Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finding 'The First Lost Colony'

A brief article and a lecture announcement about the Berry Site thought to be the Joara of the Soto & Pardo expeditions.

In the News:
Finding 'The First Lost Colony'
Charlotte Observer

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Five centuries of military service at FOY

Five centuries of military service

A Patriotic Military Salute will be presented at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with living history reenactors portraying the military from Ponce de Leon's landing party through today's military, with demonstrations of the clothing, weapons, and accessories of soldiers, sailors and militia in our region's history. Brian Bowman 540.6625 has details for participating or spectating.

Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
11 Magnolia Ave., St. Augustine, FL 32084
Email | Website

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fort Ortiz

This post is only peripherally related to 16th C. living history and conquistador reenactment, but if you bear with me I think I can pull if off.

I've been curious for years about a lone Spanish style sentry post or garita , located near Sarasota's Municipal Auditorium, similar to those on the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos in St, Augustine or El Morro in San Juan. Why is there one in Sarasota? The only fort that I know of associated with the area was the Seminole War era Fort Armistead. Was it the remnant of the entry to a failed subdivision or perhaps a garden "folly"? Maybe something related to one of Sarasota's many sister cities? There must be some story behind it. Below is a link to the Google Street View of it.,+Sarasota,+Florida+34236&ll=27.343581,-82.548072&spn=0.008177,0.013797&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=27.343403,-82.548083&panoid=q2uHSufHSclEXoMKxJvGjQ&cbp=12,72.2,,0,0.72

I'd taken these pictures of it a decade ago and while going through my digital photo collection for another project I came across them and decided to see if I could track down the history of this structure. The result was far cooler than I could have imagined. Terms like "sentry post' or "garita" failed but I did find a Sarasota History site

They kindly and promptly responded to my query about the structure in question and even had a web page about it.

Spanish Fort Once Stood Behind Municipal Auditorium

and also in Google Books: Sarasota: A History

It seems that c. 1948 Karl Bickel, had a Weapons Park/Museum of Arms constructed adjacent to the Auditorium. As part of the complex "Fort Juan Ortiz" [named after Hernando de Soto's translator- no less!] with a breastwork and cannon facing out into the bay. The breastwork and cannon have long since been removed. I would imagine that was done in the 1970's when the Auditorium was remodeled leaving only the Sentential as a lone reminder of its bygone days when as my corespondent with Sarasota History Alive mentioned, "My friends and I used to play there as kids, and enjoyed our imaginary war games."

When I moved to Sarasota this Park and fort were long since gone. I suspect that it was removed when the Auditorium was renovated in the 1970's. But as a kid was was raised near Syracuse, NY and often had the "French Fort" (properly - Fort Ste. Marie de Gannentaha [hence "French fort in the local vernacular.]) as a playground.

The fort was a WPA project from the 1930's and as near as I can tell built more in the style of a US Army frontier post of the 19th century rather than one in the French 17th C. My brothers and I loved that place. The French Fort no longer stands, it was replaced and renamed with a much more authentic structure and living history program in the early 1990's Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois. I think I last visited the French Fort in the mid-1970's have yet to check out the new version. Although as a researching, authenticity striving reenactor I do appreciate the new emphasis; the kid in my will always miss the "French Fort" anachronistic and not remotely ADA compliant that it may have been. As the father of a now eight year old I do regret that the closest thing to a faux fort we have in these parts is the palisade wall at the living history camp at DNM, which is really meant as more of a a backdrop and safety barrier then the kind of place were you could climb ladders, shoot imaginary guns through loopholes, and fire the cannon without powder.

That's me, second from the right, with my Mom and brothers c.1965.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Santa Elena, South Carolina: Fort San Marcos (1577)

Santa Elena, South Carolina: Fort San Marcos (1577)
How do you convert a 434 year old sketch by a Spanish engineer into a 21st century computer model?

One of the real treasures, dating from the earliest colonization of North America, is a sketch of a prefabricated fort on what is now Parris Island, SC by Spanish Army Engineering Officer, Captain Alvaro Flores de Valdés. The scaled drawing made possible a reasonably accurate three dimensional computer model of Fort San Marcos and an adjacent church. It is a glimpse into the world of over four centuries ago.

Continue reading on

Also, links to similar articles and recreations below:

The French :
Charlesfort (1562 AD) - Parris Island, South Carolina
Fort Caroline: Jacksonville, Florida (1564)

Fort Raleigh: Roanoke Island, North Carolina


Mission Santa Catalina de Guale - Part One

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Question of Daily Rations

I remember that one day seven horsemen left the camp to ranchear (that is, to look for food) and to kill some little dog, for in that land all of us were accustomed to eating these animals and held the day fortunate when a portion of one fell to our lot.

- Garcilaso de la Vega

On Thursday the chief of Coste came out to receive them in peace, and took the Christians to sleep in a village of his; and he was offended because some soldiers provisioned [ranchearon] themselves from, or, rather, robbed [saquearon] him of, some barbacoas of corn against his will.

Rodrigo Ranjel

I recently got an interesting question regarding any sources for the specific ration of a 16th c. Spanish soldier and in particular for those accompanying Ponce de Leon's explorations. " I have found lots of references to types of food, but nothing concrete on the specific daily ration." Alas, I too found most of my sources largely silent as to a daily ration for soldiers. This is probably because soldiers were expected to supplement their rations with forage. Noted above in passages from accounts of the De Soto expedition.

A typical example is found in Charles Hudson's The Juan Pardo Expeditions. Although the appendices (Accounts of the supplies and equipment distributed and used up during Pardo's foray's into northern la Florida [the modern day Carolinas & Tennessee c.1566-1568].) are quite detailed as to the overall quantities and types of rations its is annoying short of a per person breakdown, unlike for example shoes and sandals distributed to the soldiers by name!

"In regards to the bread, wine and cheese [it was used up] in giving it and dividing it to the soldiers of his company, as it was given and divided at times of greatest need when the journey was being made, as is certain and notorious." p.341

But I have found a couple of examples which can give us an idea as a basic marching ration.

Narváez/Cabeza de Vaca C. 1528 in La Florida
Leaving the Port of La Cruz for the interior:
.The Governor ordered two pounds of biscuit and half a pound of bacon rationed each man who was going with him.4

We traveled [northward] for fifteen days on our rations without finding anything edible but palmettos... 5

32/15 =roughly 2oz of biscuit /day 8/15 =roughly 0.5 oz of protein/day
...the best selling Conquistador Diet!

One of the mounted men...drowned with [his] horse...This death hit us hard, for until now not a man had been lost. The horse meanwhile, furnished a supper for many that night.6

Covey, Cyclone Trans.& Annot. Cabeza de Vaca’s Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America (University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque: 1993) p.31.
4 Covey. p.35.
5 Covey. p.36.
6 Covey. p.37.

More to the point, for Ponce de Leon reenactment which was a sea based expedition can be found in Pablo E. Perez-Mallaina's Spain's Men of the Sea:

"As an example, although there were others that were practically identical, I am going to discuss the daily rations per person for crews on the armada captained by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1568.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Saturdays: a pound and a half of biscuit, one liter of water, one liter of wine, half a peck of a mixture of horse beans and chickpeas for each twelve persons (150 grams or 5.3oz per person )and one pound of salted fish for each three persons (153.3 grams or 5.4oz per person).

Tuesdays: a pound and a half of biscuit, one liter of water, one liter of wine, one pound of mixed rice and oil for each ten persons (46 grams or 1.6oz [I assume this the is uncooked weight] per person. and half a pound of salt pork.

Sundays and Thursdays a pound and a half of biscuit, one liter of water, one liter of wine, one pound of salted meat, two ounces of cheese.

Friday, February 4, 2011

School of the 16th C.

More photos of the Men of Menendez's School of the 16th C., which was held last weekend, have been posted on line: