Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cannonballs and Shell Walls - St. Augustine FLA


Castillo de San Marcos National Monument


Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, by DG Hudson


Looking out from inside the fort, were the soldiers anxious in the early years?  The area was more remote, supplies may have had to come by ship, communication was sparse. 

The crenelations which decorate the battlements are guarded by cannon.  Iron cannonballs are stacked and ready. 

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The Castillo construction has endured since the late 1600s 


The Castillo de San Marcos is located on the shore of Matanzas Bay in the city of St. Augustine, Florida, USA.  Built from the year 1672, when Florida was part of the Spanish Empire.  These walls were made with a unique building material called coquina, shown in the photo below.
 
Coquina stone walls of Castillo de San Marcos, by DG Hudson
 

The Castillo, a masonry star fort design is made of a stone called coquina, Spanish for 'small shells'.  Coquina (koh-kee-nah) is basically made of ancient shells that have a texture similar to limestone.  It is quarried from Anastasia Island, in Matanzas Bay and ferried to the site of the fort.  This early building material was formed during an interval of the Pleistocene Age, approximately 500,000 years ago.  I purchased a sample of coquina at the fort, and the label bears this description: "a calcarenite stone whose particles are chiefly fossils, whole or fragmented, cemented together by calcite."



Castillo Men's Barracks, Interior by DG Hudson


The barracks were utilitarian, at least for the men who lived at this fort.   There are tours or you can explore on your own.  Information is available at one of the offices at the fort.  The staff are friendly and can answer most of your questions.

 

Inner Courtyard Castillo de San Marcos by DG Hudson


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Have you visited any forts from our colonial past, or the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine?  Have you heard of coquina and its usefulness?

Did you have or build a fort when you were younger? (even temporary ones)
Please share in the comments.

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All images property of DG Hudson, taken on location in St. Augustine, Florida.

References:

http://www.nps.gov/casa/index.htm  Castillo de San Marcos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Augustine,_Florida  Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_de_San_Marcos History of the fort

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35 comments:

  1. That's very interesting about the coquina. Didn't know about that fort in Augustine. We have some frontier-era forts here in Colorado. Mostly adobe type buildings. I've also been several times to Fort Laramie in Wyoming and Fort Robinson in Nebraska where Crazy Horse was killed. I love going to those places and imagining what life might have been like. Pretty miserable most of the time, I'm guessing.

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    1. Yes, I think you're right about forts not having amenities. Survival took up most of their time. Those forts you mentioned sound interesting.

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  2. Very cool! I've been there, but we didn't visit the monument.

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    1. I missed it the first time when we saw the Lighthouse, but saw it the second time. Now you've had a peek at the inside.

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  3. I believe I went to a fort in Maryland/Virginia/that general area. We have Old Bent's Fort nearby that I'm hoping to go to. I do love to visit pieces of history. Amazing what still stands.

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    1. I hope you take photos, Shannon, and tell us about Old Bent's Fort. I love the history of places, too.

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  4. Now you got me wondering if I have ever visited a fort -- don't think so, but of course we built them as kids, even back in Sweden. We played cowboys and indians there too when we were kids. And, no I haven't heard of coquina. It was interesting to learn about it though.

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    1. That's interesting Inger, I think kids the world over like any game with a good guy and a bad guy (need conflict). Today it's Ninjas, but once it was cowboys, indians and astronauts and they needed forts.

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  5. Very cool! Most of us grew up building forts -- even if they were just made out of pillows, blankets, and living room furniture, right? On another note, you won 3rd prize in my contest! Drop me a line with your email address so I can send you a PDF copy of something special.

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    1. Most definitely will do (I'm pleased, and I'll email you today). You cheered me up, whatever it is, Milo.

      As for forts, yes, one of my antique chairs has a split in the back during a skirmish at the kids fort in the family room (years ago). The kids say it fell over during the attack. Yeah, sure.

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    2. Antique chairs make the best forts, though! =] My email is flowowmiles at hotmail -- I still need to send you your prize...

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    3. Sent it to you this morning, Milo. I tried other routes from your google+ page, which didn't work I guess. . .

      Thanks for the followup.

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    4. Don't know if the email above is correct Milo. Returned mail came back.

      Can't find anything about email on your site either. . .

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    5. Got your message on my blog: my email is all-lowercase flowomiles. I can also be reached via Twitter and Facebook, if all else fails!

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  6. I think anyone who didn't build a fort of some kind had a deprived childhood. We visited a fort only a few hours from us, a wood stockade from the French Indian war. The buildings were so small.

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    1. Compared to what we have today, the building were smaller.

      A wood stockade is something I haven't seen.

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  7. Lovely pictures. I went to the Alamo when I was in Texas - lots and lots of years ago.

    These pictures make me want to write a story using castles and an epic battle.

    ........dhole

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    1. I wanted to see the Alamo, but never have. Write that story of castles and battles in skeleton form and use it for practice on a rainy day.

      Thanks for the visit.

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  8. Great history. I had no idea that forts like that were still around in Florida - thanks for sharing! We've visited the fortress at Blaye built by Vauban in the 17th century under the orders of Louis XIV. Very impressive. Makes me want to take archery lessons!

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    1. That fortress sounds interesting, Jenna, now I want to research that place. I've always wanted to take fencing, although archery was enticing, too.

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  9. looks really interesting! i had a fort growing up, it was at the edge of the woods next to our house--i spent many happy hours there :)

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    1. Wow, Lynn, lucky girl. A kid with a fort is usually a happy kid. A fort can become anything.

      We had a small place near our house that we called our fort, complete with battles using black walnuts as ammo. But, no one got hurt, we weren't that accurate.

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  10. Neat old fort. I've been to several -- Fort Niagara, Fort Erie ... one down in North Carolina somewhere. I forget the name of it. It was on one of the barrier islands.

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    1. I like evidence of history, it's reassuring.

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  11. Very cool pics. I love historical places to visit.

    As a kid my dad took us to Fort Ticonderoga in upstate NY. It was so cool to explore as an eight-year-old kid...

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    1. I remember hearing about that fort, Michael. Even as an adult, forts are cool if you like history.

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  12. It's not everyday you can use "crenelations" in a sentence!

    My kids are constantly building forts inside with anything and everything at hand.

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    1. That's right, I'm glad you noticed, Tonja! Kids sometimes have to use what's at hand to build their forts and use their imagination. . .(that's a good thing)

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  13. I've never heard of coquina before.

    Interesting history! I like the pictures you posted as well.

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    1. Neither had I, Golden Eagle, until I visited this fort. The neat thing about the shell walls was they were more 'flexible' than plain old stone walls. (which gave them some ability to minimize the cannonball's impact)

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  14. Hi DG .. we definitely made houses around our garden - not sure we made a fort ... but these pictures are great to see - and I'm particularly interested in the Coquina stone .. oh to be a kid again!

    Cheers Hilary

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  15. I have not visited this site, even though it's in my own state of Florida, and I pass St. Augustine so frequently while traveling on the Interstate.

    I have been to forts, including the Alamo (noted its appearance in previous comments) and locally Fort De Soto over in the St. Pete area.

    On a family vacation when I was a teenager, I visited a fort in Scotland, which was fascinating from its history and architecture (built to look like a hill covered in grass) to its continued use as an active military complex. I do not now remember which one it was - I will have to do some research and record the memories before they are all forgotten!

    I am familiar with coquina.

    Hilton Head Island, South Carolina has some fascinating history and historical sites.

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    1. I would definitely research that fort in Scotland that was built into the side of the hill. That's something people in other northern countries did as well.

      Thanks for stopping by, Julie.

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  17. Nice tour. I have never been there.

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