|St. Augustine, Florida|
The oldest city in the continental United States, St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish in 1565, 42 years before Jamestown, Virginia, and 55 years before the first Pilgrim set foot on Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. In its entire 297 year history, the old city had never surrendered to an enemy force.
The last Confederate troops, however, had evacuated St. Augustine the night before and the citizens were left with no way to defend themselves. The USS Wabash was visible offshore and as a boat party set out from the warship, the city leaders raised a white flag over the stone ramparts of Fort Marion.
|Castillo de San Marcos National Monument|
Called Fort Marion in 1862
Seeing the white flag go up over the fort, Commander C.R.P. Rogers of the USS Wabash ordered his men to pull for the city wharf:
...Landing at the wharf and inquiring for the chief authorities, I was soon joined by the Mayor and conducted to the City Hall, where the municipal authorities were assembled.
|Old Government House|
|C.R.P. Rodgers, U.S. Navy|
Commander Rogers then subjected the citizens of St. Augustine to what to many of them was an ultimate indignity. Instead of having his own men raise the Stars and Stripes over the historic fort, had the citizens do it themselves. He may have done so to send a firm message, as the ladies of the city had chopped down the flag staff at St. Francis Barracks the night before to prevent it ever being used to again fly the U.S. Flag (see The Women of St. Augustine):
...I recommended them to hoist the American flag at once, and in prompt accordance with the advice, by the order of the Mayor, the national ensign was displayed from the flag-staff of the fort.
|Civil War cannon in St. Augustine|
Possibly one of those in the Water Battery in 1862
At the time of the surrender of St. Augustine, the five modern cannon still mounted in the fort consisted of three 32-pounders and two 8-inch Columbiads. These guns were located in the water battery, which had been added to the old Castillo during the antebellum era. Several other cannon from the installation had been removed by the Confederates to help defend other ports such as Fernandina and Jacksonville.
|Plaza de la Constitucion, America's Oldest Park|
Rodger's and the City Officials crossed the Plaza
on their way to the Government House.
The military side of the surrender completed, Commander Rodgers then took steps to reassure the citizens of St. Augustine, few of whom had fled upon learning their city would be occupied:
I called upon the clergymen of the city, requesting them to re-assure the people and to confide in our kind intentions towards them.
About 1500 persons remain in St. Augustine, about one-fifth of the inhabitants having fled. I believe that there are many citizens who are earnestly attached to the Union, a large number who are silently opposed to it, and a still larger number who care very little about the matter.
Rodgers and his men were delayed by weather in getting back to their ship, but when they finally did make their way out of the harbor, the Stars and Stripes flew over the nation's oldest city. It has continued to do so ever since.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of St. Augustine, here are some links you might enjoy:
- St. Augustine, Florida - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
- Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Fort Marion)
- Plaza de la Constitucion
- Civil War in St. Augustine, Florida
- Dade Pyramids
- City Walls of St. Augustine
- Fort Matanzas National Monument
- Fort Mose Historic State Park
- Battles of St. Augustine
- St. Augustine Lighthouse