Group Title: Florida : from the beginning to 1992 : a Columbus jubilee commemorative
Title: Florida
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00025122/00009
 Material Information
Title: Florida from the beginning to 1992 : a Columbus jubilee commemorative
Physical Description: xii, 204 p. : ill. (some col.), maps ; 29 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Coker, William S
Shofner, Jerrell H., 1929-
Morris, Joan Perry, 1935-
Malone, Myrtle Davidson
Publisher: Pioneer Publications
Place of Publication: Houston Tex. (12345 Jones Rd. Suite 103 Houston 77070-4843)
Publication Date: c1991
 Subjects
Subject: Industries -- Florida   ( lcsh )
History -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 201-203) and index.
Statement of Responsibility: by William S. Coker and Jerrell H. Shofner ; Joan Perry Morris, photo editor ; edited by Myrtle D. Malone.
Funding: Funded by a grant from the Florida Humanities Council
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00025122
Volume ID: VID00009
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: Board of Trustees of the University of Florida on behalf of authors and contributors. All rights reserved.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001747568
oclc - 25790765
notis - AJG0402
lccn - 91066897

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Chapter 9
Spanish East Florida, 1783-1821


The history of Spanish East Florida, 1783-1821, is dominated by plots,
counterplots, insurrections and invasions conducted largely by Anglo-
American banditti, filibusterers, freebooters and frontiersmen. Such problems
made the Floridas virtually impossible to govern. When combined with
inadequate economic support and a constant need for military troops and
supplies, it is a wonder that the Spanish Floridas survived as long as they did.
The Spanish governors deserve much credit for maintaining law and order in
East Florida under such conditions.

East Florida Characterized

When Spain regained East Florida in 1783, the boundaries were the same
as those of British East Florida. Basically, it included the entire Florida
peninsula, but not the Panhandle. The Apalachicola River marked the
western boundary. San Agustin de la Florida continued as the capital of the
colony. San Marcos de Apalache on the Gulf of Mexico was still included in
the territory of East Florida, but it was largely supported, supplied and
manned from Pensacola in West Florida. Fernandina on Amelia Island
became important as a commercial center where goods and slaves were
smuggled into Georgia. Indian towns and the villages of black maroons and
runaway slaves were located west and south of the St. Johns River.
Plantations and a few trading posts stretched along that river and north to the
St. Marys. The Spaniards erected several forts, more properly outposts, on
the St. Johns and St. Marys rivers and at Fernandina.

To begin with, a number of Anglo-Americans, other non-Spaniards, and
their slaves formed the bulk of the population. St. Augustine was the center of
the Spanish-speaking population with a few soldiers stationed at the various
outposts. Of course, the Minorcans, Italians and Greeks from New Smyrna
constituted an important and large part of St. Augustine's population.

The Transition from British to Spanish Rule

Brigadier General Don Vicente Manuel de Zespedes y Velasco stepped
ashore at St. Augustine on June 27, 1784. Gov. Patrick Tonyn met him and
received the orders signed by George III for the formal transfer of East Florida

1
From:
Coker, William S., et al. Florida :from the beginning to 1992. Houston, TX : Pioneer
Publications, C 1991.
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with the permission of the authors. Intended for
educational use only.









from British to Spanish rule. Zespedes was not impressed with what he saw.
Storms and bad weather dashed his plans for a big celebration for the change
of flags ceremony. The formal transfer finally took place on July 12, but Tonyn
remained in East Florida until November 1785. Thus, for the first sixteen
months of his governorship, Zespedes had Tonyn underfoot. Tonyn was
responsible for the departure of thousands of British subjects, and he spent
much of his time arguing with Zespedes about how to run things.

The 'Banditti'

Dan McGirtt (also McGirt) and his followers had been a real pain in the
side of Governor Tonyn. Among other things, they were involved in stealing
livestock and slaves. Tonyn had McGirtt arrested, but he managed to escape.
Hoping to rid the colony of such problems, Zespedes offered people like
McGirtt clemency and permission to leave the colony. McGirtt accepted
Zespedes' offer, but rather than leave the colony, he continued his old ways.
Zespedes finally had enough and ordered McGirtt's arrest and transfer to
Havana for trial. Although that ended Zespedes' immediate problems with
McGirtt and his banditti, McGirtt was only one in a long series of problems
that confronted the governors of Spanish East Florida.

Population of East Florida

For a while at least, it seemed as if Spanish life and culture in Florida
would flourish. Governor Zespedes supported greater trade with the United
States. "Our vessels are welcomed with the greatest cordiality by the
Spaniards," wrote on American visitor. "Governor Zespedes pays the
greatest attention to every American who comes properly recommended."
Town itself saw a vibrant mix of people. For a while, Irish soldiers fighting for
Spain garrisoned the Castillo. The Minorcans were busy as farmers,
carpenters, masons, sailors, and merchants. French and English settlers
came into the province, and free people of color again established a presence
there. Although Fort Mose was never revived, a black general from Haiti,
Jorge Biassou, arrived in town, and trained free men of color in the use of
arms. They became one of the colony's five militia units and served with
distinction during the War of 1812 in Florida.






2
From:
Coker, William S., et al. Florida :from the beginning to 1992. Houston, TX : Pioneer
Publications, C 1991.
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with the permission of the authors. Intended for
educational use only.






















7 Jorge Biassou. From Vida de J.J. Dessalines, gefe de los
negroes de Santo Domingo (traducida del Frances).
Printed for Juan L6pez Cancelada, M6xico, 1806.


The use of slave labor continued for the British Period, however.
Runaway slaves from the United States still fled into Florida, and some
achieved freedom. But there were only about 200 to 300 free people of color
there, and more than 2000 people in slavery on the plantations. So only
about 1 out of every 11 people gained their freedom. The slave trade was
also a big business in Florida, and most colonists living in the town of
Fernandina, on Amelia Island, made part of their fortunes by buying and
selling slaves.



Life in St. Augustine

St. Augustine once again became a lively Spanish town. Feast days
were celebrated with masquerades and wandering minstrels. The night
watch had to patrol the noisy taverns, where men gambled at cards and
billiards. In 1789, residents paid tribute to the coronation of King Charles IV
of Spain with processions, plays, music, illuminations, and dances. The town
also underwent a building spree, as merchants and planters constructed new
two story houses of coquina stone with balconies and arcaded open-air
loggias.







3
From:
Coker, William S., et al. Florida :from the beginning to 1992. Houston, TX : Pioneer
Publications, C 1991.
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with the permission of the authors. Intended for
educational use only.

















I i n I ,

The Segui House, St. Augustine, built around 1800 (now the St. Augustine Historical Society Library). It
was the home of a wealthy Minorcan merchant. Note the large double door, the central balcony, and (at
the back of the house) the open-air lower and upper loggias.

Art and literature came to Florida as well. Military officers read Don
Quixote and the Commentaries of Julius Caesar. Without a local press,
people waited eagerly for the mails to bring newspapers from Charleston and
Havana, and took great interest in following events in Europe or the
deliberations in the U.S. Congress. Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ and
the Letters of the Count Chesterfield were popular works of morality. Soon
the town had a boy's school, a military hospital, and a new parish church
(now the Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine). But the wars of Europe and the
ambitions of Americans cast their shadows over Florida once again.

The French Revolution and Intrigues in Florida

The French Revolution, and especially the execution of King Louis XVI in
1793, had a profound effect on Spain and its colonies. The French Republic
and the Spanish monarchy abandoned nearly 100 years of alliance and went
to war. So when the Frenchman Edmond Genet arrived in South Carolina in
April 1793 as the minister of the new French Republic to the United States, he
brought with him some very ambitious plans. Since France and Spain were
now enemies, Genet planned to raise an army in the U.S. and, with the
assistance of the French navy, capture Spanish East, Spanish West Florida,
and Spanish Louisiana. His plans were too grandiose, however, and soon he
focused on East Florida alone.

Genet recruited an American, Col. Samuel Hammond of Georgia, to
command the "Revolutionary Forces of the Floridas," as he called the army
he was setting up. Hammond quickly encouraged friends, relatives and others
to join in the conspiracy. Among the more prominent recruits was a veteran of
the American Revolution named John Mclntosh. Mclntosh came from a

4
From:
Coker, William S., et al. Florida :from the beginning to 1992. Houston, TX : Pioneer
Publications, C 1991.
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with the permission of the authors. Intended for
educational use only.









leading Georgia family, but had moved his family into East Florida to gain new
lands. He and Hammond spent the fall of 1793 preparing to overthrow the
government of Florida. But Gov. Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada learned of
their plans early on and moved to counter the threat.

Quesada appealed to the U.S. Congress, and to the states of Georgia and
South Carolina, to end the menace. Then he prepared to defend the
province. He ordered the forts strengthened, recruited a large band of Indian
warriors and received some reinforcements from Cuba. In January 1794,
Quesada had the East Florida ringleaders arrested. Meanwhile, President
George Washington insisted that Minister Genet be recalled to France
because of all the trouble he was stirring up.

Invasion of 1795

The Genet episode had been over about a year when in June 1795, a
force of about 170 Georgians and East Floridians attacked Forts Juana and
San Nicolas on the St. Johns River, and threatened St. Augustine. Governor
Quesada sent a military force north to the St. Johns and recaptured Fort San
Nicolas without opposition. He also reinforced Fernandina on Amelia Island
and chased the rebels back across the Georgia border. This ended any real
threat to East Florida for a few years. However, Quesada used every soldier
he could find, including a militia made up of free men of color, many of them
former slaves. A regiment from Mexico also contained black soldiers. The
white residents of Georgia hated the idea of black troops operating near their
border, and later accused the Spaniards in Florida of trying to start a slave
rebellion. Quesada also confiscated the property of people who aided the
rebellion. Many of these moved to Camden County, Georgia, where they
bitterly waited for a chance to get even.

The War of 1812 and the "Patriots" of East Florida

In 1810 and 1811 another attempt to seize Florida got underway.
President James Madison sent George Mathews, a former governor of
Georgia, to talk to the governors of East and West Florida about surrendering
their territories to the United States. The United States would compensate
Spain, Mathews was to say, in return for a peaceful transfer of lands. Neither
governor accepted the offer and soon Mathews was engaged in a plot to take
East Florida by force. His plan was simple. He would create a group of rebels



5
From:
Coker, William S., et al. Florida :from the beginning to 1992. Houston, TX : Pioneer
Publications, C 1991.
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with the permission of the authors. Intended for
educational use only.









called the "Patriots of East Florida." They would declare independence, then
seek help from the United States to drive out the Spanish military.

On March 12, 1812, Mathews' "Patriots" proclaimed their independence
and extended an invitation for all people in East Florida to join them. The
Patriot flag displayed a soldier in blue with a white background. Their motto
was Vox populi, lex supreme the voice of the people is the supreme law.

On March 17, some 180 Patriots seized the town of Fernandina on Amelia
Island. The Spanish officer, Col. Justo L6pez, tried to repel them. But the
U.S. Navy got involved, sending gunboats down the Amelia River to threaten
the town. The next day, American infantry, marines, and riflemen from
Georgia occupied Fernandina, and Mathews sent word to the president and
Congress that Florida was about to become American territory.

The Patriots, joined by American soldiers, then headed for St. Augustine.
Again they demanded surrender, but Gov. Juan de Estrada, a Cuban-born
officer in the Spanish army, stubbornly defied them. Soon news arrived that
President Madison was not going to support the actions of Mathews and the
Patriots. Even so, the president could not easily withdraw the U.S. troops
inside Florida. On June 18th, 1812, the United States declared war on Great
Britain. The president and his advisors decided American soldiers needed to
stay in Florida in order to protect Georgia from attack. For months, Spanish
and American soldiers-not even officially at war-faced each other in a long
standoff. By late summer, the Seminoles entered the fight and began
ambushing American camps. The free black militia of St. Augustine also went
into action. In September, they ambushed an American supply train near St.
Augustine, and forced American troops to pull back several miles to the St.
Johns River. Lieut. Prince Whitten, a former slave from South Carolina, was
the officer leading the attack.

Ultimately, the Patriots were not successful in their efforts to take over
East Florida. In May of 1813, American troops returned to Georgia, more
worried about threats from the British than problems with the Spanish. But
this was only the beginning of troubles that would end Spanish rule in Florida.

The Green Cross of Florida

The next attempt to wrest East Florida from Spain came in the summer of
1817. Gen. Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish soldier of fortune who had gained a
reputation as a revolutionary in South America, landed on Amelia Island. As


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From:
Coker, William S., et al. Florida :from the beginning to 1992. Houston, TX : Pioneer
Publications, C 1991.
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with the permission of the authors. Intended for
educational use only.









it turned out, MacGregor had only 78 men, while the officer in charge on the
island, Capt. Francisco Morales, had a total of 84 men and 12 cannon.
Nevertheless, Morales surrendered without firing a shot. After Morales signed
the terms of capitulation, MacGregor's men raised their flag on the island, the
"Green Cross of Florida."

However, things did not go well on Amelia Island for MacGregor.
Desertion, mutiny and yellow fever seriously reduced his force. Desperately
short of funds and supplies, and obviously discouraged, he turned command
of the island over to Jared Irwin on September 4, 1817.


















Gregor McGregor and his men, with green feathers in their hats, take over Amelia Island, 1817.
From the files of the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, University of Florida.



Luis Aury

Now another revolutionary tried to take over the island. Luis Aury, a
French pirate, became leader of Amelia Island on September 21, 1817. He
immediately turned to privateering and slave trading. By capturing ships and
selling slaves, Aury's men made more than $500,000. Not only the Spanish
but the United States government decided that the situation on Amelia Island
was out of control





7
From:
Coker, William S., et al. Florida :from the beginning to 1992. Houston, TX : Pioneer
Publications, C 1991.
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with the permission of the authors. Intended for
educational use only.









The United States Acts


In late November 1817, news spread that people on Amelia Island were
about to declare independence. They elected representatives to prepare a
constitution for their new country. The U.S. had looked for a reason to
occupy Amelia Island, and President James Monroe decided to send in
troops. On Christmas Eve of 1817 American forces took over Amelia Island
and dislodged Luis Aury and his supporters.

The First Seminole War (1817-1818)

Meanwhile, American troops were entering other parts of East Florida. A
dispute with the Creek and Miccosukee Indians living between the
Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers had erupted into war. General Andrew
Jackson, who had led troops in Florida during the War of 1812, brought
soldiers from Tennessee on a search and destroy mission against the Indian
towns. In a matter of weeks, he pushed most of the Indians living near the
Georgia border deep into the Florida interior, and put their towns to the torch.
One young Indian who probably saw this destruction and remembered it was
Osceola, who would become a great leader of the Second Seminole War.
But for the moment, both Seminole and Spanish power in Florida was on the
retreat. (The First Seminole War is covered in more detail in the next
chapter).

The Adams-Onis Treaty

The constant fighting inside Florida was wearing down Spanish will power
to keep the territory. On February 22, 1819, Secretary of State John Quincy
Adams and the Spanish minister, Luis de Onis, signed a treaty that
transferred both East and West Florida to the United States. It took another
two years for both Spain and the United States to ratify the treaty. On July
10, 1821, in ceremonies in Pensacola and St. Augustine, East and West
Florida officially became American territory.










8
From:
Coker, William S., et al. Florida :from the beginning to 1992. Houston, TX : Pioneer
Publications, C 1991.
All rights reserved. Reprinted here with the permission of the authors. Intended for
educational use only.




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