The Fort as it would have
looked in 1742
“In the morning, Mr.
Oglethorpe began to mark out a fort with four bastions, and taught the men how
to dig the ditch, and raise and turf the rampart.” Francis Moore wrote in A
Voyage to Georgia in 1736.
General Oglethorpe chose
this site for Frederica’s fort, high ground on a river bend where cannon could
hold off Spanish ships upstream or downstream. Flanking marshes gave protection
against land attack, and there was plenty of timber for building
The fort at Frederica became the centre of
military operations along the Southern frontier of the British colonies. From
here Oglethorpe launched offensives against the Spanish at St Augustine. The
Spanish invaded Georgia in 1742, but were turned back before they reached
The fort was eventually leveled – not by
the Spanish, but by time and
the elements. Archeological excavations in the 1950’s confirmed the locations of
palisades, walls and buildings. Earthworks have been partially
“All sentrys are to be vigilant on their
post; neither are they to sing, smoke tobacco, nor suffer any noise to be made
near them.” Treatise of Military Discipline 1749.
“There are barracks in the town on the
north side, ninety feet square built of tappy, covered by cypress shingles; and
a handsome tower over the gateway.......” London Magazine dated the 23rd of
At the time of the Spanish attack in 1742,
about 200 British troops were stationed at Frederica. Some of the officers and
married men lived in their own homes in or near town. Others lived camp-style in
clapboard or thatched huts adjacent to the barracks. The barracks itself could
accommodate just over 100 men. The building took the form of a square with rooms
surrounding an open parade. Walls were of tabby more than twelve inches thick.
Soldiers entered the barracks through gateway covered by a
tower made of double thick tabby. Fortunately three walls of this
impressive tower remain standing and have been stabilised by the National Park
During the 1742 military campaign the
barracks served as a hospital and as quarters for Spanish
Magazine, 1745. “They make as fine an appearance upon the parade as any regiment
in the King’s Service.”
This large, open
area near the barracks was the parade ground. Soldiers assembled here daily for training, drills and inspection. On
the parade Oglethorpe’s Regiment marched in military formation, with orders
sounded on the drum and fife. They sharpened their skills with muskets, bayonets
and grenades. Located nearby was a bomb magazine,
a small building designed to store and protect more than 3,000 artillery shells.
The magazine mysteriously exploded on the 22nd of March 1744, alarming the
townspeople, but causing little damage. The building no longer
London Magazine dated the 23rd of October
1747. “There are two bastion towers of two stories each in the hollow of the
bastions, defended on the outside with thick earthworks, and capable of lodging
great numbers of soldiers.”
An earthwork known as a bastion projected
from this corner of the town wall. Within the bastion stood a remarkable wooden
tower fortified with gunports. A similar tower was built on the opposite side of
the town away to our right. A visitor to the fort wrote: “At the N.E and S.E.
angles are erected two strong, covered pentagonal bastions, capable of
containing 100 men each to scour the flanks with small arms, and defended by a
number of cannon......”
Archeological investigations in 1957
confirmed the historical records. Although the tower is gone, its corners were
found; five posts mark their location today. Musket
balls, gun flints and other military artifacts were recovered. Discovery of more
than a hundred glass beads indicates that Indians may have traded with soldiers
who stood guard duty here.
In 1743, Mary Musgrove Matthews, General
Oglethorpe’s Indian interpreter, lived on this lot.
She had a good tabby house and worked faithfully for the General for ten years.
The daughter of a white trader and a Creek Indian mother, (her uncle was the
tribes king), Mary left the Indians at the age of ten to receive a Christian
education in South Carolina. A skilled interpreter, negotiator and trader, she
helped Oglethorpe win the friendship and support of the local Indians. William
Stephens wrote on the 22nd of February 1740 “.....Mary has always been in great
esteem with the General... for being half Indian by extract, she has a very
great influence upon many of them, particularly the Creek Nation....”
The house that stood
on these ruins was a two-story duplex that had tabby walls with elegant
brick and wood detailing, with evidence of two wine cellars. Archeologists
feel certain that the great house was destroyed by fire, perhaps in the Great
Town Fire of 1758. On the ground floor they found ashes that contained charred
lumber, blobs of melted glass and fragments of many bottles, jugs and crocks.
The house may have been built by Captain James MacKay, who acted as Frederica’s
commanding officer during Oglethorpe’s attack on St Augustine in 1743. Earlier
residents on this lot included Will Allen, a baker and Thomas Sumner, a
Mixing the tabby – a type of concrete made from sand, lime, oyster
shells and water.
London Magazine, 1747. “The soldiers have
the privilege of cutting timber and building houses for their families, which
many have done, and thrive very well.”
The Old Burying
Ground. Here, in unknown graves more than two centuries old, lie many of
the early settlers of Frederica. Although the town they created did not survive,
they helped to lay the foundation for what would become the State of Georgia.
General Oglethorpe, governor of the colony,
passed this cemetery often en route to his plantation outside of town. The noted
clergymen John and Charles Wesley presided over funerals here.
The plan for protecting the
fort and town. Bear “swimming” in the ‘moat’
Cannon protected Frederica’s river
approaches from enemy ships. The big guns were
mounted behind the fort parapets and in batteries near the water’s edge. In 1742
cannon located downriver prevented Spanish galleys from reaching the
Magazine was probably built during the latter part of Frederica’s
colonial period. Less than half of the 96-foot structure remains standing.
Archeologists believe the building consisted of
three parts. On the left – still partially intact – were two vaults for
protecting gunpowder. At the centre, or sally port was crowned with a large
tower. On the right were small rooms used by soldiers on duty.
Beginning in 1903, the King’s Magazine
became the focal point of efforts to preserve the remains of Frederica. Walls
were rebuilt and the riverbank was backfilled to prevent erosion of the site.
The King’s Magazine was only part of the town’s extensive fortifications, but to
many visitors, it IS “the fort”, including one man I know pretty well,
who kept it until last, to savour it longer...........Trigger finger at the
ready, of course.
These two cannon
were brought here from Jamaica in recent
years, they are about the right age and Bear was quite happy with them, I
on the other hand was not fussed as they were pointing straight at Beez
This gun is thought
to be an original of the fort. Its wooden carriage has been
reconstructed. A smoothbore muzzle-loader like this could shoot 12-pound ball
one mile. The compact, garrison-type, recoiled after each shot, then rolled back
into firing position. A wooden wedge, or “quoin”, was used to set the aim higher
ALL IN ALL A
REALLY INTERESTING STOPOVER