|Fernandina Plaza Historic State Park, site of Fort San Carlos|
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The Spanish first fortified what is now Fernandina Plaza Historic State Park in around 1800. The city of Fernandina had not yet been established, but the site on the banks of the Amelia River looked across the mouth of the St. Mary's River to Georgia and the United States. Florida was then a colony of Spain.
|Another view of the site of Fort San Carlos|
The revolution was ill-conceived and U.S. forces withdrew quickly, turning Fernandina back over to the Spanish. When Spain returned, work began on a new, much stronger fort - Fort San Carlos. Built in a semi-circular design and armed with heavy guns, the fort was completed in 1816. One year later, however, it was captured by the American-backed Scottish adventurer, Gregor MacGregor.
|Plan of Fort San Carlos|
Spain tried to retake Fort San Carlos with a land and sea attack in September 1817, but failed. A short time later, however, the "privateer" (and well-known pirate) Luis Aury arrived with 300 men. A truce was worked out between Aury and MacIntosh's men and he was named commander in chief of Fernandina. Because he sailed under a letter of marque from the Republic of Mexico, Aury declared that Amelia Island (and Florida itself) was now part of Mexico.
|Earthworks of Fort San Carlos can be seen on the bluff.|
Fort San Carlos continued to defend the port of Fernandina until 1847 when construction began on nearby Fort Clinch, a massive Third System work. Confederate troops occupied the plaza and the old Spanish earthworks in 1861, building new earthwork batteries nearby. The old fort was abandoned by 1862, however, when U.S. forces seized Fernandina and Amelia Island.
In a remarkable sketch, a newspaper artist showed the old semi-circular earthwork of Fort San Carlos on the bluff at what by then had become "Old Town" in a sketch of U.S. forces moving up the Amelia River to take possession of what is now Fernandina Beach. The entire town had moved in 1853 to take advantage of the building of the Florida Railroad which ended one mile south of the old town.
To learn more about Fort San Carlos, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fernandinaplaza.