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Fort Matanzas National Monument

Fort Matanzas National Monument



Location: St. Johns County, FL  Map

Constructed: 1740-42

Area: 227.76 acres (0.91 km²)






Description of Fort Matanzas National Monument

Fort Matanzas National Monument

Fort Matanzas National Monument is an old Spanish fortress located in St. Johns County, Florida in United States. It was constructed in 1740-42 to secure Spanish possessions in the New World. This national monument covers an area of 227.76 acres (0.91 km²). It is administered by the National Park Service next to Castillo de San Marcos and other tourist attractions in the city of San Agustín (Florida).




In 1739 the War of the Seat broke out. General James Oglethorpe laid siege to the Castillo de San Marcos, blocking the mouth of the Matanzas River, hoping to surrender it with a continuous bombardment. Seeing that the guns were not effective due to the resistance of the coquina with which the fort had been built, he decided to surrender the place due to hunger. However, a small Spanish ship was able to evade the blockade and give notice to Havana, from where supplies were sent. After 38 days the British ended the siege without having managed to surrender the castle.

In order to protect San Marcos Castle from future dangers and to avoid the siege by land, it was necessary to protect the entrance to San Augustín through the Matanzas River, and for this, Fort Matanzas (in English Fort Matanzas) was built. what were predicted future incursions by land against the fort of San Marcos.

In 1914 the restoration works began in the deteriorated fort, which allowed that in 1924 the position of National Monument was granted to him and the 10 of August of 1933 its maintenance happened of the Department of War to the Service of National Parks. Thanks to its consideration as a historical area under the control of the National Parks Park Service, it was included in the list of the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

On December 31, 2008, the main office and visitor center of the Fuerte Matanzas National Monument, built in 1936, was added to the National Registry due to its value as a significant example of the particular architectural design of the National Park Service.

Fort Matanzas can only be accessed through guided boat tours. There are tracks for hikers on the barrier island.


Fort Matanzas National Monument

History Fort Matanzas National Monument

Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1742 to guard Matanzas Inlet, the southern mouth of the Matanzas River, which could be used as a rear entrance to the city of St. Augustine. Such an approach avoided St. Augustine's primary defense system, centered at Castillo de San Marcos. In 1740, Gov. James Oglethorpe of Georgia used the inlet to blockade St. Augustine and launch a thirty-nine-day siege. St. Augustine endured the siege, but the episode convinced the Spanish that protecting the inlet was necessary to the security of the town. Under Gov. Manuel de Montiano's orders, construction of the fort began that year and was completed in 1742. Engineer Pedro Ruiz de Olano, who had worked on additions to the Castillo de San Marcos, designed the fortified observation tower. Convicts, slaves, and troops from Cuba were used as labor to erect the structure, which was sited on present-day Rattlesnake Island and had a commanding position over Matanzas Inlet.

The fort, known to the Spanish as Torre de Matanzas (Matanzas Tower), is a masonry structure made of coquina, a common shellstone building material in the area. The marshy terrain was stabilized by a foundation of pine pilings to accommodate a building 50 feet (15 m) long on each side with a 30-foot (9.1 m) high tower. The standard garrison of the fort was one officer in charge, four infantrymen, and two gunners, though more troops could be stationed if necessary. All soldiers at Fort Matanzas served on rotation from their regular duty in St. Augustine. Five cannon were placed at the fort—four six-pounders and one eighteen-pounder. All guns could reach the inlet, which at the time was less than half a mile away.

In 1742, as the fort was nearing completion, the British under Oglethorpe approached the inlet with twelve ships. Cannon fire drove off the scouting boats, and the warships left without engaging the fort. This brief encounter was the only time Fort Matanzas fired on an enemy. Spain lost control of Florida with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, and regained control with the 1783 Treaty of Paris. With the Spanish Empire falling apart, Spain spent little effort maintaining the fort after this time. When the United States took control of Florida in 1821, the fort had deteriorated to the point where soldiers could not live inside. The United States never used the fort and it became a ruin.

Fort Matanzas was named for the inlet, which acquired its name after the executions, or matanzas (Spanish: slaughters), on its north shore, of Jean Ribault and his band of Huguenot Frenchmen, the last of the Fort Caroline colonists, by the Spanish in 1565.