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Castillo de San Marcos saw limited Civil War action

Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos
Deborah Pierce

When you think of Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine, a fort built in 1672 on the shores of the Matanzas Bay, it certainly doesn’t conjure up thoughts of the American Civil War. But the oldest masonry fort in the Continental United States did see some action.

At the time of Florida’s secession from the Union on January 10, 1861, federal troops abandoned the fort (then called Fort Marion after the American Revolution hero general Francis Marion), leaving one soldier behind to operate it.

Before the war official started, southern forces started commandeering federal installations throughout the south. When they approached Fort Marion, the soldier refused to surrender the fort until the rebels gave him a receipt. He got his wishes, and the rebels took over without having to fire even one shot. They removed all but five cannons and took them to other forts.

The Union took the fort back when the Union ship U. S. S. Wabash under Commander C. R. P. Rodgers arrived on March 11, 1862. The Wabash was part of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron under the command of Flag Officer Samuel Francis du Pont. The city of St. Augustine surrendered the town and the fort again, without any shots being fired. The Union used the facility from then on as a military prison.

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