San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park
148 Old Fort Road, 32355
In 1679 the Spanish began construction of a fort at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers, and named it San Marcos de Apalache. This began a long use of this place that included a brief use by Andrew Jackson during the early 19th century and use as a Confederate fort during the Civil War.
At the onset of the Civil War, Confederates soon occupied the old Spanish Works, renamed them as Fort Ward, and began to reconfigure them to suit their defensive needs. This involved filling in of a Spanish moat, and incorporating old masonry walls into a new earthwork enclosure around an impressive earthen powder magazine. Today, visitors to this site are looking at Confederate Fort Ward moreso than the old Spanish fort, though the site interpretation does not make this very clear.
In additon to the earthen fortification, the Confederate strategy also involved placing obstructions downstream in the St. Marks river to impede attacks by Union gunboats, and by constructing batteries at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers and upstream from the confluence on the St. Marks river.
Fort Ward was occupied by the Confederacy throughout the Civil War. In March of 1865, the U.S. launched a campaign intent on capturing Fort War by marching troops from the coast around and behind the fort. This plan was thwarted by a decisive Confederate victory at the Battle of Natural Bridge, which caused U.S. troops and the supporting U.S. fleet to withdraw from the area.
Today, visitors can see all of these Civil War features except the obstructions; one of the batteries is not included in the state park but is in a nearby county park. The visitor center contains new exhibits on the role of Fort Ward in the Civil War.
The park is open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Thursday through Monday, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's day. Admission to the visitor center is $2 (free if you are 5 or younger).