St. Augustine's Written History

  • Construction of the Castillo

    Florida’s new governor, Manuel Cendoya, was responsible for building the new fort. About four o’clock Sunday afternoon, October 2nd, 1672, Governor Cendoya thrust a spade into the earth and thus broke ground for the Castillo de San Marcos. After collecting funds, he found an experienced military engineer, Ignacio Daza, to design it. He recruited large numbers of Indians, slaves, and skilled craftsmen. They discovered a readily available building material on nearby Anastasia Island called coquina: rock composed of tiny seashells concreted together beneath the sea. An elaborate system of ferry boats was required to transport the coquina, and an earthwork surrounding the fort was built from soil removed for a moat. Unfortunately, Daza and Governor Cendoya both died during the first two years of the project, and a huge storm destroyed the existing wooden fort in 1674. Twice, pirates threatened the city and the work had to be stopped. But Governor Quiroga successfully petitioned the King to allow coquina stones, which had been reserved by the crown for use exclusively for the castillo’s construction, to be used in building important buildings in St. Augustine. This huge construction project resulted in a sharp increase in the population of St. Augustine as skilled craftsmen, engineers, laborers and slaves became residents. By August 1695, the massive Castillo was at last complete and it was christened as the “Castillo de San Marcos” or St. Mark’s Castle.

    Border Troubles

    The English hired Indians to harass Spanish missions in Florida, and Christian Indians were often captured and sold into slavery in the Carolinas. The English Carolinians, offered the Indians cash for Spaniard captives. In the fall of 1686, soldiers from the garrison at St. Augustine sacked the Carolinian settlement at Port Royal. Not long after a boat filled with slaves escaping from the Carolinas arrived in St. Augustine,the slaves were promptly baptized into the Catholic faith and allowed to settle in an area just north of town, and other English slaves attempted to seek freedom in St. Augustine.

    Quaker John Archdale, the new governor of Carolina, tried to end Indian enslavement by the English. The two sides soon reached an agreement—the English would return any Christian Indians captured in Florida and the Spanish would return any shipwrecked Englishmen. True to their word, the residents of St. Augustine rescued a large contingent of Quakers during the winter of 1696.

    War Comes to St. Augustine

    In 1702, the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession, known in St. Augustine as Queen Anne's War, raised financial fears for the town's survival. In Carolina, newly appointed Governor Moore obtained the Carolina's Assembly to increase English expansion into La Florida. He put together an army of 600 militiamen and several hundred Indian allies, and boarded 14 ships for St. Augustine in 1702. Spanish governor Zuniga learned of the planned attack and requested troops, weapons, and supplies from Havana.

    After burning the Spanish outpost at Amelia Island, Moore sent Colonel Daniel to St. Augustine, and the Carolinian troops arrived on November 10. Daniel's forces advanced on the town from the south, while Governor Moore sailed into the harbor with the main force of Carolinians. 1,500 Spaniards waited out the attack from inside the strong walls of the Castillo, where their biggest fear was not the English cannons but the possibility of starvation. The Castillo's coquina walls made Governor Moore's guns virtually useless, and he requested bigger cannons from Jamaica. While they waited for reinforcements, the English destroyed the town of St. Augustine. Finally two large Spanish warships, under the command of General Berrora, arrived in answer to Zuniga's request. Faced with inevitable failure, the English departed on December 30.