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 fortifications.
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 Frederica.
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 reconstructed.
“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 October 1747.
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 Service.
During the 1742 military campaign the barracks served as a hospital and as quarters for Spanish prisoners-of-war.
London 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 exists.
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 carpenter.
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 fort.
The King’s 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 Neez.
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 or lower.
ALL IN ALL A REALLY INTERESTING STOPOVER