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The Presidio La Bahia (fort on the bay) and Our Lady of Loreto Chapel were constructed in 1721 on the original site of LaSalle's doomed Fort St. Louis on the western shore of Garcitas Creek, near present day Port Lavaca. This location proved unsuitable, because of troubles with the Karankawa Indians and in 1726 it was

 
Presidio La Bahia Locations
 

abandoned and the fort relocated inland (some twenty-six miles) along the Guadalupe River near the site of Mission Valley (northwest of present day Victoria, in Victoria County) and near the Aranama Indians. Presidio La Bahia itself was rebuilt of quarried stone on a site that later became part of Fernando De Leon's Rancho Escondido. For the next twenty-six years the La Bahía mission and presidio prospered; successful farming and cattle ranching enabled the presidio and mission to supply themselves and other Texas missions with ample food.

In the fall of 1749, the presidio and mission were again moved to its present location, this time in accord with the recommendations of Jose de Escandon, whom the Spanish government had authorized in 1747 to explore ways to prevent further encroachment of the English and French.

 

Lieutenant-General Jose de Escandon was a Spanish colonizer responsible for the first successful settlements along the Rio Grande between Laredo and Brownsville. He was a Spaniard, born in Spain in 1700. Mexico at that time, society was very conscious of a person's background, birth, social class. Since Escandon was born in Spain, Spanish, he would have been called a "peninsular" (a person from "the peninsula"). That was different from a person also of pure Spanish blood who had been born in the Americas, and also different from a person who had been born of a mixed marriage, say Spanish and Indian parents.

Jose de Escandon came to the Americas and arrived in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico at age 15. He enlisted in the Mounted Encomenderos Company as a cadet in a company of cavalry (horse soldiers).

 
Lieutenant-General Jose de Escandon

In only six years, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant and transferred to Queretaro (a city in Mexico which is quite well known for it's college of Franciscan missionaries). Six years later (he would have been 27 years old), he returned to Spain and married Dominga Pedrajo in Soto de la Marina, province of Santander, Spain. He returned to Mexico that same year (1727). Another seven years passed and Jose de Escandon was recognized as a very capable officer and was promoted to the rank of Colonel. A few years after becoming a Colonel, he was made a Lieutenant-General of the entire region of Sierra Gorda. This area was centered over the Rio Grande River and was more than 300 miles wide and 200 miles long. One of the settlements founded by Lieutenant-General Escandon was Presidio La Bahia in 1749.

Presidio La Bahia, though an inland frontier fort, became the only fort responsible for the defense of the coastal area and eastern province of Texas after the abandonment of the Presidios at Los Adaes and Los Orcoquisac. Soldiers from Presidio La Bahia assisted the Spanish army in fighting the British along the Gulf Coast during the American Revolution.

This action gives Precidio La Bahia and the community of La Bahia the distinction of being one of the only communities west of the Mississippi River to have participated in the American Revolution in 1776. The Presidio La Bahia is the oldest standing fort west of the Mississippi. Its original purpose was to guard the interests of the Spanish Crown against Native American and French attackers.



Presidio La Bahia - 1767.  Click to view larger image.
 
Presidio La Bahia 1767
 
   
Presidio La Bahia - 1829. Click to view larger image.
 
Presidio La Bahia 1829
 
   
Second location of Presidio La Bahia in Mission Valley, circa 1917. Click to view larger image.
 
Mission Valley Ruins, Circa 1917
 
   

The chapel of Our Lady of Loreto was included in the current structure to serve the religious needs of the soldiers stationed there. The chapel was erected in the quadrangle for the sole use of the soldiers and Spanish settlers living in the town of La Bahia surrounding the fort.

Religious needs of the citizens of La Bahia were served by Mission Espiritu Santo (now on the grounds of Goliad State Park), located northwest and across the San Antonio River from the presidio.



Philip Nolan Invasion - 1801

One of the most noted early expeditions into Texas was that of Philip Nolan in 1801. As he did not succeed in penetrating as far as La Bahia, it is of little interest to the history of this settlement, although Nolan's expedition was known of and La Bahia alerted about it.

This raid of Nolan and his band brought to the Spanish government the realization of the danger of aggression from the United States. General Wilkinson's activities served to increase the Spanish governments' uneasiness and bred distrust toward all Anglo-Americans, especially toward those from the southern states. Well might they have been distrusted! 3



Population Of Towns In 1806 - 1834

Describing the departments or districts of government into which Texas was divided under the Mexican system, Juan Almonte notes that the "seat of government is in San Antonio, in the Department of Béxar, and the prinicpal municipalities are: Béxar, where the political chief resides; Goliad, or Bahia del Espiritu Santo; Victoria and San Patricio."

He also stated there were four missions in the vicinity of Béxar, but only two of them were occupied, the others having been abandoned. Evidently, he meant Espiritu Santo and Nuestra Senora del Refugio.

A letter dated July 10, 1810, named Architect Don Jose Ma. Caballo to attend to the construction of miliary barracks at La Bahia for 300 troops. The Governor replies that there are no masons, no peons available to do the work. On November 10, 1810, the Bishop writes to Governor Jose Miguel Martinez to dedicate the new cemetery at La Bahia, and Martinez replies that it will be done as soon as the military commander there can spare the time. Under the date of December 31, 1810, we find first mention of a school building in the town of La Bahia.
3

Municipality
1806 Population
1834 Population
Béxar
5,000
2,400
Goliad
1,400
700
Victoria
-
300
San Patricio
-
600



Gutierrez - Magee Occupation Of Presidio La Bahia 1812 - 1813


Flag Of The First Republic Of Texas  

During the Gutierrez-Magee occupation (First Republic of Texas) in 1812 - 1813, the longest siege in Texas military history was fought here at Presidio La Bahia.

Jose Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara was a revolutionary leader of the Republican uprising in Mexico. He lost out in his revolt in that country and transferred his activities to Texas and the United States. Appearing in Natchitoches, Louisiana, he began his activities with the avowed intention of "liberating Texas" from Mexico and setting up a Republic of which he would be the head. He had a wide following of "liberals" among the Mexicans and adventurers from the United States.

In Natchitoches, the hotbed of intrigues and treason, he met groups of adventures from the United States and enlisted them in his scheme. Among those drawn in were Augustus W. Magee, a native of Massachusetts and a graduate of West Point. While serving in the U.S. Army in the Neutral Strip about 1812, he conceived the idea of wresting Texas from Mexico and establishing an independent republic. He soon joined with Gutierrez and began enlisting other adventurers and freebooters. These included venturesome Americans, disgruntled Spaniards, designing Frenchmen, and some pirates from Lafitte's layout.

Many of those in the force were rogues, but not all. Such men of distinction as Reuben Ross, Henry Perry, Captain James Gains, and Samuel Kemper, brother of the two Kempers who had figured prominently in the West Florida revolution against Spain, joined in the plot to wrest Texas from Spain. They succeeded in gathering a force of three hundred and organized the expedition. Gutierrez insisted upon being recognized as commander, but Magee was determined to hold the command. Friction between the leaders of the expedition began at the very start. Moving into Texas, they succeeded in capturing Nacogdoches with the avowed intention of taking La Bahia and San Antonio.

On November 7, 1812, a force of 300 men arrived at Presidio La Bahia. They marched directly into town (La Bahia) without a fight, as the garrison had marched to San Antonio. The governor, Manuel Salcedo, Spanish governor of Texas, was alerted to the invasion attempts of the filibusters and moved his small force out of San Antonio to meet them. The error of his intelligence agents, who thought the filibusterers would strike at San Antonio first, led Salcedo to deploy his troops on the San Antonio road. However, the Americans had actually taken the lower, La Bahia road and had reached the old presidio unmolested.

On November 13, 1812, the Royal troops from San Antonio, under Salcedo and Simon de Herrera, arrived at Espiritu Santo Mission where they established their headquarters. Soon after their arrival, the Royalists received nine brass cannons from San Antonio which they immediately trained upon Presidio La Bahia. The stout old walls repelled the shots, according to Gutierrez's account.

The Spaniard's attack upon the fort began on November 14, 1835. The Americans went outside to meet them but were soon driven back into the safety of the stone walls. The Americans claimed they drove the Spaniards back to the Mission Espiritu Santo. The next day, Herrera divided his forces into three camps, one on the east, one on the west, and one on the opposite bank of the river.

Salcedo now decided to begin a siege upon the fort. The siege lasted four months, and from time to time, sorties from the fort and Mission Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo were made that brought on armed clashes between the opposing armies. The siege was not immediately successful, as meat was easily supplied to the besieged army by the vaqueros (cowboys) and Indians from the town outside the fort. They would round up the wild mission cattle, and at night, bring the cattle or meat into the quadrangle. Also, frequent forays from the presidio were made to secure food.

The most noted of these raids has gone down in history as "The Battle of the White Cow". Magee's men were attempting to capture and drive into the fort a white cow that was grazing on the slope between the presidio and river. She ran toward the river and the enemy just across the stream at Espiritu Santo. The Spaniards ran to her aid and gallantly defended her. The ensuing fight between the two armies lasted two hours. The Republican officers claim to have killed two hundred Spaniard Royalists and that they themselves lost only one man killed and six wounded. The Royalists' claims of casualties are just the reverse.

For some time during the early winter, hostilities seemed to have quieted down, or entirely stopped. In fact, a strange fraternizing began between the officers of the opposing armies, who visited and dined with one another.

Magee, by invitation, dined with Salcedo in the latter's quarters. Wine and liquor flowed freely. For some reason, probably too many drinks, Magee agreed to deliver up the fort to the Royalists, on Salcedo's word that the Americans were to be allowed to return to the United States but without their arms. Further, they would be supplied on their march home by the victores, the Royalists.

Magee returned to the fort and made known to his officers and men the proposed surrender and terms. The men were surprised and indignity refused to hear to it, and it was unanimously voted to reject the treaty. The men were highly indignant at the betrayal by the commander and made known their resolution not to give up the effort by striking the butts of their guns against the ground. In chagrin, Magee retired to his quarters and refused to leave them again. On the vote of the army, Colonel Kemper was now made commander. Gutierrez was in nominal command but refused to take any stand, and was, in any case, not a military commander by training. Thus, the command devolved upon Colonel Kemper, who proved to be an able leader.

In a few days, a curt note came from Salcedo, accompanied by a flag. The note reminded Magee of his word of honor and demanded the treaty be fulfilled. The flag was sent back without an answer.

Upon this, Salcedo made a furious attack on La Bahia, took the town, and advanced to the walls of the fort. The Americans somewhat disorganized by the recent defection of their former commander, were at first thrown into confusion and did not put up a strong defense. Finally, under the leadership of Colonel Kemper, they sallied out, attacked the enemy, and drove them from the walls and across the river. The fight lasted until dark. The victors claimed the Royalists lost about 200 men, that their own loss was much less.

Magee had not left his quarters during the battle and that night shot himself - make your own decision as to how he died. Castaneda's record gives it that "Magee took sick...By the end of January he was delirious... On February 6, 1813, Augustus Magee who had sat his mount so bravely and who was so sure of the future, died. He did not, as Gutierrez charged, commit suicide by taking poison.

John Henry Brown claims Magee died of consumption. Captain McKim, a veteran quartermaster of the army, told it that Magee drank very heavily, and in a drunken spree, shot himself. Yoakum says, "Magee had not left his quarters during the battle. That night, shortly after twelve o'clock, he died, and it is said, by his own hands."

After their decisive defeat, Salcedo and Herrera raised the siege on February 19 and returned to San Antonio, followed by Kemper and his men who again defeated the Royalists in the pitched battle of Alazan, June 20, 1813. This was to be the last victory for the Republicans. Arredondo brought a new army from Mexico, which aided by dissension among the Americans and Mexican leaders, brought on the disastrous defeat of the Republicans in the Battle of Medina. The Royalist leaders butchered Salcedo, Herrera, and twelve or more prominent San Antonio men after they had surrendered. So shocked were the American leaders, Kemper, Perry, Ross, Warren, and other officers, that they asked for furloughs and returned to Natchitoches. Thus ended the American's part in the Gutierrez-Magee Filibuster.

After the battle of Medina (see battle of Medina below), August 18, 1813, some few Republicans escaped the terrible slaughter of 1,000 of their men. Of those who escaped, some fled to La Bahia where they joined their friends who were supposed to hold that fort. However, all thought it was safer to retreat to Natchitoches in the United States.

The loyalists remaining behind immediately took over, organized a temporary city council, arrested the remaining Republicans, proclaimed their allegiance to the royal government and reported to Arredondo. Pleased with the loyalty of these good subject to the King, Arredondo immediately sent Captain Luciano Garcia with eighty men to help the Loyalists restore law and order and to the garrison the for of La Bahia. 3




Battle of Medina - El Encinal de Medina 1813

Aside from the siege at Presidio La Bahia, the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil took place in a sandy valley in present day Atascosa County, north of the Medina River in 1813, twenty-three years before the battles of the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto. Estimates of up to 1,000 Americans and Mexican republicans were killed or executed in the last major encounter of Spanish forces in Texas. Spaniards called it the battle of "El Encinal de Medina."

The battle of El Encinal de Medina would be significant as lessons from that engagement by two future adversaries in 1836 would be learned, Antonio López de Santa Anna and Sam Houston. Sam Houston was not a participant in the battle of Medina, but he did have knowledge of the tactics used by Commandant Arredondo during the battle.

"...Don Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was a young lieutenant - not yet twenty, but with five years as a soldier behind him - when he accompanied Arredondo on his march north and became a participant in the battle of Medina. Others with Commandant Joaquín de Arredondo at Medina who were later to figure prominently in Texas affairs were Cristobal Dominguez, interim governor 1813; Juan Jose Elguezabal, Mexican governor 1834 - 1835; Antonio Elosua, ayudante inspector of Coahuila and Texas 1826 - 1833; Luciana Garcia, interim Mexican governor 1823; Ygnacio Perez, interim governor 1816 - 1817; and Domingo Ugartechea, a well-liked Mexican commander during most of the Second Texas Revolution (1835 - 1836)...It is interesting to speculate whether Santa Anna would have gone on to become the "Napoleon of the West" if he had not had the experience in el encinal de Medina which led to the crystallization of some of the foregoing rules for aggressive warfare by Commandant Arrdondo to his field commanders:

"...4th: Your to observe the strictest military rule while on the road from Laredo to Bejar, taking the greatest possible precaution to avoid an ambush or nocturnal attack upon your camp.

5th: Should the enemy...[be in position] so much to his advantage that you consider it unlikely that you can defeat him, then you will avoid attacking him and manage your maneuvers to entice him to fight on different ground, ...by undertaking a false retreat for a league or two.

6th: ...Your own well-located artillery should deliver the first destructive blows. The cavalry in two columns will attract the enemy's attention to the flanks at the rear, taking advantage of any weakness or negligence... Upon noticing the slightest disorder or indecision within the enemy's ranks, a bayonet charge will be rapidly unleashed,... Once the action has begun, any vacillation is dangerous; victory is gained by the one who, without doubting his success for even a second, attacks or resists with the greatest order, promptitude courage.

7th: ...The slightest disorder is to be avoided, including that which is sometimes caused by the over enthusiasm of the soldiers.

8th: ...Any calamitous event of any sort in these regions so far from aid would be irreparable, hence for that reason, nothing will be left to chance." 1

With the above rules of engagement, the stage was set for another critical battle that would take place twenty-three years later on a plain called San Jacinto. The reader can imagine the Texian army as they seemed to follow the above rules of engagement issued by Commandant Arredondo to his field commanders before the battle of Medina. Sam Houston had knowledge of the tactics used by Commandant Arredondo at the battle of Medina and made note of it in an 1837 letter to Albert Sidney Johnston, then commanding the Republic of Texas Army.

"Hard drinking, irascible, closemouthed old Sam Houston, who finally out-retreated Santa Anna and licked him at San Jacinto, got his military baptism in the War of 1812. Fighting Creek Indians in Alabama, where he was gravely wounded, Houston could hardly have had much concern with, nor knowledge of, a battle fought in the far reaches of Spanish Texas, but the lengthened shadow of that grim fight apparently did make impact on him. More of a diplomat and politician than a fighter, he seems to have drawn much the same lesson from the Media battle as did Santa Anna. Shortly after Houston became President of the second Republic of Texas, on February 7, 1837, he wrote the following to Albert Sidney Johnston
2, then commanding the Republic of Texas Army:

In the event [at any time] of an engagement with the enemy one thing must be borne in mind, and cannot be too strongly impressed upon our troops which is: that the enemy may yield at first so as to draw our army into an ambuscade as they did at the battle of Medina when the Americans owning to their impetuosity and want of order were all destroyed.
1

The critical lessons learned in the battle of Medina would be ignored, or overlooked by Santa Anna and taken advantage of by Sam Houston in 1836 at San Jacinto.



Moses Austin Granted Permission To Establish Anglo-American Colony - 1820

On December 26, 1820, the Spanish government grants Moses Austin permission to establish a colony of Anglo-Americans in the Texas area. When he dies the following June, his son, Stephen F. Austin, receives authority to continue the colonizing effort.



Mexican Independence - 1821

Centralist Flag of the Republic of Mexico



 

Mexico, after being under the stronghold of the Spanish dictators who had ruled since Cortex, had struggled and gained her freedom from Spain on August 24, 1821. The final push for independence resulted from Mexican reaction to revolutionary events in Spain that undermined the last vestiges of

Spanish authority in the colonies.

In January 1820 an army assembled in Cádiz for an attempt to raconteur Argentina mutinied and sparked rebellion among other army units throughout Spain. Joined in revolt by liberals, radicals, and anyone opposed to Ferdinand's absolutist rule of the previous six years, the rebellious military forced the king to restore the Constitution of 1812. Once seated, the constitutional Cortes proved unwilling to address American grievances or to extend equal standing to colonials within the new order. Political tensions between reform-minded Mexicans and colonial authorities led Agustín de Iturbide, a royal officer with a record of success against earlier rebels, to come to terms with the leading Mexican insurgent at the time, Vicente R. Guerrero. Together, on February 24, 1821, they proposed a blueprint for independence called the Plan de Iguala. The plan offered three guarantees-preservation of the Catholic Church's status, the independence of Mexico as a constitutional monarchy, and equality of Spaniards and criollos. Although viceregal authorities tried to resist, the plan met with widespread approval both in civilian and military quarters. By the end of July 1821, when Juan O'Donoju arrived to take over the reins of colonial government, the loyalists controlled only Mexico City and Veracruz. Recognizing that all was lost, O'Donoju met with Iturbide at the town of Córdoba, where on August 24, 1821, he signed a treaty granting Mexico independence. 4




The James Long Expedition - 1821

Flag Of The Second Republic Of Texas  

The James Long expedition (Second Republic of Texas) occupied the presidio in October 1821 and held La Bahia for three days. On the fourth day they were captured by the Mexican army and sent to San Antionio and finally to Mexico City as prisoners. James Long was accidently shot and killed

by a guard, but it was possible that the guard had been hired to kill Long by Jose Felix Tresplalacios, nominal commander of the Long expedition.




The Constitution of 1824

The Constitution of 1824 (signed into power on October 24, 1824), the first of the newly independent Republic of Mexico, was the document under which DeWitt Colonists were invited to emigrate to the Republic. It was this document under which the colonists assumed they were protected and the one they swore to defend.

The constitution defined Legislative power: House of Representatives, Senate, formulation of laws, Supreme Executive Power of the Nation: President and Vice-President, restrictions of the President, Secretaries of State, Supreme Court, Circuit Courts, District Courts, Rules to which all the States and Territories in the Federation shall conform in the administration of Justice, individual government of the States, obligations of the States, and Restrictions of the Powers of the State.

Upon assuming dictatorial powers in 1834, Santa Anna promptly annulled Gómez Farías's reforms and abolished the constitution of 1824. The authoritarian principles that underlay Santa Anna's rule were subsequently codified in the constitution of 1836, also known as the Siete Leyes (Seven Laws). Under the constitution of 1836, Mexico became a centralist regime in which power was concentrated in the president and his immediate subordinates. The states of the former federal republic were refashioned as military districts administered by regional caudillos (head of a political party, chieftain) appointed by the president, and property qualifications were decreed for congressional officeholders and voters.

The nationalist and authoritarian style of the new centralist regime soon brought it into conflict with the loosely governed lands of Mexico's northern frontier. Santa Anna's efforts to exert central authority over the English-speaking settlements in the northern state of Coahuila-Tejas eventually collided with the growing assertiveness of the frontier population that described itself as Texan.

When President Santa Anna declared the Constitution of 1824 void in 1834, the loyal Texas colonist and many Tejano's began to speak of revolting (not a revolution) to have the Constitution re-enstated. When it was realized that the Constitution of 1824 would not be re-enstated, the colonist along with some of the Tejano's would begin a revolution of independence.




Name of La Bahia Settlement Changed To Goliad - 1829

 

The fort is the site where Goliad history began. The location of the fort had been an occupied site long before Spain arrived in the New World. Strategically located on a high elevation overlooking the surrounding area, the Spanish arrived here in 1749 and found evidence of an Indian Village in the area they named Santa Dorotea. A permanent settlement by Spain began, the town of La Bahia grew up around the protection of the fort. This town was the original Goliad, the name being changed by petition of Rafael Antonio Manchola from La Bahia in 1829 as an anagram for Hidalgo, in honor of the patriot priest of the Mexican Revolution, Father Miguel Hidalgo, who sounded the famous "Grito de Delores" in 1810 for Mexican Independence from Spain. This town became the second largest populated settlement in Spanish Texas.

Click Here To Learn More About Madame Garcia's

The painting above by Marilyn Key depicts what a local house of entertainment (Madame Garcia's) may have looked like prior to the Texas Revolution. Located just outside of the southeast bastion of the presidio walls. Madame Garcia's had a bridge linking the bastion and the roof of Madame Garcia's. Click the above painting to learn more about Madame Garcia's.


After the Texas Revolution, the town of Goliad moved north across the San Antonio River to its present day location.





Commanders At Presidio La Bahia
Year
Name Of Commander
1721 to 1723 Domingo Ramon at Garcitas
1724 Diego Ramon
1724 - 1730 Juan Antonio Bustillo y Ceballos
1730 (Fall of) - 1735 Captain Don Gabriel Costales
1736 - 1749 Captain Joaquin Orobio y Basterra
1749 - 1767 Captain Manuel Ramirez
1767 - 1772 Captain Francisco Tovar
1772 - 1778 Don Louis Cazorla
1778 - 1781 Lt. Eugenio Fernandez (temporality)
1781 - 1784 Jose Santoja
1784 - 1788 Captain Luis Cazorla (died during an epidemic in 1788, as did his 2nd in command, Lt. Jose Santoja)
1788 - 1791 Manuel Espadas
1795 - 1798 Captain Juan Cortez (while his administration was being investigated, Bernardo Fernandez was temporarily appointed until April, 1798, Ad Interim Commander - Juan Bautista Elguezabal - 1797-98)
1798 - 1799 Jose Miguel del Moral
1799 Francisco Xavier ranga
1812 Captain Luciano Garcia
1813 Captain Lorenzo Serrano
1817 Don Jesus Aldrete
1817 Captain Juan de Castaneda
1819 Juan Manuel Sambrano
1821 Alcalde Buentello
1821 Agabo de Ayala
1823 Jose Miguel Aldrete
1825 Don Jose Hernandez
1830 Jose Miguel Aldrete
1831 Rafael Manchola
1832 Juan Jose Hernandez
1835 Lieutenant Col. Sandoval, Captain Sabariego, and Ensign Garza

 

 
____________

1 Forgotten Battlefield Of The First Texas Revolution, 1985, by: Ted Schwarz, Robert H. Thornhoff, Editor and Annotator, 123 - 125
2 Two of General Johnston's brothers were said to have been participants in the Medina battle.
3 Presidio La Bahia, by Kathryn Stoner O'Connor.
4 Texas Handbook Online
 

 

 
 
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