Lehigh University
The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
Previous Issue Next Issue
Previous Page Next Page
0 matches
		99
                      St. Augustine, Florida

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
Secession.  Here a steamer from Hilton Head means
supplies, letters, newspapers.  Only think of it !
The people had heard absolutely nothing of Mc-
Clellan s def   I mean retreat from Richmond.  We
were the first to convey to them that intelligence.
   In all the proud consciousness of possessing al-
most an armful of TRIBUNES (a paper particularly
interesting to the inhabitants of Florida, from its
novelty), I went ashore and registered my name at
one of the two hotels of the place (there were
three, but one, closed by Secession, is now a bar-
rack), and for the ensuing four days I devoted my-
sef to the contemplation of St. Augustine present
and past   S. Augustine the historical, and during
the great Rebellion.
  Very probably you know its history (I did not
until I came hither), in which case you may skip the
ensuing paragraph.  Ponce de Leon, fellow voyager
with Columbus, landed here or a few miles to the
north, in his search for what I trust he has now
found, the Waters of Immortality, on Pascua Florida,
or Palm Sunday, 1512   hence the name of the penin-
sula   discovering  natives fierce and implacable 
[unclear word] those of the present South Carolina.  In his track;
and founder of the city, came Pedro Menendez de
Aviles, merciless soldier and bigot   the murderer in
cold blood of poor shipwrecked Huguenots; among
them the brave Jean Ribault, friend of Coligny and
settler of Port Royal   a massacre  notable re-
venged  in due time, by their countryman, Dominic
de Gourgues.  Here Spanish missionaries taught
fierce  Apalachian Indians a creed foreign to the prac-
tices of their own countrymen.  Hither came
      Drake, whom the encompass d world so full knew; 
Davis, the buccaneer, Gov. Moore of South Car-
olina, and Oglethorpe of Georgia, with one stereo-
typed result, the scaring of the Spaniards into their
never-taken fort and the plunder and damage of the
town.  Here, seventeen years of subsequent to the
ceding of Florida to England, sixty of South Caro-
lina s best citizens lay imprisoned for resistance to a
tyranny infinitely more reasonable than that in de-
fense of which their sons are now warring.  Pos-
sessed, in turn, by despotic Spain, monarchial En-
gland, and the republican United States, this St.
Augustine,  though now so insignificant, was once
the key of an empire; upon its fate rested the des
tiny of a nation; its occupation or retention decided
the fate of a people.   It is to-day, the most historic
city of the New World.  Dilapidated in appearance,
with the stillness of desolation hanging over it; its
waters undisturbed, except by the passing canoe of
the fisherman, its streets unenlivened by busy traffic.
I have seen nothing on this side of the Atlantic so
unique, so seventeenth centuryish as St. Augustine.
People its narrow thoroughfares with sombrero-hatted
cavaliers, put a few mantilla shrouded senoritas in
its overhanging wooden balconies (they wear hoops,
alas ! now), and you might be in a suburb of Madrid
or Alcala.  To wander about it is to indulge in a
day-dream of Alain R ne Le Sage: I have Gil Blas
Le Diable Boiteux, and Guzman d Alfarache in my
mind half the time.
   Suppose I had, indeed, as companion, that most
exquisite of devils, the incomparable Asmodeus,
and he would translate me from my present occupa-
tion to   say the top of that tall, handsome house, on
the left inland corner of the Plaza, the one recently
quitted by two Northern schoolmistresses, deprived
of their pupils by Secession?  What should I see,
then?  I will try to imagine.
   First, a quaint, old, gray city, not much more
than a large village in size.  Narrow streets, never
built for traffic or vehicles, once paved with stone,

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
the surface of which is now worn into fine dust
by attrition, wooden houses, walls of shelly concrete,
an occasional ruined tenement of the same material.
Gardens full of deep-green semi-tropical vegetation;
the orange, lemon, lime, pomegranate, the broad-
leaved, luxuriant fig, the banana, the feathery date-
palm, the paw-paw, the cactus   the latter of a size
surprising to those accustomed to see it only in
flower-pots and hot-houses; a Catholic church,
with an old-fashioned Spanish facade surmounted by
three bells, one of them 175 years old; its doors
standing hospitably open; an Episcopal one, chur-
lishly closed; a convent, hotels, a distant cemetery,
the tall, square columns of a bygone city gate; last,
and most notable of all, on a hill at the north side of
the town, and out of its limits, the fort.  Let us
entreat of Asmodeus a nearer flight to the latter: it
is worth while.
   Fort Marion   its present anachronistic name; it
was St. Mark to the Spaniards   owes its existence
to the labor of Indians, extending over a period of 60
years, with the occasional assistance of convicts
from Mexico.  Built of coquina   the shelly concrete
recently alluded to   quarried from the neighboring
Anastasia Island, it comprises a casemated fort with
four bastions, a ravelin, couterscarp and glacis,
presenting very much the same appearance as it
must have done on its completion, in 1756, with the
exception of the water battery fronting it, erected
by the United States in 1842-3.  As said, it has sus-
tained several attacks, some sieges, never succumb-
ing.  An old, old fort of the Vauban fashion, with
immensely thick walls, built before the days of
Parrott and Armstrong, it was then considered im-
pregnable.  Its grass-grown moat (in which I ob-
served antique guns rotting peacefully, and cattle
feeding) its Spanish coat of arms over the entrance
its inclined plane leading to the ramparts, its pepper-
box-topped martello towers and hoary parapets be-
long to a time practically as distant from us as that
before the flood.  So, God be thanked ! do its dis-
mal dungeons, one of which, now used as a powder
magazine, I explored.  It was a good thing to know
that part of the roof had recently fallen in; a dreary
one to think that, years ago, human skeletons had
been discovered there.x
   I am afraid that if El Diablo Cojuelo (as his first
godfather, Don Luis Velez de Guevara, named him)
were to reveal the thoughts and wishes of the in-
habitants of St. Augustine to me as he did to Don
Cleophas in Madrid, there would appear very little
loyalty to the Union in them.  The city sent 200
volunteers to the Confederate army.  One sees not
half a dozen white men, inhabitants, during a day s
perigrinations.  The women seclude themselves
though perhaps not much more than usual, taking
their usual evening s promenade on the sea wall
constructed by Gen. Benham, when a captain, in
1837-43, at a cost of $100,000 to the U.S. Government
-- a sum, of course, utterly ignored by the Southern
Confederacy.  Rendered incapable by their gene-
ral seclusion and the knowledge of their de-
fenselessness, of the insolences of New-Orleans,
they silently ignore our presence as much as femi-
nine curiosity will allow, or sell us trinkets of their
own manufacture at an exorbitant price.  I have
yet to discover that Southerner, man or woman, who
refuses to make money of the  Yankees.   I believe
our purser is the only individual who has succeeded
in improving the acquaintance of the lady-popula-
tion of St. Augustine; it is understood that they re-
ward him with favor; that his has even given them a
tea-drinking on board the Delaware.
   Only one-third of these inhabitants are of Ameri-
can blood; the majority claim descent from 14,000

[Gunn s handwriting]
x also the fragments of a rack.
Page
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty: page one hundred and nine
Description:Newspaper clipping describing notable features and the history of St. Augustine, Florida.
Date:1862-08-01
Subject:Benham, Henry Washington; Books and reading; Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Civil War; Columbus, Christopher; De Gourgue, Dominic; Delaware (Ship); Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; McClellan, George B.; Menendez de Aviles, Pedro; Military; Oglethorpe, James; New York tribune.; Ocean travel; Ponce de Leon, Juan; Ribaut, Jean; Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):St. Augustine, Florida; Richmond, [Virginia]; South Carolina
Scan Date:2010-09-10

 

Volume
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of his experiences as a war correspondent for ""The New York Tribune"" at Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, especially Hilton Head, Port Royal, St. Augustine, Key West, and the end of his experiences with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsular Campaign when he had to leave camp due to illness.
Subject:African Americans; Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Civil War; Diseases; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marches (U.S. Army); Medical care (U.S. Army); Military; Military camp life; Peninsular Campaign (Va.); Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York; Port Royal, South Carolina; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Key West, Florida; St. Augustine, Florida; Virginia
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.