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  • Writer's pictureMike Mahoney

La Florida, Castillo de San Marcos, "Coquina" and the first Thanksgiving

Synchronicity in the world is amazing! Most people refer to these events as "a God thing." In my opinion that is selling God short. What isn't a God thing? That's a better question for me.

St. Augustine in Spanish La Florida as it was called then, was founded in 1565, making it the oldest city in America. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated there 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth.

The original Castillo de San Marcos also known as "The Castle of St. Mark", was an old wooden structure that all but fell down by 1668. In 1672 the Spanish embarked on the construction of a new "Castillo" that would be built out of stone making it a much stronger fort to defend Florida and the Atlantic trade route. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine is the oldest masonry fortification in the continental US. And the stone from which it was built was the best material they could have used and it was the only local stone available. The stone is made out of seashells. For thousands of years, shells of living creatures remained after the inhabitant died, accumulated in layers, and formed layers several feet thick. After many years, of being covered by soil, calcium from the shells glued the shells together making a porous type of limestone which is called "coquina."

The Spanish had no idea how strong this stone would be so they constructed the walls an average of 12 feet thick. The walls on the ocean side are as thick as 19 feet. Construction was completed in 1695.

In 1702, the English captured St. Augustine. They set up cannons among the houses to attack the fortress with cannon balls. Instead of shattering the walls, the walls absorbed the shock of the cannon balls and they bounced off or sunk in only a few inches.

Again in 1740, the Castillo was bombarded by General Oglethorpe and his troops for 27 days. But the walls held firm. If it wasn't for the "coquina", who knows what Florida would be called and what it would look like?

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