Fort Matanzas National Monument

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Fort Matanzas National Monument
Commemorated in 1924, Fort Matanzas National Monument is a United States National Monument run by the National Park Service. The Monument consists of a 1740 Spanish fort, Fort Matanzas, and about 100 acres (0.4 km²) of salt marsh and barrier islands along the Matanzas River on the northern Atlantic coast of Florida. It is operated by the Park Service in conjunction with the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and several sites in the city of St. Augustine. Fort Matanzas guards Matanzas Inlet, the southern mouth of the Matanzas River, which can be used as a rear entrance to the city of St. Augustine. Such an approach avoids 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 39 day siege. St. Augustine endured the siege but the Spanish realized the need to protect the inlet. Under Gov. Manuel de Montiano construction began in 1740 with completion occurring in 1742. Convicts, slaves, and troops from Cuba were used as construction labor. The Fort was sited on Rattlesnake Island and has a commanding position over Matanzas Inlet. The Fort is constructed of coquina, a common shellstone building material in the area. It is 50 feet (15 m) long on each side with a 30-foot (9.1 m) tower. The marshy terrain was stabilized by a foundation of pine pilings. The standard staff for 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 cannons were placed at the Fort - four six pounders and one 18 pounder. All guns could reach the inlet, which at the time was less than a half mile away. In 1742, as the Fort was nearing completion, the British under Oglethorpe approached the inlet with 12 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 Treaty of Paris, 1763, and regained control with the Treaty of Paris, 1783. With the Spanish Empire deteriorating, Spain spent little effort maintaining the fort after this time. When the United States took control of Florida in 1819, 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. In 1916, restoration work began on the badly deteriorated fort. In 1924, National Monument status was proclaimed. It was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933. As an historic area under the Park Service, the National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. The Headquarters and Visitor Center were added separately to the National Register on December 31, 2008. The Fort is accessible only by guided boat tours. Hiking trails are available on the barrier island.

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