Pensacola, a city, port of entry, and the capital of Escambia co., Florida, situated on the N. W. side of the bay of the same name, about 10 m. from the gulf of Mexico, 180 m. W. of Tallahassee, and 53 m. E. S. E. of Mobile, Alabama; lat. 30° 24' K, Ion. 87° 20' W.; pop. in 1850, 2,164; in 1860, 2,877; in 1870, 3,347, of whom 1,264 were colored. It is connected with the Mobile and Montgomery railroad by the Pensacola and Louisville line, 44 m. long. The country immediately around Pensacola is sandy, little cultivated, and covered with pines. The town itself, although a place of considerable political and commercial importance during the Spanish and English occupation, had until a year or two prior to the civil war presented a decayed appearance. At that time a large accession both to its trade and population took place, in consequence of the approach to completion of the railroad connecting it with Montgomery. Since the war it has had considerable commerce, and its lumber business is important. The value of foreign imports for the year ending June 30, 1874, was $23,964; of exports to foreign ports, $2,864,913. It has an excellent harbor, admitting vessels of a draught of 22 ft.
The principal public buildings are a custom house and Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches. There are several schools and academies, and two weekly newspapers. The remains of the old Spanish forts, San Miguel and St. Bernard, may be seen in the rear of the city. The climate is exceedingly healthful, except for occasional visitations of yellow fever. (For the navy yard and forts, see Pensacola Bay.) - There is some uncertainty with regard to the original settlement of Pensacola. It is believed that a few French colonists established themselves here about the year 1696. The place was in the possession of the Spaniards in 1699, about which time a colony of 300 emigrated thither from Vera Cruz. In 1719 it was captured by Bienville, but in 1723 it was restored to the Spaniards. In 1763 Pensacola, with the rest of Florida, passed into the occupancy of the British. It was again besieged and taken by the Spanish general Galvez in 1781; and in 1783 the whole province was retroceded to Spain. In November, 1814, the British forces, which had been permitted by the Spanish authorities to establish themselves at Pensacola, were driven out by Gen. Jackson, who assaulted and took the town and. adjacent forts.
In May, 1818, Jackson again took the town, and obliged Fort Barrancas, to which the Spanish governor had retired, to capitulate. This movement was made in consequence of the incursions of hostile Indians from Florida into United States territory, and the inability or unwillingness of the Spanish authorities to suppress them. By a treaty concluded in 1819, and executed in 1821, the whole province was ceded to the United States. On Jan. 12, 1861, soon after the passage by Florida of the ordinance of secession, a body, of militia appeared before the navy yard and demanded its surrender to the state authorities. The yard and the adjacent forts were given up without opposition. Two days before this event, Lieut. Slemmer, commanding at Fort Barrancas, had crossed over with about 80 soldiers and marines to Santa Rosa island and taken possession of Fort Pickens, which he refused to surrender. Several national vessels were ordered to rendezvous off Santa Rosa island, but for two months they were not allowed to take any measures for the reinforcement of the fort, or even to furnish it with supplies, during the pendency of negotiations at Washington. On April 12 orders were sent that the fort should be re-enforced; and a week afterward Col. Harvey Brown, with 750 soldiers and a considerable amount of artillery and supplies, arrived and took command.
The confederates had collected a force on the mainland, under Gen. Bragg, who cut off supplies from the fort, and several times opened fire upon it, but at a range too great to inflict any damage. About the middle of June Wilson's regiment of New York zouaves was landed on Santa Rosa island, where they encamped on the bare sand outside of . Fort Pickens. Early in October the confederates made a descent upon the island by night, penetrating into the camp of the zouaves, which was almost entirely destroyed, but retired on the approach of reinforcements from the fort. Two spirited but ineffectual engagements, consisting exclusively of an interchange of the fire of heavy artillery, afterward took place: one, opened by Fort Pickens and the vessels of the national fleet, in November, 1861; the other, opened by the confederates, on Jan. 1, 1862. Pensacola, with the navy yard and neighboring forts, was soon afterward evacuated by Gen. Bragg. They were immediately reoccupied by the federals, but the troops were afterward withdrawn to the navy yard, leaving the town a sort of neutral ground, liable to occasional temporary occupation by either belligerent.
On Feb. 19, 1864, an accidental conflagration swept over five squares, destroying some of the most valuable buildings in the city.