On Friday, a small group reenacted the 1814 Battle of Pensacola. Great Britain had come to Spanish West Florida to build fortifications and was using Pensacola as a base of operations.
“That attracted the attention of the United States Army, who came in to push the British out of Pensacola,” said museum educator and battle reenactor Phillip Mayhair. “They fought a battle in the streets here around Seville Square with the Spanish, and so that is what we are representing this morning.”
Although the reenactment was about 10 minutes long, Mayhair says they aim to not only make such reenactments fun, but also educational.
“I’m hoping people will realize that there’s a lot of history in Pensacola, maybe things that they didn’t really realize before,” he added. “I don’t think a lot of people think about the War of 1812 every day and that there was a battle here in Pensacola, so I’m hoping that it will bring awareness to some of Pensacola’s history.”
Not long after the Battle of Pensacola, the Spanish gave Pensacola and the territory of Florida to the Americans. Battle reenactor Tyler O’Day discusses how the events of 200 years ago shape the community today.
“If Andrew Jackson didn’t take Pensacola, who knows where it’d be today?” O’Day asked. “If the Spanish didn’t hand it over, it could still be a Spanish territory, so a lot of people don’t realize how much of an impact just little events in history have on their daily lives.”
A few dozen spectators witnessed the reenactment. One of the onlookers was Rob Overton, executive director of the University of West Florida Historic Trust.
“Pensacola’s history is much more than we all have usually realized,” he said. “It involves many more cultures than we typically think. It is a very multicultural history, there were all different people that were here.”
Many of the spectators also were impressed by the performance.
“I learned that just watching the battle that it was a very hard way to fight a battle,” spectator Cindy Helms said. “With having to reload the guns, it didn’t happen quickly, and looks as if people died very, slow, painful deaths from these wounds.”
“It’s great to see people come out and do these reenactments to show people what went on in the past; bring history forward so they understand what happened in this area,” said Larry Hope.
Margo Stringfield, co-chair of the 200th Anniversary Commission, hoped spectators remember the reenactors not as actors but as people representing real-life events.
“Pensacola’s history involves everybody in our community,” she said. “Everyone that came here today was part of Pensacola’s history. They became part of our history and part of this event.”
As one of the organizers, Stringfield was encouraged by residents’ participation, because she says the 1821 transfer of Florida from Spain to the U.S. was a momentous period in the history of our state and country.
“Everyone that’s walking on this historic landscape is part of our history and heritage,” she added. “People will look back and see that years down the road.”