Author Archive for Harry Metz

Fort Mose State Park in St. Augustine FL is Rich With History

Fort Mose State Park is near the site of its namesake, which was the first legally sanctioned Free Black settlement in what is now the continental United States.  In 1738 the Spanish Governor of St. Augustine ordered the fort and settlement built for the former slaves who had escaped from the British colonies to the North.  The Spanish had let it be known that any former slave who converted to Catholicism and pledged to defend Spanish territory would be free.  By 1738 there were at least 100 free blacks living in the City.

The full name of the settlement was Gracia Real de Santa Terasa de Mose but was known  simply as Fort Mose  (mo-say).

 

The Park is open every day but Christmas from 9 am to 5 pm.  There is no charge for entrance.  To get there go north on US 1 and, after passing a Wendy’s and Winn-Dixie on your left at a stop light, be prepared to turn right just past two stone pillers with statues.  There is a small brown sign just before you turn on Fort Mose Trail.  After two short blocks this becomes the entrance to the Fort parking lot.  When you park you will see the boardwalk that goes over the marsh and gets you closer to the original site. 

 

The administration building has rest rooms and water fountains in the “free” area.  The back of the building has an excellent small museum with artifacts and interactive displays that tell the rest of the story.  There is a $2.00 charge for adults and children over 6 and it is well worth the price.

 

During the British siege of 1740 the British were encamped here.  The Spanish soldiers supplemented by white and black militia companies attacked early on the morning of June 26th and after desperate and bloody fighting killed many and captured the survivors.  This battle became the “Battle of Bloody Mose”  and is reenacted every June.  This first fort was destroyed during the battle.

 

In June they dedicate one weekend to living history and have reenactors there demonstrating cooking and domestic crafts as well as firing muskets and cannon.  The scheduled days are: June 21st – 22nd

 

The Fort was rebuilt in 1752 on a site nearby on the creek and the Free Black settlement continued in operation until the British period began in 1763 and the Black settlers went to Cuba with the Spanish residents.  The Fort was partially destroyed in 1775 and completely destroyed in 1812.

 

These two Fort sites were lost over the years until rediscovered using infrared photography.  The sites have been inundated and the marsh had swallowed them so that only the footprints have survived.

Contributed by Harry Metz

 

 

 

April 26th, 2014

History comes alive at Fort Mose Historic state park

–Fort Mose Historic State Park invites visitors to travel back in time–

 

ST. AUGUSTINE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Fort Mose Historic State Park, the Fort Mose Historical Society and Florida Living History, Inc. will present the latest edition of its Experience Fort Mose series on Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The event is possible through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council.

 

Each month offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into life at Fort Mose.. April will focus on the Black Experience in St. Augustine through the years with Fort Mose serving as the ‘starting point’, or the birthplace of Freedom.  A remembrance ceremony will conclude the living history program to honor the ancestors and original freedom seekers at Fort Mose in cooperation with Middle Passage Ceremonies & Port Markers Project, Inc.

 

Participants should dress appropriately for the weather and bring insect repellent and sunscreen, as the program will be held outdoors. Program is weather permitting.

 

In addition to the demonstration, the park’s museum and visitor center will be open.  Visitors can watch a 15-minute film on the history of Fort Mose and its residents, as well as learn about the site through the interactive museum exhibit.

 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, Fort Mose Historic State Park tells the story of El Pueblo de Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first legally sanctioned, free African settlement in what is now the United States.

 

The entrance fee into the park’s visitor center is $2.00 per person. Children under 6 are free. For event details, please contact Tonya Creamer at (904) 823-2232. For additional information, visit www.floridastateparks.org/fortmose.

 

 
 

Enjoy a Scenic Boat Ride to Explore Fort Matanzas in St Augustine FL

Fort Matanzas was completed in 1742 by the Spanish to protect St. Augustine from an attack by their enemies, both England and pirates.  It fell to ruin in the 1820’s, was stabilized by the War Department in 1916 and 1924.  The National Park Service took it over and rebuilt it in 1935.  It is an under visited gem in the NPS system. Read More→

Historic Military Sites on the Southern Bayfront

   Our “Historic Military Site” Contributor Harry Metz has shared some great “local” insight about our southern bayfront. This is great information to read if you are headed down to see the Saint Augustine National Cemetery.  

   

Take a drive down Marine Street south of the Bridge of Lions along the new (2013) sea wall. The wall has been extended twelve feet into the Bay to protect the historic coquina wall built in the 1830’s and offer better protection from flooding.  As you make the right and then a left turn you are looking at the St. Francis Barracks, now the  Florida National Guard Headquarters and one of the few not located in a State Capitol.  The earliest portion of the structure dates to the 1730’s.  South of that building are Officers Quarters built in the 1880’s.  Across the street is the only remaining building constructed in 1768 by the British during their occupation of the City (1763-1784).  It was their Bakery and is now a garage.

Just past the houses is the St. Augustine National Cemetery, which began as the military Post cemetery and in 1881 was designated a National Cemetery.  The Post was established in 1821, when Florida became a Territory, and the first recorded burial there was in 1828.  At the south end you will note three pyramids, beneath which are the remains of an unknown number of soldiers who died during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842).   These remains were gathered from battle grounds, hospitals, forts and encampments around the state and ceremoniously reinterred here on August 14, 1842.

 

Parking is a problem during the National Guard duty days, which include the first two weekends each month,  from 0800-1700 (5pm).  If you want to walk in this area for a closer look at the tombstones, etc., turn right on San Salvador at the end of the cemetery then right on Charlotte St at the other end of the wall.  You can park on the right side of the street if you can find a place.  It is patrolled, so don’t park at a yellow curb.  If you cannot find a place to park go to the end of the street and jog left into the St. Augustine Historical Society’s parking lot.  The signs say it is for visitors to the Oldest House or the store.  To remain honest, go to their store and check out their extensive collection of books on St. Augustine and Florida history and gifts.  You can also take their tour of (one of) the oldest houses in town.

 

 

Saint Augustine National Cemetery

Contributed by Harry Metz

 

The Cannons at Oglethorpe Battery Park- St Augustine

Scott Hughes, Reenactor, as General James Oglethorpe, Governor of Georgia

 The newest addition to one of the City’s historical military sites occurred on June 30, 2013.  On that date, three replica cannons were unveiled in Oglethorpe Battery Park. This was the site of a three gun battery used by Georgia’s Colonial Governor, Gen James Oglethorpe, in his attempt to force the surrender of the Castillo de San Marcos and the City itself in 1740.  His unsuccessful siege lasted from June 27 to July 20 and was lifted by a Spanish fleet bringing supplies to the besieged City.

The cannons are aligned on a 282 degree heading, aimed at the Castillo which is not presently visible from the park.  It lies across the Bay about three quarters of a mile away, well within the effective range of the guns. Contributions for the cannons were raised by the 450th Military Commemoration Committee and the local home owners association (SANDS).  The City provided the concrete pads and gun carriages.

 

 

The Park is on the corner of Arredondo Ave and Oglethorpe Blvd.  From Anastasia Blvd turn North at the Anastasia Inn onto Arredondo Ave and go north four blocks.  The Park will be on your right and the battery on its northwest corner.