Two of the reasons Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine continues to stand today is the weaponry to protect it and the ability to absorb incoming rounds.
The U.S. National Park Service oversees and maintains the Castillo and provides some history highlights. “The cannon appeared in Europe about the beginning of the 12th century. Early cannons or “gonnes” (hence the name gonne or gunne powder) tended to be gigantic, unwieldy monsters as dangerous to the user as to the intended enemy. Yet, they were still frightening, helping to ensure their place on the field of war.
Cannon composition improved over time, particularly during the Middle Ages, resulting in the “artillery” used in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some were made of iron and some of bronze.
As you can imagine, cast iron was preferred since it was lighter and less expensive; however, it also presented maintenance challenges, particularly around coastal, salty environments. Bronze tended to hold up much longer but was more expensive. Location helped determine the type of cannon to use too.
While iron cannons deteriorated more quickly and were discarded, bronze cannons could be melted down and recast into a new weapon. You can imagine the beauty of the artwork in the bronze cannons when they were new and shiny. One can still see some of the details in these old pieces of devastation AND art.
Although I’m not an artillery expert, you can interpret the long cannons were designed for longer distance – like reaching out and saying hello to the ships sneaking in from the Atlantic Ocean. The 18 and 24-inch balls can sure do some damage to these floating structures.
To me, the short cannons are like a shotgun. They can certainly wreak havoc on troop movements trying to approach the fort. Some of these short cannons remind you of big, round pots that blast out multiple projectiles. (See those along the seawall in the image at the end of the post.)
Today, bronze guns at the Castillo are covered in a green patina due to the environmental elements. While iron rusts, bronze or copper turns green.
The cannons have several key features in common. At the rear you can find the name of the maker, the city where it was made and the date when the gun was manufactured. Just above the back toward the muzzle is the royal coat of arms of the Spanish King & Queen who reigned during the making of the weapon.
Moving closer to the front of the gun, a banner bears the cannon’s name. Two of the Castillo’s cannons also have a second, larger banner that reads “Violati Fulmina Regis” (thunderbolts of an offended/angry king). Each trunnion (the pivot bars on the sides of the gun) lists where the metal was acquired, the gun’s maintenance record, and how much the weapon weighs. Other features found on some of the cannons include capture dates stamped by the US Army. https://www.nps.gov/casa/learn/historyculture/arms.htm
I find it interesting that the Castillo de San Marcos is a museum of cannons found in various places around the world and may not be the exact ones protecting the fort during the ages. The National Park Service depicts where respective cannons are placed on, and in. the fort as well as some of their origin. https://www.nps.gov/casa/learn/historyculture/artillery-tour.htm
1. 24-pounder cast iron. Circa 1750. Transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) with the fort in 1935.
2. Same as above.
3. 4-pounder bronze. Seville, 1737. Named La Sibila (The Fortune Teller). Gifted to NPS, 1953.
4. 16-pounder bronze. Barcelona, 1743. Named El Camilo (The Camillus). Transferred from West Point Military Academy, 1962. Interesting note: Made from recycled bronze.
5. 24-pounder cast iron. Circa 1690. Transferred 1935.
6. 18-pounder cast iron. Circa 1750. Transferred 1935.
7. Same as #6.
8. 24-pounder cast iron. Circa 1750. Transferred 1935.
9. 18-pounder cast iron. Circa 1690. Made in Sweden. Found in Savannah River, 1914. Gifted to NPS, 1955.
10. 15-inch bronze mortar. Barcelona, 1724. Loaned to NPS, 1971.
11. 12-inch bronze mortar. Seville, 1784. Gifted to NPS, 1958.
12. 8-pounder bronze. Seville, 1798. Named El Uenado (The Deer). Gifted to NPS, 1978. Interesting note: U’s and V’s were sometimes interchanged historically.
13. 6-pounder bronze. Seville, 1762. Transferred from West Point Military Academy, 1962.
14. 18-pounder bronze. Seville, 1735. Named El Daedalo (The Daedalus). Loaned to NPS, 1971.
15. 12-pounder bronze. Seville, 1798. Named Facheno (Braggart). Received from West Point Military Academy, 1962.
16. 4-pounder bronze. Seville, 1795. Named Abilud (older brother, or Biblical name). Gifted to NPS, 1960.
17. 2-pounder cast iron. Circa 1700. Transferred 1935.
18. Same as above
19. 12-inch bronze mortar. Barcelona, 1783. Named El Icaro (The Icarus). Gifted to NPS, 1960.
20. 12-inch bronze mortar. Seville, 1807. Named Abajado (Crouching One). Gifted to NPS, 1960.
21. 4-pounder cast iron. Circa 1700. Found buried in St. Augustine. Gifted to NPS, 1954.
22. 15-inch bronze mortar. Barcelona, 1724. Loaned to NPS, 1971. Interesting note: Has a rare Luis I crest.
23. 12-inch bronze mortar. Seville, 1774. Gifted to NPS, 1958.
24. 4-pounder bronze. Barcelona, 1768. Named El Jazmin (The Jasmine). Transferred to NPS, 1962.
25. 3-pounder cast iron. Circa 1690. Found buried in St. Augustine. Gifted to NPS, 1954.
Located in Courtyard and Inside Rooms
26. 18-pounder bronze. Seville, 1764. Named El Milanes (The one from Milan). Loaned to NPS, 1971.
27. Fragment of 16-pounder cast iron cannon. Circa 1690. Exploded in 1702, killing 3 crew members. Found buried in Castillo’s moat.
Located in Water Battery (Seawall)
28. – 35. Cast iron howitzers of various sizes. A design combining a cannon and a mortar. Circa 1815-1846. Transferred 1935.
36. 32-pounder cast iron. United States Model 1841 Seacoast Cannon. Found in the waters off Naval Station Mayport, Jacksonville, FL. Transferred to NPS, 1978.
Blessings along the Way!