"Views of Fort Matanzas National Monument, Florida" by National Park Service , public domain
Official Brochure of Fort Matanzas National Monument (NM) in Florida. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
I National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior t’s 1742. Your orders this morning are to watch over this inlet from the new Torre de Matanzas— Matanzas Tower. As a Spanish soldier, you spend most of your time doing drills and making repairs to this small fort. You must always be prepared. At any moment, French pirates or English outlaws could shatter the natural tranquility here. Will it be today? Suddenly, an osprey raises an urgent alarm. You scan the inlet’s entrance for signs of human invaders; then, you relax. Except for skimmers rippling the surface to find breakfast, these waters are calm. Separating you from the Atlantic’s crashing waves, miles of undeveloped marshland buzz with life. Not far from you, two leaping dolphins splash near a sandbar. Sanderlings scurry along coquina deposits on the beach. Offshore, a North Atlantic right whale Fort Matanzas National Monument Florida Brown pelicans Osprey breaches. You take a moment to enjoy the rare sight—the whale industry has nearly wiped out this species in the hunt for their valuable oil. This afternoon, you will hike the island to forage for supper under the baking sun, mindful that fresh water here is scarce. Tonight, you will return home by boat to St. Augustine and civilization after a long thirty days on watch. For now, you guard La Florida and your family to the north from the fortified watchtower on this fragile, isolated island—preserved and protected today as Fort Matanzas National Monument. Bald eagles NPS / LARRY EIFERT Salt marsh Hammock Northern gannets Right whale Brown pelicans Dunes Atlantic Ocean Palmetto Matanzas River Roseate spoonbills Prickly pear cactus Great horned owl Sea oats Black skimmers Great blue heron Railroad vine Indigo snake Least terns Gopher tortoise Marsh rabbit Northern harrier Green turtle Raccoon Fort Matanzas Wood stork Bobcat Double-crested cormorant Great egret Atlantic oysters Fort Matanzas Loggerhead turtle Laughing gull Common octopus Southern flounder Leatherback turtle Mullet Quartz sand Ghost crabs Moon jellyfish Coquina sand Atlantic surf clams Blacktip shark Sanderlings Ruddy turnstones Laughing gulls Tarpon Bottlenose dolphins Matanzas Inlet Atlantic needlefish Cannonball jellyfish Sea purslane Anastasia Island beach mouse Red drum Willets Red rat snake Snowy egret Spotted eagle ray Portuguese man-of-war Diamondback rattlesnake Bonnethead shark Pompano Fort Matanzas The main threat to St. Augustine is from the north by sea. The city is also vulnerable from the south by river. Beginning in 1569, Spain’s military builds a series of wooden watchtowers along the Matanzas River, approaching St. Augustine. Wind, water, and heat repeatedly wear down the towers. In 1740 the Spanish replace the southernmost tower with a masonry fort. The site…was the most advantageous and proper to keep under cover the entrance into the bay through this point. Observation deck Fort Matanzas proves its worth before it is even completed. In 1742 twelve British ships led by Gov. James Oglethorpe appear offshore. Before they can enter the inlet, the Spanish troops repel them with cannon fire from the fort’s gun deck. The Life of a Soldado in the 1700s Every 30 days, a fresh crew—an officer, two gunners, and four privates with provisions—rowed from Castillo de San Marcos for rotation at Fort Matanzas. Families remained in St. Augustine, where the soldado (Spanish soldier) likely worked a second job. From this remote outpost, he took part in patrols, Powder magazine Officers’ quarters Soldiers’ quarters Spanish officer, 1700s Gun deck Sentry box NPS / RICHARD SCHLECHT Gun embrasures Cistern Fort Matanzas NPS / DON FOLEY NPS / STEVEN N. PATRICIA Before European Settlement Timucua people occupy most of northern Florida for several hundred years. They grow crops, hunt for food, and trade with other tribes and newcomers from Spain— until relations deteriorate. 1564 The French establish Fort Caroline. Built with the help of the local Timucua, it is one of the first attempts by Europeans to start a colony in the New World. France’s presence disrupts Spain’s ambitions to dominate New World trade and culture; years of conflict ensue. Left: Timucuan stone projectile point Right: Fishbone hair pin or needle NPS / STEVEN N. PATRICIA 1740 When Great Britain lays siege to St. Augustine, Spain starts building a solid coquina (shellstone) fortification at Matanzas Inlet. Unable to carry large cannon through these shallow waters, a ship would be outgunned by the fort’s artillery. 1569 The Spanish build an unarmed wooden watchtower, thatched hut, and stockade at Matanzas Inlet (above). The structures fall victim to the elements and must be replaced often. maintenance, or small-scale fighting. He also guarded supplies and prisoners or aided shipwreck victims. For leisure, he played music or gambled. His single-pot meals included rice, vegetables, beans, and meat with bread or hardtack for dipping. When rainwater in the cistern ran low, he hauled fresh water from streams a few miles away. Lt. Ramón de la Cruz, 1820 1742 Two British longboats enter Matanzas Inlet (above) in September. Assuming the new fort is not ready for combat, the British are surprised by cannon fire from the gun deck. They return in April 1743, but rough seas turn them back; they make no other attempts to attack the fort. Fort Matanzas, 1912 Fort Matanzas, 2018 HENRY HIRD / VISIT ST. AUGUSTINE NPS 1853 After years of neglect, the fort has deteriorated. Ceilings and walls are cracked, the river has undermined the foundation’s southeast corner, and vegetation overruns the exterior. Restoration begins in 1916 to preserve the fort for its historic value. 1924 On October 15 President Calvin Coolidge designates Fort Matanzas a national monument. Originally under the War Department, ownership transfers to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933. 1972 The National Park Service begins free ferry service to the fort. More repairs stabilize and restore the fort, and rooms are historically furnished. 1999 Historic fort chimney reconstructed. CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1607 1588 British defeat English settle Jamestown Spanish Armada 1500 1513 After Juan Ponce de León’s exploration, Spain claims Florida. Power struggles among Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain play out in the New World over the next few centuries. 1600 1565 To stop French expansion in the area, Spain establishes St. Augustine. In September a French fleet from Fort Caroline sent to attack the town is hit by a storm and wrecks far to the south of St. Augustine. The site where Spanish soldiers kill the French shipwreck survivors is called Matanzas—the Spanish word for slaughter. 1775−83 American Revolution 1619 First enslaved Africans brought to Virginia 1672–95 Spain builds Castillo de San Marcos to protect St. Augustine (map below). 1700 St. Augustine 1763 Spain cedes Florida to Great Britain as a result of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63). Many Spanish colonists and most of the dwindling population of Timucuas evacuate to Cuba. 1800 1783 Defeated in the American Revolution, Great Britain returns Florida to US ally Spain. As pressure for colonial independence grows, conflicts in Florida plague Spain. 1861−65 US Civil War 1821 Spain cedes Florida to the United States on March 3. Florida becomes the 27th US state on March 3, 1845. 1929 1914–18 Great World War I Depression 1900 Castillo de San Marcos White ibis FWS / KIRK ROGERS Fort Matanzas er Riv s a anz Mat HARGRETT RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY / UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA LIBRARIES Anastasia Island Atlantic Ocean Visit the Park Fort Matanzas National Monument is 14 miles south of St. Augustine via FL A1A. The park is open 9 am to 5:30 pm daily; closed Thanksgiving and December 25. Admission is free. The visitor center has information, a film, a sales area, and exhibits on natural and historic features. Visit the fort only by ranger-led tour. A passenger ferry runs hourly on the half-hour from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, weather permitting. Get a boarding pass (free) at the visitor center. View of the fort across the Matanzas River NPS Swim Safely Rip currents are dangerous! Swim with caution. • There are no lifeguards on duty at the park. It is recommended you swim only at guarded beaches. • Park (free) at beachside and riverside lots; closed daily at 10 pm. Overnight parking is prohibited. Enjoy a Safe Visit The climate is hot and humid. Drink plenty of water. Watch for overexertion. Wear sunscreen, cool clothing, sunglasses, and a hat. • Watch the weather. Seek shelter during storms. • Do not climb or sit on fort walls, rocks, or cannon. • Do not walk on oyster shells. EMERGENCIES CALL 911 Regulations Alcohol and metal detectors are prohibited. • Glass containers are prohibited on the beach. • Docking private vessels at the fort and letting off passengers are prohibited. • Pets must be leashed. Clean up after your pet. • Federal law prohibits firearms in many areas; refer to signs posted at entrances. For more information contact a ranger. • A complete list of regulations is on the park website. Brown pelicans in formation PIXABAY Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For more information go to the visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website. The ferry and Coastal Hammock Trail are wheelchair-accessible; the fort is not. More Information Fort Matanzas National Monument is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about National Park Service programs in America’s communities, visit www.nps.gov. Fort Matanzas National Monument 8635 A1A South St. Augustine, FL 32080 904-471-0116 www.nps.gov/foma View from the Fort Matanzas watchtower NPS IGPO:2020—411-223/82618 New in 2020 Printed on recycled paper. 1939–45 World War II 1964 Civil Rights Act 2000 FIRST SPANISH FLAG—NPS; ALL OTHER FLAGS—WIKIMEDIA COMMONS