St Francis Barracks

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Sat 11 Feb 2012 22:47
St. Francis Barracks




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St. Francis Barracks is a historic structure constructed of coquina stone located on Marine Street named in honour of St. Francis of Assisi. The barracks were constructed between 1724 - 1755 by monks of the Order of St. Francis to replace a series of previous wooden buildings which were destroyed by the ravages of the Florida sub-tropical climate and by fire, both accidental and intentional when the city was razed by the English in 1702. The barracks were turned into a military structure by the British in 1763 after Florida became a British territory by treaty after the French and Indian War. The Franciscan monks vacated the city along with the majority of the Spanish citizens of St. Augustine. The name St. Francis Barracks also came to be applied to the military reservation which was developed around the barracks after it's conversion for military purposes. Today the St. Francis Barracks serves as the Florida State Arsenal, headquarters for the Florida National Guard. A portion of the area is the site of St. Augustine National Cemetery.


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History: When Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St. Augustine for the Spanish Crown, Jesuit priests were among the initial colonists to provide for the spiritual needs of the settlers and to help convert the native Timucua Indians to Christianity. In the 1570’s the Jesuits were replaced by monks of the Order of St. Francis who were allocated land in 1588 at the southern end of the city for their monastery and church, Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion (Our Lady of the Conception).

The original structures on the site were built of logs and palm thatch roofs. Throughout the years a succession of buildings were constructed as replacements. The structures were susceptible to rotting in the humid sub-tropical climate and were highly flammable. In 1702 all the structures in St. Augustine with the exception of the Castillo de San Marcos were burned to the ground in a raid led by English pirate Robert Searles. After this it was decided to rebuild the monastery with the same durable coquina used in the construction of the fort. Construction finally began in 1735 using coquina stone quarried at the King's Quarry located on Anastasia Island across Matanzas Bay from St. Augustine. The Franciscan monks lived at the monastery until the British took possession of Florida in exchange for occupied Havana which they seized from the Spanish in the French and Indian War, in which Spain was an ally of the French.


Almost the entire population of Catholic St. Augustine left the city upon the British taking control in 1763 including the Franciscan monks and many of their Native American converts. The British, a large majority of whom were Protestant converted the monks former living quarters into military barracks for the troops stationed at the newly christened Fort St. Marks, the anglicized version of the Castillo de San Marco.

During the British Period of occupation the military constructed an additional wooden barracks behind the coquina stone, St. Francis Barracks. They also constructed The King's Bakery, a coquina stone structure used for baking the bread for the city's garrison. This structure which has been used as a garage by the Florida National Guard since 1930 is located perpendicular to the barracks across Marine Street. It is believed to be the only structure surviving in St. Augustine built entirely during the British Period (1763–1784).

After signing the Treaty of Paris, the British who conceded defeat in the American Revolution agreed to relinquish control of the Florida Territory, restoring Spain's possession of the land. Upon returning the Spanish military continued to use the St. Francis Barracks, as a military installation and troop barracks. During this period known as the Second Spanish Period (1763–1821) the wooden barracks built by the British were torn down.





St. Francis Barracks came under control of the U.S. Army when the United States gained possession of Florida in 1821. The Barracks would remain an active U.S. Army installation until it was de-activated in 1900, with the exception of one year between 1861-1862 when it, like the rest of St. Augustine was under control of the Confederate States of America.

In 1828 a portion of the southern end of the St. Francis Barracks military reservation was set aside as a post cemetery. In 1842 the U.S. soldiers who perished in the 1835 Dade Massacre were re-interred here under three coquina pyramid shaped monument along with over 1,300 other U.S. casualties of the Second Seminole War. This cemetery would later be designated St. Augustine National Cemetery.

At the start of the American Civil War there was only one ordnance sergeant on duty, Sgt. Henry Douglas who was responsible not only for the Barracks but for Fort Marion as well (the American name for the Castillo de San Marcos). On the 7th of January 1861 before Florida's formal secession from the Union, members of a newly formed local militia unit named the St. Augustine Blues (their flag above), went to the St. Francis Barracks to demand the keys to the fort. The U.S. sergeant complied with the stipulation he receive a receipt for the fort, which he was given.

Douglas would later report that; “All military stores at this place were seized this morning by order of the governor of the State of FL. A company of volunteer soldiers marched to the barracks and took possession of me, and demanded peaceable possession of the keys of the fort and magazine.

The U.S. Army deactivated the fort in 1900 and leased it to the Florida State Troops, forerunner of the Florida National Guard in 1907. It was formally given to the State of Florida for use as the State Arsenal in 1921 by an act of Congress. After receiving use of the Barracks via lease in 1907 the buildings were not occupied at that time. In 1915 the St. Francis Barracks were gutted in a fire however the original coquina stone walls remained standing. The building was rebuilt in 1922 using the original walls.



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Bear getting a private artillery lesson from Steve


M101 Howitzer: The 105 mm M2A1 (M101A1) howitzer was the standard light field howitzer for the U.S. in World War II, seeing action in both European and Pacific theatres. Entering production in 1941, it quickly entered the war against the Imperial Japanese Army in the Pacific, where it gained a reputation for its accuracy and powerful punch. The M101 fired 105 mm high explosive (HE) semi-fixed ammunition and had a range of 12,200 yards, making it suitable for supporting infantry.

Widespread usage: All the qualities of the weapon, along with its widespread production, led to its adoption by many countries after the war. Its ammunition type also became the standard for many foreign countries' later models. In 1962 the artillery designation system was changed and the 105mm M2A1 howitzer became the M101A1. It continued to see service in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Though a similar model, the M102 howitzer, shared the same roles in battle, it never fully replaced the M101. Today the M101A1 has been retired by the U.S. military, though it continues to see service with many other countries.



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These couple of ladies are definitely in line for the ‘One Careful Owner Award’.


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                     AND A BIT MORE HISTORY