Pensacola History, Florida
Pensacola is the county-seat of Escambia County, which represents the western extremity of Florida (the closest settlements in Florida are Fort Walton Beach and Valparaiso resorts). Pensacola history is almost as old as the discovery of the New World: in 2009, Pensacola celebrated its 450 anniversary, which makes it the oldest European settlement in America. Along its fascinating history, Pensacola’s territory was under the administration of five different states: Spain, France, Great Britain, the Confederate States of America and finally, USA – thus the nickname: “The City of Five Flags”.
Pensacola History – Pensacola during the Spanish Occupation
The history of Pensacola starts with a very romantic figure: in 1559, Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano, leading a fleet of 11 ships, arrived in Pensacola Bay. With most people killed by a disastrous hurricane and the others scattered around the Gulf of Mexico, the Spanish decided that the coast of Florida wasn’t safe for colonists. They only returned after 135 years, with the expedition of Juan Enriquez Baroto and Antonio Romero. Between 1698 and 1754, the Spanish built in the area of Pensacola Bay three consecutive ‘presidios’.
Pensacola History – Pensacola in the 18th and 19th Centuries
The third presidio (first two were destroyed by hurricanes), was founded in 1754 and was named Presidio San Miguel de Panzacola, after the Native American tribe living in the area, called Panzacola. In the next years, Pensacola’s history was quite dramatic: it was conquered by the British and made the capital of West Florida in 1763 and re-captured by the Spanish during the American Civil War. The purchase of Louisiana from the French and the several attempts of General Andrew Jackson to capture Pensacola resulted with the Adams-Onis Treaty, which stated that all Florida became US territory.
Pensacola History – Pensacola as a US City
The US government initiated the construction of a series of costal forts: Fort Pickens in 1834, Fort McRea in 1837, Fort Barrancas in 1844. The second half of the 19th century was marked by the Civil War and frequent yellow fever epidemics. During the Reconstruction period that succeeded the war, Pensacola’s role as a cotton shipping centre began to decrease, being replaced by the timber exploitation, by different types of manufactories and by an emerging brick making industry. The 20th century was characterized by economical and demographic growth: Pensacola became not only a tourist destination, but a strategic point in the US military defense. Pensacola is a source of national pride, as it represents the headquarters of the famous Blue Angels (a navy flight demonstration squadron) and is home to the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
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