Ah, St Augustine, a city with a steadfast Spanish history even though it was sacked again and again and again!!
June is a time to remember Sir Francis Drake’s less than friendly visit to the Ancient City and also a time to take part in the reenactment of that raid. Allow me to walk you through the historic battle with pictures of the reenactment as well as camp and other memorable moments.
It was June 6th, 1586 when almost two dozen ships came into the St. Augustine Harbor. On board those ships were 2,000 Englishmen. In command was Sir Francis Drake. In the fort and Spanish settlement were about 300 people, with approximately 60 or so of them being soldiers.
1,000 of those men made their way to Anastasia Island and set up cannon that they could use to fire on the Spanish fort, which at that time was a wooden structure.
On June 7th they attached the fort from the island. The fort, and this attack was in a location that is now the Fountain of Youth Park.
In our reenactment, we brought the action closer, so the audience could see – to the city gates of St Augustine, where the first volleys and a battle are held in a field. Not only did we have cannon fire from the English….
But also musket fire,
Leading to a skirmish with the Spanish…
Historically speaking – After a day of being fired upon, the Spanish ran from the fort, made their way through the St. Augustine Settlement and tried to hide beyond it. They’d left a chest with the garrison’s pay, 2,000 gold ducats, behind. Some believe they did this hoping Drake and his men would take the gold and leave. They did not.
Drake took all the gold and guns from the fort, burned it to the ground, then set his sites on the settlement.
In our reenactment, the Spanish ran, the English claimed the fort but skipped on the burning it down part.
At this point, pretty much the only Spaniard left outside the walls of the city was….me. I was in my typical role of narrator, explaining the story to the crowd as the action took place all around me.
Where was everyone else?
Historically speaking – The Spanish ran through the settlement and hid just outside it’s boundaries. The English found the settlement empty, and began to plunder.
In the reenactment, as the Spanish run, the English march down St George Street, through the Spanish Quarter.
They also periodically fire off a few rounds when they think they see Spaniards along the way.
Historically speaking – The Spanish, who were hiding at the edge of town, tried to chase them away with a combined effort. They all opened fire, hitting and killing Drake’s cousin, Anthony Powell. But otherwise, the damage they did was negligible. The English charged towards the Spanish, wounding or killing almost three dozen of them. The rest of the Spanish ran for their lives.
In the reenactment this happens a couple of times. First, in town when the two sides square off.
and again later in the final battle at the park at the other end of the quarter.
Eventually, Drake and his men declare their victory.
Historically speaking – . Before Drake left, he took all he could of value from the town, then burned it to the ground.
Our event ended somewhat differently, but I’ll get into that in the final thoughts.
The Historic Camp
In addition to the battle on Saturday, there was also a beautiful historic camp set up at the Fountain of Youth Park.
Location wise, the park is a fabulous venue.
There are plenty of trees for shade, a nice breeze off the waterway to the side of the camp, and, well, very nice modern ‘facilities’ which are always a welcome pleasure.
Also in camp, a lot of military drills. The officers watched over as new recruits were drilled…
The recruits didn’t make it to the final battle, but they sure had fun learning how to use a pike.
In addition to drills, Lawrence was there doing a historic cannon making demonstration.
He was chasing (cleaning up and filing) the barrel of a bronze cannon.
Note to self – do NOT ask Lawrence to pose for a picture. Here’s what you get –
Instead, snap a couple shots when he’s talking to people. They’ll come out much nicer.
Since Crudbeard was in town, Lawrence put him to work, too! After all, friends don’t let friends chase a cannon alone….
I am not sure why I didn’t take any pictures, but the meals in camp were plentiful and scrumptious! I don’t know how they do it, but every time I attend a Men of Menendez event, it’s some of the best camp food out there!
Saturday night I also had the pleasure of listening to Scott and Jason of Jig to a Milestone , as they played in camp. We all sat around the fire as they entertained us with old songs, and some new ones I hadn’t heard. They also let me join them so I could sing Dark Lady while they backed me up! Much appreciated, gentlemen!
One more thing that was in camp that I loved was Laura Corzine’s booth. She had a number of hand-made soaps and I snatched up one bar of peppermint and one of lemongrass. They smell good enough to snack on, but I will refrain.
Just For The Fun Of It
Before I wrap up, a few pictures that bring me joy
I know we do this a couple times a year, but there’s something that makes me chuckle every time we load up for one of these battles in St Augustine. There’s really nothing like seeing a trolley filled with roughly 100 reenactors. It makes me smile.
My humorous story this event comes at the expense of Jeff Johnson. Sunday morning I stopped by camp to check on things and was chatting with Jeff. I was going to meet a couple people for breakfast and he walked with me to the parking lot, because he was looking for someone whose blanket he needed to return.
Problem is, he was pretty groggy and had not done a full assessment of himself before taking this hike. As we were out in the parking lot I looked down and informed him that while he had remembered the blanket, it seems he had forgotten his pants.
Luckily, he was wearing boxers and a blanket makes a splendid makeshift kilt for the walk back to camp.
The photo I took that I am most happy with is this one I snapped of Michael Colosimo. It’s just an awesome picture of him and I love it
I would like to thank all of those behind this event for once again allowing me to be a part of this fantastic reenactment. As always, the Men of Menendez put on a wonderful event, host a beautiful and educational encampment and are so welcoming.
Secondly, something bad reminded me of how wonderful this reenactment family is. At the end of the raid, as the crowd was applauding, we had one of our own fall ill.
As if we had been drilled on what to do, everyone took action. Those with medical experience, as well as a nurse from the crowd, were on the ground, removing armor, calling for water, etc. The rest of the group began to move the public back, making a safe space for him to be worked on, gathered water from the crowd to use to cool him down, and flagged down the police, called for an ambulance, and stood guard ready to do anything else needed.
I remember standing there thinking, if anything were to ever happen to me, this is the group I would like to be around when it does, as I would be in amazing hands!
The good news – the diagnosis was severe dehydration and after a cool down, and a little IV liquid, he was back to himself.
I would like to thank Joe Desiderio , Tilted Pirate Photography and Historic City News for the wonderful pictures they took that I am using to fill out this blog. As I am so busily dashing around in character, it’s hard to get images of the battle and other special moments. So thank you all for capturing these memories!