Castillo de San Marcos - Construction

Construction

The European city of St. Augustine was founded by the admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés for the Spanish Crown in 1565 on the site of a former Native American village. Over the next 100 years, the Spanish built nine wooden forts for the defense of the town in various locations. The need for fortifications was recognized after it was attacked by Sir Francis Drake and his fleet of 20 ships in 1586. Following the 1668 attack of the English pirate Robert Searle, Mariana Queen Regent of Spain, approved the construction of a masonry fortification to protect the city.

The Castillo is a masonry star fort made of a stone called coquina, Spanish for "small shells", made of ancient shells that have bonded together to form a type of stone similar to limestone. Workers were brought in from Havana, Cuba, to construct the fort in addition to Native American laborers. The coquina was quarried from the 'King's Quarry' on Anastasia Island in what is today Anastasia State Park across Matanzas Bay from the Castillo, and ferried across to the construction site. Construction began on October 2, 1672 and lasted twenty-three years, with completion in 1695.

The fort has four bastions named San Pedro, San Agustín, San Carlos and San Pablo with a ravelin protecting the sally port. On the two landward sides a large glacis was constructed which would force any attackers to advance upward toward the fort's cannon and allow the cannon shot to proceed downslope for greater efficiency in hitting multiple targets. Immediately surrounding the fort was a moat which could be flooded to a depth of a foot during high-tide with seawater from Matanzas Bay prior to an attack via the use of floodgates built into the seawall.

Multiple embrasures were built into the curtain wall along the top of the fort as well as into the bastions for the deployment of cannon of various calibers. Infantry embrasures were also built into the walls below the level of the terreplein for the deployment of muskets by the fort's defenders. It was through one of these embrasures that twenty Seminoles held as prisoners would escape in 1837.

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