If you happen to be walking around in the SoGo district of Downtown Pensacola on a certain Saturday, you may just find yourself inexplicably thrown back into a Colonial era world with soldiers firing muskets and marching drummer boys surrounding you as you inadvertently learn about an important and often overlooked chapter in Florida’s history.
Don’t worry. You’re not hallucinating. You’ve just stumbled into Pensacola’s monthly reenactment celebration of Florida becoming a part of the United States.
Every third Saturday at noon, a unique new tradition takes place within Plaza Ferdinand on the corner of Palafox and Zaragossa streets downtown. Young re-enactors dressed in period costumes and drumming out traditional military marches depict the historic 1821 handover of west Florida by the Spanish to the American government.
The actors make up the Jacksonian Guard — which consists of students ages 12 to 29 representing the youthful composition of Jackson’s army. The group includes Jacksonian era soldiers and Spanish soldiers, fifers and drummers, all decked out in period-appropriate uniforms, instruments and weapons. The guard performs a Colors Ceremony to commemorate Florida’s 195th birthday as a U.S. territory.
The Spanish seceded Florida to U.S. Army Gen. Andrew Jackson, Florida’s first territorial governor, on July 17, 1821, at the site of modern-day Plaza Ferdinand.
The Jacksonian Guard honors Jackson by offering a military salute, firing their muskets in the air in front of his statue. Following the salute to Jackson, they transfer a Spanish flag to a replica 1821, 23-star U.S. flag that first flew over the Plaza.
The event marked the end of nearly 300 years of Spanish involvement in the state and ushered in a new era of growth and prosperity for the region.
The re-enactments take about 20 minutes and the actors invite onlookers to take pictures with them and ask questions after each performance.
It just goes to show that Pensacola, which dates to a short-lived Spanish settlement in 1559, has the most interesting history in the state. No matter where you go in Pensacola, history is just around the corner.
For more information, visit the Jacksonian Guard Facebook Page.