Spanish Colonial Fortifications in North America, 1565-1822, Alejandro de Quesada

Spanish Colonial Fortifications in North America, 1565-1822, Alejandro de Quesada

Fortress 94

This book covers a very long time span - two and a half centuries in all - and a very large geographical area, which at its greatest included Florida, the massive Louisiana territory, New Spain (Mexico, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona), California and the Pacific North-West. To put the time span in some context at its start the Spanish were building forts to defend against attack by Sir Francis Drake, at its end they were handing their fortifications over to the newly independent United States of America!

Spanish rule was not continuous in all of these areas for the entire period. Louisiana was only held for three decades from the 1760s, and Florida became British for two decades from the same time. The author does a good job of following the fate of these fortifications after they changed hands, and has used some interesting sources that came from the brief Spanish occupation of Louisiana, a period that saw them carry out surveys of some of their newly acquired fortifications.

The fortifications covered in this book were generally constructed for one of two purposes. Some were built as local centres - the Presidios - and were used to defend Spanish interests against local India tribes and as trade centres. Others were built to defend against European enemies - coastal defences to protect against British attack and land defences to protect the borders with French Louisiana and British South Carolina. I was quite surprised (although really shouldn't have been) to find so many clashes between Spanish and French troops in North America, with some places besieged many times.

As you would expect the fortifications covered by this book are very varied in scale. At the lower end were simple wooden forts, while at the top came the stone defences of St. Augustine in Florida, which included an impressive star fort with water defences.

This is an interesting look at a topic that I was very unfamiliar with, and gives a good impression of the scale and longevity of the Spanish presence in North America.

West Florida and Pensacola Defences
Louisiana Territory
New Spain: The Presidios
California and the Northwest
Spanish Colonial Fort Sites Today

Author: Alejandro de Quesada
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2010

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