It protected Umatac Bay, in the southwest of the island of Guam

Fort Soledad: one of the most remote military positions that Spain had

For centuries it was said that the sun did not set in the Spanish Empire, since it possessed territories in the most diverse places. One of those territories was Guaján.

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At a distance of 13,203 kilometers from Madrid, the island of Guaján was one of the most remote domains that Spain had. Located in the Pacific Ocean, this island, today known as Guam, has an area of 549 square kilometers and was protected by a series of fortifications, built between the 17th and 19th centuries. During the last century of Spanish presence on that island, which was part of Spain for 333 years, five fortifications were built, according to the Guampedia: Fort Santa Águeda (1800), Fort Santa Cruz (1801), Fort San José (1805), Fort Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (1810) and the semi-redoubts of Agaña (1835), in the capital of the island.

The Fort of Soledad in a photo taken in 2011 (Photo: Daderot).

The Fort of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad began to be built in 1802. It was located in the southwest of the island, on the reefs of Chalan Aniti, protecting the Bay of Umatac. It had seven cannons, of which three are preserved today, which still bear their Spanish shields. The fort was small in size, with a low masonry wall of irregular polygonal shape with six sides. It had a small building that served as accommodation for the soldiers and arsenal, as well as a sentry box.

Like the rest of the island, this fort passed into the hands of the United States in 1898 in a rather surreal way, since when the American cruiser USS Charleston (C-2) arrived on its shores, the June 20, 1898, the Spanish garrison of Guaján still did not know that Spain was at war with the US for two months (the last communication from Spain was received a few days before the start of hostilities), so when the American ship fired three cannon shots, the Spanish thought they were salutes.

An information panel showing the plan of the Fort de la Soledad. The text is in Chamorro (the indigenous language spoken on the island, with a strong Spanish influence), English and Japanese (Photo: Daderot).

The US takeover of Guam was completed without casualties on either side. The 57 Spanish soldiers on the island were taken prisoner, as they surrendered the island without offering any resistance. Although US forces had orders to destroy the island's Spanish defenses, Captain Henry Glass, commanding officer of the USS Charleston, left the Spanish forts intact after finding out their sorry state. Fort de la Soledad was turned into a public park after World War II, and was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Today its three cannons and old sentry box still look out towards the west, as old witnesses of the times when the first lights of dawn were received there in the Spanish Empire.

You can watch here a video from Exploring With Nick showing the Fort of la Soledad, including images recorded with a drone:

You can see below some video captures that show the current state of that fort. We begin with an overhead shot of the fort, taken with a drone, in which we can see the thick wall that was on the side of the cannons.

The photos of Daderot that we have seen above were taken in 2011. This video was recorded ten years later. These are the old Spanish cannons. The carriages must have been made recently, as the wood is very new.

One of the Spanish shields that decorate the canyons. The shield of Spain at the beginning of the 19th century bore the arms of Castilla y León, with the oval of the House of Bourbon in the center, the royal crown on the top of the coat of arms and the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece around it.

The old sentry box of Fuerte de la Soledad. Originally the walls of the fort were white, probably because they had been whitewashed. Time has made the dirt tarnish them.

The interior of the guardhouse. It had very small rectangular-shaped windows on three of its four sides.

The remains of the accommodation of the troops that were in the perimeter of the fort. It is the worst preserved part of all this military compound.


Main photo: Daderot.

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