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article imageFascinating history found at the Castillo de San Marcos Special

By Kay Mathews     Nov 5, 2014 in Travel
Saint Augustine - Built by Spaniards on Matanzas Bay between 1672 and 1695, the Castillo de San Marcos (Castle of Saint Mark) is a remarkable historical site. View a sample of the sights offered at this fortress.
The Castillo de San Marcos is a National Park Service Monument located on A1A in downtown St. Augustine, Florida. The Monument, established by the Spanish in 1672 as a presidio — fortified town — in order to defend Spanish shipping against attacks by France, England, and Holland, is the oldest masonry fort in North America and it consists of 20.5 acres. According to the National Park Service, it is “the only extant 17th century military construction in the country and the oldest masonry fortress in the United States.”
Displays at the Castillo indicate that, in 1764, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain after the French and Indian War. Britain divides Florida into East and West, to better govern their new territory. In 1784, however, allied with a victorious United States, Spain regains Florida by the Treaty of Paris that ends the American Revolution. Later, during the period of 1821-1900, through the Adams-Onis Treaty, the United States acquires Florida for $5 million. The Army renames the fortress “Fort Marion,” after Francis Marion, a hero of the Revolution, and uses it as a base — and prison — during the Seminole Wars. Both Federal and Confederate troops serve here during the Civil War. Through the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Castillo is an Army supply depot.
It was stated that just about anything that would fit down the cannon bore could be fired out against an enemy, and some were quite imaginative as seen in the photograph below. The “solid shot” — solid iron ball — breaks apart what it hits and the splinters from the target add to the impact. The “bar shot and chain,” specifically made to fire at ships, is an iron rod or piece of chain welded between two solid shot. When fired, these spin and cut through ropes and sails. The “grape shot” consists of small iron balls around a wooden core and wrapped with canvas. When fired, the balls spread out like a shotgun blast and reach out to 800 yards.
The “solid shot   “bar shot and chain ” and the “grape shot” at Castillo de San Marcos.  S...
The “solid shot," “bar shot and chain,” and the “grape shot” at Castillo de San Marcos. St. Augustine, FL
Volunteers, in time-appropriate uniforms, demonstrated how a single-shot, flintlock-based musket is loaded and fired. The NPS Park Ranger said that it usually takes 20 seconds to load and fire the weapon. He also noted that the origin of the term “going off half-cocked” came from flintlock muskets. The person firing the weapon would set the cock to half-cocked in order for it to be ready to fire. When it fired unintentionally, it went off half-cocked. One of the volunteers showed visitors what the single packet of gunpowder and round bullet looked like.
Volunteers firing flintlock muskets during demonstration at Castillo de San Marcos.  St. Augustine  ...
Volunteers firing flintlock muskets during demonstration at Castillo de San Marcos. St. Augustine, FL
Volunteer holding packet consisting of gunpowder and round  iron bullet at Castillo de San Marcos.  ...
Volunteer holding packet consisting of gunpowder and round, iron bullet at Castillo de San Marcos. St. Augustine, FL
The Sentry Box, or “Garita,” enabled the sentry to watch outside the fort to the front and sides, and sheltered him from weather and enemy fire. These turrets were red against the white walls of the fort.
Sentry Box at Castillo de San Marcos.  St. Augustine  FL
Sentry Box at Castillo de San Marcos. St. Augustine, FL
View from opening in a Sentry Box at Castillo de San Marcos with Bridge of Lions in background.  St....
View from opening in a Sentry Box at Castillo de San Marcos with Bridge of Lions in background. St. Augustine, FL
The Castillo de San Marcos is one of a number of truly unique historical sites that visitors to St. Augustine can enjoy. What you will see and learn are worth the trip.
Cannon and view of the Bridge of Lions at Castillo de San Marcos.  St. Augustine  FL
Cannon and view of the Bridge of Lions at Castillo de San Marcos. St. Augustine, FL
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