Letters of Montiano Siege of St Augustine
Collections of the Georgia Historical Society. (Vol. VII. Part I)
Published by Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Ga.
(Savannah, Ga. : Savannah Morning News, 1909.)
Spanish Account of the
Battle of Fort Mose, June 1740.
In these letters, Governor Manuel de Montiano, governor of Florida, sends
news to Cuba about an English attack. He notes first that forces from
Georgia and South Carolina have come overland into northern Florida,
crossed the St. Johns River, and attacked the Espinosa plantation at Diego
Plains, about 20 miles north of St. Augustine. Montiano tried to repel the
invaders, but enemy ships arrived to blockade St. Augustine's harbor, and
soon the English forces controlled Anastasia Island, Fort Mose (2 miles north
of St. Augustine), and many other areas. From the island the English forces
began to fire at the Castillo de San Marcos with large mortars.
Compare Montiano's account of the retaking of Fort Mose with the
accounts by English soldiers who survived. How are they the same and how
do they differ? Which account is probably more accurate about life in the
English camp? Which one is probably more accurate about the size of the
Spanish attacking force? Which one do you think is more accurate about the
numbers of people killed and taken prisoner? Do winners and losers give the
same account of a battle? How do you know which account to trust?
Although both the English and Spanish accounts talk about a battle that
occurred on the same day, they give different dates for the battle. This is
because England and Spain used different calendars in 1740.
Castillo ................................. A fort.
Creeks, Yuchees.................... Indian allies of the English from Carolina
and Uchices and Georgia.
Letter No. 201
Governor Montiano seeks aid from his superior on Cuba
On the 25th ultimate, I sent Your Excellency news. Since then, I learn
in addition from a foreman of Espinosa's, that while his master and some
other workmen were busy at San Diego on field works, 50 Indian allies of
the English suddenly surrounded them, firing a volley into them, and so
killing one trooper and a negro of Don Diego de Espinosa's. Nevertheless
the others managed to get into shelter, except a negro of the monastery
of Saint Francis, who took to the woods. Him they consider dead. The
Indians having failed to capture anyone withdrew. These things being so,
I took the resolution of sending a sergeant and 12 men with a surgeon, to
bring back the wounded, and if necessary, to leave some people as
reinforcement, and then return. The sergeant not having returned in two
days, I sent a corporal of cavalry with six men, to discover anything that
might have occurred. He returned the next day, saying that he was
unable to reach Diego Plains, the enemy by spreading out far and wide
having given him no chance The captains have learned that the
enemy is stationed on this bar, and on that of Matanzas, and is in
possession of the Island of Santa Anastasia, and its watch-tower, of all
the beach of San Mateo, and maintains a camp at the village of Mose.
The ships blockading us are seven frigates of 23 to 30 guns, two packets
of 10 or 12 guns, three sloops, six schooners, and twelve scows exclusive
of boats and launches belonging to the vessels.
At this moment, which is nine o'clock in the forenoon, they have
opened with a mortar, firing large shells, a few splinters of which have
fallen into the Castillo, but most of them have passed over the lines, and
I assure Your Excellency that it is impossible to express the confusion
of this place, for we have here no protection except the Castillo, and all
the rest is open field. The families have abandoned their houses, and
come to put themselves under protection of the guns, which is pitiable,
though nothing gives me anxiety but the want of provisions, and if Your
Excellency for want of competent force cannot send relief, we must all
indubitably perish. With this information, I am assured Your Excellency
will excuse the hyperboles in which the conflict we are in may be
portrayed, and I hope every attention will be given to measures conducing
to relieve this eminent peril, as a matter of such moment, and of the first
service to the King.
St. Augustine, in Florida, 24th June, 1740.
Letter No. 203
Montiano reports on retaking Fort Mose
On the 24th ultimate, I sent Your Excellency by way of Apalachee an
accurate account of the siege by sea and land of this place by the
English, a duplicate of which I enclose.
I have now to inform Your Excellency, that at eleven o'clock on the
night of Saturday the 25th of June, I sent out from this garrison, 300 men
to make an attack on the fort of Mose, which was executed at daybreak
on Sunday morning. Our people swept over it, with such impetuosity that
it fell, with a loss of 68 dead, and 34 prisoners.1
I have ascertained that the garrison of this place consisted of 140 men
according to some of the prisoners, and of 170 according to others. It was
composed of one militia company of Scotchmen, 70 men, including
officers, of 15 infantry, 40 horsemen, and 35 Indians, Yuchees and
Uchices, with a white man for chief. This detachment or garrison was
commanded by Colonel John Palmer who with one of his sons was
evidently left dead in the action. An Indian prisoner affirms positively that
he saw Colonel Palmer dead, and his head cut off. He further infers that
both of his sons were dead, though he did not see them dead; but he saw
their hats in the hands of our people (of whom ten have died, among
them the Ensign, Don Joseph de Aguilera). The affair being terminated, I
ordered Fort Mose to be demolished, and the dead buried. From such
investigation as I have been able to make among the prisoners, I have
acquired the following news. Three or four prisoners agree in saying, that
both by rumor and by gazette, they have learned of the preparation in
England of a considerable expedition against Havana, consisting of 30
ships of the line, and of a landing party of 10,000 men. I am sending this
dispatch to give you this information as possibly of great importance to
the service of the King.
Of the armament besieging us, the prisoners say it is composed of 7
frigates, one of 50 guns from Bermuda, another of 40, another of 27, and
the rest of 20; the number of dispatch boats, bilanders, or of other small
boats they do not know. They vary in their estimate of the main body of
troops, some putting it at 2,000 others at 1,500, or 1,200, and still others
at 900. In respect of batteries, they have brought among others, three
bronze 18-pounders from Carolina. Up to today they have made no
assault, but it would seem that by reason of the blow at Mose, they have
all assembled on the Island of Santa Anastasia, where they have
collected eleven small mortars, two of them for shells of half a quintal, and
1 This extract is to be found in Southern Quarterly Review for April, 1844, p. 406; it is used
here with many corrections and alterations.
the other nine for smaller ones. With these, and one other larger one
formerly on the coast of San Mateo, 12 in all, they fired on us the 30 of
June, from 6 in the evening until 10 at night.
My greatest concern is for supplies, and if we get none, there is no
doubt we shall die of hunger.
From the beginning of the firing up to this day they have thrown 122
large shells and 31 small, from which, glory be to God, we have received
no corporal injury. On the Island of Santa Anastasia, they have emplaced
a battery of 5 guns, three of 18-pounders and two of 6-pounders, the first
to batter the Castillo and town, and the others directed against our ships,
and with them they make incessant fire; but ours answer them, and we
are informed that they receive more damage than ourselves.2
On the first day of the month, after beating a call, they sent us a white
flag, with three letters, making a demand the nature of which Your
Excellency will perceive by their tenor. Our answer Your Excellency will
learn from the enclosures; and from that day they have fired with
increased vigor, but in vain, for it appears that God has given greater
accuracy to our fire.
My patrols have found four more men killed in the affair of Mose, two
of them white, the others Indian.
From a deserter that arrived here on the 14th ultimate, we learn that
General Oglethorpe brought 900 men, 300 of his regiment of regulars,
and 600 Carolina militia; that it was unknown if others would come to him
from Virginia or other parts; that the Carolina militia came supplied for four
months. But the prisoners of Mose say that even if necessary to remain
one year before this place, General Oglethorpe will do it, until he subdues
Saint Augustine, in Florida, July 6, 1740.
2 This paragraph and the next may be found in Southern Quarterly Review of April, 1844,