The Hispanic-American History Timeline
1742 Spanish Soldiers Open Fort Matanzas
Spanish soldiers open Fort Matanzas on the east coast of Florida, 15 miles south of St. Augustine, to protect the city from attacks by way of the Matanzas Inlet and the Matanzas River. It is meant to reinforce the city's southern flank and to supplement the security already provided by Castillo de San Marcos, the city's imposing waterfront fort.
Guarding the Matanzas Inlet, which leads to the Matanzas River and the southern waterway entrance to the city, Fort Matanzas adds considerable security, since it allows Spanish soldiers to observe approaching enemy vessels before they can reach St. Augustine. It also serves as rest stop, coast guard station, and a place where friendly vessels heading for St. Augustine get advice on navigating the river.
This small, square, supplemental fort -- 300 feet high and 50 feet long on each side -- took two years to build, and it is made of the same coquina shell-stones that were used to build Castillo de San Marcos. It has five cannons guarding the southern waterway entrance to St. Augustine. It is manned by a garrison of one officer in charge, four infantrymen, and two gunners, who serve on rotation from their regular duty in St. Augustine.
When Fort Matanzas is challenged, close to completion, by 12 approaching British ships, its cannons force the fleet to retreat without reaching St. Augustine. It is the only time the fort fires cannons against an enemy.
The word "Matanzas" (slaughter) refers to a conflict that occurred in that area almost 200 year before Fort Matanzas was constructed. In a war over Florida territory and religions -- Catholics against Protestants -- and in a raid commanded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, founder of St. Augustine, some 250 French soldiers and settlers had been "slaughtered" there in 1565, giving the name "Matanzas" to the inlet, the river and then the fort.
Today, Fort Matanzas stands as a testament to the Spanish Empire's determination to protect its territorial claims for control of the New World against the French and British. It was declared a National Monument on October 15, 1924. It is now managed by the National Parks Service, in conjunction with Castillo de San Marcos. Fort Matanzas is normally, open to the public, by way of a ferry, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. everyday except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, due to damage to the ferry dock and beach boardwalks caused by Hurricane Matthew, ferry access is temporarily closed.
By Laedy Lopez, Lehman College