Built in 1672, the Castillo de San Marcos was the center of quite a few skirmishes over the years, first as the Old World fought colonial wars around the world and later as Confederate and Union forces battled over their issues in the various American skirmishes. It was named Fort Marion from 1821 to 1942 and for a period of British rule was named Fort St. Mark from 1763 until 1784. (Location)
St Augustine is one of only three walled cities constructed in North America. I have now visited two of them – Quebec City in Canada and now St. Augustine in Florida. Because Florida is so flat, standing upon the walls of the fort provided any defenders excellent sight-lines in all directions to warn of the approach of any attacking forces.
The fort was built on a traditional star design and had many additions and modifications over the years. One of the changes was the addition of inner rooms with vaulted ceilings to provide greater strength to the overall structure but also to provide additional width needed for the newer cannons and other weaponry.
During one period of British occupancy, a second floor was added to the existing rooms in order to provide housing for a greater number of soldiers. The fort would normally house the soldiers but during times of battle/siege locals would also seek refuge within the walls of the fort.
The walls of the fort were of a masonry style of construction using a natural limestone material referred to as “Coquina”. Coquina limestone is composed of primarily Donax shells (periwinkle) from the Pleistocene Age of a half a million years ago. A soft rock-like substance, the material was quarried by the Spanish on Gnastasia Island and shipped across the water to the fort location where masons could shape the soft rock with a normal assortment of carpenter’s tools. Although soft in nature, it apparently absorbed the the artillery fire of the time quite well – absorbing rather than collapsing.
In addition to the normal assortment of soldiers, cooks and commanders, the fort would have a resident doctor to attend to the wounded using an assortment of medications and medical instruments. Many of the instruments of the day very likely differed very little from those of the cook and the butcher since extraction of bullets and shrapnel and amputations would be an important part of the doctor’s life during times of battle.
Over the years the Castillo de San Marcos has seen quite a few flags fluttering above its walls but now it is operated as a National Monument with a souvenir shop and modern toilets for visiting tourists.