National Park Service Extends Invitation For Gunners In Two National Monuments

A highlight of a visit to either Castillo de San Marcos National Monument or Fort Matanzas National Monument are the weekly firing of cannons to recreate what it looked like when the two Spanish forts were defending themselves in the early 1700s.

Well, if you're interested in late-17th Century and early 18th Century warfare, and aren't tongue-tied by Spanish, the folks at these two national monuments in Florida are looking for you. That's because the National Park Service relies heavily on volunteers to offer these cannonry exhibitions. This Saturday a class will be held at the School of Artillery at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument headquarters building for those interested in joining the ranks.

The course provides the training necessary for certification in firing cannon for the public at both the Castillo and at Fort Matanzas. The Castillo's Historic Weapons program, which began in 1957, is the oldest and largest in the National Park Service. The cannon firings at the Castillo are unique in the Park Service because the drill that is used is the 1730s Spanish Cannon drill, which is conducted entirely in Castillian Spanish.

The course's first day is spent in the classroom day; the second day offers hands-on experience of firing the cannon on the Castillo's gundeck. There is no admission fee for the course. For information and registration for the course, call Joe Brehm or Jeffery Edel at 904-829-6506, ext. 233.

Traveler history lesson: The Castillo de San Marcos was built, beginning in 1672 and ending in 1695, to protect St. Augustine and help defend Spain's interests in the Caribbean. It is the oldest masonry fort in the New World.

Fort Matanzas was built between 1740 and 1742 to block southern approach to St. Augustine.