When the Spanish reoccupied San Marcos de Apalache, they knew that their ability to hold the site through future years depended on how permanent they could make the works. Previous forts at the site had been built of logs and plaster and were not capable of standing up to either the elements or pirate attack. This time, however, the Spanish came with a different plan.
Mining natural stone from nearby quarries, they began to build a massive masonry fortifications. The new fort was designed to be triangular, with bastions on each corner. The point or apex of the triangle faced the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers, while the base of the triangle stretched across the peninsula, from one river to the other.
Although the fort was never completed, the Spanish did succeed in building a massive wall stretching from one river to the other. Bastions were completed on each river and the wall included magazines, quarters and other rooms. It provided a powerful defense against a land attack. Less permanent stockades were used to complete the triangular work.
The fort was turned over to the British following the conclusion of the French and Indian or Seven Years War in 1763. They occupied it with a small garrison for a time, but in 1783 it was returned to the Spanish due to their alliance with the United States in the American Revolution.
During the later part of the 18th century, San Marcos de Apalache became the focus of considerable intrigue. The notorious pirate and self-proclaimed "Director General of the State of Muskogee," William Augustus Bowles, sacked a trading post on the Wakulla River just north of the fort and eventually led a mixed force of Seminoles, whites and African Americans in a siege against San Marcos. The fort fell to Bowles force, but he and his men were forced to flee a short time later when the Spanish returned with a powerful naval squadron.
Our series on the history of San Marcos de Apalache will continue with a look at the fort's role in the First Seminole War and then we'll move on to how the old Spanish citadel became a powerful and unconquered Confederate fort. In the meantime, you can read more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/sanmarcos1.