Archaeology of the Santo Domingo Redoubt
Carl D. Halbirt
Planning and Building Department
St. Augustine, Florida
October 1, 1999
Throughout its tumultuous history, St. Augustine has been protected by a series of defensive
fortifications and lines. Initially, wooden forts and then the stone fort (Castillo de San Marcos) were
the city's only substantive structures. After Carolina Governor James Moore's devastating siege of
1702 (Arnade 1959), additional defenses were required at the Spanish capital. Commencing in 1704,
an elaborate defensive system was erected that made St. Augustine "one of the most formidable
Spanish military centers in the Western Hemisphere" during the 18th century (Chatelain 1941:75).
The system consisted of three parallel defensive lines (Cubo, Hornabeque, and Mose) with redoubts
and/or bastions that extended from North River west to the San Sebastian River; a fourth defensive
line (Rosario) with bastions that encircled the land side of the city; Forts Mose and Matazanas; casa
fuertes, or block houses; and sentry lookouts (Arana and Manucy 1977). This is the story of one
component of that system--a small fortification along the historic Cubo Line known as the Santo
Domingo Redoubt--and the efforts that are underway to reconstruct this historical feature.
Historical documents indicate that the Cubo Line underwent various episodes of remodeling
and repair during its 138-year existence, from 1704 to 1842 (Arana 1964; Halbirt 1993: Table 1).
By 1743, the Cubo Line had taken on its modem characteristics, which consist of a defensive earthen
wall, or parapet, that was connected to three redoubts referred to as Santo Domingo, Medio, and
Cubo. Redoubts were locations where cannon were mounted and which afforded the infantry the
ability to create a cross-fire (enfilade) along the entire line from Castillo de San Marcos to the San
Sebastian River. The redoubts were spaced equidistantly along the half-mile long parapet that was
revetted either partially or entirely, depending on the era of use, with pine or palm logs. A moat
fronted the parapet and redoubts.
Reconstruction of the defensive earthworks that define the boundaries of colonial St.
Augustine has been one of the principal aims of the Presidio Commission since its inception in 1993
(Fullam 1994). One of the commission's goals is to continue the reconstruction of the 1808 version
of the historic Cubo Line that was started by the National Park Service in the 1960s. The proposed
reconstruction would focus on the Santo Domingo Redoubt. As part of this effort, archaeological
investigations were undertaken, first by staff of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board
(HSAPB) and later by the City of St. Augustine's Archaeology Program, with assistance provided by
members of the St. Augustine Archaeological Association. The results of these investigations provide
the information necessary to accurately reconstruct the redoubt and to evaluate the impacts that
reconstruction will have on the remaining archaeological deposits.
The aim of the archaeological investigations at the Santo Domingo Redoubt was to obtain
information about the size and shape of the 1808 structure. In total, 15 test areas at the intersection
of Orange Street and Cordova Street were investigated between 1994 and 1998 (Figure 1). These
areas were initially excavated by the HSAPB, using hand tools. Subsequent investigations by the
City utilized mechanical equipment to remove soil deposits that post-dated the historic Cubo Line;
this was followed by hand excavation. These efforts uncovered not only the 1808 Santo Domingo
Redoubt, but also earlier 18th-century vestiges of the redoubt and moat and later modifications to
the Cubo Line that were made during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). The following is a
synopsis of three versions of the Santo Domingo Redoubt that are readily evident in the
archaeological record: 1738-1743, 1808, and 1835.
The earliest documentation of the Santo Domingo Redoubt occurs ca. 1738 to 1743 when
the Spanish remodeled the Cubo Line. This effort involved: 1) erecting a sod parapet with a palisade
of pine revetted to portions of the scarp; 2 ) connecting the parapet to three sod redoubts whose
walls were 8-1/4 ft thick, which was large enough to emplace six cannon (Arana 1964:12); and 3)
establishing a 15 ft wide by 5-1/2 ft deep moat that fronted the palisade and redoubts (Manucy 1989).
A rendering by Albert Manucy (1989) shows what the Cubo Line may have looked like in profile at
this time (Figure 2). Historical maps of the era show that the Santo Domingo Redoubt was lunette
in shape. Archaeologically, this episode is shown in soil deposits as a drop in the culturally sterile
sands that was created by digging the moat (Figure 3). Of the 15 test areas excavated, four showed
the boundary between the 18th-century redoubt and moat. The lunette-shaped redoubt measured
approximately 60 ft in diameter, or 2,500 sq ft in size (Figure 1). The organically rich moat deposit
was comprised of a series of sandy beds, or strata, that associate with different repairs to the line
made between 1743 and 1808 (Figure 3). At more than 25 feet wide, the moat is much larger than
previously thought. A few fragments of the pine logs used to revet the scarp during this time also
were found within water-logged soil deposits. These fragments were 2 in. to 5 in. in diameter and
had tapered ends created by an adze.
In response to a possible British attack on St. Augustine, the Cubo Line underwent a major
remodeling between 1808 and 1811. At this point the Spanish strengthened and straightened the line
by increasing the height of the parapet using palm logs and widening the moat to 41 feet. The moat
was kept approximately 5 feet deep (Halbirt 1993). Archaeologically, the 1808 Santo Domingo
Redoubt is represented by an alignment of upright palm logs that fronted the moat. These logs were
kept in place by a horizontal base log, also of palm, and cedar stakes and pins that tied the system
together (Figures 4 and 5). The 1808 redoubt was found in six test areas and consisted of a large
rectangle (Figure 1) measuring 56.4 ft (north-south) by 73.8 ft (east-west). The 1808 structure was
centered over the earlier 18th-century lunette redoubt, which required that the upright palm logs and
base log were placed within the moat of the earlier Cubo Line. Excavations conducted elsewhere
along the Cubo Line have revealed that the moat, at this time, varied from 45 ft to 70 ft wide (Halbirt
One aspect of the wall construction of the 1808 redoubt is of particular interest for
reconstruction plans. Archaeological work along the east flanking wall revealed that it consisted of
vertical palm logs with no evidence of them being revetted to an embankment (Figure 2). (It is
assumed that the west flanking wall of the redoubt mimics the east wall in terms of construction style.
Unfortunately, archaeological evcavations along the west wall by the HSAPB did not extend deep
enough to determine the angle of the palm logs; only the top of the logs was exposed.) This
contrasts with the north wall of the redoubt, in which the palm logs were angled and revetted to an
earthen embankment (Figure 3), similar to the modem reconstructions found adjacent to the City
Gate. That the 1808 Cubo Line is not a continuous palm log revetment along an earthen berm is an
unexpected finding and has ramifications for our understanding of Spanish military architecture.
Within a few years the Cubo Line again was deteriorating and a series of intermittent repairs
was initiated. In 1820, Royal Engineer Ramon de la Cruz stated that the Cubo Line was a continuous
sod parapet with a log revetment 8-1/4 ft high and a moat 39 ft wide by 5-1/2 ft deep (Arana 1964).
The flanks of the Santo Domingo Redoubt were at right angles to the moat and had four cannon
embrasures along the walls: one on each flank and two in its face (Arana 1964).
It was not until the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) that the Cubo Line was again
remodeled. By this time the line was in complete disrepair. In a petition dated March 10, 1836, and
submitted to the U. S. Congress, the city's inhabitants requested $850 for costs incurred for repair
that "involved constructing a 5-foot high parapet; increasing the depth of the moat; restoring the
redoubts...and establishing a picket line along the length of the line" (Halbirt 1993:110). In addition,
a new avenue was created that eventually became Orange Street.
The archaeological record reflects a variety of techniques that were used to remodel the Cubo
Line during the Second Seminole War. At the Cubo Redoubt, which is the westernmost redoubt
along the line, a series of squared, pine stakes (8 in. per side) was placed in front of the palm logs,
creating a solid wall (Figure 6). This pine wall extended an unknown distance east along the Cubo
Line, where the solid alignment of pine stakes gave way to square pine stakes that were intermittently
spaced (Halbirt 1993). At the Santo Domingo Redoubt the construction method involved
demolishing the upper portion of the palm log revetment and using the fragments to form the base
to the new earthern parapet (Figure 7). The width of this base varied from 18 inches along the east
wall to 24 inches along the north wall. The earthen berm was supported by at least the lower two
feet of the remaining palm log revetment along the inside of the wall (Figure 3). The outside of the
earthen berm was supported by a new wall. This wall is shown in the archaeological record by a
series of equidistant post holes, some of which contained the remains of square pine stakes. Most
likely, these pine stakes were the main supports to some type of temporary walled structure that could
be erected quickly (such as a series of fascines, or bundles of sticks). To the east of the Santo
Domingo Redoubt a similar construction pattern was noted along the Cubo Line. The only difference
was that instead of removing the upper portion of the palm log revetment and using the rest as a
support, the revetment was pushed over to form a platform onto which the earthen berm was placed
(Figure 8). Thus, the palm log revetment was in a position other than its original orientation.
Although, the Cubo Line was no longer needed for defensive purposes after 1842, it was still
under military control. The line and all its components became the focus of other activities. It was
used for drainage purposes, the vegetation became fodder for livestock, and the moat depression
became an ad hoc city dump that included the disposal of articulated remains from domesticated
animals (Figure 9). In the early 20th century, the remaining moat depression was filled and the land
given by the U.S. War Department to the St. Johns County School Board.
What had been St. Augustine's first line of defense in the 18th century is now being slowly
consumed by 20th- and 21st-century urban growth and development. The restoration of the Santo
Domingo Redoubt and portions of the adjacent parapet will help to preserve the legacy of this
significant cultural feature. Care should be taken to select the location of the reconstructed redoubt,
Three sites are now being considered by the Presidio Commission: directly over the original
1808 redoubt; east of the intersection of Orange and Cordova Streets; and west of the intersection
on School Board property. Although it may seem ideal to reconstruct the redoubt over its original
site, this activity would have a profound and adverse impact on the remaining archaeological deposits.
Already the redoubt has been severely compromised by construction and archaeological projects over
the past few decades, and additional construction activities would further destroy what remains of
this historical feature. The second option, building the redoubt east of the intersection, also is
impractical given that an authentic replica of the Santo Domingo Redoubt would encroach upon the
historic Hugnenot Cemetery and construction also would destroy what remains of the redoubt east
of the intersection. To lessen the problem of encroachment, the redoubt would have to be scaled
down; thereby giving a false impression of its actual size. The only viable option would be to
reconstruct the redoubt on School Board property over the historical moat. The moat is a half-mile
long and a small portion could be set aside for reconstruction purposes without compromising this
component of the Cubo Line. It is essential to document the characteristics of the moat deposits
prior to disturbance.
In conclusion, archaeological research at the Santo Domingo Redoubt has not only confirmed
the historical documents, but also has provided information that was heretofore unknown. The
resulting data provide the necessary foundation so that the redoubt can be accurately reconstructed.
The location of the reconstructed redoubt also is predicated upon archaeological criteria. Although
some options may be appealing, it is the preservation of the extant archaeological remains that must
be considered in the selection process.
Bastion a projecting part of a fortification.
Lunette a fortification consisting of two faces forming a salient angle and two parallel flanks.
Palisade a barricade of pole timbers set vertically into the ground and closely spaced.
Parapet a wall raised above the main body of a fortification.
Redoubt a small fortification that is completely enclosed by a parapet.
Revetment a facing of wood, stone, or any other material used to substain an embankment when
it receives a slope steeper than the natural slope
Scarp the slope of the protecting ditch or moat which touches the revetment or parapet
Arana, Luis R.
1964 The Cubo Line, 1704-1909. MS on file, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument,
Arana, Luis R., and Albert Manucy
1977 The Building of the Castillo de San Marcos. Eastern National Park and Monument
Association for the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, St. Augustine.
1959 The Siege of St. Augustine in 1702. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.
1764 Plan del Presidio de Sn. Agustin... In The Defenses of Spanish Florida 1565 to
1763, by Verne E. Chatelain, 1941, Map 13. Carnegie Institution of Washington,
Publication 511, Washington, D.C.
1941 The Defenses of Spanish Florida 1565 to 1763. Carnegie Institution of Washington,
Publication 511, Washington, D.C.
1994 The Presidio Commission. St. Augustine Association Newsletter 9(1): 1.
Halbirt, Carl D.
1993 The Archaeology of the Cubo Line: St. Augustine's First Line of Defense. The
Florida Anthropologist 46(2): 105-127.
1989 The Fort Mose (moh-say) Picture, Memo to Kathleen A. Deagan. MS on file, St.
Augustine Historical Society Research Library.
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Orange Test Areas
Figure 1. Boundary of Santo Domingo Redoubt Through Time
LIHE OF SIGHT
Figure 2. Albert Manucy's Postulated Profile of the 18th-century
Cubo Line Based on the Pablo Castello Map (1764).
2m BD -
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RTH SOUTH PROFILE OF HISTORIC REDOUBT / /s ed
1 W Proposed elevation of 1808 wall
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7 8 meters
WEST EAST PROFILE OF HISTORICAL REDOUBT
I P Proposed elevation of 1808 wall
- 2m BD
2m BD _
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Figure 3. Stratigraphic Profiles of the East and North Walls
of the Historic Santo Domingo Redoubt. Note: shaded areas are
18th-century moat deposits.
Figure 4. Plan View of Southeast Corner of
Santo Domingo Redoubt.
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Figure 5. Cross-section of Support System used in
Securing 1808 Palm Log Revetment.
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Figure 6. 1937 Excavations within the Cubo Redoubt, from Chatelain (1941: Map 19)
Illustrated is the 1808 palm log structure and the 1835 pine stake structure.
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