Castillo de San Marcos National Monument - St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument - St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos
The massive coquina walls of the
Castillo de San Marcos have
guarded St. Augustine since the
Florida's Ancient Fortress
The Spanish fort was attacked
on multiple occasions but never
fall. In 1702 it protected the entire
population of St. Augustine for
two months.
St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marcos
A Spanish flag waves over the cannon and ramparts
of Castillo de San Marcos, the massive stone fort
built to protect St. Augustine, Florida.
Oldest Masonry Fort in the U.S.
America's oldest masonry fort, the Castillo de
San Marcos ("Castle of St. Marks") has
overlooked the waterfront of
St. Augustine,
Florida, for more than three hundred years.

Actually the tenth in a series of forts built to
protect St. Augustine (the previous nine being
constructed of wood), work on the Castillo
was begun in October of 1672. A pirate attack
in 1668 and the founding of Charleston by
the English in 1670 prompted the Queen
Regent Mariana of Spain to approve the
building of a powerful masonry fortification to
defend Florida.

Constructed using coquina rock quarried
across the bay on Anastasia Island, the fort
took 23 years to complete. A spectacular
example of Spanish colonial architecture, the
Castillo is the largest fort ever constructed by
Spain in North America.

The massive walls of the Castillo de San
Marcos were first tested in battle in 1702. An
English army led by Gov. James Moore of
South Carolina tried to capture St. Augustine.
Queen Anne's War was then underway and
Moore came south to lay siege to the Oldest

The 1,500 soldiers and citizens of St.
Augustine took shelter within the fort and
held off the English army for 52 days until
they were relieved by a Spanish fleet from
Cuba. Moore burned the city but became the
first of many commanders that tried and
failed to take the Castillo.

A second construction project was started to
strengthen the fort in 1738. City walls and
additional forts were built to better protect St.
Augustine, with the Castillo de San Marcos
serving as their anchor. It was during this
period that
Fort Matanzas was built to guard
Matanzas Inlet south of the city and
Fort Mose
was built to the north. The later was the first
settlement for free blacks in North America.

These improvements came just in time. As
the War of Jenkins' Ear raged over the lost
ear of an English sea captain, Gen. James
Oglethorpe led an army south from
Frederica in Georgia to attack St. Augustine.

Oglethorpe arrived off St. Augustine in May
1740. The Spanish evacuated Fort Mose, but
held the city walls, the Castillo de San
Marcos and Fort Matanzas. The English
erected batteries on Anastasia Island and
bombarded the city for 27 days. The cannon
balls were absorbed without damage by the
soft but thick coquina walls of the Castillo.

Oglethorpe's siege was finally broken when
300 Spanish troops, including Francisco
Menendez and his soldiers from the city's
free black militia, stormed the English camp
at Fort Mose on June 26, 1740. Unable to
take the powerful Castillo and witnessing the
increasing aggressiveness of the Spanish
defenders, the English general withdrew his
army and sailed back to Georgia.

The British finally gained what they could not
take by force thanks to a peace treaty in 1763.
Spain had sided with Frances against Great
Britain in the Seven Wars War (also called
the French & Indian War). Florida was ceded
to Great Britain as part of the agreement and
the Spanish flag finally came down over St.
Augustine. British troops took over the
Castillo, which they called Fort St. Marks. It
was already 100 years old.

The fort served as the protector and bastion
of British St. Augustine in 1763-1783. East
and West Florida remained loyal to King
George III during the American Revolution
and did not join in the uprising staged by 13
of the other colonies.

Patriot forces tried to invade Florida but were
turned back in heavy fighting below the St.
Mary's River  British soldiers from the fort and
nearby St. Francis Barracks, meanwhile, took
part in multiple attacks on Georgia. Several
noted Patriot political leaders were among
the prisoners they sent back to be held within
the stone walls of the fortress.

Spain sided with the 13 Colonies during the
American Revolution and secured the return
of Florida in the treaty that sealed Great
Britain's defeat. The Spanish flag once again
waved over St. Augustine and the walls of the
Castillo de San Marcos.

The old fort came under siege a final time on
the eve of the War of 1812 when men calling
themselves the "East Florida Patriots" staged
an insurrection and captured Fort San Carlos
at Fernandina. Backed by American soldiers,
they attacked St. Augustine itself.
Cannon of the Castillo
Originally armed with 6- and 18-
pounders, the Castillo de San
Marcos is still home to one of the
finest displays of colonial cannon
in the United States.
The Patriot Revolt failed when the walls of the
old Castillo de San Marcos held firm. Fever
and Spanish counter-attacks drove off the
besiegers and the revolution collapsed. It
was the last successful Spanish defense of

The United States gained possession of the
300 year old colony in 1821 and sent troops
to garrison the Castillo.  It was renamed Fort
Marion after Gen. Francis Marion and served
as an important U.S. Army base during the
Second Seminole War of 1835-1842. The
great Seminole warrior
Osceola was held
prisoner at the fort before being sent to
Moultrie, South Carolina. He died at the latter
post and is buried just outside its walls.

Fort Marion was considered obsolete by the
time of the Civil War. U.S. military engineers
had replaced it as the primary defense of the
city by building a water battery in the shadow
of its eastern walls. Completed in 1841-1842
this battery mounted an impressive array of
modern artillery.

The fort was occupied by state troops in
1861and held by Confederate forces until the
following year. They evacuated St. Augustine
without a fight in March 1862 and the Stars
and Stripes replaced the Stars and Bars over
the fortress. Most of the guns were stripped
from the water battery before Southern troops
evacuated the city.

The fort was used as a prison for American
Indians after the Civil War. Prisoners from the
Kiowa, Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche and
Arapaho nations were imprisoned  within the
walls of the Castillo during the 1870s and
1880s. Apache prisoners engraved the
depiction of a fire spirit on the wall inside one
of the rooms. It can still be seen today.

The old Spanish fort played a minor role in
the Spanish-American War. The rooms that
had held American Patriots during the
Revolutionary held 200 deserters during the
nation's last war with Spain.

Fort Marion was declared surplus and
abandoned by the U.S. Army in 1900. It was
declared a National Monument in 1924 and
transferred to the custody of the National
Park Service in 1933. Its original Spanish
name was returned by an Act of Congress in

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
stands as a remarkable example of Spanish
colonial architecture. The oldest masonry fort
in the continental United States, the
beautifully preserved fortress is open to the
public daily.

Along with
Fort Matanzas, Fort Mose and
reconstructed sections of the
city walls, the
Castillo interprets the rich military history of
the oldest city in the continental United States.

Castillo de San Marcos is located at 1 S.
Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, Florida.

The fort is open daily from 8:45 a.m. 5:15
p.m. The entrance fee is $7 for adults (16+)
and free for kids 15 and under. Good for 7
consecutive days. Parking is available for a
fee in the adjacent city parking lot.

Please click here for more information.
Defenses of the Oldest City
The Castillo (background) was
the anchor for the impressive
system of walls and forts that
protected St. Augustine, Florida.
Interior of the Castillo
The Castillo de San Marcos was
called Fort Marion after Florida
became part of the United States.
Seminole, Apache, Cheyenne,
Kiowa, Comanche and Arapaho
prisoners were held here.
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Copyright 2011, 2013 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: December 27, 2014
St. Augustine, FL 450th
Spanish Soldiers
Uniformed interpreters take part
in numerous activities at the
Castillo, where visitors gather for
scheduled musket and cannon
American Indian Prisoners
Seminole, Apache, Cheyenne,
Comanche, Arapaho and Kiowa
prisoners were held in the fort.
Their art can still be seen on the
walls of rooms like this one.