23 June 2008

Georgia on my mind...

Ok, so this blog has seen a lot of sites pertaining to the colonizing of the Georgia/Florida coast, so now I think it is time to consolidate all of that into an easy to read post. So to begin I have made this composite Google Earth image showing the major sites. The red circle at the top is Savannah, GA, and the blue arrow next to it points north towards Charleston, SC. Moving south, the green circle is Darien, GA, also the location of Fort King George. The light greenish circle beneath it is St Simons Island, where Fort St Simons,Bloody Marsh, and Fort Frederica are located. Next is the long yellow circle around Cumberland Island, then the purple one is Fort Caroline, near modern day Jacksonville. Finally the next yellowish circle is St Augustine, and the bottom red circle is Fort Matanzas. Now that you see where everything is, here is the story:
On April 3, 1513, Ponce De Leon became the first Europeon to set foot on the continental US. Legend says that he sailed north from Puerto Rico in search of a fountain of youth, though historians dispute whether this is actually true. In any case, he landed near present day St Augustine.
Despite this, French Hugenots under Jean Jacques Ribault arrived in the area of what is now Jacksonville in 1562, which they claimed as French territory.They then went on to an area near modern Port Royal South Carolina, set another claim, and went back to France. In 1564 they returned under Rene de Goulaine de Laudonniere with about 250 settlers. This group established Fort Caroline on a bluff overlooking what they called the river of May, now the St. Johns river in Jacksoville. Ribault returned in 1565 with more supplies and settlers. In that same year, Spain sent Admiral Pedro Menendez to drive off the French colony.
The Spanish landed under Pedro Menedez de Aviles to found St Augustine on September 8, 1565. This also became the site of the first mass held in America under Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales. They named the site Nombre de Dios, or Name of God.
Ribault learned of the Spanish settlement and sailed down the coast to attack it, but his ships were caught in a storm and they disembarked to the south of St. Augustine in the area of what is now Daytona beach. At the same time, Menendez went north with intentions to attack Fort Caroline. On Sep 20, 1565, they attacked, meeting little resistance as most of the French force was far to the south. The Spanish slaughtered 140 men, women, and children, saying they were heathens. This is a reflection of the Catholics and Protestants struggle with each other in Europe. Supposedly, about 70 women and children were spared when Menendez learned what was happening and ordered that they not be killed. After attacking Fort Caroline, which they now renamed Fort San Mateo, the Spanish headed south to find the French forces. At an inlet south of St. Augustine, the two forces met, and the French, having lost their weapons in the storm were compelled to surrender. Menendez gathered them in small groups, and then led them into the jungle where they were slaughtered if they did not convert to Catholicism or were not of a useful trade. Over 300 French were killed at that inlet that earned the name Matanzas, Spanish for slaughter. Later, in 1568, French under Dominique de Gourgues arrived at now Fort San Mateo to get their revenge. They allied with the local Timuquan indians that their predecessors had befriended and attacked the fort and killed nearly 400 Spanish. Despite this, the Spanish continued to use the fort until it was abandoned in 1569.
The Castillo de San Marcos, in St Augustine, was built from 1672 to 1695, in response to pirate attacks. Prior to its construction, the town had been defended by a series of wooden forts. Like many structures in the area, it was made of Coquina blocks, a sort of natural concrete containg tiny shells, quarried from Anastasia Island across the river. In 1670, the British founded Charles Town in South Carolina, and in 1702 they laid siege to the town under command of James Moore. The British canon shots had little effect on the coquina walls, and the siege was broken when the Spanish fleet arrived from Cuba, trapping the British and forcing them to burn their ships.
The Spanish established missions in along the Georgia coast, But when the English settled in Charles Town (now Charleston, SC) they incited Indian raids, causing the Spanish to fall back to St. Augustine. In 1721, John "Tuscarora Jack" Barnwell got British approval and built here Fort King George. The fort was intended to create a buffer zone for the South Carolina colony from the Spanish in Florida, and the French to the west along the Mississippi river. The soldiers at the fort were known as His Majesties Independent Company, and was comprised mostly of older veterans of British wars who were considered too old for front line duty. But the weather, insects and disease had a toll on the garrison, killing two thirds of it in the first year, and in 1727, the fort was abbandoned. The original is now long gone, but has been reconstructed by the Georgia park service on the original site based on drawings and foundations found during excavation.
In 1733, the city of Savannah was founded by James Oglethorpe as a buffer against Spanish aggression from Florida. From its beginning, it was a unique and risky venture. It was the first colony to be founded by a board of trustees, was founded by persons who were imprisoned for debts, and was founded with laws against slavery, liquor and gambling. It was the result of fears for the British colony of Charleston, SC of attack from the Spanish in St Augustine, FL. The Savannah charter stated that the southern boundary of the colony was officially the Altamaha river, roughly halfway down the modern GA coast.He also established two forts on St Simons Island, two on Cumberland Island, and one on the St John's river, near modern day Jacksonville. While every move southward upset the Spanish, it was the St John's River fort that tipped the balance. A Spanish delegation hammered out a treaty with Oglethorpe that directed the removal of the southernmost fort, but allowed the rest. The actual boundary, they concluded, would be decided by their respective home countries. In the mean time, both sides strengthened their forces and defenses. The Spanish effort was of course concentrated at St Augustine, while the British effort was focused on one of the St Simons Island forts by the name of Fort Frederica.
Built in 1736, this fort was named for Frederick, the Prince of Wales, and enclosed about 40 acres. One side of the fort was on the inland waterway on the western shore of the island, and contained a massive battery to defend against a sea assault. It was a completely enclosed community, with every imaginable occupation and amenity for the time. A military road connected the fort with Fort St Simons, on the southern end of the island. Stationed at Frederica was the 42nd Regiment of Foot, the main part of the British defenses, accompanied by Rangers, Militia, and Indians.
Also in 1736, a group of Highlander Scots were chosen to settle in the area where Fort King George was The new site was selected and named Darien in honor the former Scottish settlement in what is now Panama. That settlement was established in 1698, but due to the Spanish and disease, it was abandoned in 1699. Darien was a center for rice, sugar, indigo, and cotton, until the Civil War.
The Spanish established Fort Mose in 1738 just north of St. Augustine in Spanish Florida, named Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, as a haven for runaway slaves from the British Colonies. The slaves were given their freedom in this community in exchange for their service as militia and as the first line of defense against possible British invasion. Simple thatched houses were built inside the log and earth wall, and the surrounding fields were for their farms.
In 1739, the predictions of both sides were fulfilled when war finally began. The "War of Jenkins’s Ear", began when an English sea captain named Jenkins presented his ear to the British Parliament. The ear had been cut off by the Spanish when he was caught illegally trading in a Spanish port. When word of the declaration of war arrived, Oglethorpe decided to strike the Spanish before they could prepare. In May 1740, his expedition left for St Augustine, laid siege to the city, and occupied Fort Mose, which had been abandoned as the inhabitants had fled to St Augustine. The British used this as a base to bombard St Augustine, and attack forragers who ventured outside the city walls. But on June 26, 300 Black Militia and Spanish soldiers under Francisco Menendez attacked and recaptired the fort, taking 34 prisoners and killing 68 British. The blockade of St Augustine did not cover Matanzas inlet, so the Spanish managed to bring supplies in through this inlet and survive until the siege was given up. This event prompted the Spanish to build a fort on the inlet. and the English returned to Georgia on July 20, having lost 172 soldiers.
The following June, a Spanish force of about 3,000 men sailed north to attack St Simons. When bad weather disrupted their attempts to land on the eastern coast of the island, the Spanish risked sailing past Fort St Simons to the inland waterway. The ships made it by without a single loss. The Spanish landed on the inland side of the island, causing the British to pull all of their forces to defend Fort Frederica. Then, July 7, became the day that decide the fate of the great experiment. The Spanish sent a scouting expedition north along the military road, to gather information about the British positions. The scouts encountered a band of British Rangers to Gully Hole Creek, about a half mile from Frederica. The Spanish gathered in the woods near the fort to consider their options, while in the fort, Oglethorpe grabbed every soldier who was immediately available, and rushed out of the fort to confront the enemy. In the history of great military risks, this one was very high on the list, but in this case, it worked. The Spanish defense collapsed, and fled back towards the Spanish camp. All told, they had lost 34 men, while British losses were negligible.
Oglethorpe pursued the fleeing Spanish down the military road with about 200 men. They stopped at the edge of a clearing in the woods, and set up defensive positions. The Spanish, hearing of the rout, sent two companies from their main camp to escort the retreating soldiers. These companies marched north to the clearing where the British were waiting, and the Spanish were engulfed in a volley of British fire. The remaining Spanish deployed into battle formation and returned fire, causing the 42nd Regiment British soldiers to retreat, while a group of Highland Scots held the line at the edge of the marsh. Oglethorpe, returning from Frederica with reinforcements, arrived just in time to see the battle end. Thus, this battle, with only a handful of casualties, became one of the most legendary and near mythical battles of Colonial America: The Battle of Bloody Marsh. Following the battle, the Spanish, fearing rumored British reinforcements from Charleston, left St Simons and sailed to St Augustine, never to attack the British Colonies again.
In September 1742 Fort Matanzas was almost complete when Oglethorpe returned. His ships were repulsed by fire around St. Augustine, so they attempted the Matanzas inlet, expecting the fort to still be incomplete. The fort's canon fired on the ships and they departed, realizing this plan would not work either.In 1752, Fort Mose was rebuilt on slightly higher ground. This community thrived until 1763, when Florida was ceded to britain, and the residents of Fort Mose fled to Spanish Cuba, while other major Spanish forts were occupied by the British.
So this is the story of Georgia and Florida, and the struggle between the British, French, and Spanish for control of the new land. Oglethorpe became the only founder of an American Colony to live to see the Revolution, begining the next major chapter in Georgia's history.

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