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

Remembering the sacrifice

Memorial Day 2009 (50)
Taps are played by the Florida National Guard at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. (RonLin Photography)

Throughout the world, and history, there have been those who served honorably for the cause of freedom so our nations may have peace from conflict, enabling them to pursue and enjoy the rights bestowed upon each individual.  Let’s not let go of these sacrifices.

Although each nation does not have a perfect union I am thankful for the rights we hold dear today – and the sacrifice of those who helped make it possible to have a free society, allowing us to dream and follow those dreams freely.

Memorial Day is an annual, formal holiday in the United States to honor military service members who died in the line of duty.  The date changes each year but is held on the last Monday in May.  It was originally called Decoration Day, as the holiday was centered on decorating the graves of those who had fallen in the U.S. Civil War.   http://www.holidayscalendar.com/event/memorial-day/

I want to highlight the U.S. National Cemetery in St. Augustine, Fla. as the 2018 emphasis to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

St. Augustine National Cemetery - VA Admin photo
The U.S. National Cemetery in St. Augustine, Fla. is managed by Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo)    https:/cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/staugustine

St. Augustine National Cemetery traces its history back to a Spanish monastery founded during the 18th century.  Today, the cemetery perhaps is best known as the home of the Dade Pyramids, believed to be the oldest memorial in any national cemetery.  The cemetery also features a unique Spanish Colonial-style superintendent’s lodge designed to complement the historic architecture found throughout St. Augustine.  https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/florida/st_augustine_national_cemetery.html

Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, the city of St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European city in the United States.  According to the National Park Service the land upon which the national cemetery sits was originally part of a Franciscan monastery that operated until the English took possession of Florida in 1763, converting the monastery into the St. Francis Barracks.  The Spanish regained possession of the territory in 1783 and held it until 1821, when Florida became a part of the United States; all the while, the site remained a military installation.

A portion of the yard at the St. Francis Barracks was set aside for use as a post cemetery, with the first burials occurring in 1828.  Most of the early burials in the cemetery were casualties of the Indian Wars, a series of conflicts waged between 1817 and 1858 as the United States forcibly removed Native Americans, notably the Seminole tribes, to lands west of the Mississippi.  Later burials include those of Union soldiers. Although Florida seceded in 1861, Union troops captured St. Augustine in March 1862 when the gunboat Wabash entered the harbor.

In 1881, the post cemetery was elevated in status to a national cemetery, as stated by the National Park Service.  “St. Augustine National Cemetery covers a 1.3-acre rectangular site at the edge of what was once the walled Spanish city.  The northern half of the grounds are enclosed by locally quarried Coquina stone walls, while a wrought-iron fence surrounds the southern half.  Four pedestrian gates, two each along the eastern and western walls, allow access to the cemetery.  Walkways connect each gate to its counterpart along the opposite wall, and a central avenue serves as the physical and symbolic link between the flagpole at the north end of the grounds and the Dade Pyramids at the south end.  Also at the north end of the cemetery is the superintendent’s lodge.  Built in 1938 out of Coquina stone, the lodge is in the Spanish Colonial style, like much of St. Augustine.  The nearby rostrum is also composed of Coquina stone.”

The cemetery is a solemn and appropriate location to recognize those who championed freedom through the ages.  The public gathers annually for the Memorial Day ceremony.

Memorial Day 2009 (62)
Representatives from various veteran and military organizations parade their colors to begin the annual ceremony at the National Cemetery in St. Augustine. (RonLin Photography)

Memorial Day 2009 (67)
World War II veterans who remain continue to show their respect for those who served and died.  (RonLin Photography)

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Honors are presented to remind those present that we will not forget.  Providing the honors is typically done by the Florida National Guard, Florida Department of Military Affairs, local law enforcement and veteran organizations. (RonLin Photography)

Memorial Day 2009 (54)
We salute those who died serving on behalf of a grateful nation to help secure and maintain the freedoms we hold dear today.  (RonLin Photography)

Let us take time around the world to recognize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nations, including their families.  Where would we be today had it not been for them.

With Love, Ron

#memorialday2018

St. Augustine National Cemetery is located at 104 Marine St. in St. Augustine, FL.  The cemetery is open for visitation daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm; on Memorial Day the cemetery is open for visitation from 8:00am to 7:00pm.  No cemetery staff is present onsite.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 904-766-5222, or see the Department of Veterans Affairs website.  While visiting, please be mindful that our national cemeteries are hallowed ground.  Be respectful to all of our nation’s fallen soldiers and their families.  Additional cemetery policies may be posted on site.