Some accidental American History occurred this week for Eli and Brynne. While in Pensacola, Florida, on Spring Break, I took the kids to tour Ft. Barrancas.
According to the National Park Service, "European colonization, American expansion, and threats of invasion led to the building of coastal forts along the northern Gulf Coast. Situated on the bluffs (barrancas) overlooking Pensacola Bay and the gateway to the outside world, Fort Barrancas served as the lock on the gate from potential foreign invaders."
"The forts of Gulf Islands National Seashore span almost 150 years, from the Spanish colonial Bateria De San Antonio (1797) to the World War Two-era Battery 234. This reflects the historic value of the anchorages at Pensacola Bay, Florida and Ship Island, Mississippi. Most striking among these are the American Third System forts: Fort Pickens, Fort Massachusetts, Fort Barrancas, and the Advanced Redoubt, all of which saw action during the Civil War."
"On Jan. 8, 1861, United States Army guards repelled a group of men intending to take Fort Barrancas in Pensacola Harbor. Historians say that this event could be considered the first shots fired on Union forces in the Civil War."
There are excellent materials for teachers at the Gulf Islands National Seashore site at nps.gov. One such resource is a "Parks as Classroom" pdf download. For instance, there is a lesson on "How to Build a Fort" with instructions how to do it. This comes after lessons about important figures in the Gulf Coast area and the changes of the flags of ownership of the Gulf Coast area. The entire download is a couple hundred pages long. (We might use some of this download as lessons before Spring Break next year, because we will be coming here again.)
When you are on vacation, check where you are going for a nugget of American History. Chances are, you'll find something!