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  Week 16   Various Forts   Program Menu
  Program 76 Fort San Carlos de Austria
      On November 21, 1698, the Spanish sailed into Pensacola Bay from Cuba and Mexico and quickly built Fort San Carlos de Austria and a village, establishing the first permanent European settlement in Pensacola.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

My team of UWF archaeologists “rediscovered” the site in 1995.  We found thousands of artifacts, and just a couple feet below the surface were the burned walls of Fort San Carlos de Austria.

This large wooden fort was originally100 X 100 yards in size, with large bastions at each corner. The Spanish built the garrison and all of its structures out of pine, so constant care was needed to repair the rot-caused by the area’s humid climate and bug infestation.

Because the French burned down the fort in 1719 - leaving charred posts behind - we were able to find and follow the outline of the walls, fighting deck, and the buildings inside.  For its 1998 Tri-centennial, Fort San Carlos was partially reconstruction of for the public.

  Program 77 Fort Jefferson  
      In 1846, construction of Fort Jefferson began on the island Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas.  The large coastal structure, near Key West, served as a military fortress for nearly 30 years; but a large part of its story is the graffiti left behind over the last century.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

While Fort Jefferson had many uses throughout its construction, shortly after the Civil War it became obsolete and was abandoned by the U.S. Army.

But that did not mean people stopped utilizing it. Graffiti written inside one of the magazines dates back to the late 1800s and are the only record we have of the fort being visited during its abandonment.

Since most of the messages were written in chalk, the graffiti is quite fragile and threatened by exposure to natural weathering and other harsh elements. 

In 2011 archaeologists from the Florida Public Archaeology Network partnered with the National Park Service to preserve them. Fifty three inscriptions including names, dates, and entire sentences spanning from 1880 to present were recorded, measured, and photographed.

  Program 78 Castillo San Marcos  
      Most forts built centuries ago were eventually reclaimed by nature or destroyed by conflict. But Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine survived thanks largely to the material it was made out of- coquina blocks.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Coquina is a type of stone formed naturally from shell and sand over thousands of years.

 In St. Augustine, the Spanish mined it from local quarries and cut it into blocks to construct Castillo San Marcos to defend the city.

Construction began in 1671, but it was plagued with problems that impeded its completion. It took them 23 years to finally finish!

The first real test of Fort San Marcos came in 1702 when the British attacked St. Augustine, and laid siege to the fort for 51 days.

Although British forces ransacked and burned much of the city, the Spanish population remained secure inside the coquina walls of the fort until reinforcements arrived. 

Evidence of the siege was uncovered by archaeologist Carl Halbirt. He found deposits of ash from torched buildings, intentionally destroyed wells and English military hardware.

  Program 79 Fort King  
      In 1827 the U.S. Army built a fort near Ocala to keep the Seminole Indians within specified reservations. The garrison, which became known as Fort King, played a major role in the Second Seminole War.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

The Second Seminole War stemmed from President Andrew Jackson’s policy of relocating Native Americans living in Florida to “Indian Territory” in Oklahoma.

Some Seminole Indians went willingly, but many refused to accept forced removal.  Because of this refusal, the United States sent the Army and the Seminole Wars ensued. During the second Seminole War in 1835, the Indians, including their famed leader Osceola, attacked U.S. forces near Fort King.

The original fort was soon abandoned and burned to the ground by Seminole fighters.  In 1998, Gary Ellis and his team conducted the most extensive excavations there.

They recovered a number of artifacts including items from military uniforms, clay bowl and pipe fragments, and cut nails used to construct the fort. They also found sections of the original fort stockade walls indicated by burned posts and post molds.

  Program 80 Fort Caroline  
      Often a historical settlement is well known to historians. But, to archaeologists they can be very elusive. Such is the case with the French Fort Caroline, near present day Jacksonville.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

It was in 1564 that French Huguenots, seeking to escape religious persecution, built Fort Caroline on the banks of the St. Johns River. 

Only a year after it was constructed, the starving Huguenots who lived there were attacked by the Spanish who considered their presence a threat. 

Admiral Pedro Menendez and his men massacred most of the settlers, considered by the Spanish Catholic king to be “heretics.”  And, Fort Caroline was destroyed. Within a few months, the Spanish established St. Augustine.

A replica of the fort stands today at the Fort Caroline National Memorial, but this is not the original location of the site.  In fact, the original remains have never been found.

However, over the last decade archaeologists from the University of North Florida have searched in vain for any clue of the fort. Starting this summer, they will lead the first concerted search for Fort Caroline, as its 450th anniversary approaches.

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