1861 January 12th

January 12 1861 Saturday

Florida. Pensacola had little strategic or commercial significance because of its poor communications with the interior but it did offer the best natural harbour in the Gulf of Mexico. It was therefore a significant location for the US Navy. The entrance was guarded by Fort McRae and Fort Barrancas on the landward side and by Fort Pickens on the tip of the 40-mile long Santa Rosa Island. Union control of Fort Pickens prevented Confederate access to the most important navy yard south of Norfolk, Virginia.

The surrender of Fort Pickens was demanded by Governor Madison S Perry of Florida and Governor of Andrew B Moore of Alabama but this was refused by Lieutenant Adam Jacoby Slemmer. Slemmer’s actions prevented the Confederates from acquiring large quantities of military equipment at Fort Pickens. Seaman William Conway gained a brief celebrity when he refused the order of US Navy Lieutenant F B Renshaw to haul down the US flag after the surrender.

Florida. Florida State troops seized the evacuated Barrancas Barracks, Fort Barrancas, and Fort McRae after the Union garrison had escaped across Mobile Bay to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, a position which would remain in Union hands throughout the war. Until the mainland installations were surrendered, Slemmer’s garrison at Fort Pickens numbered just 81 men, of whom 30 were seamen.

Florida. The US Navy Yard at Pensacola was surrendered intact to the State authorities by Commodore James Armstrong USN.

Mississippi. The state of Mississippi withdrew its representatives from the US Congress.

Tennessee. The state of Tennessee passed the Convention Bill.

Union Organisation

Commander in Chief: President James Buchanan

Vice-President: John Cabell Breckinridge

Secretary of War: Joseph Holt

Secretary of the Navy: Isaac Toucey

  • African Squadron USN: Captain William Inman USN
  • Brazil Squadron USN: Captain Joshua R Sands USN.
  • East Indian (Asiatic) Squadron USN: Captain Cornelius K Stribling USN
  • European Squadron USN: vacant
  • Home Squadron USN: Captain Garrett J Prendergast USN
  • Mediterranean Squadron USN: Captain Charles H Bell USN
  • Pacific Squadron USN: Captain John B Montgomery USN

General–in-Chief: Winfield Scott

  • Department of California: Benjamin Lloyd Beall temporary
  • Department of the East: John Ellis Wool
  • Department of New Mexico: Thomas Turner Fauntleroy
  • Department of Oregon: George Wright
  • Department of Texas: David Emanuel Twiggs
  • Department of Utah: Philip St George Cooke
  • Department of the West: William Selby Harney

Union Generals

Major-General USA

Winfield Scott

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
David Emanuel Twiggs
William Selby Harney

Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Joseph Eggleston Johnston

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