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About four o'clock Sunday afternoon, October 2, 1672, Governor Cendoya walked to a likely looking spot between the strings marking out the lines of the new fortification. He thrust a spade into the earth, and thus broke ground for Castillo de San Marcos, worthy successor to the name that for almost 100 years had been used for the forts of St. Augustine presidio.

The official witnesses were present, including the notary, Juan Moreno y Segovia, who recorded the event for the information of Queen Mariana. Moreno faithfully certified that not only was the work started on this Sunday afternoon, but it continued; and at most of it he, the notary, was present. (He also mentioned that he had to use ordinary paper because St. Augustine had no official stamped paper.)

Little more than a month later on Wednesday, November 9, Cendoya laid the first stone of the foundation. The people of St. Augustine must have wept for joy. All were glad and proud, the aged soldiers who had given a lifetime of service to the crown, the four little orphans whose father died in the pirate raid a few years earlier, the widows and their children, the craftsmen, the workmen, the royal officials (some of whom now served as their fathers had before them); but none could have been more pleased or proud than Don Manuel de Cendoya. He of all the Florida governors had the honor to begin the first permanent Florida fortification of Her Catholic Majesty.

Laying the foundations was not easy, for the soil was sandy and low and as winter came the Indian peons were struck by El Contagio-The Contagion. The laboring force dwindled to nothing. The governor asked the crown to have Habana send 30 Negro slaves. Meanwhile, Cendoya himself and his soldiers took to the shovels. As they dug a trench some 17 feet wide and 5 feet deep, the masons came in and laid two courses of heavy stones directly on the hard-packed sand bottom. Slow work it was, for high tide flooded the trenches.

About 1-1/2 feet inside the toe of this broad 2-foot-high foundation, the masons stretched a line marking the scarp or curtain, a wall that would gradually taper upward form a 13-foot base to about 9 feet at its top, 20 feet above the foundation. In the 12 months that followed, the north, south, and east walls rose steadily. By midsummer of 1673 the east side was 12 feet high and the presidio was jubilant over the news that Nueva España was sending 10,000 pesos for carrying on.

This good news was tempered by the viceroy's assertion that he would release no more money for the work without a direct order from the crown. Cendoya had already asked Her Majesty to raise the allowance to 16,000 pesos a year so the construction could be finished in four years. For, as he put it, the English menace at Charleston brooked no delay. The English were said to be outfitting ships for an invasion.

But slowly and more slowly the building went. In 1673 Cendoya and Daza died within a few days of one another. The governor's mantle fell upon Major Ponce, in whom the local Spaniards had little confidence.

Trouble beset poor Ponce on every side. The viceroy was discouragingly reluctant to part with money for this project, despite evidence that English strength was increasing daily, especially among the Indians. A terrific storm hit St. Augustine. High tides undermined houses, flooded fields and gardens, and polluted the wells. Sickness took its toll of peon and townsman alike.

The storm totally ruined the old wooden fort. Waves washed out a bastion, causing it to collapse under the weight of its guns. The other seaward bastion and the palisade were also breached in several places.

Then in the spring of 1675 another provision ship was lost. Ponce had to take the peons on a long march into Timucua to fetch provisions from the Indians. Only the handful of masons were left to carry on the work at the Castillo.

Map showing route to indians.
Spain regarded the Indians as wards of the Crown, to be Christianized and Hispanicized into allies. By 1680 the Franciscans had built missions in many popluation centers. The Timucua, Apalache and Guale nations supplied much of the food (maize) and labor for building the Castillo. But between 1680 and 1706 heathen Indian raids, often English-led, enslaved or absorbed most of these Spanish allies, leaving St. Augustine vulnerable to attack.

Numbers on the map show approximate locations of known missions: 1-Nombre de Dios. 2-La Natividad de Nuestra Senora de Tolomato. 3-San Juan del Puerto. 4-Santa Maria. 5-San Felipe. 6-Santa Buenaventura. 7-Santo Domingo de Asaho. 8-San Jose de Zapala. 9-Santa Catalina. 10-San Diego Salamototo. 11-San Francisco de Potano. 12- Santa Fe de Tolaca. 13-Santa Catalina de Afuica.14-Santa Cruz de Ajohica. 15-Santa Cruz de Tarihica. 16-San Juan de Guacara. 17-Santa Elena de Machaba. 18-San Pedro de Potohiriba. 19-San Mateo. 20-San Miguel de Asyle. 21-La Concepcion de Ayubali. 22-San Lorenzo de Hibatachuco. 23-San Juan de Aspalaga. 24-San Francisco de Aconi. 25-San Pedro de Patali. 26-San Jose de Acuya. 27-San Antonio de Bacuqua. 28-San Damian de Cupahica. 29-San Luis de Talimali. 30-La Purificacion de Tama.31-San Martin de Capoli. 32-Santa Cruz de Capoli. 33-La Asuncion del Puerto. 34-Santa Cruz de Sabacola. 35-San Carlos. 36-San Nicolas.

Despite all his troubles, Ponce made considerable progress during his acting governorship. The north curtain was the full 20 feet high and ready for its cordon. The east curtain was up 15 feet and the south curtain 12. The seaward bastions were also well along. In the courtyard Ponce had started some temporary but essential facilities-guardroom, powder magazine, and storerooms-with lumber salvaged form the old fort. But looking west from the courtyard the soldiers could see only open country; there was no west wall as yet.

On May 3, 1675, the long-awaited ship from Nueva España safely crossed the bar with supplies and a new governor for Florida. Sergeant Major Don Pablo de Hita Salazar was a hard-bitten veteran of campaigns in Flanders, Germany and Badajoz, and most recently governor of Veracruz. His career in the royal service had been "no other than the arquebus and the pike," and surely it was as a soldier of reputation that he was assigned to Florida, for in addition to carrying on the fortification work he was charged to "dislocate" the Charleston settlement. Led to believe the viceroy would help in the difficult task ahead, Hita in fact found that official singularly reluctant. Before releasing any monies at all, the viceroy insisted that Hita make a report on Castillo construction as soon as he got to Florida. At last the old fellow left the viceregal presence in disgust.

Map showing myriad of events.

At St. Augustine, while it was clear the work had been dragging, he found things that pleased him: "Although I have seen many castillos of consequence and reputation," he wrote the crown, "in the form of its plan this one is not surpassed by any of those of greater character." Furthermore, he endorsed the statement of the royal officials, who were eager to point out the brighter side of the picture: "if it had to be built in another place than St. Augustine it would cost a double amount because there will not be the advantage of having the peons, at a real of wages each day, with such meagre sustenance as three pounds of maize, nor will the overseers and artisans work in other places with such little salaries-Nor will the stone, lime, and other material be found so close at hand and with the convenience there is in this presidio."

Perhaps these citations of economies were apologetic, because 34,298 pesos had already been spent on the new fort, and still it was no more protection than a pile of stone. Nor was the old fort any defense. If a gunner dared to touch his match to a cannon, the concussion might flatten the rest of the old ruin. The enemy at Charleston was less than 70 leagues away; his 200 fighting men outnumbered the Spanish effectives, while English deserters reported that Charleston was well defended by a stockade fort with about 20 cannon.

Using characteristic realism, and energy and enthusiasm that would have done credit to a much younger man, Don Pablo set about making his own fortification defensible. The bastion of San Carlos-the northeast salient of the Castillo-was the nearest to completion. Hita ordered it finished so that cannon could be mounted on its rampart.

While the masons were busy at that work, he took his soldiers and razed the old fort. The best of its wood went into a barrier across the open west end of the Castillo. In 15 days they built a 12-foot-high earthwork with two half-bastions, faced with a veneer of stone and fronted by a moat 14 feet wide and 10 feet deep. At last the garrison had four walls for protection.


 
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