May 23, 2011

5/23/11 – Castillo de San Marcos NM

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is the oldest masonry fort and best-preserved Spanish colonial fort in the continental US.  It’s right across from historic St. Augustine on Matanzas Bay.   I knew about St. Augustine, but nothing about the fort.  We stopped at the St. Augustine lighthouse on the way.  Saw the film about its history, but opted not to climb all the way up into the lighthouse itself.

No free parking at this park; we had to feed a parking meter which only takes quarters—and ours get saved for laundry.  George had to ask someone to change a dollar for us, and then we could head to the Castillo.  
We listened to a history talk by a ranger, then wandered around with a “Self-Guided Walking Tour” I’d picked up.  This must be field trip season, because it was full of elementary school kids and their chaperones.  We really did try to stay out of their way.

The Castillo was finished in 1695—there had been 9 other wooden forts in the same location, but this one was built of blocks of stone.  It protected St. Augustine from pirate raids and from those pesky British.  During the War of Spanish Succession in 1702 (not in not my American history book!) the English occupied St. Augustine and lay siege to the Castillo for 50 days, with 1,500 soldiers and townspeople inside.  The fort was again attacked in 1740, but those walls made of coquille shellstone just absorbed cannonballs.  The moat outside the Castillo wasn’t filled with water, but was used as a corral for livestock during attack.  The way the moat and outer walls were built, you could only see the top 1/3 of the castle.

It’s a really odd shape, a hollow square with diamond-shaped bastions sticking out at each corner. That way there were no blind spots and every approach to the fort comes into a cross-fire.  They had LOTS of cannon. 
Six different flags flew over the fort:  two different Spanish flags, British, the Confederacy and the United States (twice)—but it never lost a battle.  It was always transferred by treaty, not war.   

We looked around historical St. Augustine for a bit, but the meter was running out so we didn't stay long.  
St. Augustine Lighthouse

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