Matanzas Inlet, in the year of our Lord, Fifteen-hundred sixty-four

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Approaching the tower on the ferry.

My visit begins with a short boat ride to here.

But, this story begins with Phillip II learning that the French have built a fort at the mouth of the large river now called the St Johns.  This is a perfect location for those Protestant reformers that call themselves Huguenots to launch attacks on the treasure fleets returning to Spain. Ft caroline map cropped

Ignoring the protests from the devoutly Catholic Phillip, Jean Ribault sailed from France in May with more than 600 soliders and settlers to resupply the new French fort.  In return Phillip sent an Adm. Pedro Mendendez with 800 people and a mission to establish a settlement and remove the French when he arrived at the mouth of the St Johns river in August.  After giving chase on the sea, the Spanish sailed on to the newly founded post called St. Augustine.big_map1Again in September Jean Ribault suffered another loss this time one including the lives of more than a hundred men. A hurricane had struck that wrecked the ships some where between what is now Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral.  When the survivors reached the shore Menendez informed them of the fall of Fort Caroline and urged their surrender, even with no promise of clemency. He spared only a few professing Catholics and four artisans needed to at St. Augustine.  Two weeks more french survivors reached this inlet and met the same fate as their countrymen, nearly 250 perished.   It is from that time that the inlet became known as Matanzas, the spanish word for slaughters.   The question of Menendez’s actions remains unanswered.  Was he driven to these deeds because food supplies were already low and this was a simple deed of survival? Or, was this a vengeful act motivated by religion?  {Much of this history I found at the site presented by the National Park Service}

Today the Torre de Matanzas (Matanzas Tower) stands quiet, it’s cannons no longer thunder as they did when firing their deadly six and eighteen pound balls.  Instead, the Park Service guides recount the life of of the soldiers stationed at the post.  Matanzas folderThe walls have long since lost their smooth brilliant white and red plaster, colors of the Spanish flag, that announced to all that saw it “this is territory of Spain”.DSCN2935

What remains visible is the coquina blocks hauled from El Piñon, a quarry south of the inlet. DSCN2939 If you look very closely under this Garita (sentry box) you will see a trace of what is now pink remaining from the red plaster that was here in 1742.

The normal garrison for this post was one officer, four infantrymen, and two gunners.  They enlisted men shared quarters right off the gun deck while the officer stayed in the room above.  DSCN2929DSCN2930While the table setting might appear “quaint” by some standards, remember that six men lived and ate together here during the hot and humid Florida summers.

It’s no wonder that the officer had these accommodations…DSCN2931

Battles?   Only one significant engagement with the British not the French.  You see Gov. James Oglethorpe, from the British colony in Georgia, tried to gain advantage of the inlet.  His ships were driven back by the four six-pound and the one eighteen-pound guns firing from the tower.

The view today looking toward the inlet

After the British ships retreated the guns were never again fired in battle.

The American Revolution, a second Treaty of Paris, then finally Spain transferring Florida to the United States in 1821 found the fort  with new owners that would never occupy its’ walls.  The tower soon fell to ruin from the storms, salt air and lack of upkeep.  It became a curiosity to the visitors of the  Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Morgans made St. Augustine their winter home.

A Postcard of Fort Matanzas from the 1890s.
A Postcard of Fort Matanzas from the 1890s.

It was these influential guests who convinced the Congress of 1916 to spend $1025 to repair and preserve this structure.  One hundred years ago the decision was made to protect a part of our history dating back to a time twice that.

The next trip to this area will be to Fort Caroline and the trail that leads back through time to that place in our history.  Please do follow the links I’ve included here in the blog. They can unlock some more of the fascinating history of our country.

 

As usual, “Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure”.

Detour off the Bourbon Trail

I admit it I’m easily distracted and require very little excuse to hit the road and explore.  I had set a goal of following the Kentucky Bourbon Trail every weekend until finished.  Well, I failed.  Seems some old school chums wanted to get together and that was all the excuse I needed to flee to Florida. Especially to escape the snow.  2076

So is it no wonder that the mere suggestions of getting together caused me to flee?

On the journey to Florida Layla and I stayed one night at the welcome station just inside the north Tennessee border. When we woke up that morning it was -11 degrees!!

No pets snowNot much danger of us violating that rule!

So on the road to a better place to camp… Ocean PondOceanpond stoveLayla Oceanpond

Now that’s more like how I like to wake up and get the coffee on.

Ocean Pond is a camp within the Osceola National Forest that is quite close to the Olustee  Civil War Battlefield. This site holds special memories for me because my Dad used to bring me here to watch the reenactments of the historic battle. They are still recreating the battle each year at this site, here’s the link again to follow, Olustee Battlefield

What about the gathering?  Well here’s some shots from the fun time we had…

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It’s great to see none of use have changed over the last ?4 years!!!DSCN2889

This was a gathering of the LANDON LIONS, or at least those of us that were in the 9th grade in ’71.  Wow, can somebody check and make sure I got that right???    It really can’t can’t be that long ago!!

 

The entertainment for the evening was provided by Mike Shackelford.

Mike’s a singer and songwriter that has been performing around the Jacksonville Beach area for many years.  I really enjoyed the way he covered some of the songs of “the day” this group was reveling in.  Click on this link to check out what  a great job he did with one of my favorites.  “You can’t always get what you want.”  I especially like the bluesy harmonica ending.    Thanks Mike for being there and being part of a good time.

 

 

 

It was a great time visiting with folks that some have not seen since graduating high school.  While I’m not really the type to go to all the organized reunions (read that as none), I do suggest that you get together at least once.

 

The things I think I regret the most are not the things I did in life, but rather the things i didn’t take time to do.  Chances to spend time with old friends, acquaintances, and family are fleeting moments that may not come back around.

After the party was over Layla and I went to visit my cousin and adventure buddy who lives in Sawgrass there in Ponte Verda Beach.sawgrass signIt’s a sight to see those flowers by the sign since I couldn’t even see the ground where we came from.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll take Layla  to the beach like I promised and go investigate the Matanzas National Monument.  I can’t pass up a chance to add another stamp to my passport.

Check back soon!

In the meantime,  Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure.

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