge 300-pounders on top of 30 foot squat brick walls) and a more modern fort (smaller concrete structures housing WWI and WWII-era artillery). The various tunnels, arches, and crawlspaces are still in good shape, although one bastion was blown apart after the Civil War when a powder magazine exploded. All in all, it's an interesting place to visit if you're ever in Pensacola.


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