St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by the Spanish on the site of a native American Indian village. The Florida city’s most historically significant structure is the Castillo de San Marcos, a fort constructed by the Spanish between 1672 and 1695. The fort was built of coquina, a type of shell stone indigenous to the area and quarried from Anastasia Island.
The Castillo has never been conquered despite attacks by English General James Oglethorpe who attempted to subdue the town in 1740. Firing from the tip of Anastasia Island, he found his cannonballs were no match for the unusual consistency of coquina which absorbed the blast rather than crumbling.
The fort served as such for 205 years. Strangely enough, during the Civil War, it was mostly in Union hands, except for about a 15 month period early in the war. The Fort was then returned to Union hands on March 11, 1862 after the USS Wabash, a Union gunboat, took the city and Fort without firing a shot when it found that Confederate forces had evacuated the area and the local authorities were willing to surrender to preserve the town.
In the 1890s, the Fort was back again at its duty of being a prison. During the Spanish American War in 1898, it would have almost 200 court-martialed deserters from the American Army imprisoned within its walls. With the end of the 19th century, the Fort finally completed its long tour of duty; being removed from the rolls of active bases, and was made a national monument in 1900 after serving six flags over 205 years.
The picture was taken when we were there in 2008. As you can see, there were inner and outer parts (bastions) to the fort (the picture was taken from atop the inner section, looking outward), connected by walkways that spanned moats that could be flooded by lifting flood gates during high tide. One might imagine, being in Florida, that there may have been gators in the moat from time to time, as well as rather nasty poisonous snakes. As I stood on the upper ramparts and looked towards the bay (behind from where this picture was taken), I tried to picture the Spanish soldiers in their metal armor, sweating in the sun, watching for marauders who were coming to plunder the area. I’m just glad that I wasn’t wearing my metal armor that day….oh, wait. I don’t have any metal armor!!! Bet those guys wish they had Kevlar!
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA, was the first radio station to begin broadcasting in the United States.