A Florida fort

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I love to explore historic forts. Many great ones dot the East coast. I was visiting a fellow history geek friend who lives in Florida and shares my love of history sites. He told me about a fort I’d never heard of that proved a fascinating off-the-beaten track history site.

Fort Matanzas, owned by the National Park Service, sits fourteen miles from the more well-known Castillo de San Marcos fort in St. Augustine, Florida on the Atlantic Coast. After San Marcos was completed in 1695, the town of St. Augustine, a Spanish outpost, was still vulnerable to attack from the rear if vessels could manage to sail up the Matanzas River.  Fort Matanzas was completed by 1742 to solve the problem and prevent British attack.  Governor James Oglethorpe of the Georgia colony immediately tested the new fort and its guns repelled his twelve ships.  That was 1742 and the fort never experienced further battle activity.

Today visitors can only access the fort via a short ferry ride across the Matanzas River. The small fort sits in isolation on Rattlesnake Island surrounded by a beautiful coastal landscape. Built of coquina, a local shellstone, it is only 50 X 50 feet,with a 30 foot high tower which visitors can climb. It’s a fun climb up the ladder to the observation deck. I tried to imagine what life would be like during the one-month tour of duty… talk about a remote location! The normal complement of soldiers was only one officer, four infantrymen and two gunners. What did the soldiers do to fill their time?

The fort seems far from the ocean and the river inlet it was built to protect. Erosion and river deposits have altered the inlet over time and the fort is about a half-mile farther from the open sea.

The fort changed hands several times as this area went to the British then back to the Spanish then to the United States. The U.S. took possession in 1821 but never occupied the fort.

I’m glad that Fort Matanzas is preserved. The much larger Castillo de San Marcos down the road receives the hordes of visitors, but this small fort tells an interesting story.

Do you like historic forts? Do you have a favorite? Please share about it.

A major historic fort is in danger of development. Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia has many layers of history. Read more about it and support the drive to make it a national historic monument.

About Tim

Author, public historian, and consultant. Author site: timgrove.net - My fifth book, Star Spangled: The Story of a Flag, a Battle, and the American Anthem, was published in May 2020. Consulting site: grovehistoryconsulting.com I specialize in exhibition development, interpretive planning, education strategy, and history relevance. I'm passionate about helping history organizations of all sizes and kinds make history more relevant for their communities and the people they engage with. I'm happy to consider many types of writing projects for informal learning organizations. Reach me at tim@grovehistoryconsulting.com or authortimgrove@gmail.com
This entry was posted in 18th century, fort, military, national park and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Florida fort

  1. Pingback: A fort in an idyllic place | historyplaces

  2. Pingback: Linnea Grim: My favorite history site | historyplaces

  3. Pingback: Bob Beatty: My favorite history site(s) | historyplaces

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