Tuesday, June 24, 2008
St. Augustine, Florida - Part Nine
Concluding our look at Civil War sites in and around historic St. Augustine, Florida, this is the beautiful old St. Augustine Lighthouse on a stormy day.
This tower dates from the 1870s, but lighthouses and watch towers have been maintained on and near this site since the founding of St. Augustine in 1565. This structure replaced a coquina stone tower that stood closer to the water's edge at the time of the Civil War.
Confederates took possession of the lighthouse at St. Augustine in 1861 and darkened the light so that it could not be used to assist the Union navy in navigating the coast. The lens from the lighthouse was hidden.
When Union officers took possession of the old city in the spring of 1862, St. Augustine Mayor Paul Arneau refused to reveal the location where the lens had been hidden. He was jailed until he provided the information. The light was not relit, however, until 1866.
By the end of the Civil War, the St. Augustine Lighthouse was in such bad condition that it was in danger of toppling into the sea. The government began construction on the present structure in 1870 and completed it in 1874. The old tower was washed away not long after the new one was finished.
The lighthouse has been preserved and beautifully restored thanks to the efforts of the Junior Service League of St. Augustine and is now open to the public. The keeper's cottage houses a very nice museum that includes exhibits on all eras of the history of the lighthouse, including the Civil War.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is also one of the best known "haunted" locations in Florida. To read more about St. Augustine and learn something about the ghosts of the St. Augustine Lighthouse, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com and look for the St. Augustine heading.