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The Indian was cheap labor-one real (about $0.20) per day, plus rations of maize. But good labor he was not. A brave might play the bone-breaking game of Indian ball for hours on end, but the day-in, day-out, back-straining labor of the quarries was more than he could take. Some of the Indians, however, developed into carpenters, and though they did not get the top way of 10 to 12 reales, they seemed well pleased with their 8 reales-which was twice the pay of an apprentice carpenter. Another Indian, Andres, learned the stonecutter's craft and worked on the Castillo for 16 years.

In addition to Indian labor, there were a few Spanish peons (paid 4 reales per day) and a number of convicts, either local or from Caribbean ports. Beginning with 1679 there were seven Negroes and mulattoes among the convicts. Eighteen black slaves belonging to the crown joined the labor gang in 1687. Convicts and slaves received rations but no wage. A typical convict might have been the Spaniard caught smuggling English goods into the colony. He was condemned to six years' labor on the fortifications. If he tried to escape, the term was doubled and he faced the grim prospect of being sent to a fever-infested African presidio to work it out. The military engineer, Ignacio Daza, was paid the top wage of 3 pesos (about $4.75) per day. Daza died seven months after coming to Florida, so the crown paid only the surprisingly small sum of 546 pesos (about $862) for engineering services in starting the greatest of Spanish Florida fortifications.

Of the artisans, there were Lorenzo Lajones, master of construction, and a pair of master masons, each of whom received the master workman's wage of 20 reales (about $4). In addition there were seven masons and eight stonecutters at 12 reales, and a dozen carpenters whose pay ranged from 6 to 12 reales. Later, some of these wages were reduced: Lajones' successor as master of construction was paid only 17 reales, the master mason 13, and the stonecutters from 3 to 11 reales, with half of them at the 3-and 4-real level.

These were few men for the job at hand, and to speed the work along Governor Cendoya used prisoners from the Carolina colony. Ironically enough, their worth far exceeded their numbers in building this defense against their countrymen. Back in 1670, a vessel bound for Charleston mistakenly put in at Santa Catalina Mission, the Spanish post near the Savannah River. William Carr and John Rivers were captured. A rescue sloop came boiling out of Charleston and Joseph Bailey and John took a blustering message ashore to the Spaniards. For their pains, they were dispatched with Rivers and Carr to St. Augustine where, from time to time, they were reluctantly joined by others of their countrymen.

The governor did not hesitate long in putting them to work. Three of the prisoners were masons, and their Spanish names-Bernardo Patricio (for Bernard Fitzpatrick), and Juan Calens (for John Collins), and Guillermo Car (for William Carr)-were duly written on the payrolls. Some of these British subjects became permanent residents. Carr, for instance, embraced first the Catholic faith and then Juana de Contreras, by whom he fathered eight children. His father-in-law was a corporal, a circumstance which may have helped Carr to enlist as a gunner while also working as a highly paid stonecutter.

Original ground level of Castillo de San Marcos.

The Spanish were understandably cautious in relying on the loyalty of foreigners, but actually the new subjects served well. John Collins especially pleased the officials. He could burn more lime in a week than others could in twice the time. Also to the point, as a prisoner he had to be paid only 8 reales instead of the 20 due a master workman. Like Carr, Collins seemed to like St. Augustine. He rose steadily in the crown's employ from master of the kilns to quarrymaster, with dugouts, provisions, and convicts all in his charge. When pirates landed on Anastasia in 1683 and marched on the city, instead of joining them he made sure that all crown property in the quarry was moved to safety. Royal recognition of his zeal and loyalty honored his 19 years or more of service.

Another unusual case occurred a few years later. Some leagues north of St. Augustine, 11 Englishmen were captured. All were committed to the labor gang-except Andrew Ransom. He was to be garroted. On the appointed day Ransom ascended the scaffold. The executioner put the rope collar about his neck. The screw was turned 6 times-and the rope broke! Ransom breathed again.

While the onlookers marveled, the friars took the incident as an act of God and led Ransom to sanctuary in the parish church. Word reached the governor that this man was an ingenious fellow, an artillerist, a carpenter, and what was most remarkable, a maker of "artificial fires." Ransom was offered "protection" if he would put his talents to use at the castillo. He agreed and, like Collins, was exceedingly helpful, for no one else had such abilities. Twelve long years later, church authorities finally agreed that the sanctuary granted by the parish pastor was valid. At last Ransom was free of the garrote.

All told, there were close to 150 men on the construction crew in those first days of feverish preparations. They, along with some 500 others, including about 100 effective soldiers in the garrison, a few Franciscan friars, a dozen mariners, and the townspeople, had to be fed. When supplies from Nueva España did not come, getting food was even harder than finding workmen, especially since the coastal soil at St. Augustine yielded poorly to seventeenth century agriculture.

Indians on the river.
When supplies from Nueva España did not come, getting food was even harder than finding workmen, especially since the coastal soil at St. Augustine yielded poorly to seventeenth century agriculture. Indian corn (maize) was the staple. Most of the planting, cultivating, and harvesting of extensive fields near where the town was.

Indian corn (maize) was the staple. Most of the planting, cultivating, and harvesting of extensive fields near the town was done by Indians brought from their provinces to do the work. At times as many as 300 Indians served the crown in the presidio, counting those at work on the fortification. They were furnished rations of maize-3 pounds daily until 1679, then 2-1/2 pounds until 1687, and finally 2-1/2 again-during their time in St. Augustine or on the journey home over the wilderness trails. Convicts also got maize rations if flour was not on hand.

The Years of Construction

Maize cost the crown 7 reales per arroba (25 pounds) and an arroba lasted the average Indian only 10 days. Flour form Spain cost 10 reales per arroba; the master workmen, the English masons, and the Spanish convicts got rations form this store. The convicts also received a meat ration. Fresh meat was rather scarce, but the waters teemed with fish and there were plenty of shellfish. A paid fisherman kept the men supplied.

Garden vegetables were few. Squash grew well in the sandy soil, and beans and sweet potatoes, citron, pomegranates, figs. Oranges thrived. And of course there were onions and garlic. But it must be remembered that St. Augustine was never self-supporting. After a century of existence, it still depended for its very life upon the subsidy from Nueva España. As the long, hot days of the second summer shortened into fall, Governor Cendoya saw that after a year of gathering men and materials, he was ready to start building.

No long-drawn-out survey and detailed study helped to locate the new fort, for the Spanish had learned their lessons by a century and more of experiment on the shores of Matanzas Bay. Engineer Daza and Governor Cendoya, meeting with a general council, decided the castillo should be on the west shore of the bay just north of the old fort. It was a site that took advantage of every natural defense feature. Here the enemy would find it almost impossible to bring heavy siege guns within range. A shallow bar at the harbor entrance kept out the bigger warships. All vessels coming in had to pass under the fort guns.

Both town and fort were on a narrow peninsula with water or impassable marsh on three sides. The fourth side-the northern neck where the fort stood-was constricted by a meandering creek. Beyond the marshes was wilderness-the pine barrens and cypress swamps, oak groves and palmetto scrubs. Roads were mere Indian trails, and the quickest passage from one coastal outpost to the next was by dugout along the inland waterway. Attackers might march down the coast on the wide, hard beaches (provided they could get across the estuaries on the way), but they still had to pass over broad bay and salt marsh before they could reach the fort.

Daza and the governor liked the plan of the old fort. The new one, they decided, would be similar, though somewhat larger to make more room for quarters, guardroom, chapel, wells, ovens, powder magazine, and other essential rooms. In line with the more recent ideas, Daza recommended a slight lengthening of the bastions. All around the castillo they planned a broad, deep moat and beyond it, a high palisade on the three land sides.

It was a simple and unpretentious plan, but a good one. Daza, schooled in the Italian-Spanish principles of fortification grown out of the sixteenth century designs of Franceso de Marchi, was clearly a practical man. His plan called for a "regular" fort-that is, a symmetrical structure. Basically it was simply a square with a bastion at each corner. Equally strong on all sides, this design was ideal for Florida's low, flat terrain.


 
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