Fort Matanzas National Monument
St. Augustine, Florida


Ruth volunteers a half-day each week at Fort Matanzas. She and John took me there to give me a feel for the local history.

One has to take a ferry to visit the fort. While we were waiting, we joined the other tourists in watching a female Great Horned Owl sit on her nest. The owl had nested in a tree along the path to the ferry and was considerably closer to people than is usual. The male owl was, as always, nearby.

Female Great Horned Owl sitting on her nest Female Great Horned Owl sitting on her nest Male Great Horned Owl

Matanzas Inlet, just south of the settlement of St. Augustine, was the scene of crucial events in Spanish colonial history. The massacre of French soldiers there in 1565 was Spain's opening move in establishing a colony in Florida. The word "matanzas" means slaughters, an apt name for the inlet and river.

St. Augustine was protected by the Castillo de San Marcos, built in 1695. However, the town could be attacked from the rear via the Matanzas River and the British attempted to do just that in 1740. It was only with the onset of the hurricane season that the Spanish managed to stave off Oglethorpe and the British and keep possession of St. Augustine.

Construction of the fort began shortly after this. With the fort near completion in 1742, Oglethorpe and his troops arrived again. The fort's cannon fire drove off his scouting boats and the warships left. The fort never again fired its guns in battle.

The Matanzas Inlet Fort Matanzas

The fort is only 50 feet square with a 30 foot tower. It is built of coquina, a local shellstone. The gundeck had one eighteen-pound and four six-pound cannons.

The gundeck with a guide in costume The gundeck with a guide in costume

Soldiers were rotated from St. Augustine for one-month duty tours. Normally there were four infantrymen, two gunners, and one officer. When necessary a maximum of 50 men could be stationed at the fort. The soldiers lived and ate together in a sparsely furnished room off the gundeck. The officer lived in the vaulted room above.

Dining area Sleeping area

Spain transferred Florida to the United States in 1819, but the fort was so badly deteriorated that its soldiers could no longer live inside. The U.S. took possession of the fort in 1821 but never occupied the fort. It is now part of the National Park Service and part of our national heritage.

Leaving Fort Matanzas on the ferry


The music on this page is Jalousie.


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