Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fort McRee on Perdido Key, Florida


Visited 26 Apr 2013 - Fort McRee (1834-1947) was originally a brick Third System coastal fort that saw service during the U.S. Civil War and was almost completely destroyed in the 1861-1862 battles for Pensacola and it's harbor. 
Early Photo of the Old Fort McRee Ruins
Early Photo of the Old Fort McRee Ruins

The old brick fort lay in ruins after the Civil War and all trace of it were eventually covered by the changing sands on the key. Two concrete Endicott Period gun batteries were built on the old military reservation in 1898-1899. Battery Center had four 3" gun emplacements and Battery Slemmer had two 8" gun emplacements. 

A 1906 hurricane with a 12 foot storm surge covered the island, damaged the batteries and killed several military members and dependents. The batteries were rebuilt and an 11 foot high seawall was built around the reservation. 
1928 Photo of Fort Mcree
1928 Photo of Fort Mcree with the two Endicott Period Gun Batteries and the Seawall
CDSG Members landing at Fort McRee
CDSG Members landing at Fort McRee

World War I saw both Endicott Period batteries disarmed and fire control stations built on the Island. During World War II, a modern 6" coastal gun battery, Battery 233, was built on the reservation along with support facilities. The battery was never armed and it was abandoned after the war in 1947. The old military reservation is now part of the Gulf Island National Seashore administered by the National Park Service.
Battery 233 Rear Entrance
Battery 233 Rear Entrance





You can visit Perdido Key via private boat and land in a cove directly below the World War II Battery 233. I did this along with other members of the Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG) as a part of their annual meeting. Our group departed from the Navy mariana at Sherman Cove for the very short trip across the channel to Perdido Key. We were accompanied by a National Park Service historian who supervised our access to the interior of Battery 233. The battery is normally locked up to protect it from vandals and graffiti artists.
Battery 233 Internal Generator Room
Battery 233 Internal Generator Room


Battery 233 was build along a standard plan for this type battery so the interior was familier but still interesting and a bit dangerous because it's pitch black inside and there are some unexpected drop-offs. Lots of graffiti on the walls, some dating back to the 80s. There are three entrances to the battery, one for each of the two gun positions and a central entrance at the back of the battery. 
Battery 233 Gun Emplacement #2 Entrance
Battery 233 Gun Emplacement #2 Entrance
Battery 233 Emplacement #1 Gun Pit
Battery 233 Emplacement #1 Gun Pit

The gun positions are located on either side of the central structure and you can find the empty gun pits in front of the emplacement entrances. If you climb up to the top of the battery you can see all the entrances and the gun pits as well as a great view of the whole reservation inside the seawall.




Battery Center Gun Emplacement #4
Battery Center Gun Emplacement #4






Battery Center is located at the north end of the reservation while Battery Slemmer is on the south end. Both of these batteries are pretty much buried in sand but there is enough of the upper level exposed on both of them to identify the gun emplacements. Battery Slemmer was disarmed in 1918 and later overbuilt with a fire control station and a 60" searchlight position.





Battery Slemmer Crows Nest Observation Post
Battery Slemmer Crows Nest Observation Post



The remains of two fire control towers can still be seen on the key, one is a tall concrete tower at the southwest corner of the seawall and the other is a collapsed concrete BC/CRF station and steel tower behind Battery 233. Only the foundation, or perhaps it is the roof, of the fire control station built into Battery Slemmer is visible.






Concrete Pillar from Fire Control Station
Concrete Pillar from Fire Control Station




At the north end of the reservation here are a number of concrete pads and a couple of very short roads that were a part of the WWII facilities built to support Battery 233. The Battery 233 structure is the only intact building within the seawall perimeter.

There was no sign of the original brick fort on the beach.

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