El Castillo de Monterey

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El Castillo de Monterey (1792-1846) - A Spanish Fort established in 1792 in present day Monterey County, California. Abandoned in 1846.

El Castillo de Monterey Marker
El Castillo de Monterey Site Marker
View of Harbor from the Site of El Castillo de Monterey
El Castillo de Monterey Sketch from Marker

The Spanish Period (1770-1821)

The fort began in 1792 as a crude log parapet with eleven cannons behind it. The cannons were probably brought from the nearby Spanish Presidio of Monterey. The site was on present day Presidio Hill on a flat plain at the 60' level overlooking the Monterey Harbor.

In 1796 the Castillo was strengthened by adding a new earthen revetment on the seaward side. The improvements included an adobe supported wooden gun platform, casemates and a wooden barracks for the artillery troops. These improvements still did not make the Castillo a sufficient fortification and visitors to the area generally derided its capabilities.

The first test of the Castillo came on 20 Nov 1818 when Argentine pirates attacked Monterey. The pirates failed in a direct attack on the town and decided to land a force on Point Pinos from which they first attacked the Castillo and routed the defenders. They turned the guns on the town and then attacked it, overwhelming the defenders who fled. The pirates end up sacking the town, destroying the Castillo's cannons and structures. They set fire to the town before they left.

The Mexican Period (1822-1846)

On 22 Sep 1822 the Mexican flag was raised over Monterey but conditions at El Castillo changed little. Monterey became the capital of Mexican California. Visitors continued to deride El Castillo with comments about the deteriorated defenses and the small number of small caliber cannons that were actually operational.

On 3 Nov 1836 the Castillo was actually captured by a group of disaffected ranchers, Indians and Americans. Once again the guns were turned on the town and a single cannon shot forced the Governor to surrender.

In 1842 a visitor indicated that the Presidio of Monterey was demolished and that no soldiers were stationed at the missions. El Castillo was described as "incapable of withstanding attacks" and as having but five artillery men in decrepit conditions. In total, the Monterey garrison consisted of some 60 men and three workable cannons for all of Monterey.

The American Period (1846-Present)

The Mexican War was declared by the U.S. Congress on 11 May 1846 in response to a Mexican attack on U.S. troops in Texas. The declaration of war opened the door for American occupation of California. The American period began in Monterey when American naval ships entered Monterey Bay and Navy Captain William Mervine landed and had the American flag raise over the Customs House.

The U.S. forces did not use the old El Castillo site for their gun batteries because it was clearly vulnerable to land attack from high ground behind it. The U.S. forces built Fort Mervine on that high ground behind the old Castillo on Presidio Hill as the first U.S. fortification.

Current Status

Archeological site with markers located on the U.S. Army Presidio of Monterey in Monterey County, California.


Location: Located on the U.S. Army Presidio of Monterey in Monterey County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 36.606227 Long: -121.895263

Sources:

  • Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 78-80
  • Horne, Kibbey M., A history of the Presidio of Monterey 1770-1970, Defense Language Institute West Coast Branch, California, 1970, Reprinted 2007, 58 pages, page 17-30

Links:

Visited: 23 Nov 2012

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