Historical Books

history Turn the pages of the past.

Get the Local Weather Report
Previous Page Previous Page Next Page Next Page

In one corner is the outline of a hole called the oublette, which tradition tells us extended down to quicksand and was used for the disposal of the dead.

M. M. Cohen in his history of the Charleston Volunteers in St. Augustine "Notices of Florida and the Campaigns" printed in 1836 describes Fort Marion on page 232 he writes, "About two years ago, one of its many subterranean dungeons, not previously known, was discovered, and opened, when several human skeletons were found. The remains of the unfortunate tenants of these vaults were seen by the volunteers, during our thirty days sojourn at St. Augustine in January and February".


Around the Fort is a moat 40 feet wide which is now filled in to the depth of about 6 feet with sand. Protecting the entrance is the barbacan, which the waters of the moat formed into an island; access being gained to the barbacan and thence to the Fort by means of drawbridges. Inside the drawbridge was the portcullis which ran in a groove still to be seen, directly above the portcullis may still be seen a hole, some five or six inches in diameter, through which melted lead could be poured upon the heads of invaders, should they succeed in crossing the drawbridge which, however, they never did. Outside the moat on three sides is the covered way, a narrow, level space for the massing of troops, which widens in spots called places of arms. Outside of all, except on the water front, is the glacis, an earthen embankment leading up to the fort and so constructed that the guns on the walls could sweep every foot of it. In 1836 (see Cohen) the moat could be flooded at any moment.


The hot shot oven and water battery were constructed by the United States Government in 1835-42, the object being to heat shot white hot in the oven and fire them from the mortars at the vessels of an approaching enemy. The present sea wall was constructed at this time at an expense of one hundred thousand dollars.

In the walls of the fort, both front and back of the hot shot oven, can be seen the bullet holes where prisoners were executed.


St. Augustine being surrounded by water on three sides, there was little danger of an attack except from the north. To guard against this, three lines of defense were constructed across the peninsula from the Matanzas to the San Sebastian Rivers. Fort Moosa was located on the Matanzas river about 2 1/2 miles north of the present post office. This fort was of considerable size. It was a complete fortress with four bastions, moat, drawbridge, etc., and garrisoned at one time with 133 men. A line of defense extended from this fort to the San Sebastian. The second line of defense extended across the peninsula near what is now Myrtle Avenue. The inner and last line ran from Fort Marion to the San Sebastian and the present CITY GATES were then the only entrance to the city. The gates as we see them to-day were built of stone, but the rest of the wall was of logs stood on end. On the outer side of this was a moat or deep ditch (a section of this may still be seen near the San Sebastian) filled with water, and the approach to the gates was over a draw bridge which was pulled up at night. An additional line of defense consisting of a breastworks of earth having on its summit several rows of Spanish bayonets planted so closely as to be almost impenetrable, extended from the northern wall south on what is now the line of Cordova Street to a point almost abreast the Barracks, from where it ran east and joined the Matanzas.

Fort Marion is in all respects a castle built after the plan of those of the middle ages, and it is today one of the best preserved specimens of the military architecture of its time. It has withstood many sieges and proven itself capable on all occasions of resisting the enemy.

Its casemates and dungeons are viewed with wonder and amazement by more than one hundred thousand visitors annually.

One of the early visitors to Fort Marion, after the secret dungeon was found, was William Cullen Bryant, in 1843, for his story of the fort see "Letters of a Traveller". Sergeant McGuire in charge of the fort from 1866 to 1885 left a written account of what he told visitors, "Just as it was told to me", that was found among old wills in St. Johns County Records. An attested copy of this is in the Public Library.

Previous Page Previous Page

[Return to Top of Page.]

Next Page Next Page

Vacation || History || Community || St. Augustine Map || Contact Us     RSS RSS  || StumbleUpon Toolbar  || Delicious social bookmarking service.  || Find Us on Facebook  || Watch Our YouTube Channel

Weather | Vacation Guide | Request Information | Calendar of Events

Copyright © 1998 - 2021 by VisitStAugustine.com || Privacy Policy || Site Map · Please send feedback to the Webmaster.

Website by St. Augustine Web Design