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Although the United States survived the War of 1812, the British destruction of our nation's capital and their attack on New Orleans emphasized the weakness of our country's defense. To prevent another foreign invasion, President James Monroe ordered the placement of an extensive coastal defense system.

Construction of Fort Pike began in 1819 as part of a series of fortifications stretching along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to protect strategic ports and rivers such as New Orleans and the Mississippi River. Fort Pike never saw combat, but during the Second Seminole War, it served as a prison for Seminoles and their slaves awaiting passage to the Indian Territory. During the Civil War the fort served as a training ground for the United States Colored Troops.

Fort Pike served as a staging area for many troops en route to Florida during the Seminole Wars in the 1830s. It was also a collection point for hundreds of Seminole prisoners and their black slaves who were being transported to Oklahoma. During the Civil War, the Union used the fort as a training center, where former slaves were taught to use heavy artillery. These troops became part of the United States Colored Troops, who played an important role in the outcome of many battles, including the siege at Port Hudson.

The fort was named for the explorer and soldier General Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1779-1813) whose name is also attached to Pike's Peak in the Rocky Mountains.