Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fort Matanzas - St. Augustine, Florida

This is a photograph of Fort Matanzas, St. Augustine's "other fort."

Built by the Spanish to guard against an enemy attack by way of the St. Augustine's southern approaches, the old fort fired its guns in anger only once. Artillery here opened fire on forces commanded by British General James Oglethorpe when he tried to explore the mouth of the Matanzas River.

The fort actually takes its name from a violence episode that took place near here in 1565, long before the outpost was built. Determined to root out French intruders from the Spanish colony, the Spanish cornered a force of shipwrecked French near Matanzas Inlet and put them to the sword after accepting their surrender. The word "matanzas" literally means "murders" or "slaughters."

Improperly engineered and quickly constructed, Fort Matanzas began to "pull apart at the seams" even before the end of the 18th century. The tower part of the structure weighed too much for its supports and massive cracks developoed in the walls of the fort. By the time Florida was transfered from Spain to the U.S. in 1821, the fort was considered worthless and was never occupied by the United States Army.

Pickets were occasionally stationed here during the Civil War, but the fort was never officially occupied by either side and was in a ruined state by that time.

The unique stone structure has been restored by the National Park Service and is now preserved as the centerpiece of Fort Matanzas National Monument. The park is located on Highway A1A south of St. Augustine. For more information on Fort Matanzas, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/staugustine1 and look for the "Fort Matanzas" link.

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