Castillo de San Marcos

Model of the Castillo de San Marcos

Model of the Castillo de San Marcos

Summertime travels recently brought me to St. Augustine, Florida and the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Established at its completion in 1695 to defend Spanish territory after Sir Francis Drake attacked and burned St. Augustine in 1586,  the fort served under six flags. Its first test came after the  British occupied St. Augustine in 1702. Filled with 1,200 of the city’s residents and 300 soldiers the masonry fort withstood 50 days of siege at the hands of English soldiers. The city of St. Augustine, however, was torched and burned to the ground. In 1763, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain as a result of the Seven Years’ War. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 returned Florida to Spain. Yet another agreement, the Adams-Onis Treaty handed Florida over the the United States where it remained until Florida seceded from the Union in 1861. After the Civil War, the Castillo de San Marcos once again returned to the United States upon capture by Union forces in 1862. Today the fort is owned by the National Park Service and as such has become a historic attraction.

Entrance to the fort is by way of the Sally Port over a drawbridge that spans the fort’s moat.

View of the Moat and Drawbridge with Matanzas Bay in the Background

View of the Moat and Drawbridge with Matanzas Bay in the Background

The potcullis is a heavy sliding door, the only entrance and exit to the fort. Note the coquina fort walls, 14-19 feet thick at the base and 9 feet wide at the top. Coquina, a sedimentary rock formed of seashells and coral, formed an excellent barrier to incoming cannon balls which simply sunk into the soft limestone walls.

Once inside the fort, you see a large central courtyard surrounded on all sides by vaulted rooms or casements.

Entrance through the Open Portcullis

Entrance through the Open Portcullis

Many of the rooms are open for inspection. Included are rooms for supplies, a chapel, the powder magazine where munitions were stored, and school rooms used for Native American prisoners of war.

Soldier's Sleeping Quarters

Soldier's Sleeping Quarters

A stairway leads to the gun deck.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

Once on the gun deck visitors enjoy a view of Matanzas Bay. Four bastions at the corners provided a protected lookout and signaling window for the lighthouse and ships at sea.

San Carlos Bastion

San Carlos Bastion

Cannons mounted near the parapet walls, or embrasures, show how the fort was protected. In 1740, this gundeck held 74 cannons.

One of many Cannons on the Gundeck

One of many Cannons on the Gundeck

View from the Gundeck Looking East

View from the Gundeck Looking East

Should your travels in the Southeastern United States take you to St. Agustine, the oldest European settlement in our nation, be sure to visiot the Castillo de San Marcos. It is a trip through history that you won’t forget.

4 thoughts on “Castillo de San Marcos

  1. These are some great pictures. I have a friend who is interested in visting the Castillo de San Marcos after I told her about my visit. So I sent her a link through Twitter. I hope it brings some activity to your blog.

    Happy Writing!

  2. Hello! I came across your blog today while researching St. Augustine and was thrilled to find you had visited Castillo de San Marcos. It is absolutely my favorite place in the world! I could spend day after day in those old rooms. Also, your testimony is very touching. It’s amazing what God can do! I love Him a little more every day :-)

    • I am happy to hear from you. Yes, the Castillo is an amazing place. Even more amazing is the grace of Almighty God. It’s good to hear from you. I have enjoyed visiting your site as well.

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