An Account of Events Described in the Officer Logs of Fort Matanzas
Many know the story of why Fort Matanzas was constructed. Essentially, for the purpose of defending the Matanzas Inlet from an enemy incursion or blockade. What most don’t realize is the men at this outpost had much more going on. The records are limited, but documentation from the 2nd Spanish period (1784-1821) list many accounts of Matanzas soldiers patrolling the beaches, assisting victims of various shipwrecks on the Florida coast and dealing with pirates and fugitives on the beaches as well. Listed here are brief summaries of some of these logs. Evidence in the officer’s logs of Fort Matanzas also show that the fort did indeed fire more than one shot throughout its military service.
The events listed here were taken from the Fort Matanzas Historic Structure Report and the Second Spanish Period Correspondence from the East Florida Papers. Information on the 1st and 2nd Spanish period and British years is incomplete. It is likely that more happened than what is listed below.
List of known shots fired from the Fort
September 10, 1742: Two boats sounding the inlet got within range of the fort. A cannon shot convinced one to withdraw immediately. The other withdrew soon after.
December 28, 1794: Cannon shot signal fired at French Corsair.
December 21, 1798: Powder used in cannon shot, signals (The plural use of the word implies more than one shot) to ships off Matanzas.
December 22, 1798: Cannon shots (The plural use of the word implies more than one shot) fired at an American Schooner.
May 8, 1799: Reporting powder expended in cannon signal shot.
May 17, 1799: One cannon fired, used 6 pounds of powder.
September 12, 1800: Suspicious ship activity off Fort Matanzas, munitions used to signal ship.
November 3, 1800: A discharge of artillery has been submitted [by] commander in Matanzas...at a corsair schooner
March 11, 1806: Details on entry of boat of Gayne Achison from Rio Ys. Cannon Shot fired.
1811 or early 1812: Fort Matanzas fires warning shot at U.S. Warship during the Patriot War.
April 10, 1812: Cannons fired two times due to 30-40 enemy soldiers present at Bara Chica (dune/sand bar South of the fort).
Known Beach Patrols & Other Fort Operations
July 9, 1793: Four sailors briefly stay at Fort Matanzas due to water damage on their boat
June 4, 1794: Measures to capture fugitives that left St. Augustine. More supplies are now on hand for shipwrecked personnel.
April 25, 1795: Thirty-four Frenchmen arrive at 4pm. They claimed to be shipwrecked and have no papers. The Captain and Pilot were arrested. The rest are held at Bara Chica (sandbar south of the inlet). Rations have been issued to the prisoners which produced a shortage for the detachment. Locals from a nearby plantation enlisted in help guarding the prisoners.
April 29, 1795: Corsair wrecked twenty miles south of Matanzas. Englishmen and Negros found in the area.
July 8, 1795: A ship at the inlet claims to have lost its way in a storm between Havana & Campeche. Forty-three days at sea. Rations were issued for seven crewmen and one passenger. Soldier Jose Juaneda inspected the vessel and later brought it to St. Augustine. Ship commander claims to know the governor.
April 11, 1797: Arrival of American boat which wants to buy supplies and bring passengers into St. Augustine. Matanzas commander delays boat and awaits governor’s orders.
May 27, 1797: Spanish balandra (Sloop) San Juan Batista arrives. Captain says his cargo was taken by an English frigate off the Cuban Coast.
May 28, 1797: Frigate attack on Sloop just off the inlet. Sloop has grounded.
May 29, 1797: balandra supplies have been salvaged. Captain and crew have been transported to St. Augustine.
June 2, 1797: Salvage efforts continue, but responsibility has been returned to the Sloop’s Captain.
June 28, 1797: Salvage efforts still ongoing for the Sloop.
October 13, 1797: Juan Juaneda arrived and speaks of the loss of the Maria. It’s cargo: Firewood.
October 18, 1797: Miguel Acosta and four crewmen to St. Augustine. They’re from the Maria wreck.
March 5, 1798: Disposition of shipwreck found near Fort Matanzas.
June 16, 1798: Returning two deserters caught by a nearby plantation back to St. Augustine.
October 22, 1799: Two Spanish to St. Augustine to request aid for their ship wrecked eighteen miles south of Matanzas.
October 24, 1799: Pilot’s efforts failed. Ship lost on Matanzas bar.
October 25-27, 1799: Reports on ship salvage efforts.
November 8, 1799: English warsloop L’Amaranthe wrecked on October twenty-fifth South of Canaveral. Thirty-one people surrender as prisoners of war at Matanzas.
November 10, 1801: Persons from 3 Canaveral shipwrecks to St. Augustine. 12 in all. Rations issued.
November 30, 1801: Captain and crew of American Ship wrecked on Cape Florida to St. Augustine.
August 11, 1802: Arrival of American boat with two Providence deserters.
January 7, 1803: Six shipwreck victims to St. Augustine
May 18, 1803: Arrival of two Englishmen from Providence. Sending them to St. Augustine.
November 10, 1803: Arrival of three English sailors from wreck twenty miles south of Canaveral. More is said to arrive.
November 17, 1804: News from Robert MaCarthy (McHardy) of shipwrecks to the south. (Robert is a resident of the Mosquitoes inlet area(today’s Ponce Inlet). See East Florida Papers: March 30, 1812 for more info on him)
November 22, 1804: Shipwreck victims to St. Augustine.
November 29, 1804: Sending fugitives from Mosquitoes inlet to St. Augustine.
December 9, 1804: Two stranded sailors from Captain Kol’s (Hall’s?) boat to St. Augustine. Also two shipwrecked Frenchmen.
March 29, 1805: Fourteen shipwreck victims to St. Augustine.
July 30, 1805: Wreck of Catalina commanded by Estevan Bonet with military personel and Don Gregorio de Ortega. (all taken to St. Augustine?)
September 19, 1806: Arrival of Captain Peter Brian and crew of America which wrecked off Mosquitoes.
October 16, 1806: Wreck of Maria out of Mosquitoes. Crew to St. Augustine.
January 20, 1807: Pedro Peso de Burgo and Antonio Lorezo of wrecked (Berschy?) to St. Augustine
January 27, 1807: Sgt. Miguel Marcos carries letters found on beach. (Suggest active beach patrols from Matanzas soldiers)
October 21, 1808: Mentions people from wrecked Providencia South of Mosquitoes.
September 16, 1809: Wreck of American Boat on Piedra’s Beach near Matanzas. Mentions Salvage efforts.
September 18, 1809: Explaining Circumstances of Shipwrecked Americans near Matanzas. Their Boat is useless. (Possibly the same wreck from the September 16, 1809 entry.)
September 16, 1810: American shipwreck near Matanzas. The Captain and Pilot sent to St Augustine with papers.
November 19, 1810: Arrival of Jorge Long with survivors of a shipwreck 80 leagues (300 miles) south of Matanzas.
November 22, 1810: Arrival of son of Jorge Long and survivors of wreck 80 leagues South.
November 23, 1810: More survivors from Jorge Long’s wreck arrive.
November 28, 1810: Another group of survivors of Jorge Long’s wreck.
November 29, 1810: Pellicer (from the nearby plantation) found another wreck victim and brought the person to Matanzas.
December 14, 1810: Arrival of Mosquitoes resident Jesse Lulluean with two survivors of wreck of the Zenfil & Olympus and two more from wreck of the Getrudes.
January 14, 1811: Arrival of Englishman from wreck of Mary at Mosquitoes.
January 17, 1811: Arrival of Shipwreck Survivors from Mosquitoes. Mentions Getrudes & another unidentified ship
June 30, 1814: Emergency landing of American fishing boat.
September 22, 1817: Desertion of sailor from gunboat of Juan Arrambide (Unclear if Matanzas soldiers apprehended sailor or were just informed.)