The Spanish masonry fort in St. Augustine, Florida as long been on my list of historical sites to visit and I was finally made it! Built in the late 17th century, Castillo San Marcos helped the Spanish maintain their presence in Florida into the mid 18th century, withstanding two significant sieges, first in Queen Anne’s War in 1702 and again in 1740 during the “War of Jenkin’s Ear.”
With Blood & Plunder moving into the 18th century, the Raise the Black expansion will cover Queen Anne’s War with was the first real conflict which tested this majestic fort. I’ve been reading up on the 1702 campaign and working on a game campaign to let players recreate (or change) the events of that siege so walking through this fort was an awesome experience.
Castillo San Marcos is a 4 pointed star fort, similar to, but smaller than, many of the heavy Vauban forts built in Europe in the 16-18th centuries.
After building 9 different wooden forts in St. Augustine that were destroyed by terrible weather, or pirates, the Spanish got serious and started work on this fort in 1672. The fort was “finished” in 1695 although it underwent many updates and alterations, including some major changes starting in 1738.
These updates increased both the forts capacity to mount more guns along the walls and hold more food stores and people during times of siege.
Here you can see the sequence of defensive works that combine to make this fort very difficult to take.
An view of the fort from above.
The walls are a full 33 feet high but when viewed from 100 yards away, the sloping glacis obscures much of the wall, giving enemy artillerists a much smaller target to aim at.
The walls were originally 26 feet tall but were raised to 33 to increase the storage capacity within the walls and replace the original wooden decking of the walls sections with stout stone floors so cannons could be mounted on the walls as well as the bastions.
Above is a view to the Northwest. You can see the edge of the moat (usually dry) near the edge of the wall, and beyond that the edge of the glacis.
Here’s a wide angle shot of the courtyard. This courtyard is currently 110 ft square but would have been closer to 150 feet square at the time of the 1702 siege.
This is a portion of the 18 pounder that the embarrassingly incapable Spanish artillery crew blew up during the 1702 siege. Apparently they filled the entire barrel up with powder and shot before firing it at the English who were landing. The old gun exploded and killed 3 of crew and injured the last crew member. I don’t know why but this artifact, connected to a very specific event I’d read about, made me very excited. Had to take a selfie with my cannon barrel buddy!
The (updated) wide walls of the fort all look pretty much like this. When the walls were expanded, a second floor was added to each one (you can see the floor joists holes in the walls). The soft material covering the walls is covered with names and dates, mostly dating from the mid 19th to the early 20th centuries. Some of these rooms were used as prisoner cells at various points.
This room has the second story built in and it set up like it would have been during British occupation in the 1760’s.
These rooms would also hold supplies to sustain the inhabitants of the fort through sieges.
This is the original powder magazine, deep under one of the bastions (the only room built into otherwise solid stone bastions). You have to crawl through a 2.5 foot door to access the magazine. Apparently it proved to damp for powder and was used a garbage pit during the 1702 siege and only unsealed many years later.
The wide (and only) stairway up to the walls and bastions. It appears the original fort had more but smaller access points the tops of the walls.
A wide angle shot of the courtyard from the top of the stairs. The town of St. Augustine is beyond the far walls where you can see the treetops.
Facing northeast, the direction most hostile ships would approach from. This bastions had a watchtower twice as tall as the rest, I’m assuming to command a better view of the channel and sea approach.
A view from the southeast bastion, looking out on the gate and ravelin protecting the gate.
Looking at the northwest bastion and St. Augustine from the northeast bastion.
Here’s a close up of the resilient coquina stone blocks they used to make the entire fort. They mined it from Anastasia island across the river (the quarry is still visible). The porous rock had to dry for a year or two before it could be built with. This is a window in one of the watchtowers on the tips of the bastions. You can easily see individual shells making up the stone. This rare type of stone made the fort nearly impervious to normal cannon balls as the stone just ate up the shot but would not shatter. I believe the English didn’t bring anything larger than a 6lb gun in 1702. They sent for mortars to shoot over the walls and kill the defenders but Spanish reinforcements arrived first and the English retreated after burning most of the town.
The fort had around 20 historical cannons/cannon barrels on site. Most of the dated to the 1760’s. I was very impressed by the size of them. Even the 6 pounder felt large! Ths barrels is a 12 pounder as was at least 9 feet long!
Another view of the gate and ravelin from the southeast bastion.
A view of the southwest bastion and gate from the edge of the moat.
Castillo San Marcos is an awesome and enduring link to the past and I thoroughly enjoyed touring the fort. I would highly recommend taking the time to stop at this fort if you ever have the opportunity.
I did a live stream of the top of the fort on Facebook and you can still look up that video in the Blood & Plunder player Facebook group.
Rules are in the works for a fort like this in Blood & Plunder and I can’t wait to defend the walls of the Castillo against the English dogs on my gaming table!
Firelock doesn’t make a fort like this (and this style of fort is honestly pushing the skirmish focused rules for Blood & Plunder) but you can get STL files for a scaled down fort here at Laser Dreamworks or you can get a full prepainted stone fort that can represent this fort here .