Ten-Pound Cannons, Colonials and Aaron

 

 

Every now and then we get the urge to take a short trip and visit St. Augustine. Jerry had an appointment with an audiologist in Port Orange, so we were going to already be part of the distance there. This trip was a short one, but I realized in retrospect, it had its own special qualities, especially in these times.

The first full day we were there, we decided to visit the Colonial Quarter, which we’d never seen before. It is easy to reach, and easy to miss, but we found it, and it was a delight. Anyone who loves history must visit the Quarter, because although the tour is brief, the experience was moving.

As we rested in the warmth of a spring day, we sat on wooden benches, waiting for our tour guide; there was only one other couple present. I couldn’t help thinking of the many people who were missing this opportunity to learn more about the colonial period of our country.

Our tour guide, Aaron, approached on time, wearing a moderately long brown beard, a long-sleeved shirt (probably meant to resemble the times) with a tear in the sleeve (which might have been included for dramatic effect). Over the shirt he wore a brown leather vest, and although the heat was moderate at 10am, his brow was covered with perspiration. We sat in the shade that extended to Aaron, but it seemed to provide him little relief.

He proceeded to tell us the story of the colonials who came to St. Augustine from Spain and France, and the hardships they endured. Although I had heard some of the stories before, he was a talented storyteller; I paid close attention and learned some new facts. After his introduction, we headed to the blacksmith shop, where our host had to endure more heat. He showed us the forge, added more charcoal to the fire to bring it up to an intense heat, worked the billows to raise the temperature, and showed us how iron, a precious commodity in those days, would be shaped for use. Several items were on display to demonstrate the craft. Our host didn’t complain, but the heat must have been oppressive, and probably even more difficult for the colonials who had to endure hot summers and long working hours. We were quite impressed with the smithing process and Aaron’s efforts to teach us.

Finally, we went to the area where there was a small cannon. It accepted ten-pound balls, and he explained the process of choosing the right amount of gunpowder based on the size of the cannonballs and how far they needed to go, how the cannon was lit off, and which cannons were installed at different locations. Of course, he had to demonstrate lighting off the cannon, and I was so glad that I thought to cover my ears. It was LOUD!

Then he explained that his part of the tour was over, and although we thanked him, he was already on his way to find a cooler retreat. We walked around a bit more, especially enjoying a visit to one of the oldest homes in St. Augustine.

*     *     *     *

I have been on many tours in St. Augustine, including the fort, on a couple of occasions. But I think this time the tour of the Colonial Quarter touched something deeper in me. First, I was sad to see so few people in attendance. I suppose it’s not as glamorous as Disney World, or as exciting as “The Ghosts of St. Augustine,” but I couldn’t help but wonder if there was little interest in, and respect for, the role St. Augustine played in the development of the United States, or for the history of our country. I suspect few people realize the hardships and challenges that the early Americans endured, and how they often bore several children (who often died in childbirth or at a young age) to ensure that they had enough help to do the daily work that their existence required.

Most of all, I thought of Aaron and his task in educating us. I wondered if it was just a job to him, that helped pay the bills, even though he was courteous and engaged. I wanted him to know that he was a vital cog in the wheel that moves our country forward, when so many choose to present an ugly and distorted picture of our past.

Thank you, Aaron.

[The cannon in the video was shot at the fort, Castillo de San Marcos nearby, the first fort to be built with stone, after nine previous forts were built of wood and didn’t survive.]

Published in History
This post was promoted to the Main Feed at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 13 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    My family stopped in St. Augustine on our way to Disney in 1977. Not sure if this is the same place we stopped, but we all took a turn in the stockade. It was a long time ago, but I don’t remember it being too busy then, either. Certainly not like Disney. Course there was only one park to visit.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Blondie (View Comment):

    My family stopped in St. Augustine on our way to Disney in 1977. Not sure if this is the same place we stopped, but we all took a turn in the stockade. It was a long time ago, but I don’t remember it being too busy then, either. Certainly not like Disney. Course there was only one park to visit.

    There very well may have been a stockade there, Blondie, and we just missed it.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I’ve never understood the indifference some people have for history. They find some facet that fails to live up to “current values” and fail to appreciate how events led to those same values. It is easier to dismiss history than it is to study it, I suppose, and that dismissal leaves more time to mindlessly watch Tiktok videos.

    • #3
  4. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    It is a little odd that St. Augustine persisted.  It never generated a lot of wealth and was burned/destroyed more than once. Life must have been tough.   A Spanish soldier assigned there must have felt like he was stuck in the boondocks.

     

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    It is a little odd that St. Augustine persisted. It never generated a lot of wealth and was burned/destroyed more than once. Life must have been tough. A Spanish soldier assigned there must have felt like he was stuck in the boondocks.

    The image that comes to mind is that of an 8 year-old child who has been assigned to a blacksmith to serve him. It had to be a brutal and demanding job, but at least it brought a few pennies in for the family.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Townsends have visited the city and made videos:

    • #6
  7. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Percival (View Comment):

    I’ve never understood the indifference some people have for history. They find some facet that fails to live up to “current values” and fail to appreciate how events led to those same values. It is easier to dismiss history than it is to study it, I suppose, and that dismissal leaves more time to mindlessly watch Tiktok videos.

    That is one of the reason Victor Davis Hanson is one of my favorite historians; he is great at providing context and perspective.

    • #7
  8. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    The drop in interest may have something to do with the disapprobation of “colonialists” in the present moment. What an incredible denial that is for most of our heritage. History moors us. The Marxists want us to be adrift. 

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    The drop in interest may have something to do with the disapprobation of “colonialists” in the present moment. What an incredible denial that is for most of our heritage. History moors us. The Marxists want us to be adrift.

    What a fascinating observation! Equating the colonialists, who took on the dangers of the country, with “colonialism.” Good grief.

    Edit: maybe I should be calling them colonists?

    • #9
  10. Jeff Petraska Member
    Jeff Petraska
    @JeffPetraska

    I haven’t been to St. Augustine since my children were, well, children.  My son lives on the Space Coast now, so I think it’s time to plan a visit again for my wife and me.  Thanks, Susan.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jeff Petraska (View Comment):

    I haven’t been to St. Augustine since my children were, well, children. My son lives on the Space Coast now, so I think it’s time to plan a visit again for my wife and me. Thanks, Susan.

    I think you’d really enjoy it. There’s a wonderful history there. Thanks to you.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    I love colonial forts. We got plenty of ’em on the Canuckistani side of the St Laurence. If there’s one site in the US I would like to visit, it’s the fort at St Augustine.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    I love colonial forts. We got plenty of ’em on the Canuckistani side of the St Laurence. If there’s one site in the US I would like to visit, it’s the fort at St Augustine.

    It’s an exceptional facility, with lots of people around to explain the history. Let me know if you’re ever in FL!

    • #13
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.