Peeking into the Past: Civil War Exhibit

Posted: Apr 9, 2019 8:14 PMUpdated: Apr 9, 2019 8:14 PM
Walking up the staircases of Fort Pickens, the aged brick battlements give way to a breathtaking panorama of sandy beaches and sparkling shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The salty breeze and swaying palms are a few of the calming characteristics found while exploring the Gulf Islands National Seashore. However, some of the past inhabitants of the fort did not share the same peaceful, easy feelings as the modern-day visitor. 

Nearly 158 years ago, the fort’s inhabitants were caught in the crossfire of the Civil War battle of Santa Rosa Island. On October 1, 1861, gun smoke replaced the early morning fog as Confederate troops attacked the Union site at Camp Brown. The camp was left in ruins as Union troops retreated into the fortified walls of Fort Pickens. Unbeknownst to the Confederates, Fort Pickens had been reinforced with hundreds of Union troops who were able to fend off the attack and maintain Federal control of the area. 

The ransacked remains of Camp Brown were nearly forgotten throughout the turbulent years of the Civil War. However, the protection provided by Gulf Islands National Seashore allowed for incredible preservation of the ruins of Camp Brown. In 2016, a team of archeologists was able to define the area where Camp Brown once stood, uncovering numerous artifacts that help tell the story of Civil War strife. Among these artifacts are a Bowie knife scabbard tip, clothing fragments and uniform buttons that have given archaeologists insight into the lives of those who wore them. 

These artifacts are currently on display in Downtown Pensacola until June at the University of West Florida’s Destination Archaeology Resource Center located on 207 E. Main Street. The exhibit “Smoke on the Water - The Archaeology of Camp Brown” is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10 am - 4 pm.