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English Period 1763

So Spain's work on the fort ended. And although ravelin and glacis were not finished, Castillo de San Marcos was a handsome structure. The main walls were finished with a hard, waterproofing, lime plaster, shining white in the sunlight with the brilliance of Spain's olden glory. In the haste of building, engineers had not forgotten such niceties as classic molded cornices, pendants and pilasters to cast relieving shadow on stark smooth walls. At the point of each bastion was color-the tile-red plaster of the sentry boxes. White and red. These were Spain's symbolic colors, revealed again in the banner floating above the ramparts.

Drawing of the flag changing ceremony.
On July 10, 1821 the flag of Spain came down to the thunderous salute of Castillo cannon, and up went the 23-star flag of the United States of America.

With walls high over the blue water of the bay, its towers thrusting toward the clouds, and guns of bright bronze or iron pointed over turf and sweep of marsh toward the gloom of the forest or the distant surf racing on the bar, San Marcos was properly the background for Florida's capital. In the narrow streets that led to the citadel, military men mingled with tradesmen and townsfolk. Sailors were here, for to this city the sea was life. Indians, people of the woodland continent, their nakedness smeared with beargrease against the bugs, were a strange contrast to the silken opulence of the governor's lady. But this was St. Augustine-a town of contrasts, with a long past and an uncertain future.

Front entrance to the fort.
When the news of secession reached St. Augustine, the Governor of the State ordered that the fort, the barracks, and Federal property be taken possession of. Just a year into the conflict, Confederate forces abandoned Fort Marion in St. Augustine. On March 11, 1862, the Union gunboat, U.S.S. Wabash, took the fort without firing a shot. Local officials agreed to surrender the historic city in an attempt to save it from destruction. For the remainder of the Civil War, the fort served as a military installation occupied by Union troops. Florida, the least populous state below the Mason-Dixon line, played an active role in the Civil War. An estimated 16,000 Floridians fought in the conflict and the state's coastline provided safe harbor to blockade runners. Florida products-sugar, pork, molasses and salt-proved essential in feeding Southern soldiers. Both photographs of Union troops by Samuel A. Cooley, December 1864, Library of Congress.
Picture showing cannon brigade.

Great Britain, having possession of Habana and certain other advantages, dictated the peace terms of 1763. She chose to acquire Florida. A vast wilderness with military settlements at St. Augustine and Pensacola, the land had been coveted by generations of English colonials not only because it lay beside the sea lanes, but for its Indian trade and giant forests of pine and live oak needful to a shipbuilding people. Too, this southerly clime gave promise to thriving sugar and indigo plantations.

The day of the transfer was July 21, 1763. At Castillo de San Marcos, Governor Melchor de Feliu delivered the keys to Major John Hedges, at the moment the ranking representative of George III. The Spanish troops departed Florida, and with them went the entire Spanish population. The English were left with an empty city.

Picture of Apache indians in Castillo de San Marcos.
The Castillo became a place of incarceration for Native Americans. The prisoners shown here were Plains Indians from the Southwest whose presence in St. Augustine became a major tourist attraction

 
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