Adam Jacoby Slemmer

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Adam Jacoby Slemmer
Born January 24, 1828
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Died October 7, 1868
Fort Laramie, Wyoming
Occupation United States Army officer

Adam Jacoby Slemmer was a United States Army officer known for his decision at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 to consolidate Union troops at Fort Pickens and mount a defense. His decision allowed the Union to effectively control Pensacola's valuable harbor for the duration of the war.

Early life[edit]

Slemmer was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Upon his graduation in 1850 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, Slemmer was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was assigned to duty with the First United States Artillery near Tampa Bay, Florida. He also served at Fort Yuma, California and Fort Moultrie, California before returning to West Point as an instructor in 1855.[1]

In 1860, Slemmer was ordered to Florida.

Civil War[edit]

At Pensacola[edit]

In January 1861, at the onset of the Civil War, then-First Lieutenant Slemmer was stationed with Company G, 1st United States Artillery at Barrancas Barracks, near Fort Barrancas. The company's commanding officer, Captain John H. Winder, as well as his executive officer, First Lieutenant A. R. Eddy, were absent on leave, leaving First Lieutenant Slemmer in command.[2] On January 10, Florida became the third state to secede from the Union. Shortly thereafter, Lieutenant Slemmer decided to abandon Forts Barrancas and McRee and consolidate Union forces at Fort Pickens. Slemmer explained his decision as strategically necessary:

I called on Commodore [James] Armstrong (Union Commanding Officer of the Navy Yard) ... He had received orders to cooperate with me. We decided that with our limited means of defense we could hold but one fort, and that should be Fort Pickens, as it commanded completely the harbor and the forts and also the navy yard.

—"Pensacola in the Civil War." Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. IX, No. 2, 1978.

Slemmer's men destroyed over 20,000 pounds of gunpowder at Fort McRee, spiked the guns at Fort Barrancas, and evacuated 51 soldiers and 30 sailors to Fort Pickens.[3] On January 12, rebel troops from Alabama and Florida occupied the Navy Yard and Forts Barrancas and McRee. Lt. Slemmer thereafter held Fort Pickens until reinforcements arrived in April, refusing three demands for surrender from rebel Colonel William H. Chase. Slemmer's decision to hold Fort Pickens prevented the Confederacy from taking advantage of Pensacola's excellent harbor.

Slemmer was lauded as a hero in the North, and after being relieved in April 1861 he attended receptions in his honor in New York and Philadelphia. In May, he was promoted two full grades, to Major.[1]

Remainder of the war[edit]

Slemmer was badly injured in the Battle of Stones River in December 1862 but recovered.[1]

Postbellum life and death[edit]

After the war, Slemmer was bretted a brigadier general. He died of typhoid fever while in command of Fort Laramie in Wyoming.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Moses Auge. Lives of the Eminent Dead: and Biographical Notices of Prominent Living Citizens of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. 1879.
  2. J. H. Gilman. "With Slemmer in Pensacola Harbor." Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. Century Company, 1887.
  3. "Pensacola in the Civil War." Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. IX, No. 2, 1978.