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Outer Defenses of Castle

One of several views of Castillo de San Marcos

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Several views of the old fort at St. Augustine, which took 91 years to build and cost more than $30,000,000.

Surrounding the fort on the three land sides is an immense artificial hill of earth, known as the glacis, from the crest of which on the southeast, a bridge, formerly a drawbridge, leads across part of the moat to the barbacan. The barbacan is a fortification, surrounded by the moat and directly in front of the entrance, which it was designed to protect. A second bridge, also a drawbridge when soldiers, not tourists, besieged the ancient castle, leads from the barbacan across the wide moat to the sally-port, the only entrance to the fort.

Picture of the Sentry Tower at Castillo de San Marcos

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The sentry tower of the old fort at St. Augustine.

Fort Marion has four bastions, or triangular-shaped corners, known as St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Augustine and St. Charles, and four connecting walls called curtains, which are about 25 feet in height and measure 12 feet thick at the base and 9 feet at the top. On three of the bastions are sentry towers, while on that to the northeast stands a high watch tower, where a beacon light was kept burning at night and from which the sentinel could see any portion of the surrounding country.

The terreplein, or covering between the outer and inner walls, is about 40 feet wide. Here the guns were mounted. Around the outer edge of the terreplein is a wall, 3 feet thick and 6 feet high, which was known as the parapet and pierced for sixty-four cannons. The ascent to the terreplein is up an incline plane, the ramp, originally used by artillery but recently converted into steps. The upper part of the ramp is supported by a peculiar shaped arch, remarkable for the fact that it has no keystone.

Entrance to Powder Magazine

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The entrance to powder magazine, used as a dungeon.

The plaza, or inner court, is 100 feet square, and the casements, with one or two exceptions, open into it. There are twenty-six casements, five dungeons and a magazine. The two casements at the right of the entrance were guard rooms and contain fireplaces. Leading off from the inner of these two rooms is a large dungeon that was used as a general prison. The casement at the left of the entrance was the commandant's headquarters, while in the southeast corner is the court room where Osceola was imprisoned. In front of this historic room is a round well, probably the first ever dug on the North American continent.

In the chapel, at the north side of the court and directly opposite the sally-port, can be seen the niches for holy water, the blocks of cedar to which the confessional was fastened, the raised stone platform for the altar and the hole in the masonry where stood the patron saint, St. Augustine. On either side of the chapel are doorways through the iron bars of which the prisoners could hear mass before being executed. The iron bars were necessary, as at that time a doomed man could claim the right of sanctuary if he gained entrance to the chapel and knelt at the altar.

Distant view of the Castillo de San Marcos

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A view of the castle from a distance, guarding an invasion from the sea.


Grim Reminders of Executions

At the eastern side of the fort is a hot shot oven, constructed by the United States government in 1835. Here cannon balls were fired to a white heat to be hurled by mortars at the wooden vessels of an approaching enemy. In the walls of the old castle, both front and back of the hot shot oven, can be seen the bullet holes where prisoners were executed by the Spaniards when the captors were in a too merciful a mood to condemn their victims to the black torture chamber.

Antique pictures of the Whitney House

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Whitney's oldest house, said to have been built in 1516.

St. Augustine has another fort older than historic San Marco castle but not as famous. It is situated at the southern end of Anastasia island on Mantanza inlet and once guarded the sea approach to the town from the south. It no longer is a defense; it is a ruin. Its walls have been scarred and cracked by the sledges of time. Seeds have been blown into its crevices by the winds of past centuries and trees and shrubs have taken root there. It was built on bloody ground for it was on Anastasia island that Menendez took the Huguenots captives and slaughtered them in the name of religion, "not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans." At the northern entrance of the town and at the foot of the main thoroughfare of St. Augustine, St. George street, stand the pillars of the city gates as cherished landmarks of a brave past and conspicuous relics of the elaborate system of fortifications that once defended the patriarch of American municipalities. The drawbridge, once trod by the mailed feet of the conquistador, and the great gate, which in times past shook with the shock of assault, are no more but the two square colSumns of coquina and the barred-doored guard houses have been preserved for tourists to scratch their names upon.


 
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