Explore The Historic Forts If St. Augustine

Explore The Historic Forts If St. Augustine

Founded in 1565, more than two-hundred years prior to the American Revolutionary War, St. Augustine, Florida is notable for being the oldest continuous non-native settlement in the U.S.
For nearly 200 years (1565-1763) St. Augustine served as the capital city of Spanish Florida. They were regularly attacked by European explorers from England and France for dominion over the natural-resource rich ‘new land.’ Eventually, nine forts were erected in and around St. Augustine, but following a 1668 attack by British pirates that nearly succeeded in overthrowing the Spaniards, they realized their earthen-and-wood ‘forts’ were inadequate, and in 1672, construction began on a stone fort, Castillo de San Marcos.

The continental U.S.’s oldest masonry fort, Castillo de San Marcos has operated under four separate governments. During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), the sprawling compound was utilized by the U.S. government as a prison for captured Native-American tribal leaders, including legendary Seminole chief Osceola.

Officially named a National Monument in 1924, the fort today is one of Florida’s most-visited tourist attractions, providing entertaining and educational walking tours, exhibitions and demonstrations.

To protect St. Augustine from southern invaders, the Spaniards built another similarly sturdy fort in 1742, using a native stone, called coquina, that was abundant along the coastline that was impenetrable to cannon fire as well as being fireproof. The name of both the fort and the inlet it occupies, ‘Matanzas’ — has local historical significance. Nearly two-hundred years previously, the original Spanish settlers killed more than 250 French Huguenots at the site. Matanzas translates to “slaughters” in Spanish.

Occupying Rattlesnake Island, Fort Matanzas is reached by a 5-minute ferry ride from the Visitor’s Center. Guided walking tours relate the history of both the fort and the St. Augustine region. A popular feature of the tour is the daily cannon firings.

Located just north of St. Augustine is Fort Mose Historic State Park, a 24-acre National Historic Landmark that features North America’s first African-American settlement. Built in 1738 by Florida’s Spanish governor, Fort Mose had two primary purposes; to serve as a defense against invaders approaching St. Augustine from the north, and to provide asylum for African-American slaves who’d escaped British colonies. 1740’s Siege of Fort Mose by the British resulted in the fort’s destruction but was rebuilt in 1752. For the next decade-plus, the Fort served as the predecessor to the Underground Railroad, offering a safe haven for escaped slaves, and in many instances providing organized ‘escape routes’ to the north from their former captors.

The Fort Mose Visitor’s Center features a comprehensive history of the fort, as well as artifacts from the original structure which was uncovered during a 1986 archaeological excavation.

If you’re looking to visit St. Augustine and its forts, be sure to look into St. Augustine vacation packages for Fort¬†admission prices or city history tours included in accommodation stay.