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Visit by Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
- It is the most miserable place that I have beheld since I crossed the Atlantic. Such Spaniards as possessed any property have left this place, when it was ceded to the United States, and have moved off either to New Orleans, or the island of Cuba. Only the poorest of them have remained. Since that time, the Americans settled here, have, as at Mobile, created a new population. The deepest sand covers the unpaved streets, which are broad, and regularly laid out. Only a few new houses are of brick, they are mostly of wood, and stand at a considerable distance from each other. There is not a single ship in the port. A new market-house of brick is building upon the shore, and not far from it stands the wooden catholic church, the outside of which appears in a forlorn condition. Near the church are the ruins of an old English barrack, which was burnt about four years ago; its two wings were covered by two block houses of logs, which are standing, one of which serves for a custom-house. About the town several block houses have stood, which formerly afforded a good protection against the Seminole Indians, the original inhabitants of this section of country.
- In the evening of this day, and on the next morning we received visits from several officers, from Colonel Clinch, commandant of the 4th regiment of infantry, who was posted here with Major Wright and others. Captain Campbell of the Marine Corps, who had the command of the new navy-yard, that was to be established here: some supplies had arrived, and were put in store at Fort Barrancas. As we wished to see this fort, the gentlemen were so polite as to accommodate us with their boats.
- I went with Colonel Wool in Captain Campbell's boat. We had a favourable wind, and spreading two sails we reached fort Barrancas, nine miles by sea from Pensacola, in an hour. On the way we saw a flock of sixteen pelicans. On account of the point of land stretching into the bay, we had to make a circuit; it was called Tartar point, and the new navy-yard is to be upon it. It is thought that it will be commenced in two months. The country about Pensacola and the shores of the bay are the most disagreeable that can be conceived of; nothing but sand heaps dazzling-white like snow. In the bay lies a level island, St. Rosa, with a growth of dwarf oaks. On it had been erected a fort, which was blown up by the English, when they occupied Pensacola in the year 1814, to support the Creek Indians then at war with the United States, and were compelled to evacuate it by General Jackson. The English blew up also a part of Fort Barrancas at the same time, but the Spaniards have reinstated it, although on a smaller scale; thus it remains at present.
- The cannon are of brass, English and Spanish. Among the latter I observed two very fine twenty-four pounders, cast in Seville. Nothing can be more unhandy than the Spanish gun-carriages, they have wheels, which at the outside measure four feet in diameter.
- In the gorge of the works, there is a large bomb-proof casemate, and in the yard a furnace for red-hot shot. The whole of the work is built of sand, therefore the wall outside, and the parapet inside, are covered with upright planks, and the cheeks of the embrazures in the same manner. The Spanish cannon, also mounted on the clumsiest carriages, are placed in battery. The fort was temporarily given up to the marines, who employed the casemates and block houses for magazines, till the requisite preparations could be made in the navy-yard. At that period, the fort will be dismantled, and in its place a respectable fortress will be erected to defend this important point.
- It is of the highest consequence to the United States, to have an extensive maritime and military position on the Mexican gulf, on account of the increasing power of the new South American Republics. Nevertheless, Pensacola can only be of secondary ability to fill such a station, since the sand bank lying in the mouth of the bay, has only twenty-two feet upon it at high water; and necessarily, is too shallow for ships of the line, or even American frigates of the first class. Besides, upon the whole coast of the Gulf of Mexico, there is but one single bay, (and this is situated southward of La Vera Cruz,) in which armed ships of the line can pass in and out. The pieces of ordnance placed upon the walls, as well as some forty lying upon the beach, half covered with sand, of old Spanish and English cannon, are, as is said, perfectly unserviceable.
- Outside of the fort, about two hundred paces distant from il, along the sea-coast, stands a light house built of brick, about eighty feet high, in which twenty lamps in divisions of five, constantly turn upon an axis in a horizontal movement during the night. They are set in motion by clock-work, and were prepared in Roxbury, near Boston. I saw the model in the patent office at Washington. The lamps are all furnished with plated reflectors, and are fed with spermaceti oil. The land about the fort is for the most part sandy, and produces only pines naturally, these however have been rooted out, and dwarf oaks and palmettoes have since sprouted out.
- Karl Bernhard. Travels Through North America, During the Years 1825 and 1826. Carey, Lea & Carey, 1828.