Friday, March 25, 2022

The Castillo de San Marcos--Part 4


By Jennifer Uhlarik


Hello, Readers! If you’ve been following along in my series on the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States, you’ve already learned about the building of the fort by the Spanish, how the fort changed hands into British control, and how it was ceded back to the Spanish for a second brief time. I’d like to tell you today about the fort since it became a possession of the United States. Find the past posts in the series with these links:

The Castillo de San Marcos--Part 1

The Castillo de San Marcos--Part 2

The Castillo de San Marcos--Part 3


General Francis Marion

One of the first things that the United States did upon receiving the old fort in trade from Mexico in 1821 was to change the name. No longer was it known by its Spanish name of Castillo de San Marcos, or even its British name of Fort St. Mark. Instead, the Americans named it Fort Marion, in honor of Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion. General Marion (aka “The Swamp Fox”) wasn’t known for having led large numbers of men or won decisive battles. Instead, he was known for his unusual fighting methods, which became the basis for modern-day guerilla warfare.


Hotshot Furnace
While the Americans didn’t make many structural changes to the fort, they did add
a hotshot furnace outside the eastern wall of the fort, which was used to heat up cannonballs before they were shot at wooden enemy ships. They also added iron bars and heavy doors on many of the interior storage rooms, turning them into prison cells. Those cells would become important in the 1830s.


In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which stated that the government had the authority to negotiate with various southern Indian tribes for their removal to lands west of the Mississippi River, thus opening the Native Americans’ ancestral lands for American citizens to settle in. As you might expect, this was popular among much of the American sector while hated by the Native people. This piece of legislation is what led to the Cherokee Trail of Tears, as well as other Indian conflicts, including the Second Seminole War in Florida.


Reservation area of the
Seminole Tribe

Also known as the Florida War, the Second Seminole War lasted from 1835 until 1842. Leading up to this conflict, the Seminoles had been moved to a reservation in Central Florida, but were experiencing shortages of food, leading to them ranging off reservation lands to find what they needed to support their people. Also, escaped slaves were fleeing to the Seminoles and adapting into their culture, leading to slave catchers infiltrating their land in attempts to capture the escapees. These conflicts, among other things, led to more and more tensions between Seminoles and Whites. So when the Indian Removal Act came about, many of the Seminoles were slated for removal to Indian Territory out west. Can you imagine what happened? The longest and costliest Indian conflict broke out, lasting just a few months shy of seven years.


Osceola--hero of the Seminoles
Late in 1837, several Seminoles, including the influential leaders, Osceola and
Coacoochee (or Wild Cat), were captured and held at Fort Marion. This group was captured under false pretenses. They’d been invited to a peace negotiation, and they went in good faith, under a white flag of truce, only to be surrounded by the Army and captured. Osceola was quite ill at the time, possibly suffering from malaria, and ended up dying soon after being transported to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, SC. Wild Cat, on the other hand, remained imprisoned at Fort Marion for roughly two months, and after that time, led an escape of nineteen prisoners from the impenetrable fortress that still leaves people scratching their heads. Aside from the main door of the room where they were being held—which led to the inner courtyard, by the way—the only way out was through a very high, eight-inch-wide window on the outer wall. Apparently, Wild Cat and the other nineteen prisoners scaled the wall, managed to wiggle through the incredibly narrow opening, and ran back to the Tomoka River about forty miles away to meet the rest of their band. Wild Cat continued to fight until the end of the war in 1842.


About twenty years later, another war broke out. This time, brother took up arms against brother in the Civil War. How did that affect Fort Marion? Tune in next month to find out.


Award-winning, best-selling novelist Jennifer Uhlarik has loved the western genre since she read her first Louis L’Amour novel. She penned her first western while earning a writing degree from University of Tampa. Jennifer lives near Tampa with her husband, son, and furbabies.




Love’s Fortress by Jennifer Uhlarik


A Friendship From the Past Brings Closure to Dani’s Fractured Family


When Dani Sango’s art forger father passes away, Dani inherits his home. There, she finds a book of Native American drawings, which leads her to seek museum curator Brad Osgood’s help to decipher the ledger art. Why would her father have this book? Is it another forgery?


Brad Osgood longs to provide his four-year-old niece, Brynn, the safe home she desperately deserves. The last thing he needs is more drama, especially from a forger’s daughter. But when the two meet “accidentally” at St. Augustine’s 350-year-old Spanish fort, he can’t refuse the intriguing woman.


Broken Bow is among seventy-three Plains Indians transported to Florida in 1875 for incarceration at ancient Fort Marion. Sally Jo Harris and Luke Worthing dream of serving on a foreign mission field, but when the Indians reach St. Augustine, God changes their plans. However, when Sally Jo’s friendship with Broken Bow leads to false accusations, it could cost them their lives.


Can Dani discover how Broken Bow and Sally Jo’s story ends and how it impacted her father’s life?







  1. Thanks for continuing this series. An eight-inch opening...that boggles my mind. I'd certainly never fit through it!!

  2. I went graduated from Marion High in Marion, Illinois named after Francis Marion. That as the first time I'd ever heard of him. There are several Marions all over the US. I appreciate all the history you are sharing about this fort. And when I read about the Seminole Wars and unjust laws against the Natives I wish I could go back in time and find away to change thing like the Trail of Tears. Those parts of history break my heart. Thanks for your post.