Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Castillo de San Marcos

Odometer 29,788
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When Joan and I visited St. Augustine, we were aware that there was a fort on the waterfront, but to be honest I really wasn't too excited about touring it.  Since we could take the tour at no charge under my Senior Pass Joan prompted me to go- so we did.  Boy am I glad we did!

This is the oldest masonry fort in the US.  (does that mean there is a wooden one that's older?  Hmmm)  The fort was built by the Spanish to afford protection to their interests in the new world.  This fort was started in 1672 but it was not finished until 1695 twenty three years later.  A succession of nine wooden forts were built and destroyed on this site before the Spanish decided to get serious about it.  As I described in an earlier post, the fort is built out of a natural stone that is called coquina- a sedimentary stone made up of small shells.

This is a photo of one of the original walls that is at least 318 years old!  The coquina was carved out of the bluffs of Anastasia Island when the material was still somewhat soft, and brought to the site on barges.  Each block had to harden about 3 years in the sun to firm up enough to be laid up into the wall.

This is a close-up photo of one of the wall blocks and you can see that it is entirely made up of shell and sand.  The limestone in the shells reacted with the sand to make an effective mortar.  These 14 foot thick walls had an added advantage in that they were soft enough to allow a cannon ball to hit and sink-in with out cracking.  To repair the wall the ball was removed and the area re-mortared with shells and a cement made from burnt oyster shells..

The cannons at the fort are all real- none are fakes or props, however they are not all the originals that were at the fort when it was built.  The largest had a reach of about 3 miles.
Several of the cannons at the fort looked almost new- and had dates incribed on them from the 1700's.  One of the museum volunteers told us there is no shortage of cannons in Florida.

On the weekends, the museum volunteers dress in period costume and will fire a cannon on an hourly schedule.  We got to see (and hear) this one go off.
Castillio de San Marcos was never taken in hostile action- although the British tried!  Even so it changed hands regularly (4 times) as did St. Augustine.  The British and the Spanish traded ownership through several treaties, before the Spanish ceded Florida to the US by treaty in 1821.
All-in-all we spent several hours walking around the fort and viewing the many displays set up in the various rooms.  It was a definate two thumbs up for us.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

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