Youth Ambassadors visit Fort Matanzas
By Kayley Sutton, Youth Ambassador
Pedro Menendez High School, Class of 2015
The Youth Ambassadors of St. Augustine is a group of students from local middle and high schools interested in learning the history of our town in preparation for the 450th celebration.
The Youth Ambassadors visited Fort Matanzas this summer to learn about its history. The Spanish translation of the word “Matanzas” is “Slaughter.” The Youth Ambassadors were given a wonderful tour by Andy Rich and Amy Mest with the National Park Service.
By 1695, St. Augustine realized that it needed a way to slow down, if not, stop enemies before they got to the Castillo de San Marcos. At this time, the Matanzas Inlet was a perfect way for enemies to get into the city of St. Augustine.
Thus, Fort Matanzas was built. Soldiers would stay for a month at a time and there was one officer for each rotation. Soldiers all had to share a room on the lower half of the fort, and officers got a room to themselves in the upper half.
On the gun deck, there are two six pounder replica cannons to demonstrate just how intimidating and accurate the artillery was during the time. There are also two eight pounder cannons that are original to the fort built in the early 1700s.
In 1742, Gov. James Oglethorpe arrived at the Matanzas Inlet with 12 ships. The fort, almost done with construction, opened fire and drove the warships off. In 1784, after the American Revolution, Florida was given back to Spain.
Fort Matanzas was abandoned by Spain and wasn’t taken care of. By 1821, the United States took possession of the fort, but it did not meet the standards of living for soldiers to be stationed there. Fort Matanzas was left vacant until the late 1900s when the National Park Service and Florida officials thought that it had potential to be a great tourist attraction and began renovations.
“I loved gazing out on the river imagining what it would be like to be a Spanish soldier in 1742,” says Dan Jones, who accompanied the Youth Ambassadors on this outing. “The scenery around Fort Matanzas is stunning!” says Emma Loya, a Youth Ambassador.
Thanks to Mr. Andy Rich and Ms. Amy Mest, from the National Park Service, for making this trip possible. It was a ton of fun! There is no charge for the general public to visit the fort, and we highly recommend this intriguing attraction.