Castillo de San Marcos - St. Augustine, FL
Day 7 of our vacation trip (continued)
St. Augustine, FL
After our visit of the St. Augustine Lighthouse we enjoyed a walk through St. Augustine. It's a place of many "firsts" and "oldest". So if you have some time have a look at some of the sights or even read a little bit about the history of the Castillo de San Marcos.
St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest continuously occupied European established city, and the oldest port, in the continental United States. It lies in a region of Florida known as The First Coast, was founded by the Spanish under Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565 (who named the settlement San Agustín). and the first Christian worship service held in a permanent settlement in the continental United States was a Catholic Mass celebrated there. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War and gave Florida and St. Augustine to the British, an acquisition the British had been unable to take by force and keep due to the strong force there. Florida was under Spanish control again from 1784 to 1821. During this time, Spain was being invaded by Napoleon and was struggling to retain its colonies. Florida no longer held its past importance to Spain. The expanding United States, however, regarded Florida as vital to its interests. In 1821, the Adams-Onís Treaty peaceably turned the Spanish colonies in Florida and, with them, St. Augustine, over to the United States.
The Castillo de San Marcos is a Spanish built fort located in the city of St. Augustine, Florida, United States. It was known as Fort Marion from 1821 until 1942, and Fort St. Mark from 1763 until 1784 while under British control. The city of St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish in 1565. Over the next one hundred years, the city was defended by nine wooden forts. Following the 1668 attack of the English pirate Robert Searle, it was decided by the Queen Regent of Spain, Mariana, that a masonry fortification be constructed to protect the city. In October 1672 construction began on the fort that would become the Castillo de San Marcos. The Castillo is a masonry star fort made of a stone called "coquina", literally "little shells", made of ancient shells that have bonded together to form a type of stone similar to limestone. Construction lasted twenty-three years, being completed in 1695.
In 1670, Charles Town (modern-day Charleston, South Carolina) was founded by the British. Being just two days sail from St. Augustine, this was one of the events that spurred the fort's construction. In November 1702, forces under orders from Governor James Moore of Charles Town, set sail from Carolina in an attempt to capture the city.
Upon their arrival at St. Augustine, the British laid siege to the city. All of the city's residents, some 1,200 people, along with all of the fort's soldiers, some 300, remained protected inside the wall of the fort for the next two months during the attack.
The British cannon had little effect on the walls of the fort. The coquina was very effective at absorbing the impact of the shells, allowing very little damage to the walls themselves. The siege was broken when the Spanish fleet from Havana, Cuba arrived, trapping the British in the bay. The British were forced to burn their ships to prevent them from falling into the Spaniards' hands, and march overland back to Carolina. As they withdrew, they set fire to the city of St. Augustine, burning much of it to the ground.
After the siege of 1702, the Castillo underwent a period of reconstruction. Beginning in 1738, under the supervision of Spanish engineer Pedro Ruiz de Olano, the interior of the fort was redesigned and rebuilt. Interior rooms were made deeper, and vaulted ceilings replaced the original wooden ones. The vaulted ceilings allowed for better protection from bombardments and allowed for cannon to be placed along the gun deck, not just at the corner bastions. The new ceilings required the height of the exterior wall to be increased from 26 to 33 feet
Tensions between Great Britain and Spain had been on the rise for years, and in 1739 Great Britain declared war on Spain. As part of the war, British General James Oglethorpe laid siege to the Castillo and the city of St. Augustine.
General Oglethorpe landed his troops on Anastasia Island across the inlet from the Castillo and the city. He began firing on the Castillo in hopes that a sustained bombardment and blockade would force the governor of Florida to surrender. The coquina walls of the Castillo once again withstood British bombardment, and on the morning of the 38th day of the siege the British withdrew their forces from the area.
In 1763, the British finally managed to take the Castillo, but not by force. As a provision of the Treaty of Paris (1763), Britain gained all of Florida in exchange for returning Havana and Manila to Spain, captured during the Seven Years' War. On July 21, 1763, the Spanish governor turned the Castillo over to the British.
The British would make a few changes to the fort, most notably its name, becoming Fort St. Mark. With Britain being the dominating power in North America, it was not felt that the fort was needed to be kept in first rate condition. This attitude was prevalent until the outbreak of the American Revolution.
During the war, St. Augustine became the capital of the British colony of East Florida. Improvements were begun on the fort, in keeping with its new role as a base of operations for the British in the south. The gates and walls were repaired and several rooms had second floors added to increase the housing capacity of the fort. The Castillo saw action during the American Revolution mainly as a prison, holding several revolutionary fighters captured in Charleston when it was taken by the British. Major operations from St. Augustine were kept under control by the actions of the Spanish, who had declared war on Britain in 1779. Bernardo de Gálvez, governor of Spanish Louisiana, attacked several British held cities, capturing all of them. His actions kept the British occupied in the south, never letting them organize any major actions against the Americans from the Castillo.
At the end of the war, the Second Treaty of Paris returned Florida to Spain. On July 12, 1784, Spanish troops returned to St. Augustine.
When Florida was returned to Spanish control, they found a much changed territory. Many Spaniards had left Florida after the hand over to Britain, and many British citizens stayed after the hand over back to Spain. Many border problems arose between Spanish Florida and the new United States. Spain had changed the name of the fort back to the Castillo de San Marcos, and continued to build upon the improvements that Britain had made to the fort in an effort to strengthen Spain’s hold on the territory. However, due to increased pressure from the United States and several other factors, in 1819, Spain signed the Adams-Onís Treaty, ceding Florida to the United States.
Upon the hand over to the United States, the Americans changed the name of the Castillo to Fort Marion. Structurally, little was changed to the fort during this time. Many storerooms were converted to prison cells, due to their heavy doors and barred windows. Also, part of the moat was transformed into a battery as part of the American Coastal Defense System.
In January, 1861, Florida seceded from the United States in the opening months of the American Civil War. Union troops had withdrawn from the fort, leaving only one man behind as caretaker of the fort. In January 1861, Confederate troops marched on the fort. The Union soldier manning the fort refused to surrender it unless he was given a receipt for it from the Confederacy. He was given the receipt and the fort was taken by the Confederacy without a shot. Most of the artillery in the fort was then sent to other forts, leaving the fort nearly defenseless.
The fort was taken back by Union forces on March 11, 1862, when the USS Wabash entered the bay, finding the city evacuated by Confederate troops. The city leaders were willing to surrender in order to preserve the town, and the city and the fort were retaken without firing a shot. Throughout the rest of the fort's operational history, it was used as a military prison.
In 1924, the fort was designated a National Monument and in 1933 it was transferred to the National Park Service from the War Department. In 1942, in honor of its Spanish heritage and construction, the fort was once again given its original name of Castillo de San Marcos. As a historic property of the National Park Service, the National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on October 15, 1966. The National Park Service manages the Castillo with Fort Matanzas National Monument. In 1975, the Castillo was designated an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.