Sunday, January 25, 2009

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument - St. Augustine, Florida

A few days ago I mentioned Fort Matanzas National Monument near St. Augustine. The "other" fort in America's oldest city, of course, is the Castillo de San Marcos. Now preserved as a national monument, the Castillo or castle is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.

The Castillo de San Marcos was actually the tenth in a series of fort's built by the Spanish to defend St. Augustine. The previous nine had been constructed of earth and wood. The need for a more solid fort had long been known, but a pirate attack on the city in 1668 and the founding of Charleston, South Carolina, by the English in 1670 spurred the construction of the Castillo in October of 1672.

Built of natural coquina stone quarried on nearby Anastasia Island, the fort took 23 years to complete and is a spectacular example of Spanish colonial architecture.

It was attacked repeatedly by English forces during the 1700s, but never fell. During one bombardment the selection of coquina for the construction of the fort proved its worth as English cannon balls sank into the soft stone walls without shattering the ramparts or seriously damaging the fort.

The fort and all of Florida was turned over to the British in 1763 following the French and Indian War and redcoats occupied the Castillo, which they called Fort St. Marks, during the American Revolution. It served as a base for repeated attacks on Georgia. Returned to Spain after the Revolution, the Castillo continued to serve as a Spanish military post until 1821 when Florida was ceded to the United States. It then served the U.S. and briefly the Confederate armies for nearly 80 more years.

To learn more about the historic and unconquered fort that protected St. Augustine, please visit

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