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Title: The Building of Castello de San Marcos - National Park Service Interpretive Series, History No. 1
Author: Manucy, Albert C.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Building of Castello de San Marcos - National Park Service Interpretive Series, History No. 1" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

The National Park System, of which Castillo de San Marcos National
Monument is a unit, is dedicated to conserving the scenic, scientific,
and historic heritage of the United States for the benefit and enjoyment
of its people.

[Illustration: U. S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, March 3, 1849]

                     Stewart L. Udall, _Secretary_

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                      Conrad L. Wirth, _Director_


              For sale by the Superintendent of Documents,
                    U.S. Government Printing Office
                 Washington 25. D.C.    Price 20 cents

                            THE BUILDING OF
                              Castillo de
                               San Marcos

                            ALBERT C. MANUCY
               Castillo de San Marcos National Monument_

[Illustration: Royal Spanish coat of arms.]

               _National Park Service Interpretive Series
                             History No. 1_




  FLORIDA AND THE PIRATES                                               1
  BEGINNING THE CASTILLO                                                8
  THE YEARS OF CONSTRUCTION                                            15
  DEFENDING SAN MARCOS                                                 26
  THE END OF AN ERA                                                    31
  GLOSSARY                                                             34

                            _The Building of_
                          Castillo de San Marcos

                        FLORIDA AND THE PIRATES

A Pirate Raid forced the Queen of Spain to build Castillo de San Marcos
in Florida. On May 28, 1668, a sailing vessel appeared off the shallow
bar of St. Augustine Harbor. It was a ship from Vera Cruz, bringing a
supply of flour from New Spain to feed the poverty-stricken soldiers and
settlers in Spanish Florida. Out went the harbor launch to put the bar
pilot aboard. The crew of the launch hailed the Spanish seamen lining
the gunwale of the supply ship, and to the routine questions came the
usual answers: Friends from New Spain—come aboard. The launch fired a
prearranged two shots telling the Governor that the vessel was
recognized, then she warped alongside and tied up. Not until then did a
strange crew swarm out from hiding and level their guns at the chests of
the men in the launch. There was nothing for them to do but surrender.
Worst of all, the reassuring signal had already been given. No one in
the fortified town of St. Augustine could suspect the presence of

The invaders waited until midnight, when the presidio was asleep.
Quietly they rowed ashore in small boats. Scattering through the
streets, shouting, cursing, firing their guns, the hundred of them made
such an uproar that the bewildered Spaniards dashing out of their homes
thought there were many more. Governor Guerra emerged from his house and
with the pirates pounding at his heels, he joined the guard in the race
for the old wooden fort. Behind those rotten walls with 33 men, he
somehow beat off several assaults. By daybreak his little force was
reduced to 28.

Defense of the town itself was the charge of Sgt. Maj. Nicolás Ponce de
León and some 70 soldiers. In the darkness the pirates fired effectively
at the burning matches of the Spanish harquebusiers (soldiers with
matchlock guns), and Ponce and his men fled to the woods. More than half
a hundred Spaniards were killed as they ran from their homes into the
confusion of the narrow streets. Many others were wounded on their way
to the shelter of the forest. The pirates were left in complete
possession of the settlement.

When daylight came, a previously hidden enemy warship put in an
appearance and anchored with the captured supply boat just beyond range
of the fort guns. Meanwhile, the pirates systematically sacked the town.
No structure was neglected, from humble thatched dwelling to royal
storehouse, hospital, and church, though the things carried off were
worth but a few thousand pesos, for the town was poor. Powerless to do
more, the Governor made the futile gesture of sending a sortie out from
the fort. Those brave soldiers managed to get in a few shots at the
already departing pirate boats.

The pirates left their prisoners at the presidio, and these unfortunates
were able to explain the daring raid. It went back to the argument
Governor Guerra had had with the presidio’s French surgeon some time
before. That disgruntled doctor was captured on his way to Havana by the
pirates, who had already seized the supply ship from Vera Cruz. Seeing a
chance for revenge on Guerra, the Frenchman conferred with his captors,
apparently suggested the raid, and gave them the information they needed
to work out a plan. Nor was this the only news from the prisoners. The
invaders were the English. Furthermore, they had carefully sounded the
bar, taken its latitude, and noted the landmarks with the avowed intent
of returning in force to seize the fort and make it a base for their
raids on commerce in the Bahama Channel. The fact that they did not
leave the town in ashes lent credence to this report.

In Spanish eyes, the 1668 sack of San Agustín (St. Augustine) was far
more than a daring pirate raid on a tiny colonial outpost. St. Augustine
was the keystone in the defenses of Florida. And Florida was highly
important to Spain, not as a land rich in natural resources, but as a
way station on a great commercial route. Each year, galleons bearing the
proud banners of Spain drove slowly past the coral keys and surf-pounded
beaches of Florida, following the Gulf Stream on their way to Cádiz. In
these galleons were millions of ducats worth of gold and silver from the
mines of Peru and Mexico.

It was the year after Magellan’s ships encircled the world that the
Conquistador Cortés dispatched a shipload of treasure from conquered
Mexico. The loot never reached the Spanish court, for a French corsair
took it to Francis I. That incident opened a new age in the profitable
profession of piracy. Daring pirates of all nationalities sailed for the
shelter of the West Indies. Florida’s position at the wayside of the
life line connecting Spain with her colonies meant that this
semitropical peninsula was of great strategic importance. Like the dog
in the manger, Spain had to occupy the territory to prevent her enemies
from using the marshy estuaries and natural harbors as ports from which
to spread their sails against the commerce of her far-flung empire; and
this same inhospitable country had to be made a refuge for the hundreds
of mariners shipwrecked along the Florida reefs and the lee shores of
the narrow channel.


  1. Treasure ships sailed the Gulf Stream. Spain needed Florida to
          protect this life line
  2. Enemy settlement came closer and closer to Florida
  3. A strong fort would stop this English advance

It was a sizeable defense problem and one not seriously considered until
French pressure caused the establishment of St. Augustine in 1565. With
this small fortified settlement on one side and growing Havana on the
other side of the Bahama Channel, ships could normally pass safely from
the ports of New Spain to those of the Old Country. Gradually a system
of missions developed in Florida—fingers of civilization reaching out
into the wilderness of the southeast. Since the missionaries had to be
protected, both from hostile aborigine and European, defense became a
matter of dual operation. The unceasing hunt of the coast guard for
starving castaways, storm-wracked vessels, and pirates was paralleled on
land by the rapid marches of the patrols along the Indian trails or the
sailing of the piraguas through the coastal waterways. The presidio of
St. Augustine was the base of operations, and here the strongest forts
were built.

A typical early fort was San Juan de Pinos, burned by the English
freebooter Francis Drake in 1586, after being robbed of its bronze
artillery and some 2,000 pounds sterling “by the treasurer’s value” in
the most devastating raid St. Augustine ever suffered. Such a fort as
San Juan consisted of a pine timber stockade around small buildings for
gunpowder storage and quarters. Cannons were mounted atop a broad
platform, called a caballero or cavalier, so that they could fire over
the stockade. In the humid climate, these forts were a very temporary
expedient. While they could be built cheaply and quickly, often they
failed to last out the decade, exposed as they were to the fire arrows
of the Indians and the ravages of the seasonal hurricanes. During the
century before Castillo de San Marcos was started, nine wooden forts,
one after another, were built at St. Augustine.

Nor did Spain yet see the need for an impregnable fort in the Florida
province. After the English record at Roanoke, the weakling settlement
of Jamestown did not impress the powerful Council of the Indies at far
away Madrid. Moreover, the activities of the Franciscans in extending
the mission frontier into the western and northern Indian lands not only
gave Spain actual possession of more territory than she ever again was
to occupy in Florida, but apparently was a sure means of keeping out
rival Europeans. The fallacy in this thinking lay both in disparaging
the colonizing ability of the Anglo-Saxon and in believing that an
Indian friendly to Spain would not, if given the opportunity, become
friendly to England. The red man was restive under the strict teachings
of the friar, and it turned out that the English fur trader equipped
with glittering presents and shrewd promises found little difficulty in
persuading his naïve customer to desert the mission and ally himself
with the English cause. Not until the missions began to fall before the
bloody onslaughts of the Carolinian and his native ally did the grim
walls of Castillo de San Marcos arise.

Spain was on the decline as a great power. The storm-scattering of her
powerful armada in the English Channel was symbolic. On the other hand,
the exploits of the English seamen in that fateful year of 1588 were but
a prelude to Britannia’s career as mistress of the seas. For England,
the seventeenth century opened an era of commercial and colonial
expansions, when the great trading companies were active on the coasts
of four continents and powerful English nobles strove for possessions
beyond the seas. To this era belong the origins of the Carolinas, the
Jerseys, Penn’s Colony, and the famous Hudson’s Bay Company. A vast,
rich territory stretched from the James River region to the Spanish
Florida settlements, and in 1665 the British Crown granted a patent for
its occupation. By the terms of this patent, the boundaries of the new
colony of Carolina brazenly included some hundred miles or more of
Spanish occupied land—even St. Augustine itself!

The trend was becoming clear. The fight for Florida was inevitable.

In the middle 1600’s St. Augustine was practically defenseless. Where
the masonry fort now stands, there was a wooden fort of almost the same
size, but rotten—rotted into uselessness and so weakened by repairs that
much of the original design was lost. Nor were there means for fixing
it. A smallpox epidemic made Indian labor out of the question, so there
were no peons to bear heavy timbers on their shoulders from the forests.
No silver lay in the King’s chest: the Florida colony existed almost
solely by means of a subsidy of money and provisions from New Spain,
whose commerce it protected, and the reluctance of the New Spain Viceroy
to pay that subsidy meant that the usual condition of St. Augustine was
one of direst poverty and extreme want.

Yet, if ever Florida needed a strong fort, it was now. Year by year the
corsairs were becoming bolder. Without stronger defenses for the
province, said one Governor, “the success of its defense would be
doubtful in spite of the great valor with which we would resist....” The
matter of building a permanent fort had been broached as early as 1586,
soon after the discovery of the native shellrock called coquina, and
before the turn of that century Governor Canço reported not only the
successful construction of a stone powder magazine but a renewed
enthusiasm for a masonry fort. The sandy, unstable coastal soil provided
the engineers with a problem, but the real obstacles to accomplishment
were the poverty of the presidio and the feeling of the Madrid officials
that Florida did not require strong military defenses. Even when the
Spanish Crown granted permission to build a stone fort (as happened more
than once) circumstances proved that the time for the castillo had not
yet come. Once a very practical Florida administrator cited the
abundance of native materials, and even went so far as to claim that no
additional funds would be needed for building a stone fort. All he
wanted was the prompt payment of the subsidy from New Spain—a not
unreasonable plea—and out of that money he would buy a dozen Negro
slaves versed in stonecutting and masonry, slaves such as were available
in any number of Caribbean towns, and to be sure the work was done right
he wanted the engineer from Cartagena assigned to the job. At the very
least, this Governor asked for the slaves: if nothing more, they could
face the walls of the wooden fort with stone.


Even this well-considered project was tabled. One of Florida’s royal
officials in a letter unwittingly mentioned the old fort as being in
fair condition, and the Council in Madrid decided to await more
information before doing anything.

The Council appeared more concerned over other Florida problems, and for
good reason. Even before fortification came the matter of keeping the
St. Augustine people from starvation such as came in the spring of 1662.
Expected provisions from New Spain failed to arrive; the frigate out of
St. Augustine, bringing maize from the granaries of the Apalache Indians
in western Florida, was long overdue and the people feared she was lost.
The tiny garrison was more or less accustomed to being underclothed,
underfed, and unpaid, but to make matters worse, the Royal Treasurer
refused to pension several veterans—men who had spent 50 years in the
service of the Crown. True, these soldiers were now too old even for
ordinary guard duty. The Treasurer was within his rights in refusing to
pay them when they did not work, but his refusal was a death knell for
the old men. The Governor saw it as something worse—a damaging
precedent. The younger soldiers would realize, argued the Governor, that
“they were wasting their youth and hoarding up for themselves a sentence
of death from starvation as the price of their services.”

The Council of the Indies sided with the Governor in this routine
instance of bleak poverty, and certainly the Treasurer was glad to
relieve his own conscience. Yet the fact remained that while the
officials in Spain recognized the shocking conditions of neglect, St.
Augustine was still far from succor. To the Viceroy of New Spain went
new orders to pay the subsidies. The royal commands were ignored. By
1668 more than 400,000 pesos—8 years’ payments—were owing to the Florida
presidio. Then came the midnight raid of 1668.

After that crippling blow, St. Augustine was left destitute. Once again
the soldiers were faced with the prospect of digging roots by day and
begging alms by night from the few more fortunate inhabitants of the
presidio—or starvation. As for the old wooden fort—the one nominal
defense of the colony—a gun platform had fallen under its artillery;
there was a great breach in the timber wall; the sea had washed away
part of the foundation.

Notwithstanding, the sack of St. Augustine proved to be a blessing in
disguise, for the turn of events shocked the home officials into action.
On October 30, 1669, Queen Regent Mariana commanded the Viceroy of New
Spain to provide 12,000 pesos to start a new fort of stone, and 10,000
pesos each year to carry it to completion, amounts over and above the
regular subsidy.

That year the Viceroy released more than 83,000 pesos for relief of the
stricken settlement. It was 12 months of life for the colony. Out of it
also came hire for mules that carried baggage from Mexico City to Vera
Cruz—baggage for soldiers recruited for Florida. Trouble there was in
finding even 75 men, and even more trouble in getting them aboard ship
for the long voyage to the hardships of the frontier province. Strangely
enough, the arrival of such reënforcements was not an occasion for
unmixed rejoicing, for these soldiers were mostly mulattoes and mestizos
who, reported Sgt. Maj. Nicolás Ponce, were not highly regarded for
their courage in the Queen’s cause.

To give impetus to the belated Spanish preparations for the defense of
Florida, an English settlement that became Charleston, S. C., was
founded in 1670. The Florida frontiersmen saw the need for vigorous
action—for uprooting the new colony before it waxed too strong. Under
the command of Juan Menéndez Marqués, a small St. Augustine fleet sailed
northward. However, the winds blew stormy as they had for the French
fleet before St. Augustine in 1565, the Spanish fleet was scattered, and
the fledgling English colony was saved. Then Mariana’s treaty with
England forbade the disturbance of established English settlements, so
with the English only a 2 days’ sail from St. Augustine there was
nothing left to do but prepare to defend Florida against certain
invasion. To the frontier at Santa Catalina Mission on the Georgia coast
a small garrison was sent. And construction of a Florida citadel, built
of imperishable stone, was soon to begin.

                         BEGINNING THE CASTILLO

To start the work at St. Augustine, Queen Mariana chose Don Manuel de
Cendoya, gave him the governorship of Florida, and sent him to Mexico
City to confer with the Marqués de Mancera, Viceroy of New Spain.
Cendoya’s first task was to collect the promised 12,000 pesos for
starting the job, and that accomplishment he reported in the middle of
January 1671. The disquieting news of the English settlement of
Charleston gave point to his discussions with the Marqués.

On his way to Florida, Cendoya stopped at Havana, looking for skilled
workmen—masons and lime burners. There he found an engineer, Ignacio
Daza. It was on August 8, 1671, that the first workman began to draw his
pay. By the time the mosquitoes were sluggish in the cooler fall
weather, the coquina pits on Anastasia Island were open, and two big
limekilns were being built just north of the old fort. The carpenters
put up a palm-thatched shelter at the quarries; they built a dozen
large, square-end dugouts and laid rafts over them for hauling stone for
the fortification and firewood and oyster shells for the limekilns; and
they built boxes, handbarrows, and _carretas_ (long, narrow, hauling
wagons). At his anvil, the blacksmith made a great noise, hammering out
axes, picks, and stonecutters’ hatchets, and putting on their steel
edges; drawing out the bars to the proper length and flattening their
ends for crowbars; working shapeless masses of iron into shovels,
spades, hoes, and wedges; and for lighter work, making nails of all
kinds and sizes for the carpenters. The grindstone screeched as the
cutting edges went on the tools.

In the quarries 3 leagues from the presidio, Indian peons chopped out
the dense thickets of scrub oak and palmetto, driving out the
rattlesnakes and clearing the ground for the shovelers to uncover the
top layer of coquina. Day after day Alonso Díaz, the quarry overseer,
kept the picks and axes going, cutting deep grooves into the soft yellow
stone, while with bar and wedge the peons broke loose and pried up the
rough blocks—small pieces that a single man could shoulder, and
tremendously heavy, waterlogged cubes 2 feet thick and twice as long
that six strong men could hardly lift from the bed of sandy shell. As a
layer of stone was removed, again the shovelmen came in, taking off the
newly exposed bed of loose shell and uncovering yet another and deeper
stratum of rock. Down and down the quarrymen went until their pits
reached water and they could go no farther. Díaz watched his peons heave
the finest stone on the wagons. He sent the oxen plodding to the wharf
at the head of a marshy creek, and carefully balanced the load of rough
stone on the rafts for ferrying across current to the building site. And
on the opposite shore of the bay, next to the old fort, the pile of
unhewn stone daily grew larger, while the stonecutters plied their
squares and chopped unceasingly to shape the soft coquina for the

In the limekilns, oyster shells glowed white-hot and changed into fine
quality, quick-setting lime. By spring of 1672, there were 4,000
_fanegas_ (some 7,000 bushels) of lime in the two storehouses, and the
great piles of both hewn and rough stone were a welcome sight to the
people of St. Augustine.


Though it was only preparation for the main job, great obstacles had
already been overcome. Very little masonry had ever been done in the
presidio, and, with the exception of the imported artisans, the workmen
had to be trained. Even the imported ones had much to learn about
coquina, the natural shellrock peculiar to this section of Florida.
Coquina is nothing more than broken sea shells cemented together by
their own lime. Where the layer of shells has been under great pressure,
the rock is solid and hard; where pressure has been less, the stone is
coarse and easily crumbled. The men had to become expert in grading the
stone, for only the hardest and finest rock could go into the
fortification. There was also a shortage of common labor. When there
should have been 150 men to keep the 15 artisans working at top speed—50
in the quarries and hauling stone, 50 for gathering oyster shells and
helping at the kilns, and another 50 for digging the foundation
trenches, carrying the baskets of sand, and mixing mortar—it was hard to
get as many as 100 laborers on the job.

Indians from three Nations, the Guale (Georgia), Timucua (eastern
Florida) and Apalache (western Florida), were called upon for labor.
Some of them had to travel 80 leagues to reach the presidio. Many of
them served unwillingly. There were serious domestic problems, for these
peons had the choice of bringing their families with them or leaving the
women and children in the home villages to eke out their own living. In
some cases, not even the chiefs were exempt from the draft. In theory
each complement of Indian labor served only a certain length of time; in
practice it was not uncommon for the men to be held much beyond their
assigned time, either through necessity or carelessness. One wretched
chief was forced to labor on the works for more than 3 years without
once returning to his own lands. Some of the Indians were used as
servants by the Governors. True, the Indians were paid for their labor.
Even the Apalaches, condemned years before to labor on the
fortifications as the penalty for rebellion, apparently received a wage.

The Indian peon was cheap labor—1 real (12½¢) per day, plus rations of
maize—but he was not good labor, for by nature the Indian was unfit for
heavy work on a European-style fortification. A brave might play the
bone-breaking game of Indian ball for a full day, but he could not stand
up under the “day-in, day-out,” grinding, back-straining labor of the
quarries. Not all the Indians, however, were common laborers. A half
dozen developed into carpenters, and though they did not receive the top
wage of 10 to 12 reales, they seemed well pleased with their 8
reales—which was twice what apprentice carpenters earned.

In addition to Indian labor, there were a few Spanish peons who were
paid 4 reales per day, a few of the Crown’s Negro slaves, and a number
of convicts, either from the local presidio or sent from Caribbean
ports. The convicts served terms of varying length, depending upon the
nature of their crimes. A typical convict might have been the Spaniard
caught smuggling English goods into the colony, and he was condemned to
6 years’ labor on the fortifications at St. Augustine. If he tried to
escape, the term was doubled and he faced the grim prospect of being
sent to a fever-infested African presidio to work it out.

Spanish skilled labor included the military engineer, Ignacio Daza, who
was paid the top wage of 3 pesos per day. Daza died within a year of his
arrival in Florida, so the Crown paid only the surprisingly small sum of
546 pesos (about $862) for engineering services in starting the greatest
of Spanish Florida fortifications. Of the artisans, there were Lorenzo
Lagones, master of construction, and a pair of master masons, each of
whom received the master workman’s wage of 20 reales (about $2.50) per
day. In addition there were 7 masons at 12 reales, 8 stonecutters at the
same rate, and a dozen carpenters whose pay ranged from 6 to 12 reales
per working day.

There were few men for the job in hand, and to speed the work along
Governor Cendoya had to be ingenious and resourceful. Constantly on the
lookout for labor, he seized the opportunity of using prisoners from the
Carolina Colony, and, ironically enough, they were of exceptional help
in building this defense against their own countrymen. Back in 1670, a
vessel bound for Charleston Harbor accidentally put in at Santa Catalina
Mission, the Spanish frontier post near the Savannah River. William Carr
and John Rivers were captured. A rescue expedition set out from
Charleston, and when the sloop arrived at the Mission, Joseph Bailey and
John Collins took a blustering message ashore. For their pains, they
were dispatched with Rivers and Carr to St. Augustine. There, from time
to time, they were joined by other English prisoners.

The Governor did not long hesitate in putting them to work. Three of the
prisoners turned out to be masons, and the Spanish form of their
names—Bernardo Patricio (for Bernard Patrick), Juan Calens (for John
Collins), and Guillermo Car (for William Carr)—appeared on the pay
rolls. Some of the Englishmen entered into the life of the presidio as
permanent residents. At least one of them took a Florida bride. Although
the Spanish were cautious in depending too much upon the fealty of these
Englishmen to the Spanish Crown, there was little occasion to denounce
their unwillingness to serve.

John Collins especially pleased the Spanish officials. He could burn
more lime in a week than Spanish workmen could in twice the time, and
what was also to the point, as a prisoner he had to be paid only 8
reales instead of the 20 due a master workman. This Juan Calens appeared
to like St. Augustine. He rose steadily in the Crown’s employ from
master of the kilns to quarry master. Next he took charge of the
dugouts, the provisions, and the convicts. Eventually he held even the
important office of pilot from St. Augustine to Charleston. Royal
recognition of his zeal and loyalty was the culmination of his 19 years
or more of service in the presidio.


Another unusual case developed a few years later. Some leagues north of
St. Augustine, 11 Englishmen were captured. All of them except one
Ransom were committed to the galleys. Ransom was to be hanged. On the
appointed day this man ascended the scaffold. The hangman put the noose
about his neck. The trap opened. The rope jerked taut, then broke. Down
tumbled Ransom, safe and sound. While the onlookers marveled, the friars
took it as an act of God and led Ransom to sanctuary in the Convent of
San Francisco. Word reached the Governor that this man was an ingenious
fellow, an artillerist, a carpenter, and, what was most remarkable, a
maker of “artificial fires.” Ransom was offered his life if he would
leave sanctuary, live “protected” within the fort, and put his talents
to use. He agreed and, like Collins, was exceedingly helpful, for none
other in the presidio had such abilities.

All told, there were close to 150 men working in those first days of
feverish preparations. They, along with about 500 other persons,
including about 100 effective soldiers in the garrison, a few Franciscan
friars, a dozen mariners, and the townspeople, had to be fed. When
supplies from New Spain did not arrive, the problem of providing food
was even more difficult than finding men to work on the fort, especially
since the sandy soil around the presidio yielded poorly to the primitive
agricultural practices of the seventeenth century.

Indian corn or maize was the staple, and most of the planting,
cultivating, and harvesting of the extensive fields near the town was
done by Indians brought from their provinces to do the work, so that at
times there were as many as 300 Indians serving the Crown in the
presidio, counting those at work on the fortification. The Indian peons
were furnished rations of maize both while they were in St. Augustine
and for their journey over the wilderness trails to their homes, and
certain of the convicts were also given a ration of Indian corn. This
native corn cost the Crown 7½ reales per arroba (25 pounds) and an
arroba lasted the average Indian only 10 days. Flour was imported from
New Spain at a cost of 10 reales per arroba, and the master workmen, the
English masons, and the Spanish convicts were given rations from this
store. In addition, these convicts received a ration of meat. Fresh meat
was not plentiful, but the waters teemed with fish and there were plenty
of shellfish. A paid fisherman kept the men supplied. There were few
garden vegetables. Squash grew well in the sandy soil, and there were
beans and sweetpotatoes, citron, pomegranates, and figs. The orange had
already been introduced. And of course there were the favorite
seasonings of onion and garlic. Withal, however, it must be remembered
that St. Augustine was not a self-supporting settlement. After a century
of existence, it still depended for its very life upon the subsidy from
New Spain.

As the long, hot days of the second summer shortened into fall, Governor
Cendoya saw that after a year spent in gathering men and materials he
was ready to start construction.

No long-drawn-out survey and detailed study helped to locate the
castillo, for the Spanish had learned their lessons by a century and
more of experiment on the shores of Matanzas Bay. Engineer Daza and
Governor Cendoya decided that the new fort should be erected on the west
shore of the bay by the side of the old fort, a site which took into
account every natural defense feature of the harbor. Here, the enemy
would find it almost impossible to bring his heavy siege guns within
range. A shallow bar at the channel entrance kept the bigger warships
out to sea. Any other vessel entering the harbor had to pass under the
fort guns. The town and the fort were on a narrow peninsula surrounded
on three sides by water or impassable marsh; the fourth side—the
northern neck where the old fort stood—was constricted by a meandering
creek. Beyond the marshes was wilderness—the pine barrens and cypress
swamps, palmetto scrubs, and oak groves. Roads were but Indian trails
and the quickest passage from one coastal fortified post to the next was
along the inland waterway in dugouts. Attackers might march quickly down
the coast on the wide, hard beaches (provided they could cross the
numerous estuaries on the way), but they were still faced with an
advance over broad river and marsh before they could reach the fort.

Nor was it a problem to work out the plan for the castillo. Both Daza
and the Governor liked the design of the old fort. They, meeting with
the General Council, decided merely to build the castillo slightly
larger in order to make room for quarters, guardroom, chapel, wells,
ovens, powder magazine, and other essential rooms not included in the
old fort. In line with the more recent ideas, Daza recommended a slight
lengthening of the bastions. All around the castillo they planned to dig
a broad, deep moat, and then surround the land sides with a high

It was a simple and unpretentious plan, but a good one. Daza was
apparently schooled in the Italian-Spanish principles of fortification
as developed from the sixteenth century designs of Franceso de Marchi,
for Sébastien de Vauban, the great French engineer, was still but a
young man in 1671. Little is known about Ignacio Daza, but if he were
the typical military engineer, he was nothing if not practical. And
Daza, if he were typical, was more than a draftsman. For a military
engineer, it was “not sufficient to know how to draw plans, profils and
landskips; to understand a few propositions in geometry, or to know how
to build a wall or a house; on the contrary, he ought to be well
grounded in all the most useful branches of the mathematics, and how to
apply them to practice, natural philosophy, and architecture; have a
good notion of all kind of handicraft works; and above all things, to be
well versed in mechanics.”

                       THE YEARS OF CONSTRUCTION

So the actual construction finally began. It was indeed the occasion for
a ceremony. About 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon, October 2, 1672, Governor
Cendoya gathered together the official witnesses, and, to record the
event for the information of Queen Mariana and for his own protection,
he commanded the public scribe, Juan Moreno, to be present. Into his
hands Cendoya took a spade. He walked to a likely looking spot between
the strings marking out the lines of the new fortification, drove down
his spade, and thus broke ground for the foundations of Castillo de San
Marcos, worthy successor to the name that for almost 100 years had been
used for the forts of the St. Augustine presidio. All this and more,
Juan Moreno noted. Characteristically, he faithfully certified that not
only was the work started that Sunday afternoon, but it continued, and
that at most of it he, the notary, was present. Because he wrote the
certification on ordinary paper, Juan explained that he was out of
official stamped paper.

[Illustration: 1. DESIGN—2. DEFENSE—3. ASSAULT]

It was little more than a month later, on Wednesday, November 9, that
Cendoya laid the first stone of the foundation. The people of St.
Augustine must have wept for joy at these tangible signs of progress.
All were glad and proud, the aged soldiers who had given a lifetime of
service to the Crown, the four little orphans whose father died in the
pirate raid a few years before, the widows and their children, the
craftsmen, the workmen, the royal officials, some of whom served as
their fathers had before them; but none could have been more pleased or
proud than Don Manuel de Cendoya, who of all the Florida Governors had
been the one chosen by Providence to have the honor of starting the
first permanent Florida fortification of Her Catholic Majesty.

Laying the foundations of the mighty fort was no easy job, for not only
was the soil sandy and low, but as the winter months came the Indian
peons were struck by _El Contagio_—The Contagion—and the laboring force
dwindled to nothing. The 30 Negro slaves to be sent from Havana had not
yet come. Cendoya himself and his soldiers took to the shovels and as
they dug a trench some 5 feet deep and 17 feet broad, the masons laid
two courses of heavy stones directly on the hard-packed sand bottom.
Slow work it was, for high tide flooded the trenches.

About a foot and a half inside the toe of this wide foundation, the
masons stretched their line marking the scarp or curtain wall, which was
to taper gradually from a 14-foot base to approximately 9 feet at its
top, some 25 feet above the foundation. In the 12 months that followed,
the north, south, and east walls rose steadily, but since the layout of
the new fort overlapped the old wooden fort, no work could be done on
the west until the old fort was torn down. By midsummer of 1673 the east
side of the work was 12 feet high and the presidio was jubilant over the
arrival of 10,000 pesos for carrying on.

This good news was tempered, however, by the Viceroy’s assertion that he
would release no more money for the new St. Augustine fort without an
express order from the Crown, and by the realization that the work was
going too slowly. Cendoya had already appealed to Her Majesty to
increase the allowance to 16,000 pesos annually so that the construction
could be finished in 4 years, for, as he put it, the English menace at
Charleston brooked no delay. There was already news that the English
were outfitting ships for an invasion.

But slowly and more slowly the building went, especially after Cendoya
left in 1673 and the leadership devolved upon Sgt. Maj. Nicolás Ponce,
in whom the local Spaniards had little confidence. Events worked against
Ponce. The Viceroy continued to exhibit a discouraging reluctance to
part with money for the project, even in the face of evidence that
English strength was daily increasing, especially among the Indians. The
presidio was damaged by storms and high tides that undermined houses,
polluted wells, and flooded fields and gardens. Sickness took its toll
of peon and townsman alike. Then in the spring of 1675 another provision
ship was lost and Ponce was forced to take all the peons from work on
the castillo for the long march to Apalache, where he hoped to get
provisions from the Indians. Only the handful of masons were left to
carry on the work.

Not until May was half gone did the pall of discouragement lift, as the
long-awaited ship from the Viceroy safely crossed the bar. There were
supplies and a new Governor for Florida—Capt. Gen. Don Pablo de Hita
Salazar—hard-bitten veteran of the Flanders campaigns, who tackled his
new job with an energy and enthusiasm that would have done credit to a
much younger man. Salazar’s career in the royal service had been “no
other than the harquebus and the pike,” and evidently it was as a
soldier of reputation that he was assigned to the Florida province, for
in addition to carrying on the fortification work he was charged to
“dislocate” the Charleston settlement. Led to believe that the Viceroy
could be depended upon for assistance in the difficult task ahead, time
and again during his short stay in Mexico City he outlined his problems,
only to find that colonial official singularly reluctant to help. At
last the old fellow left in disgust for St. Augustine. Here, in spite of
the fact that the work had been dragging, he found things that pleased
him: “Although I have seen many Castillos of consequence and
reputation,” wrote he to the Crown, “in the form of its plan this one is
not surpassed by any of those of greater character....”

Furthermore, the Governor endorsed the statement of the royal officials,
who were eager to point out the brighter side of the picture: “It is
certain, Señor, that according to the excellence of It and the plan of
the Castillo in the form that is called for, if it had to be built in
another place [than St. Augustine] it would cost a double Amount because
there will not be the Advantage of having the peons, at a Real of Wages
each day, With such tenuous sustenance As three pounds of maize, nor
will the overseers and artisans work in other places With such Small
Salaries.... Nor will there be Found the Stone, Lime, and Other
materials so close at hand and with the Convenience that there is in the

These citations of economies were timely, for 34,298 pesos had already
been spent upon the new fort, and still it was no more protection than a
haphazard pile of stone. Nor was the old fort any defense. If an
artilleryman had the temerity to touch his match to a cannon, the sparks
from the explosion might well set the timber walls afire. The enemy at
Charleston was not 70 leagues away; his 200 fighting men outnumbered the
effectives in the Spanish garrison, while, according to the reports of
English deserters, Charleston was rather well defended by a stockade
fort mounting about 20 guns. With characteristic realism Don Pablo set
about making his own fortification defensible.

The bastion of San Carlos—the northeast salient of the castillo—was the
nearest to completion. Salazar concentrated on finishing it, so that
cannon could be mounted on its deck or terreplein. While the masons were
busy at that work, the Governor took his soldiers and demolished the old
wooden fort, using the best of its wood to build a palisade across the
open west end of the castillo so that the garrison, if need be, would be
surrounded by a protecting four walls. In the last half of 1675 building
went ahead with remarkable rapidity. Not only did Salazar complete San
Carlos (except for a section of parapet where building materials were
hauled in), but he raised the three stone walls to their full height;
and his wooden palisade on the west looked as strong as the other
curtains or walls, for he built it with two half bastions, faced it with
a veneer of stone, and dug a ditch in front of it.

Inside the fortification, both carpenters and masons worked on temporary
buildings. A small, semicircular powder magazine was built near the
north curtain. A long, narrow, wooden structure, partitioned into
guardhouses, lieutenant’s quarters, armory, and provision magazine, soon
took shape behind the western palisade. Only one permanent room had been
started, and that was the powder magazine—later destined to become the
“dungeon”—in the gorge of San Carlos. Salazar lost no time in completing
this magazine and building a ramp over it to give access to the fighting
deck above. At San Agustín bastion on the southeastern corner the peons
dumped hundreds of baskets of sand and rubble between the enclosing
walls to fill them up to the 25-foot level. Then a few of the guns from
the old fort were mounted in San Carlos and San Agustín and along the
palisade. After 5 years of work the castillo was a defense in fact as
well as name, and the people of the presidio could breathe more freely.

Bit by bit the work went on, in spite of trouble with the Choctaws, in
spite of the worrisome impossibility of driving out the Carolina
settlers, in spite of the pirate destruction of the Apalache outpost in
the west and the ever-present fear of invasion. But when the supply
vessel carrying desperately needed provisions and clothing journeyed
safely all the way from New Spain, only to be miserably lost on a sand
bar within the very harbor of St. Augustine, it was a heartbreaking
loss. Salazar became disconsolate. The help he begged from Havana never
came; for 4 years he had missed no opportunity to write the Viceroy
regarding the serious needs of the presidio, and for 4 long years he had
not a single reply to his letters. Old, discouraged, sick, Salazar wrote
to the Crown that in this remote province he was “without human
recourse.” Opposition and contradictions from the royal officials on his
staff added to his burdens.

Yet the old warrior did not give up. Finally the Viceroy released 5,000
pesos more for the work. As soon as Salazar got up from his sickbed he
was back at the fort. The masons and stonecutters were leveling the tops
of the curtains and the western bastions; the sweating laborers dumped
their loads of rubble between the inner and outer courses of the massive
walls. The Governor looked on, impatient with the snail’s pace of
progress. Many of his artisans were gone. Some had died. With another
5,000 pesos and a few more masons from Havana, said the old Governor, “I
promise to leave the work in very good condition....” Before he could
make good that promise, he was replaced by Juan Cabrera, who arrived in
the fall of 1680 to take over the reins of government.

Cabrera and his master of construction, Juan Marqués, carefully checked
the construction. They found a number of mistakes and the blame had to
be laid upon the now deceased construction master, Lorenzo Lagones.
Either incompetent or careless, Lagones had started to put the cordon
(on which the parapet was to be built) on the northwest bastion of San
Pablo a good 3 feet below where it should have been. Some of his work
elsewhere had to be torn out and rebuilt. This was the outcome of those
long years without an engineer.

Half apologizing for his own little knowledge of “architecture and
geometry,” Salazar left the trials and tribulations of this frontier
province to his more youthful successor. Salazar had done a great deal.
Within a short 6 months after his arrival he had made the castillo
defensible against any but an overwhelming force, then during the
remainder of his 5-year term, over one obstacle after another he slowly
raised all the permanent walls so that there was now little left to
build inside the fort—the rooms and Lagones’ mistakes excepted. San
Carlos even had the firing steps for the musketeers and embrasures for
the artillery—though that small gap for hauling materials was still
there. The curtains were almost ready for the parapet builders, since in
most places the core of fill was within a yard of the top. The only low
part of the work was San Pablo, where the level had been miscalculated.
The main doorway, its iron-bound door, and drawbridge—the work of a
convict—was finished. Another heavy portal closed the emergency doorway
in another curtain. There was a small temporary chapel in the shadow of
the eastern wall.

Governor Cabrera found his hands full. The 1680’s were turbulent years.
Already the English had struck at Santa Catalina, and that mission
outpost was abandoned soon thereafter. Other raids by Englishman,
Indian, and pirate drove the padres and their charges to the coastal
islands south of the St. Marys River. Heathen Indians carried away their
Christian cousins into English slavery. Cabrera bided his time. He had
other worries. If spring marked the turn of a young man’s fancy, it was
no less the season the corsairs chose to “run” the coasts of Florida.
Each year the buccaneers grew bolder. In 1682, the year Cabrera finished
the fort ravelin, there were a dozen or so pirate craft operating in the
Bahama Channel, and they took a number of Spanish prizes, including the
St. Augustine frigate on its way to Vera Cruz for the subsidy.


In this state of affairs, it was strange that Governor Cabrera found
time for construction work. But he was a man who put first things first.
From Havana, the nearest source, he asked help, and out of Havana came a
military engineer for an occasional look at the castillo. He did little
more than put Cabrera’s problems right back on Cabrera’s own capable
shoulders. In order to hasten the work, the Governor asked the local
curate for permission to work his men on holy days. There was ample
precedent for granting this concession, but Cabrera had never got on
well with the religious, and he was refused. As a result, the peons
could not bring in materials. Construction fell almost a year behind
schedule. Governor Cabrera appealed the decision to higher church
authorities, and the permission to work on Sundays and holidays was
eventually forthcoming, though it applied only to actual work on the
fort, and that only during emergencies. The dispensation, however, came
too late; Cabrera’s fear of attack had not been ill-founded.


On March 30, 1683, English corsairs landed a few leagues south of the
_Centinela de Matanzas_, the watchtower at Matanzas Inlet, some 4
leagues from St. Augustine and near the south end of Anastasia Island.
Under cover of darkness, some of the invaders crept up behind the tower
and surprised the five sentries, who were either asleep or not on the
alert. The next day, the pirate march on St. Augustine began. To within
half a league they came. Fortunately for the presidio, an advanced
sentry chanced to see the motley band, and posthaste he went to Cabrera,
who dispatched Capt. Antonio de Argüelles with 30 musketeers to ambush
them. The pirates walked straight into a withering fire and after a few
exchange shots—one of which lodged in Captain Argüelles’ leg—they beat a
hasty retreat back down the island to their boats. Then they sailed to
St. Augustine bar and dropped anchor in plain sight of the unfinished

Cabrera, his soldiers, the men and even the women of the town were
working day and night to strengthen the castillo. Missing parapets and
firing steps were improvised from dry stone. Expecting the worst, the
residents of the presidio crowded into the fortification, but the
corsairs, nursing their wounds and without even scouting the undefended
town, decided to sail northward on a hunt for easier prey.

After the excitement, work went forward with renewed zeal. Once again
danger had passed by, but luck would not hold much longer. The
portcullis or sliding grating at the fort’s entrance, the bridges, the
encircling palisade, the rooms surrounding the courtyard, all came
nearer and nearer to completion. This was progress made in the face of
poverty and hunger—want that made the people demand of Cabrera that he
buy supplies from a stray Dutch trader. It was unlawful, but people had
to eat. Imagine the joy in the presidio shortly thereafter when two
subsidy payments arrived at one time! Cabrera gave the soldiers 2 full
years’ back pay and had on hand enough provisions for 14 months; the 27
guns, from the little iron 2-pounder to the heavy 40-pounder bronze, all
were equipped with gunner’s ladles, rammers, sponges, and wormers; there
was plenty of powder and shot; and San Carlos bastion had its alarm

Still the work went on. There were continual distractions, such as the
pirate Agramont’s raids in the Guale country and even on Matanzas in
1686, but by the summer of that year the main part of the castillo was
essentially finished. Within the four curtains stood the thick courtyard
walls, and pine beams a foot thick and half again as wide spanned the 15
to 20 feet between. Laid over these great beams was a covering of pine
planking some 4 fingers thick, and under that heavy roof were more than
20 rooms for the quarters, the chapel of San Marcos, and the magazines
for powder, food, supplies, and equipment.

Even the doors and windows were practically done. Now, with the roof or
terreplein in place all around the castillo, the artillerymen no longer
had to climb down into the courtyard to get from one bastion to the
other, and the musketeers and pikemen had no trouble reaching their
stations along the walls. Only a few of the higher parts of the parapet
between the gun openings and firing steps for these defenders were still
lacking. Outside the walls, a ravelin guarded the main doorway. The moat
wall was from 6 to 8 feet high. The only major work yet to be done was
finishing the moat excavation and the shore defenses on the bay side of
the castillo.

With the fortification so far along, the Governor could afford to give
more attention to other business in the province. There was the matter
of Lord Cardross’ Scotch colony at Port Royal, S.C., a new and obnoxious
settlement that encouraged the savage raids on the mission Indians. It
existed in territory recognized as Spanish even by the English monarch.
Out from St. Augustine in the stormy month of September 1686, Cabrera
sent Tomás de León with three ships. León completely destroyed the
Cardross colony and sailed northward to sack and burn Governor Morton’s
plantation on Edisto Island. Then the Spaniards set their course for
Charleston. Again, as it had 16 years before, a storm came up to save
the hated and feared English colony. León’s vessel, the _Rosario_, was
lost, and he along with it. Another of the trio was beached, and the
last of the little armada limped slowly back to St. Augustine. Cabrera
had his revenge, but the Georgia country remained irrevocably lost to
Spain. And the contest for the hinterlands had begun.

The traders led the advance from Charleston; Cabrera sent soldiers and
missionaries from St. Augustine to western Florida to bolster the
Indians against them. For the Spanish, it was a losing fight—an
exciting, exasperating struggle of diplomacy and intrigue, trade and
cupidity, war and religion, slavery and death. The turn of affairs on
the frontier and the threat of reprisal by the Carolinians sent Capt.
Juan de Ayala directly to Spain for help, and he came back with 100
soldiers, the money for maintaining them, and even a Negro slave to help
cultivate the fields. The single Negro, one of a dozen Ayala had hoped
to deliver, was a much-needed addition to the colony, and Captain Ayala
was welcomed back to St. Augustine with rejoicing “for his good
diligence.” Soon there was more Negro labor for both fields and

From the Carolina plantations, an occasional Negro slave would slip
away, searching his way southward along the waterways. In 1688 a small
boat loaded with eight runaways and a baby girl found its way to St.
Augustine. The men went to work on the castillo at 4 reales a day and
the Governor took the two women into his household for servants. It was
a fairly happy arrangement, for the slaves worked well and soon asked to
become Catholic. A few months later, William Dunlop came from Charleston
in search of them. The Governor, reluctant to surrender these converted
slaves, offered to buy them for the Spanish Crown, and to this offer
Dunlop agreed, even though the Governor was short of cash and had to
promise to pay for them later. To seal the bargain, Dunlop gave the baby
girl her freedom.

Obviously this incident could set a precedent, especially since the
Spanish Crown eventually liberated the Negroes. Here was a basis for
profitable slave trade from the Carolinas had the Florida province been
richer and Spanish trade restrictions less severe; but since this
commerce was illegal and the Crown was hardly in a position to buy every
runaway coming to Florida, the 1680’s marked the beginning of an
apparently insoluble problem. Learning of the reception awaiting them to
the south, more and more of the Negroes left their English masters. Few
of them could be reclaimed. Eventually the Spanish decreed freedom for
any Carolina slave entering Florida, and a fortified village of the
runaways was established hardly more than a cannon shot from the
presidio. Meantime, growing more serious with each year, the slave
trouble eliminated any possibility of amicable relations between the
Spanish and English colonists.

Matters were brought momentarily to a focus with the Spanish declaration
of war on France in 1690. Cabrera’s successor, Diego Quiroga, at the
news of enemy vessels off both his northern and southern coasts, wrote a
letter reporting a strength far beyond what he had against the chance
that the enemy might capture the packet carrying the true news of
appalling weakness. For until the outworks could be finished, the
castillo was vulnerable to the siege guns and scaling ladders of any
large force. Worse, at this crucial time, Quiroga found himself out of
provisions. The heavy labor of quarrying, lumbering, and hauling had to
be discontinued. With the royal slaves and a few of the Indians, work on
the castillo went along in desultory fashion until finally there was
“not one pound of maize, meat nor any other thing” to feed the workmen.
Fortunate indeed was it that the English did not choose this moment to
attack. As fate would have it, England and Spain were for once on the
same side of the fence, fighting against France. There was a comparative
truce on the Florida border during the 10 years before the turn of the
century and on the surface, at least, friendly relations prevailed
between the St. Augustine and Charleston colonies. Actually the
combatants were girding themselves for the inevitable renewal of


Relief came at last to St. Augustine in 1693, and with it came another
Governor, Don Laureano de Torres. To lessen the chances of famine in the
future, the Florida officials resolved to plant great crops of maize
nearby. They found men to plow the broad, field-like clearings around
the fort, and acres of waving corn soon extended almost up to the moat.
Proudly they reported this accomplishment to the Crown. The reaction was
not what they expected. On December 14, 1693, a royal order was
promulgated prohibiting thenceforward the sowing of maize within a
musket shot of the castillo. A very large army, said the War Council,
could hide in the cornfield and approach to the very bastions without
being seen by the sentries.

To Governor Torres belongs the credit for completing the seventeenth
century part of the castillo. Somehow he found the means for carrying on
Quiroga’s beginning, for putting in place the last stones of the water
defenses—bright, yellow rock that was in strange contrast to the
weathered gray of masonry already a quarter of a century old. This
monumental pile of stone, on which Cendoya planned to spend some 70,000
pesos and which Salazar estimated would cost a good 80,000 pesos were it
to be built elsewhere, by 1680 had already cost 75,000 pesos. When
Cabrera completed the main part of it 7 years later, expenditures had
reached 92,609 pesos. By the time Torres put on the finishing touches in
1696, the mounting costs of Castillo de San Marcos must have totaled
close to 100,000 pesos, or approximately $150,000.

And what did completion of this citadel mean? Only a year later, gaunt
Spanish soldiers slipped into the church and left an unsigned warning
for the Governor: If the enemy came, they intended to surrender, for
they were dying of hunger.

                          DEFENDING SAN MARCOS

The Castillo de San Marcos was a typical example of European design
transplanted to the Western Hemisphere. It was a style of fortification
evolved from the medieval castle. There was no great change in
siegecraft and fortification until the gunpowder cannon came into use,
but when that weapon did make its appearance the military engineers
found themselves in a predicament. The towering walls of the ancient
castles were conspicuous targets for the skilled artillerist. Adamant
stone walls that had splintered the powerful crossbow shaft and resisted
for days on end the pounding of the catapults tumbled into rubble after
a roaring bombardment from heavy siege cannons. So the engineers lowered
their targetlike walls, and in front of them they piled thick and high
hills of earth to stop the cannonballs before they could hit the stone.
Yet, because those walls still had to be too high for the scaling
ladders, the surrounding moat was retained. Circular towers common to
the older castles eventually gave way to the more scientific bastion, an
angular salient from which the pikemen, harquebusiers, and artillerists
could see to defend every adjacent part of the fort walls. The ultimate
result was a rather complicated series of straight walls and angles—a
sort of defense-in-depth plan—and in the center of it could usually be
found the garrison quarters and the magazines.

Fortification was a remarkably exact science, and one that was
universally respected. “Many ... arguments,” wrote an eighteenth-century
expert, “might be alledged to prove the usefulness of fortified places,
were it not that all the world is convinced of it at present, and
therefore it would be needless to say any more about it.” A fort,
however, can never win a victory. Primarily a defensive weapon, it
protects vital points and delays the invader. It can also be, as was the
case with the historic fort in Florida, a citadel and a pivot of
maneuver for colonial troops.

For most defense problems, there was an answer in the book, though the
brilliance of the engineer might well be measured by his ingenious use
of natural defenses, as was the case at Castillo de San Marcos. There
were as many different kinds of forts as there were uses for them. They
promoted and protected trade, they guarded the pass into a country, or,
like San Marcos, they secured the country from invasion. The following
dogma, written three-quarters of a century after the castillo was
started, might have referred specifically to the fort at St. Augustine:
“In small states ... which cannot afford the expense of building many
fortresses, and are not able to provide them when built with sufficient
garrisons and other necessaries for their defence, or those whose chief
dependance consists in the protection of their allies; the best way is
to fortify their capital, which being made spacious, may serve as a
retreat to the inhabitants in time of danger, with their wealth and
cattle, till the succours of their allies arrive.”

To attack a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century fort, the enemy had first
to cross natural barriers, advance over level ground where he was
exposed to fire from almost every part of the fortification, drive the
defenders from the outer works, cross the moat, and then, if there were
any of him left, scale the main walls and fight the rest of the
defenders hand to hand. It was no easy job. His approach to within
striking distance generally involved the laborious digging of zigzag
trenches up to the outworks. Meanwhile, his artillerymen tried to get
their guns close enough to breach the walls.

Aside from the actual fighting, a serious problem was supplying
provisions for the large besieging force, since the invading army was
often far from its base and to some extent had to live off hostile
country. On the other hand, once the attacker brought his artillery to
bear, the garrison and refugees found themselves in the unpleasant
position of stationary targets, subjected to devastating fire,
particularly from the heavy mortars throwing 50- or 100-pound bombs
(exploding shells) into the close confines of the fortification. And if
the enemy isolated the fort, as he invariably tried to do, the length of
the siege was often proportionate to the amounts of food and water
inside the fort. For this reason, at least 5 of the 20 main rooms in
Castillo de San Marcos were given over to food storage, and three wells
were dug in the courtyard. As long as the provision magazines were well
filled, the citadel was strong.

The test of its strength was not long delayed, for the border squabbles
between Spaniard and Englishman soon flamed into open warfare. The
Florida Governor, Joseph de Zuñiga, a Flanders veteran well-versed in
the art of fortification, looked at the St. Augustine defenses with
jaundiced eye. True, the castillo was a bulwark, but its guns were not
only obsolete—many of them were unserviceable. The heavy powder supplied
from New Spain so fouled the gun barrels that after “four Shots, the
Ball would not go in the Cannon.” Harquebuses, muskets, powder, and shot
were sorely needed. Captain Ayala, again sailing to Spain for aid, was
racing against time; it was 1702 and James Moore, Governor of Carolina,
was already marching on St. Augustine.

At this critical hour, help came from Havana. Threescore skilled
Gallegos (Spanish soldiers native to Galicia) arrived in Florida and set
about reconditioning the ordnance, but before Spanish preparations were
completed Moore’s forces arrived, encircled the fort, and occupied the
houses of the townspeople, who could do nothing other than flee to the
shelter of San Marcos. On the south side of the fort where the outskirts
of the town crept near, the Spanish burned many of their houses which
might have given shelter to English troops advancing toward the fort.

Moore’s fighting forces of 800 Englishmen and Indians vastly outnumbered
the Spanish garrison, but he was ill-equipped to besiege the
fortification. Four cannons he had, and the Spanish boasted that a
continuous fire from the fort walls kept him out of range. Indeed the
Gallegos were useful! Moore settled down to await the arrival of more
artillery from Jamaica, and thus matters stood when a pair of Spanish
men-of-war sailed from the south and blocked the harbor entrance. With
little hesitation, Moore burned his eight vessels, left many of his
stores, and retreated overland to his province, leaving much of St.
Augustine in ashes.

The Spanish estimated that the damage to the town amounted to 20,000
pesos or more, and the ease with which the English had occupied and held
the town for almost 2 months made it clear that additional
fortifications had to be built. In the quarter century that followed,
out from the castillo went strong earthworks and palisades, strengthened
at strategic points with redoubts, and St. Augustine became a walled
town, secure against invasion as long as there were enough soldiers to
man the walls. The years of building these town defenses were lean
years. In 1712 came _la Gran Hambre_—the Great Hunger—and in those dark
days the starving people ate even the dogs and cats until the storms
isolating the colony finally abated.

But the work was done, and when in 1728 another South Carolinian,
Colonel Palmer, marched against the presidio, the sight of the grim
walls of the fort, the unwinking readiness of the heavy guns, and the
needle-sharp points of the yucca plants lining the town palisades were a
powerful deterrent. He “refrained” from taking the town. For their part,
the Spaniards set off their artillery, but they made no sorties.

Nevertheless, Palmer’s bold march to the very gates of St. Augustine
foreshadowed coming events, and the Spaniards again made ready, for the
castillo now began to show its half-century age and the wooden palisades
were rotting. That capable engineer and frontier diplomat, Don Antonio
de Arredondo, came from Havana to inspect the Florida fortifications and
make recommendations. Backed by Arredondo’s expert opinions, Governor
Manuel de Montiano put all the cards on the table in a letter to the
Havana Governor: “For Your Excellency must know that this castle, the
only defense here, has no bombproofs for the protection of the garrison,
that the counterscarp is too low, that there is no covered way, that the
curtains are without demilunes, that there are no other exterior works
to give them time for a long defense; but that we are as bare outside
[the castle] as we are without life inside, for there are no guns that
could last 24 hours, and if there were, we have no artillerymen to serve

Unlike many of his predecessors, Montiano had the ear of the Cuban
Governor. Guns and men came from Havana. There was money to strengthen
the fortifications and in the summer of 1738 began the work of tearing
down the old rooms inside the fort and laying foundations for the 28
great arches that were to make the new rooms proof against English
bombs. While the carpenters were setting up the forms for the arches,
while the quarries and the limekilns were again the scenes of feverish
activity, James Oglethorpe in his buffer colony of Georgia was growing
stronger and stronger, pushing the Florida boundary ever closer to the
St. Johns River—a scant 35 miles north of the castillo.

Then the ponderous arches were finished and hurriedly leveled off with a
packed fill of coquina chippings, sand, and shell. Hundreds of bushels
of lime went into the tabby or mortar that was spread over the entire
roof of the renovated fort to make its terreplein. The tampers beat the
wet mixture smooth, and when the first layer was hardened, another and
another was added until there was a bed of tabby 6 inches deep. Upon
this smooth, hard surface the cannoneers could maneuver their heavy guns
and the rooms below were safe under 2½ feet or more of solid masonry; in
fact, on the eastern side, where heavy bombardment was most likely, the
engineer allowed a minimum thickness of 4 feet. Some of the parapets had
to be rebuilt for modernization. Outside the fort a new stockade was
erected to strengthen the covered way, and the walls enclosing the town
were reworked. Under Montiano’s dynamic leadership and the able
supervision of Engineer Pedro Ruíz de Olano, the work was practically
finished by 1740. There was no time to spare.

The War of Jenkins’ Ear precipitated Oglethorpe’s invasion of Florida.
When the first English warship appeared off the bar of St. Augustine in
June (by the Spanish calendar) of 1740, Montiano hastily sent the news
to Havana: here was the long-expected Siege of St. Augustine.
Reënforcements had brought the 350-man garrison up to about 750 against
General Oglethorpe’s force of about 900 soldiers, sailors, and Indians.
Oglethorpe landed his guns across the bay from the fort, and as British
shells began to burst over the town, the inhabitants, almost 2,000 of
them, fled to the fort. “It is impossible,” wrote Montiano to the
Governor of Cuba, “to express the confusion of this place ... though
nothing gives me anxiety but the want of provisions, and if Your
Excellency ... cannot send relief, we must all indubitably perish.”
There was no hint of surrender.

For 27 nerve-shattering days the English batteries thundered at the
castillo. Newly laid stones at the eastern parapet scattered under the
hits, but the weathered old walls of the curtains held strong. As one
Englishman observed, the native rock “will not splinter but will give
way to cannon ball as though you would stick a knife into cheese....”
One of the balls shot away an artilleryman’s leg, but only two of the
persons sheltered in the fort were killed in the bombardment. The heavy
guns of San Marcos and the long-range 9-pounders of the maneuverable
Spanish galleys in the harbor held the enemy at bay.

A league to the northward was Fort Mosa, abandoned outpost at the
village of run-away Negroes. Oglethorpe’s Highlanders occupied it. At
dawn, June 26, 1740, a sortie from the castillo surprised the Scotchmen
and in the bloodiest action of the entire siege the Spaniards drove out
the enemy and burned the palisaded fortification. After that blow, the
siege dragged along. While General Oglethorpe and his men battled
insects and shifting white sand on the barren, sun-parched shores across
the bay, the Spaniards in the cramped quarters of San Marcos watched
their supplies dwindle dangerously low. Before long, Montiano’s
effective troops were reduced by more than half. Nor were the refugees
in better shape. Just when the future looked darkest, news came that
provisions from Havana had reached a harbor south of Matanzas, far down
the coast. Skillfully avoiding the English blockade, Spanish seamen
began to bring the provisions along the inland waterway. Oglethorpe made
ready to assault the fort, then thought better of it, for the storm
season was approaching, his ships were in danger, and his men were
disheartened. To the wonderment of Montiano, the Georgia general
suddenly raised the siege on its 38th day and marched back to the north.

                           THE END OF AN ERA

This was why the castillo had been built—to resist even the highest tide
of colonial aggression, to stand firm through the darkest hour. It was
the climax, the culmination of years of dogged labor and lean hunger.
But it was also the end of a chapter, the closing of an era, for the
finis was in sight. The attempted Spanish reprisal in 1742, Oglethorpe’s
foolish march on the castillo the year following—these were the clumsy
joustings of provincials, not the telling thrusts of powerful
governments and strong armies. And because to the colonials their
destiny was not yet clear, amidst the futile hostilities of the next 20
years the work of improving Castillo de San Marcos went forward. The
slight damage suffered during the Siege of 1740 was soon repaired.
Montiano and his engineer were indignantly acquitted of malicious and
anonymous charges that faulty workmanship—too much sand in the
mortar—was responsible.

Long after the stonecutter’s hatchet fell silent, the scrape and swish
of the plasterer’s trowel went on until in 1756 Governor Alonso
Fernández stopped work on a new, never-to-be-finished ravelin and stood
under the royal coat of arms at the sally port to watch the masons erect
the inscription giving credit for completion of the mighty fort to
himself and Engineer Don Pedro de Brozas y Garay. It was a politic
gesture, for the ceremony was carried out on the name day of King
Fernando VI.

This Florida citadel was a simple masterpiece of European military
architecture, even though a few courses of stone were still lacking in
the outworks. Its every wall covered with a hard, waterproofing, white
lime plaster, the castillo reflected the semitropical sunlight with a
brilliance reminiscent of the old-time glory of Spain. In the haste of
building, the engineers had not neglected ornamentation to keep the
structure from starkness and bareness, for well-designed cornices and
pilasters threw sharp shadows to relieve the expanses of smooth, white
wall. There was color—a strong, darkish red, probably achieved by mixing
a clay with the plaster. This color was conspicuous on the sentry towers
crowning each bastion.

San Marcos was properly the background for St. Augustine activity, with
its white walls rising high above the blue waters of the bay,
red-covered towers thrusting toward the clouds, and guns of green-coated
bronze and pitted iron looking over the turf and the sweep of the
marshes to the gloom of the nearby forests or the surf breaking on the
bar. The colorful uniforms of the Spanish soldiers, the severe habit of
the friars, the picturesque garb of the stalwart Indians, no less than
the silken magnificence of the Governor and his lady and the presence of
an occasional foreign trader, gave this frontier post an interesting

The castillo was a busy place, and while in Spanish eyes much may have
been lacking, the English looked at it with envy and respect, one
Englishman reporting that: “there is 22 pieces of Cannon well mounted on
the Bastions from 6 pound’rs to 36. They are very Cautious of the
English & will not lett them go on the lines, there is a guard of a
Lieutenant a Sergeant & 2 Corporals & 30 Soldiers here who is reliev’d
Every Day. There is one Lieutenant a Sergeant & 12 Gunners who is
reliev’d once a Week, the Castle is under ye Command of a Lieutenant who
is always on it. the Riches of the Place is kept here as is the
Privision w’ch is issued from the Town once a Week, there is 5 Centries
on ye lines at a time all Night ye Man that is at the Bell Strikes it
every 3. or 4. Minutes the Centry’s Calling from one to the other....

“There is a Mote Round it of 30. feet wide & a draw Bridge of about 15
feet long, they draw every Night & lett it down in the Morning....”

Ironically enough, before the eighth anniversary of the Fernández
plaque, the _alerta_ of the Spanish sentry was replaced by a challenge
in English, for in 1763 the diplomats gave Florida and the castillo to

It was some years before the English put their ineffaceable mark on the
fort, but in the summer after Lexington and Concord they went to work.
The gates were repaired and the well in the courtyard, become brackish,
was re-dug. A new palisade for the covered way was built and the
glacis—the encircling earthwork—repaired. Several of the high arched
rooms were given a second floor, in a sense a second story, in order to
make more room for long bunkshelves, for St. Augustine was regimental
headquarters and many red-coated troops were quartered in the Castle of
St. Mark. Within the safety of the thick walls were stored the arms that
went to ranger, regular, and Indian ally alike for repeated use against
the rebellious colonials to the north. And a goodly number of those
colonials and their friends languished in the damp prison of the castle.

Those were exciting times, but they were only an interlude. The Union
Jack was not the flag for the fort. When the Spanish came back by the
terms of the 1783 treaty, Florida had lost its old importance to the
empire, even though San Marcos remained a bulwark that American advances
never quite reached. For the Spanish, awaiting the manifest destiny that
was to bring Florida into the union of the United States of America,
there was little to do but maintenance work, such as repairs to the
bridges, a new pine stairway for San Carlos tower, a bench for the
criminals in the prison. In 1785 Mariano de la Rocque designed a
beautiful entrance for the chapel doorway. It was built, only to crumble
slowly away like the Spanish hold on Florida.

When at last the red and gold ensign of Spain fluttered down under the
thunderous salute of the old smoothbores, to be replaced by the 23-star
flag of 1821, the aging fort was obsolete—already a historical relic.
Fortunately for its preservation, the strategy of St. Augustine Harbor
was gone. The young republic built powerful seacoast forts from Maine to
Texas but the only concession to this one-time capital of the southeast
was the building of a water battery in the moat east of the fort and the
mounting of a few big guns on the bastions. The fort remained unchanged,
except in name. For more than 150 years St. Mark had been the patron
saint of this defense. The Americans chose to honor Gen. Francis Marion,
the Revolutionary leader and son of the very colony against which San
Marcos had been built. Spanish Castillo de San Marcos became American
Fort Marion. (Legislation enacted by Congress in June 1942 restored the
original name of Castillo de Marcos.)

Heavy doors and iron bars that once protected precious stores of food
and ammunition made the old fort a good prison, and the prison days soon
obscured the olden times that the structure had outlived. The scarred
walls of the past would not release their story and the accidental
discovery of the sealed-up powder magazine and the chance mention of
mouldering bones only served to deepen the mystery of its real story.
Out of the “dungeon” darkness into the Anglo-Saxon mind flocked all the
tales suborned by centuries of hate and misunderstanding. Forgotten was
the fact that boot and rack, pincers and bar were in London Tower as
well as in the Inquisitorial Chamber. None stopped to think that torture
was past when the castillo was built. None knew how these isolated
subjects of a decadent empire labored through the long, hard years,
mingling their own sweat with that of the peons to build this
impregnable defense. The countless instances of unselfish zeal and
loyalty, the cases of Ransom, Collins, and Carr, the Crown’s patriarchal
protection of its Indian vassals, the unflagging work of the friar—these
histories were not handed down to help the castillo tell its long story.

Yet, some saw past the blackness of the dungeon. “The old fort of St.
Mark ... is a noble work, frowning over the Matanzas,” wrote William
Cullen Bryant, “and it is worth making a long journey to see.” His words
have become increasingly true.

Bibliographical Note:—_This publication is based mainly upon material in
the Spanish records of the North Carolina Historical Commission. The
translation quoted on page 5 is from the Ruth Kuykendall translation of
the records for the North Carolina Historical Records Survey._


  Bastion—A 4-sided salient (angle) projecting from the main enclosure
          of a fort. The bastion was developed in Italy about 1450.
  Bomb—A shell, or hollow iron ball filled with explosive and fired from
          a gun.
  Caballero—(Sp.) A cavalier, i.e., a raised platform inside a fort,
          giving the defender’s cannons the advantage of elevation over
          enemy guns.
  Cordon—The ornamental projecting course of stone where the parapet
          wall joins the scarp.
  Covered way—The area between the exterior embankment (glacis) and the
          moat, protected or “covered” from enemy fire by this
  Curtain—The wall connecting two bastions, i.e., part of the rampart or
          main wall of the fort.
  Demilune—A crescent-shaped work for defense of a fort entrance.
  Embrasure—An opening in a wall or parapet, through which cannon are
  Firing step—The raised step or bank along the inside of a parapet, on
          which soldiers are posted to fire upon the enemy.
  Galliot—Small, swift galley, using both sails and oars.
  Glacis—The embankment or slope from the covered way toward the open
  Gunner’s ladle—Made of copper, with wooden handles. Used for measuring
          powder and loading it into guns.
  Harquebus—Portable firearm invented about 1450, having a matchlock
          operated by a trigger. (See _match_.)
  Match—A wick or cord chemically prepared to burn at uniform rate, for
          firing a charge of powder.
  Mortar—Short cannon used for firing shells at a high angle, as, for
          example, lobbing them over the walls of a fort into the
  Musket—The smooth-bore predecessor of the rifle. Invented about 1540.
          It was more powerful than the harquebus, which it superseded.
  New Spain—Mexico.
  Palisade—A high fence or barricade of timbers set vertically into the
          ground in a close row as a means of defense.
  Parapet—A wall raised above the main wall or rampart of the fort to
          protect the soldiers.
  Pilaster—Rectangular column with base and capital, inserted into a
          wall, but projecting outward about a quarter of its width.
  Piragua—A canoe made of a hollowed tree trunk.
  Portcullis—A grating to close the entrance to a fortification.
  Presidio—(Sp.) A fortified settlement.
  Rammer—A rod for ramming home the projectile or the charge of a gun.
  Ravelin—An outer defense or detached fortification raised before a
          curtain. Similar to a demilune; usually placed in front of the
          entrance to a fort.
  Redoubt—A small fortification completely closed by a parapet, thus
          allowing encircling fire.
  Scarp—The front slope of the rampart, or main wall, of the fort.
  Sponge—Long-handled brush or swab used for cleaning the bore of the
          cannon after discharge.
  Tabby—(Sp. _tapia_) A building cement made from lime, shell, sand, and
  Terreplein—The horizontal surface in rear of the parapet, on which
          guns may be mounted.
  Wormer—A double screw on the end of a rammer, used for extracting the
          wad or cartridge from a muzzle-loading gun.

                        ★ U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1961 O-621672

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                        Historical Publications

             _For sale by the Superintendent of Documents,
                    U.S. Government Printing Office,
                          Washington 25, D.C._

                          Interpretive Series

  Artillery Through the Ages, 35 cents.
  The Building of Castillo de San Marcos, 20 cents.
  America’s Oldest Legislative Assembly and Its Jamestown Statehouses,
          25 cents.

                          Popular Study Series

  Robert E. Lee and Fort Pulaski, 15 cents.
  Wharf Building of a Century and More Ago, 10 cents.
  Winter Encampments of the Revolution, 15 cents.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Added a Table of Contents

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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