The city of Pensacola was founded by the Spanish in 1539. Don Tristan de Luna, a Spanish sailor, founded a colony in the area of present-day Pensacola in 1559. He came with 1400 people. Two weeks later, the colony was wiped out by a hurricane. The hurricane caused major damages to Don Tristan de Luna's ships, sinking five of them, and ruining the supplies. Few survivors made an effort to relocate, but another hurricane decimated them, too. The Spanish Viceroy at Mexico concluded that it was a dangerous place for settlement.
It was in 1698, after 135 years, that Spain decided to make a permanent settlement in the city, so as to protect themselves from French encroaching. In 1719, the French took control of the city, but returned it to Spain in exchange of New Orleans, which eventually lessened the foothold of British in the Gulf area.
Pensacola is known as the City of Five Flags, as it was ruled by five different countries, before becoming a part of the United States. It was ruled by Spain, Britain, France, the Confederacy, and the United States. It was under Spain for about 240 years, although in three different periods.
The First Spanish Period (1559 - 1719)
The first European settlement in the United States was established by Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna on Santa Rosa Island. The Spanish were the first to bring African slaves to the American continent, and introduce the Roman Catholic Church. Pensacola was named after the Panzacola Indians, a tribe that lived near the bay when the Spanish arrived.
The French Period (1719 - 1722)
The French captured this city in 1719, when Jean-Baptiste Bienville, the governor of French Louisiana, arrived with his fleet and a large force of Indian warriors. The Spanish commander was unaware of the war that had been declared by France. As the Spanish garrison was very small, the commander surrendered on conditions that the private property and the citizens would not be harmed, and they would be allowed to march out of the fort with honor. They were later shipped to Havana in French ships. However, a hurricane drove the French from the town in 1722. The Spanish then moved the town to the mainland.
The Second Spanish Period
In 1722, the area destroyed by hurricane was rebuilt by the Spanish. During this period, they were largely occupied in the missionary work with Indians. The other objective was the development of Pensacola as an important port and building a strong military force. Spain always had a conflict with French and British interests during the period, but their informal alliance with France clearly meant that they confronted serious threat from the British pirates. These pirates and smugglers sold goods cheaper than Spanish companies, which was not taken lightly by Madrid.
British Period (1763 - 1781)
In 1763, at the end of Seven Years War (French and Indian War), the British took control of this city. During the British period, the town prospered and was made the capital of British West Florida. It became the largest city in Florida, under the British in 1763. After the war, the British gained access to inland areas as far as the Mississippi River. The French were ousted from the mainlands. In 1963, a modern street plan for the town was laid by the British.
During the American Revolution (1775 - 1763), many British colonies like Georgia and Alabama revolted against the British. Spain allied themselves with the American rebels and won the Battle of Pensacola. They also succeeded in capturing West and East Florida.
Third Spanish Period (1781 - 1819)
It was recaptured by the Spanish in 1781. There were few short-lived invasions by Americans, but Spain retained control later. The entire Gulf Coast and Mississippi River Valley was under the Spanish governance during this period. This situation wasn't acceptable to American settlers since this region was important for the shipment of American goods like corn, tobacco, and cotton. The Spanish were occupied with the growing rebellion, and were not able to concentrate in fortifying the region. The American rebellion under General Andrew Jackson succeeded in capturing the Pensacola region, and all of Florida was transferred to the United States.
United States Period (1821 - 1861)
In 1827, the first permanent Protestant Christian congregation was established. This city became home to three historic US Forts: Fort Barrancas, Fort McRee, and Fort Pickens. Rebellion leader, General Andrew Jackson, became Florida's first territorial governor. He ill-treated Indians, many of whom left the territory. He wanted to find a new capital, and hence sent riders on horsebacks, who met at the Indian village of Tallahassee. This became the new territorial capital city of Florida. Cotton was an important cultivation during this period. Slaves were forced to work on these plantations. Hence, half the population of Florida comprised slaves. In 1945, Florida was admitted to the Union as the 27th state.
The Confederate Period (1861 - 1865)
Florida separated from the Union in 1861 and became the third state to secede from the Union. It was then under the Confederacy, which consisted of 11 southern states of the United States of America that had declared their separation from the US. Later, Pensacola and two other Confederate states fought the invading United States army and forces stationed at Fort Pickens. The city was conquered by the United States and burned down. People left for nearby islands in Alabama.
Second United States Period (1865 - Till Date)
Florida was readmitted to the Union in 1868, and from then on, it has been a part of the US. Cotton remained a crucial cultivation. The brick mining industry too prospered during the late twentieth century. The US Navy and military had their base at Pensacola. The town developed, and people saw it as a holiday destination. It became famous for its tourist spots such as beaches, National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola Naval Air Base (the first Naval Base in the US), Sam's Fun City, parks, golf courses, and its night life.
The location of this city makes it vulnerable to hurricanes and sea storms. That was a major reason why the Spanish and British were afraid to settle here. Recently, a hurricane destroyed a large part of the city, but it is back to life and tourists are flocking in larger numbers. Its beautiful tourist attractions and cultural heritage are what that makes it a must-visit place in Florida.