Missionaries and Military

As the new world project that would eventually become the United States of America continued to develop roots, much of the development of La Florida is attributed to the Spanish military and the missionaries.  Let’s take a look at the St. Francis Barracks in St. Augustine, Florida as an example.

In 1588, Franciscan missionaries settled in northeast Florida around St. Augustine.  For 175 years, the Convento de San Francisco served as headquarters for those who labored on behalf of the Spanish king to bring the Catholic faith to Native Americans who inhabited “la Florida.” 

Following Governor Moore’s siege of St. Augustine in 1702, the destroyed buildings of the mission were reconstructed using coquina taken from the king’s quarry on Anastasia Island. 

Coquina wall at St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine
Artifacts found at the Franciscan friary location. Some of the original coquina walls still remain today as part of the museum in the St. Francis Barracks.

In 1763, the British took possession of Florida and designated St. Augustine as capital of the colony of East Florida.  A decision was made by military authorities to occupy the former Franciscan mission and convert the chapel originally constructed in the 1730s and 1740s into a barracks.  These barracks were supportive of operations at the Castillo de San Marcos (old fort) almost a mile to the north.    

The friary where the missionaries lived was also renovated, with fireplaces added to the enlarged living quarters. When the Spanish returned to St. Augustine in 1783, the Franciscans initially occupied the site but were soon replaced by soldiers of the Spanish garrison. 

In 1821, Florida was ceded to the United States and the U.S. Army took possession of the military post.  It remained a federal facility until 1907 when the Florida National Guard, and Florida Department of Military Affairs, moved its headquarters from Tallahassee to St. Francis Barracks.  (See https://dma.myflorida.com/st-francis-barracks-frontier-monastery-to-state-arsenal/)

Troops stand guard at the St. Francis Barracks military post, circa 1890.

Who could imagine that the United States military would eventually form with the efforts of the Spanish and British to protect the homeland it was discovering. 

Modern-day St. Francis Barracks

There remains ongoing debate between Florida and Massachusetts concerning when the “First Muster” of troops to protect the homeland began – which was before the federal, U.S. military was formed. 

Painting depicting the First Muster near St. Augustine in 1565. https://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/events/first-muster

Florida claims the first assembly of a military unit began in 1565 when Pedro Menendez formed a band of Spanish troops, along with area Native Americans, to fight against the French who had assembled around Jacksonville.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_assault_on_French_Florida; http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMQC6D_First_Spanish_Muster_Site_in_Florida)

Massachusetts claims the first official muster of troops began on December 13, 1636 as the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered that the colony’s militia be organized into three regiments: the North, South and East Regiments.  The regiments were needed for a growing threat from the Pequot Indians.  The military prepared with weekly drills and guard details.  In 1637, the East Regiment officially mustered for the first time on the Salem Common to mobilize in its defense.  This day is identified as the birth of the modern-day National Guard.  https://www.salem.com/veterans-services/pages/first-muster

I guess it depends on your each person’s perspective concerning who had the “First Muster.”  Regardless, our freedoms are won or lost by those who train, prepare, equip and respond to the needs of the citizenry, whether it is from local citizens, local law enforcement, state military and law enforcement or federal military and law enforcement.

I also reflect on the sacrifices of our Native Americans.  They lost so much as the new world was developed over the years.  The struggles for them to maintain their own freedom were met with much despair and loss as myriads began flowing into the territories.  We owe much to our Native Americans.  

Flags of the United States and Florida wave in sync at the St. Francis Barracks in St. Augustine.

May is military appreciation month and we in the United States are appreciative of those who rise to the occasion to obtain, keep and maintain that which we hold so dear.  

We who serve, and served, consider it a great honor to protect those who long to be free with certain unalienable rights – among them being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  May we never fail nor falter.  We salute those who continue holding up the torch of freedom with their very lives on the line!

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

#MilitaryAppreciationMonth

#MilitaryAppreciation

16 thoughts on “Missionaries and Military

  1. Ron, I appreciated reading about the military and missionaries in Florida. Growing up and in Montana, I have a deep appreciation (as you do) of Native American culture.

    1. Thanks so much. Yes, so many have sacrificed for our nation and may we never forget. I plan to be traveling soon toward Wyoming so we will experience more of the native culture. 😊

      1. Enjoy the trip! Wyoming is a beautiful place where I taught a year at Wheatland many years ago. If my memory is accurate, the Native American reservation is called Wind River.

    1. Thanks so much Tina. I agree. Those who protect our way of life from those who want to destroy it need to be appreciated – along with those who show the appreciation too. 🙂

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