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Group Title: Bicentennial Floridiana facsimile series
Title: Observations upon the Floridas
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Full Citation
External Link: http://www.upf.com
 Material Information
Title: Observations upon the Floridas
Series Title: Bicentennial Floridiana facsimile series
Physical Description: lxvi, 153, 31 p., 1 fold. leaf of plates : map ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Vignoles, Charles Blacker, 1793-1875
Publisher: University Presses of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1977
Copyright Date: 1977
Edition: A facsim. reproduction of the 1823 ed., with an introd. and index -- by John Hebron Moore.
Subject: History -- Florida -- To 1821   ( lcsh )
Description and travel -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
General Note: Includes index.
General Note: Photoreprint ed. originally published by E. Bliss and E. White, New York.
General Note: "A University of Florida book."
Statement of Responsibility: by Charles Vignoles.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00100532
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University Press of Florida
Holding Location: University Press of Florida
Rights Management: A facsimile reproduction of the 1823 edition with prefatory material, introduction, and index added. New material copyright 1977 by the Board of Regents of the State of Florida. This work is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/. You are free to electronically copy, distribute, and transmit this work if you attribute authorship. However, all printing rights are reserved by the University Press of Florida (http://www.upf.com). Please contact UPF for information about how to obtain copies of the work for print distribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the University Press of Florida. Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author's moral rights.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 03003374
lccn - 76039956
isbn - 0813004217

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Full Text

















published under the sponsorship of the
SAMUEL PROCTOR, General Editor.



All rights reserved.


Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Vignoles, Charles Blacker, 1793-1875.
Observations upon the Floridas.

(Bicentennial Floridiana facsimile series)
Photoreprint ed. originally published by E. Bliss and E. White,
New York.
"A University of Florida book."
1. Florida-History-To 1821. 2. Florida-Description and tra-
vel-To 1865. I. Title. II. Series.
F314.V53 1977 975.9 76-39956
ISBN 0-8130-0421-7


Governor Reubin O'D. Askew, Honorary Chairman
Lieutenant Governor J. H. Williams, Chairman
Harold W. Stayman, Jr., Vice Chairman
William R. Adams. Executive Director

Dick J. Batchelor, Orlando
Johnnie Ruth Clarke, St. Petersburg
A. H. "Gus" Craig, St. Augustine
James J. Gardener, Fort Lauderdale
Jim Glisson, Tavares
Mattox Hair, Jacksonville
Thomas L. Hazouri, Jacksonville
Ney C. Landrum, Tallahassee
Mrs. Raymond Mason, Jacksonville
Carl C. Mertins, Jr., Pensacola
Charles E. Perry, Miami
W. E. Potter, Orlando
F. Blair Reeves, Gainesville


Richard R. Renick, Coral Gables
Jane W. Robinson, Cocoa
Mrs. Robert L. Shevin, Tallahassee
Don Shoemaker, Miami
Mary L. Singleton, Jacksonville
Bruce A. Smathers, Tallahassee
Alan Trask, Fort Meade
Edward J. Trombetta, Tallahassee
Ralph D. Turlington, Tallahassee
William S. Turnbull, Orlando
Robert Williams, Tallahassee
Lori Wilson, Merritt Island


FLORIDA in its own special way has helped to shape
the history of the world. The flags of Spain, England,
and France have flown at one time or another over this
land, whose recorded history was already more than
300 years old when, in 1821, it realized its final destiny
and became part of the United States. Some of the
world's most colorful personalities have moved across
her stage. Conquistadors, missionaries, Indians, run-
away slaves, pirates, roustabouts of every variety, land
speculators, soldiers of fortune, and men and women
of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, nation-
alities, and political persuasions have come to Florida
and have made an impact on the area. There were a
few scattered settlements along the Atlantic and Gulf


coasts by the beginning of the nineteenth century, and
there had been some exploration of the interior. Yet,
except for North Florida, little was then known of this
virtually trackless wilderness of forest and swamp land.
In the 1760s and 1770s, before the American Revo-
lution, the British had mapped the coastal areas, and
travelers like Bartram had described the flora and
fauna, the wildlife, Indian settlements, and the other
strange and exotic things which they had observed as
they meandered through the area.
By the time the territory became American, the maps
had become outdated and the descriptive accounts were
no longer pertinent. There was need for writers, car-
tographers, and geographers to reinvestigate and to
describe this newly acquired territory. One of these
writers was Charles Vignoles, whose Observations upon
the Floridas is one of the volumes in the Bicentennial
Floridiana Facsimile Series. It has been edited by
John Hebron Moore of the Florida State University.
The annexation of Florida, Vignoles wrote, has "ad-
vanced the soil of the Union to the very verge of the
Tropics, and by placing the ports from the mouths
of the Mississippi round to Amelia island, under the
American flag, has hermetically closed all approaches
to our interior." The area was now ready for American
Charles Vignoles was an Englishman by birth, a civil
and topographical engineer, who had spent considerable
time in America. He had lived and worked in Charles-
ton, South Carolina, before moving to St. Augustine in
August 1821, just one month after the American flag
had been raised over this former Spanish colony. Vig-



noles was named surveyor and civil engineer for St.
Augustine, and he became "Public Translator and In-
terpreter of French and Spanish languages" for East
Florida. Vignoles was intrigued with all that he saw,
and he decided to prepare a new map of Florida and
to write a handbook for settlers.
The map was based upon Vignoles' survey of the
coast from the St. Marys River south to Cape Florida.
He talked to the few fishermen and farmers he found
living in the area, and he checked the maps and charts
which earlier cartographers-De Brahm, Romans,
Gauld-had drawn. Georgia's Surveyor-General made
available the documents compiled when the Georgia-
Florida boundary line had been drawn. Vignoles' knowl-
edge of the St. Marys River came from the manuscript
survey made by Zephaniah Kingsley of Fort George
Island. Pilots at Cape Florida supplied information,
and the manuscripts and published works of many
travelers were checked.
Vignoles' Observations provides a brief history of
Florida from the time of its "discovery" in 1497 by
John Cabot to the American annexation in 1821. It is
mainly, however, about the practical things that would
interest a settler contemplating a move to Florida. A
man coming into an unknown area would want to know
if he could sustain his family, if there was a way to
secure needed supplies, and if the area was safe from
Indian attack. He would be curious about the climate,
soil conditions, and the availability of land. Based upon
his own observations and the knowledge of others, Vig-
noles supplied this information. Vignoles was enamored
of Florida; his work provides ample evidence of this.



"The rains and dews" were not at all troublesome, he
wrote. They "create at most seasons such a luxuriant
vegetation, that the surface of the earth is never with-
out good verdure." Even after the most torrid days, he
found the nights delightfully refreshing. Vignoles dis-
covered that "a sheet of clean writing paper or a silk
handkerchief placed in the hat keeps the head cool,
when necessity requires an exposure to the summer
sun." The climate was excellent "for patients of a con-
sumptive habit." There was no danger from the night
air, and he had seen "native and foreign ladies walking
till late in the moonlight on summer and autumn eve-
nings, with only the slight coverings on their head of
their lace veils or mantillas, and many even without
Charles Vignoles was basically a publicist, and a suc-
cessful one at that. Although his map was not perfect, as
he admitted, and there are inaccuracies in his book, they
were reliable documents. Sales for his products did not
flourish, but Observations upon the Floridas did help to
attract settlers to Florida, and it helped to orient these
immigrants to a new land and to a new way of life.
The copy of Vignoles' book available for reproduction
here by offset lithography unfortunately carries correc-
tions, handwritten in ink by a former owner, of typo-
graphical errors and grammatical lapses. We hope the
reader will not find these emendations distracting.
We also publish in this volume, as an item of histori-
cal interest, an article on Florida co-authored by Vig-
noles for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, published in
London from 1817 to 1845. This is possibly the first
article about Florida as a territory of the United States



to be published in an encyclopedia. The printing here is
not a facsimile. The copy has been newly set, and we
have made no effort to reproduce the encyclopedia's
Observations upon the Floridas is one of the twenty-
five rare and out-of-print Florida books that are being
reprinted by the University Presses of Florida in co-
operation with the American Revolution Bicentennial
Commission of Florida. Each volume is being edited by
an eminent scholar who has also written an incisive
introduction and has compiled an index.
John Hebron Moore, editor of the Vignoles volume, is
a native of Mississippi, and he holds his degrees from
Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi,
and Emory University. He was a member of the history
faculty and chairman of the Department of History,
University of Mississippi. Dr. Moore has also served as
editor of the Journal of Mississippi History. He has been
professor of history at the Florida State University,
and is now chairman of the history department. He is the
author of two books, several essays, and a number of
articles which have appeared in scholarly journals. Pro-
fessor Moore is a specialist on the economic and agri-
cultural history of the South before the Civil War.
The Library of Congress provided a copy of the Vig-
noles map for reproduction here.
General Editor of the
University of Florida


BECAUSE it was written soon after Spanish Florida
was ceded to the United States, Charles Blacker
Vignoles' Observations upon the Floridas (1823) is a
valuable source of historical information on that new
American territory. Furthermore, the author's subse-
quent career gives this work added interest as a his-
torical document. Vignoles, who had been practicing his
profession for only a few years when he prepared his
commentary on Florida, subsequently became one of the
great civil engineers of Victorian England, famous for
railroads and bridges that he constructed in the Brit-
ish Isles, and on the continents of Europe and South
From the moment of his birth on May 31, 1793, Vig-


noles led an extraordinarily interesting life. His fore-
bears for several generations had been professional
soldiers in the British Army, and his father, Charles
Henry Vignoles, held the rank of captain in the Forty-
third Foot Regiment (Monmouthshire Light Infantry)
when the boy was born. Captain Vignoles had pre-
viously been a secretary to Prince Edward, Duke of
Kent and father of Queen Victoria, and he continued to
enjoy the esteem of the royal family after rejoining his
regiment upon the outbreak of the war with Revolu-
tionary France. In the autumn of 1793 Captain Vig-
noles sailed for the West Indies with the Forty-third
Light Infantry. Despite the obvious dangers of a mili-
tary campaign in the tropics, the captain's young wife,
Camilla, and their infant son, Charles, accompanied
him in accordance with the custom of the British Army
in the late eighteenth century. Vignoles' regiment of
600 men was part of a task force numbering about
7,000, which was commanded by Lieutenant General
Sir Charles Grey. A squadron of nineteen warships
flying the flag of Admiral Sir John Jervis convoyed
Grey's troops and provided them with naval support
during the campaign. General Grey's mission was to
seize and occupy the French Windward Islands-Mar-
tinique, St. Lucia, and Guadeloupe-and then to re-
enforce with his surplus troops another British army
operating on St. Domingue.2
Elements of General Grey's command invaded Mar-
tinique on February 5, 1794, and after severe fighting
compelled General Donatien Rochambeau (of American
Revolutionary War fame) to surrender, on March 25, all
French forces on the island. Grey then attacked St. Lucia
on April 2, receiving the capitulation of the island's



French garrison two days later. Early in the morning
of April 11, Admiral Jervis' warships landed General
Grey's regiments on the southern shore of Pointe-a-
Pitre Bay, near the port town of the same name. Before
dawn, British regular soldiers and a detachment of sail-
ors took Fort la Fleur d'Epee by assault. The French
defenders then abandoned the town of Pointe-a-Pitre
and Fort St. Louis to the invaders and withdrew all
their forces from Grand Terre Island to Basse Terre,
the larger and southernmost of Guadeloupe's two main
islands. The British, after consolidating their hold on
Grande Terre Island, launched April 14 an offensive
against the French fortifications on Basse Terre. When
resistance in the principal strong points at Palmiste
and Houelmont quickly collapsed, General Collot on
April 21 surrendered all his surviving soldiers. With
this spectacular victory, General Grey had achieved his
goals, and the British appeared to have attained su-
premacy in the West Indies, except for Cayenne and
St. Domingue.
Within a few weeks after Collot's capitulation, how-
ever, disaster overwhelmed the victorious British forces
most unexpectedly. During May, yellow fever swept
with devastating effect through Admiral Jervis' ships
and throughout the garrisons on the recently conquered
islands. Then, at a moment when both the British land
and sea forces were almost incapacitated by the terrible
vomito negro, the French in force reinvaded Guade-
loupe by sea, achieving a stunning surprise.
The fleet of three frigates and four transports which
achieved this great feat of arms had sailed from Roche-
fort for Guadeloupe on April 23 with more than 1,500
regular soldiers on board. Victor Hugues, a civilian,



commanded the expedition as Commissioner of Guade-
loupe and agent for the French National Convention.
Hugues had been born at Marseilles of a lower middle
class family. Lacking the advantage of an education, he
went to the French West Indies in his youth to seek his
fortune, working at a variety of jobs on Guadeloupe
and St. Domingue. At the beginning of the French Rev-
olution, Hugues was employed with a brother and an
uncle in a bakery on St. Domingue supplying the army
with bread. During the civil struggles preceding the in-
vasion of the island by the British, Hugues' brother and
uncle were killed, and he was deported to France. He
had apparently been associated with the Jacobin clubs
founded by Commissioner Leger Felicite Sonthonax,
who had freed the slaves on St. Domingue, for Hugues
immediately became intimate with the local Jacobins in
the port city of Rochefort. When a revolutionary tri-
bunal was organized there in October 1793, to cope with
disloyalty in the navy as well as in the city, Hugues was
named public prosecutor. He displayed such zeal in that
office that he was asked to fill a similar position in the
more important port of Brest when a revolutionary
tribunal was established there in December. Hugues'
effectiveness in bringing royalists and anti-revolution-
ists to the guillotine attracted favorable notice from
Jacobin leaders in Paris, and he was chosen for the
difficult tasks of imposing the authority of the National
Convention on the rebellious planters of Guadeloupe,
and of implementing the decree of February 11 abol-
ishing slavery in the French colonies.3
Good fortune sailed with Commissioner Hugues when
he departed from Rochefort. Although it was not known
in France at the time the fleet put out to sea that the



British had taken possession of Guadeloupe, Hugues'
squadron made landfall off Pointe-a-Pitre without hav-
ing made contact with the enemy navy anywhere on the
voyage. By catastrophically bad judgment, Grey and
Jervis had taken the entire British flotilla on a tour of
inspection to St. Kitts, leaving the army wide open to
attack from the sea. As a result, the French vessels
were able to enter the bay of Pointe-a-Pitre on June 6
without opposition. Learning only then that the British
were in control of all Guadeloupe, Hugues landed his
troops on the opposite side of the island at the port of
Le Moule. From there he led his force across the island
to attack Fort la Fleur d'Epee, which was situated on
a height that overlooked the town of Pointe-a-Pitre
and Fort St. Louis, from the rear. The French regu-
lars after making several costly assaults eventually
swarmed over the walls and killed or captured most
of the garrison. Lieutenant-Colonel Drummond, com-
mander of the Forty-third Foot, cut his way out of the
fort with about forty men and escaped across the
channel to Basse Terre.
During the next three weeks the victorious and still
healthy French regulars established themselves firmly
in the forts, la Fleur d'Epee and St. Louis, and in the
town of Pointe-a-Pitre, easily repelling feeble British
attacks carried out in desperation on July 1. After this
decisive defeat, General Grey withdrew his disease-
riddled regiments to defensive positions on Basse Terre,
where yellow fever daily reduced their numbers. Gen-
eral Grey as commander-in-chief of British forces in
the Windward Islands then transferred his headquar-
ters to Martinique, leaving Brigadier General Graham
in command of the troops left on Basse Terre.



Soon after landing on Guadeloupe, the unseasoned
soldiers from metropolitan France began, like the Brit-
ish, to succumb to the raging yellow fever epidemic.
The resourceful Jacobin proconsul, however, contrived
to re-enforce his regular troops with mulattoes and
blacks who were immune to the fever. To this end, he
published the decree of the National Convention abol-
ishing slavery, and he summoned all loyal Frenchmen
to fight against the British invaders. When many hun-
dreds of grateful ex-slaves responded to Hugues' call
to the colors, he provided them with arms and uniforms
and organized them into regiments. After he had given
his black recruits a smattering of training, the commis-
sioner began a campaign on September 26 to recapture
Basse Terre. The French made rapid progress after
establishing a base of operations on Basse Terre, for
General Graham had concentrated most of his army of
sick and dying men in a large fortified camp called
Berville. On October 6, after beating off five waves of
attackers-mostly black soldiers-Graham surrendered
all of his army except for a 600-man contingent holding
Fort Matilda under command of elderly Major General
Prescott. These troops were besieged until December 10
when they were evacuated by the British fleet.
Commissioner Hugues instituted a reign of terror on
Guadeloupe as soon as he had gained control of Pointe-
a-Pitre. Intending to wipe out the planter class, who
had generally sided with the British, he executed dozens
of royalists with the guillotine and sent many hundreds
more before firing squads. Horrified by the treatment
that Maximilien Robespierre's disciple was meting out
to his own countrymen, the British accepted without
question reports that Hugues had ordered captured



British soldiers and their wives and children to be
bayoneted to death. Such an atrocity did occur, but the
likelihood is that undisciplined black troops killed these
people in the excitement of storming a fort.
Whether or not Hugues was really the bloodthirsty
monster whom British propaganda described, he unde-
niably was a politician-soldier of genius. In the face of
overwhelming British seapower, Hugues succeeded in
driving the British army out of St. Lucia and several
small islands as well as Guadeloupe, and he raised
rebellions among the black and Indian populations of
British St. Vincent and Jamaica. Although the British
were eventually able to repossess themselves of most of
the Windward Islands, crushing the slave revolts, they
were unable because of Hugues' work to shake the hold
of the French on Guadeloupe until Napoleon tried to
restore slavery there in 1802.
The experience of the Vignoles family throws a dif-
ferent light on Commissioner Victor Hugues from the
one by which he is usually viewed by English-speaking
historians. Captain Vignoles' regiment served with dis-
tinction during the victorious campaigns on Martinique,
St. Lucia, and Guadeloupe as part of a brigade com-
manded by Prince Edward, who held the rank of major
general at that time. As a result of heavy losses from
battle and yellow fever, the Forty-third's ten companies
were reduced to a handful of invalids by October 6,
1794, when Graham's command laid down their arms.
Captain Vignoles had been one of the first of the officers
to become a battle casualty. He was severely wounded
on June 6 when Hugues' regulars stormed Fort la Fleur
d'Ep&e with the bayonet, and he was taken prisoner
along with the surviving British soldiers and civilians



who had taken refuge in the fort. His wife and baby
also fell with him into the hands of the enemy, along
with the other British civilians.
Instead of being massacred, as Hugues' reputation
would lead one to expect, the wounded British captain
and his wife and baby were placed in charge of a local
French merchant named Courtois. When all three mem-
bers of the English family contracted yellow fever,
Courtois' wife and servants cared for their charges
until Captain Vignoles and his wife both died of the
terrible disease. Madame Courtois provided a black wet
nurse for the infant when his mother became ill, and
nursed the child through an extended sickness until he
recovered his health completely. Monsieur Courtois
then wrote with Commissioner Hugues' consent to Dr.
Charles Hutton, the baby's maternal grandfather, in-
forming him of the plight of young Vignoles and
suggesting that someone be sent to claim him for his
Upon receiving this news, Dr. Hutton persuaded his
only son, George Henry Hutton, a captain in the Royal
Artillery, to undertake the mission.4 Captain Hutton
then took passage to Martinique where he applied to
General Grey for permission to proceed to General
Graham's headquarters at Camp Berville on Guade-
loupe. Obtaining the necessary credentials, Hutton soon
afterward went ashore at the British position on Basse
Terre, where he found that his services as an artillery
expert were urgently required because yellow fever had
felled all of the force's artillery officers. Temporarily
abandoning his mission of mercy, Captain Hutton took
command of General Graham's guns, and directed the



work of the British batteries in the heavy fighting that
preceded the capitulation of the army. Just before the
surrender, he received a face wound that cost him an
eye. When Hutton had sufficiently recovered from his
injury to permit him to travel, Commissioner Hugues
himself paroled the English artilleryman so that he
could carry the Vignoles baby to England, and provided
them with transportation to the nearest British island.
Because of this uncharacteristic act of chivalry, Dr.
Hutton's family saw Hugues from a viewpoint quite
different from that of the general British public.
When Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, learned that
Captain Vignoles' child had survived the deaths of his
parents and had reached England safely, he took ac-
tion on the child's behalf. Wishing to provide for the
orphaned child of his former secretary, who had lost
his life serving in a unit commanded by himself, the
duke arranged for the appointment of the infant,
Charles B. Vignoles, as an ensign in his father's regi-
ment, with a commission dated October 25, 1794. This
sinecure authorized the child to draw an ensign's half-
pay of about thirty pounds sterling a year until he be-
came old enough to join the regiment. In this fashion,
his royal patron ensured that young Vignoles would
not become a financial burden to Dr. Hutton, his guar-
dian and his grandfather. Unfortunately, this royal
patronage also made Charles Blacker financially inde-
pendent, a situation that encouraged him as a teen-ager
to rebel against his grandfather's authority to a degree
which cost him eventually an inheritance. Captain Vig-
noles, himself, had left nothing to his son except a claim
to a land grant in East Florida.



Until he was eighteen years old, Charles Vignoles
lived with his grandfather and Dr. Hutton's unmarried
daughter, Isabella, who was very kind to the child. Dr.
Charles Hutton, professor of mathematics at the Royal
Military Academy at Woolwich from 1773 to 1807, was
a very unusual man.5 Born in 1737 at Newcastle-on-
Tyne, the youngest son of a coal miner, he worked for
a while as a hewerr" in the mine where his stepfather
was a foreman. When young Hutton showed an excep-
tional aptitude for books, his stepfather took him out
of the pits and sent him to a local school. Charles began
teaching when he was eighteen, and later, in 1760, he
opened his own school of mathematics in Newcastle.
He also tutored the children of a family of the local
gentry who owned an extensive library, and thus, he
had access to advanced mathematical studies. During
the 1760s he attained considerable local fame as a
teacher and published a textbook on the teaching of
mathematics which he had prepared for use in his own
By winning a competitive examination held in 1773,
Hutton obtained a prestigious post as professor of math-
ematics at the Royal Military Academy. This institu-
tion, located outside London near the Woolwich arsenal,
provided technical training for artillery and engineer-
ing officers. It was also for many decades the only school
of engineering in the British Isles. As a measure of the
professional and social status associated with this office,
Professor Hutton was elected in 1774 a fellow of the
Royal Society. During the next quarter century, he
earned a reputation as one of England's leading math-
ematicians. As a result of reports published for him by
the Royal Society on the mathematics of ballistics, on



the force generated by exploding gunpowder, and on
measuring the density of the earth, Professor Hutton
was awarded the LL.D. degree in 1779 by the Univer-
sity of Edinburgh. While a member of the faculty at
Woolwich, he published nine books on mathematics, in-
cluding a text used in the college for many years, and a
study of the mathematics of arches as related to bridge
building. He also published tables of logarithms and a
work on conic sections. As a mathematician who spe-
cialized in the practical application of mathematics to
engineering problems, Dr. Hutton became a consultant
of several of the leading English civil engineers of late
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He also be-
came personally acquainted with George III's sons,
Princes Frederick and Edward, who were keenly inter-
ested in the military college at Woolwich. This was
social success, indeed, for a man who had risen from
the laboring class to the top of his profession.
While gaining national professional recognition as a
mathematician, Dr. Hutton also made a considerable
fortune as a real-estate developer. Intending to build a
house for himself on Shooter's Hill, he acquired some
land bordering on the Woolwich Common. Shortly after-
ward, the Royal Military Academy was moved away
from the grounds of the Woolwich arsenal and estab-
lished at a new site fronting on the common. This move
greatly increased the value of Hutton's property, and he
quickly capitalized on his advantage by opening a resi-
dential development. The houses he built sold so well
that he soon became wealthy. He subsequently pur-
chased a London townhouse on Bedford Row, and made
many successful investments in a number of engineer-
ing projects. With the fees earned as a consultant and



the income from his business investments, Hutton lived
more like a member of the gentry than the usual pro-
Professor Hutton probably took personal charge of
his grandson's education; there is no surviving evidence
to suggest that Vignoles ever attended a public school.
It is certain, however, that besides mastering mathe-
matics, he became fluent in French, Spanish, and Ger-
man, and also learned to speak a little Dutch. From his
grandfather and possibly from other professors at
Woolwich, Vignoles gained a considerable knowledge
of the techniques of civil and military engineering. In-
asmuch as technical training was provided for British
army officers during that era only in artillery and engi-
neering, young Vignoles could hardly have been better
placed to learn the basics of his future profession.
Vignoles was not an enthusiastic student and dis-
played little interest in the study of mathematics. As a
result, his grandfather decided against an engineering
career for him. Soon after the family moved to London
in 1807, following Dr. Hutton's retirement, plans were
made to train the boy in the law. Dr. Hutton paid a
prominent firm of solicitors, which had offices on Doc-
tor's Common, to accept Vignoles as an apprentice. But
these were exciting war years, and Vignoles was too
adventurous a lad to become absorbed in studying law
at a moment when England was locked in her struggle
with Napoleon. Sometime in 1812 Vignoles abandoned
his studies in flagrant disregard of his grandfather's
wishes and went to Portugal to offer his services to the
army commanded by the Duke of Wellington. Although
Vignoles did not succeed in obtaining an official position



with the British expeditionary forces, he did see some-
thing of the conflict on the Peninsula and was present
at the Battle of Vittorio on June 21, 1813. Deciding to
become an army officer like his father, Vignoles knew
that he needed some training in military matters before
taking up his commission in the Forty-third Regiment.
Furious at Vignoles' flouting of his authority and his
disinclination for serious work, Dr. Hutton disinherited
his grandson for leaving the law firm, and never again
permitted the boy to enter the house on Bedford Row
during the remainder of his lifetime. He did relent to
a degree in 1813, and arranged for a friend and former
colleague, Thomas Leybourne, professor of mathema-
tics at the Royal Military College, to take Vignoles into
his home as a student and house guest. Although never
a member of the corps of cadets at Sandhurst, Vignoles
apparently attended that institution in an informal ca-
pacity for about three months in the autumn of 1813.
Toward the close of what must have been a very ab-
breviated course in military science, Vignoles was intro-
duced by Professor Leybourne to his patron, the Duke
of Kent, who volunteered to write on the boy's behalf,
both to the Duke of Wellington and to the commander
of the Forty-third Regiment. As a direct result of the
duke's personal interest in his career, Vignoles was
posted soon after receiving his commission in Novem-
ber 1813, to the Fourteenth Light Dragoons (Duchess
of York's Own, popularly called the York Chasseurs),
a cavalry regiment serving under Wellington. As an
untrained officer and an unskilled horseman, however,
Vignoles was not sent to join the Chasseurs in Spain,
but was ordered to report to the regiment's depot on



the Isle of Wight. As an ensign on active duty, Vig-
noles was paid only 100 pounds sterling a year (approx-
imately $500), out of which he was required to furnish
his own uniforms and equipment. With some dismay,
he wrote to his fiancee that "I must begin for the first
time in my life to be economical."
Quickly becoming dissatisfied with the routine duties
to which he was assigned, Vignoles petitioned the Duke
of Kent for assistance in obtaining a transfer to an
infantry regiment that was then preparing for active
service. Field Marshal Frederick Augustus, Duke of
York and commander-in-chief of the forces in Great
Britain and Ireland, quickly approved Vignoles' request
for reassignment to the Fourth Battalion of the First
Foot (the Royal Scots), the Duke of Kent's own regi-
ment. In January 1814 Ensign Vignoles reported for
duty at the First Regiment's headquarters in the field,
then located in the Dutch town of Williamstadt. Soon
after Vignoles arrived in Holland, qualified army offi-
cers were invited to apply for a vacancy in the separate
Corps of Engineers. Passing an easy examination,
Vignoles was appointed assistant-engineer, but Colonel
Miller, the commanding officer of the First Foot, re-
fused to release him because the Royal Scots were about
to take part in an assault upon the French fortress of
Bergen op Zoom.
The preceding November some of the Dutch had re-
volted against the French at a time when armies of the
Allies were moving against France on several fronts.
During December 1813, a small British army under
command of Sir Thomas Graham landed in Holland
with orders to support the revolt and to drive out the



French. The beleaguered French withdrew to a forti-
fied line running from Antwerp to Flushing, but not
before defeating the pursuing British in a battle be-
fore Antwerp. Checked at that point, General Graham
decided to try to break through the enemy line by
capturing Bergen op Zoom, a seventeenth-century for-
tified town.6
Hoping to surprise the French garrison, Graham
launched a night attack against Bergen op Zoom on
March 8, 1814, employing four separate columns of
about 1,000 men each. As in most complicated night
maneuvers, Graham's battle plan immediately led to
confusion. One of his columns crossed the shallow Zoom
River an hour early, achieving the surprise in one sec-
tor that Graham had been counting on everywhere, but
this success was gained at the expense of the other
three columns which crossed the river later. Meeting
little resistance, the infantrymen of the first column
broke through lightly manned defenses into the town.
When the other three columns splashed across the ice-
filled Zoom, however, they encountered an aroused
enemy who fiercely resisted. Nevertheless, two of these
columns were able to force their way into the fortress.
A fourth column came under such heavy fire while
approaching the fortress that some of its units were
driven back in disorder. After the disrupted battalions
were reformed, they were led around the fortress to
make an attack from the rear. Finding a gate on that
side practically unguarded, the troops of the fourth
column also entered the city. By 1:00 A.M., ten of the
sixteen bastions of the fortress were in English hands.
General Graham, believing that victory was virtually



achieved, left the city to bring up reserves which he
intended to use to consolidate the British positions in
the town. But, soon after his departure, the situation
drastically changed. The French, who had been concen-
trating in the center of the town, launched a series of
well organized counterattacks which overwhelmed, one
by one, the British units scattered around the periphery
of the fortress. Only the English Foot Guards were
able to withstand for a time the fury of the French
onslaught. Defending their position in the Orange Bas-
tion with grim determination, the Guards repeatedly
exchanged attacks and counterattacks with the French
until heavy losses of men finally compelled the English
to capitulate. When General Graham finally reached
Bergen with his reserve regiments the next morning,
he found the French already in complete control of the
battlefield. Not less than 2,500 British officers and sol-
diers had been killed, wounded, or captured in this un-
happy conclusion to a generally disastrous campaign.
The Royal Scots, under Colonel Miller's uninspired
leadership, had done nothing to distinguish themselves.
As the rearmost regiment in the column commanded by
General Carleton on the right, the Scots had forded the
river under light cannon fire and were stationed out-
side the Water Gate as a reserve, while the troops in
the van pushed through the gate into the town. Once
inside the walls, Carleton's troops became scattered
in the darkness, losing all semblance of organization.
When the French, attacking in column, struck these
dispersed units, General Carleton himself was killed
almost immediately. In the confused street fighting that



ensued, no one thought to bring up the 600 men of the
Scottish First Regiment from the Water Gate. Being
unwilling to act without direct orders, Colonel Miiller
held the Scots in position outside the citadel for six
critical hours while the remainder of Carleton's troops
were being slaughtered in the streets and in the bas-
tions along the wall. As soon as they had crushed the
English units in the town, the French occupied the
bastions in the vicinity of the Water Gate and directed a
heavy fire upon the Royals standing in the open. Around
7:00 A.M. Miiller became convinced that his troops
could neither hold their exposed position nor retreat
across the river without being annihilated, and he de-
cided to surrender his regiment without having struck
a blow at the enemy.
Armed with his sword and a pike taken from a
wounded sergeant, Ensign Vignoles had struggled
across the Zoom River and its bordering marshes with
a company of the Royal Scots, only to stand for many
hours, muddy, wet, and freezing, outside the fortress.
When Colonel Miiller eventually decided to lay down his
arms, he selected Vignoles to act as his emissary to the
enemy commander because the young officer spoke
French. Vignoles entered the town under a flag of
truce and obtained an audience with General Bizanet.
Anxious to terminate the fighting before British re-
enforcements arrived, Bizanet promptly agreed to ac-
cept Miiller's proffered capitulation of his regiment. In
accordance with the French general's instructions, Vig-
noles waved a white flag from the ramparts as a signal
for the Royals to lay down their arms and march into



the town as prisoners of war. By 9:00 A.M., March 9,
the last of the British troops taking part in the assault
on Bergen had complied with the terms of surrender.
The French garrison, which numbered less than
3,000 men, treated the British prisoners with unusual
humanity. They provided them with food and shelter,
and permitted them to move freely about the streets.
The following day, a convention was signed between
the French and British high commands freeing all of
the prisoners on condition they not engage in further
hostilities against France during the war. Vignoles,
having performed creditably as a military diplomat on
this unhappy occasion, found himself in high favor
with Colonel Miiller and with the rest of the army
establishment in Holland.
Because of the terms of capitulation which ended the
battle of Bergen op Zoom, the Royal Scots returned to
England before Napoleon abdicated his throne in April
1814. At Hilsea Barracks in Portsmouth, the Royals
were refitted for further active service because the
Scottish First Regiment had been assigned to a force
of about 15,000 men that was to be transported to
Canada to take part in an invasion of the northern
United States.
The Royal Scots sailed in several warships because
there was a shortage of troop transports. In May 1814
Ensign Vignoles and two companies of the Fourth Bat-
talion boarded H.M.S. Leopard, a frigate that had be-
come infamous to Americans in 1807 when it attacked
the United States frigate Chesapeake. The other two
companies were loaded on the Diomede. After an un-
eventful crossing, during which the officers entertained



themselves by presenting theatrical productions, the
Leopard came ingloriously to grief at the mouth of the
St. Lawrence River. Running upon one of those "un-
chartered rocks" which had claimed so many British
naval vessels in war and peace, the frigate went down
June 28 near the island of Anticosti. The crew and
military passengers reached shore safely, although suf-
fering from exposure to the severe weather conditions.
Vignoles was in the first contingent of survivors of the
shipwreck to reach Quebec, and his trip upriver had
taken seventeen days.
As a result of this experience, Vignoles contracted a
case of pneumonia which incapacitated him for several
weeks. So many of the enlisted men of the two ship-
wrecked companies also became seriously ill that the
whole Fourth Battalion was regarded as unfit for com-
bat. Yet, the shipwreck had an unexpectedly happy out-
come for the army officers and men; while they were
recuperating at Quebec, the First Battalion saw action
against the Americans on the Niagara River front
where those experienced soldiers learned a grudging
respect for their opponents. In hand-to-hand fighting at
Lundy's Lane, the battalion lost 172 men out of a total
strength of 200.7
As Vignoles apparently had experienced enough fight-
ing at Bergen op Zoom to satsfy his thirst for military
glory, he was able to endure philosophically the Fourth
Battalion's extended period of inactivity at Quebec. He
passed his leisure time pleasantly by acting in plays put
on by the junior officers and by cultivating the friendship
of Colonel Miiller. Meanwhile, the Forty-third Regiment,
in which Vignoles was originally commissioned, and a



squadron of the Fourteenth Cavalry Regiment to which
he had been briefly attached, took part in the disastrous
battle of New Orleans.
At the close of hostilities in America, fortune again
favored Vignoles and the Fourth Battalion. When the
Royals embarked for England, Vignoles, recently pro-
moted to the rank of lieutenant, and the battalion were
among the last of the regiment to leave Canada. While
the regiment was in transit, Napoleon returned from
Elba, and the war with France began again. As a result,
the first units of the Royal Scots to reach port in Eng-
land were rushed immediately to the Lowlands to re-
enforce Wellington's hard-pressed army. By dint of
hard marching, the Third Battalion arrived in time to
be mauled severely at Quatre Bras by General Frangois
Kellermann's cavalry.8 Vignoles and the Fourth, how-
ever, did not reach Spithead until July 15, when the fi-
nal campaign against Napoleon was already over. Thus,
Vignoles, through no fault of his own, emerged un-
scathed from three wars in which many others had
become casualties.
With the conclusion of the conflict on the continent,
the First Regiment settled down at its regular station
at Edinburgh. After a short period of service there,
Vignoles assumed command of a small detachment man-
ning Fort Williams, a small outpost in northern Scot-
land. There he remained for several months, dreading
the inevitable day when he would be put on half-pay.
Because he had less seniority than most of the lieuten-
ants in his regiment, Vignoles had virtually no chance
of remaining permanently with the regiment while a
general postwar demobilization of Britain's military



machine was in process. As he had often done before,
Vignoles sought assistance at this juncture from the
Duke of Kent. His Royal Highness could do nothing on
Vignoles' behalf this time, however, for he was being
overwhelmed by similar requests from hundreds of
unemployed officers.
In March 1816 Vignoles was placed on the inactive
list. Unwilling to pursue another profession, he resorted
to extraordinary means to stay in the military. At his
own expense he journeyed to the French city of Valen-
ciennes, where the headquarters of Wellington's Second
Division was located. There he offered his services as an
unpaid volunteer aide-de-camp to the commanding gen-
eral, Sir Thomas Brisbane, whom he had known in Can-
ada. Major General Brisbane, who had a heavy burden
of paperwork to carry, gladly accepted Vignoles' serv-
ice. In hope of finding a permanent post in the standing
army through Brisbane's influence, Vignoles assisted the
general until funds and credit were almost exhausted.
He reluctantly returned to England in April 1817.
In London, Vignoles attempted to make a reconcilia-
tion with his grandfather, but Dr. Hutton sternly re-
jected all his overtures. Realizing that he must rely
entirely on his own resources for the present, Vignoles
sought employment, only to find that the city was swarm-
ing with a host of demobilized army and navy officers
in similar circumstances. With his financial situation
becoming desperate, Vignoles learned from Professor
Leybourne that Sir Gregor MacGregor, a former officer
in the Forty-second Regiment (the Royal Highlanders,
or the "Black Watch") who had become a general in
the South American independence movement led by



Simon Bolivar, was recruiting personnel for the rebel
army.9 Making further inquiries, Vignoles was informed
that Whitehall secretly was supporting the indepen-
dence movement and that high government officials
approved MacGregor's enlistment of unemployed offi-
cers. Making contact without difficulty with Venezuelan
agents in London, Vignoles applied for a position as an
engineer in their military establishment. His applica-
tion was promptly accepted, and he sailed for the Carib-
bean August 3, 1817, in company with several other
English half-pay army and navy officers.
Arriving at the Danish island of St. Thomas Septem-
ber 27, 1817, Vignoles learned that MacGregor had left
Caracas, hoping to raise money and men for his cause
in the United States. Knowing that America had long
been anxious to acquire Spanish Florida, Vignoles
learned from the United States consul that merchants
in New Orleans had advanced more than $150,000 to
MacGregor to supply a rebel army that he was assem-
bling at Fernandina on Amelia Island off northeast
Florida. Because his government wished Spain to be ex-
pelled from Florida by any means, the American consul
arranged to transport Vignoles and his companions to
Fernandina on an American schooner.
Arriving at Fernandina, Vignoles quickly became
disenchanted with the independence movement. Mac-
Gregor's band of followers appeared more like a con-
gregation of outlaws than a patriot army, and British
officers in the rebel service decried the leadership of
Bolivar and the long-range prospects of the movement.
As a result, Vignoles decided not to join MacGregor.
Instead, he took ship to Charleston, South Carolina,



apparently with the intention of obtaining passage on
a vessel bound for England.
In Charleston, Vignoles met friends of Dr. Hutton
who suggested that he establish himself there as a civil
engineer, which were in short supply in the city. He
could not afford to go into business for himself immedi-
ately, so Vignoles applied to the state engineer of South
Carolina, and was hired as assistant civil engineer, sur-
veyor, and draftsman at an annual salary of $1,000.
This was regarded as a part-time job, and Vignoles was
permitted to accept private contracts as a civil engi-
neer. He opened an office in Charleston with J. Pettival
as an associate.10
After having eked out an uncertain existence on a
lieutenant's half-pay for two years, Vignoles found life
pleasant in South Carolina. With money coming in from
his state salary and from private surveys that he and
Pettival were undertaking for local landowners, Vig-
noles enjoyed a welcome relief from financial pressure.
Convinced by South Carolina's postwar prosperity that
limitless opportunities existed for competent civil engi-
neers, Vignoles was optimistic about his business pros-
pects. He sent for his young wife, Mary, whom he had
secretly married before leaving England, and their
year-old daughter, Camilla. When they arrived in Sep-
tember 1818, Vignoles settled them in quarters at Fort
Moultrie on Sullivans Island which the state pro-
vided to him without charge. A year later, a son was
born, whom the couple christened Thomas in honor of
Professor Leybourne.
Vignoles worked three years for South Carolina, help-
ing prepare an official map of the state. During most of



this period he was engaged in surveying the state's coast-
line and drawing portions of the great map. Judged by
his increases in salary, he must have pleased his super-
iors with his work. At the end of Vignoles' first year in
the engineer's office, his annual salary was raised to
$2,000. By 1820 he considered himself sufficiently well
established as an engineer to relinquish his fixed salary,
taking instead a contract to survey the southeastern
boundaries of the state for a fee of $3,700. During his
last two years in South Carolina, his private business
had increased even more rapidly than his work for the
state. With the onset of the depression of 1819, how-
ever, Vignoles began to experience difficulty in collect-
ing his fees for work done for the lowland planters.
When the map of South Carolina was ready for pub-
lication in 1820, Vignoles lost his lucrative connection
with the state, and became wholly dependent on his
private business.11 As the depression deepened in the
Charleston area, he began to think of moving to Florida.
In preparation for the move, he broke up housekeeping
in Charleston and carried his wife and children back
to England.
Returning alone to Charleston, Vignoles was sur-
prised to find that there was a need again for his serv-
ices as a civil engineer. Because of the depression,
many more pieces of real estate were changing hands
than was normally the case, and each of them had to be
surveyed. He was able to obtain all the work he and his
partner could handle, but they continued to be plagued
by the inability of their clients to pay their bills. He
therefore considered himself fortunate to obtain a con-
tract to map the city of Charleston for $500. Finishing



this contract, he decided to investigate the business
possibilities in St. Augustine, Florida.
Although he did not abandon his business contacts in
Charleston, Vignoles moved his office to St. Augustine
in August 1821, shortly after the territory became
American. He quickly obtained a contract to prepare a
map of the town similar to the one he had recently
drawn for Charleston. Soon afterward, he was appointed
surveyor and civil engineer for St. Augustine. His fa-
miliarity with several languages proved useful in this
multi-lingual community, and in February 1822, Wil-
liam G. D. Worthington, territorial secretary and acting
governor of East Florida, listed him as Public Transla-
tor and Interpretor of French and Spanish Languages
in the "Register of Public Officials of East Florida."12
Despite his initially favorable reception in St. Augus-
tine, Vignoles soon had reason to wonder whether his
decision to move there from Charleston was well ad-
vised. American settlers were not flocking into Florida
as he had expected, and an epidemic of yellow fever
brought business almost to a standstill during the first
half of 1822. Vignoles also encountered in Florida a
prejudice against Englishmen that had been absent in
South Carolina. Observing that this anti-British sen-
timent was costing him business, Vignoles began to
consider whether he should take out United States citi-
zenship. Yet he continued to believe that the stagnant
economy of East Florida was a passing phase, and that
Americans eventually would migrate into the new ter-
ritory in large numbers.
In order to occupy his time profitably in a period
when his services were not in demand, and also to lay



the foundation for a later business as a land agent,
Vignoles decided to prepare a new map of Florida
which he would publish in conjunction with a handbook
for immigrants. Once he had decided on this project, he
went to work with characteristic energy and enthus-
iasm. By December 1821 Vignoles had surveyed the
northeastern coast of Florida from the border of Geor-
gia southward to the 27.5 degree of latitude, and had
drawn a map of that coastline. He presented a copy of
his map together with a description of the soil and geo-
graphic features of the area to Captain John R. Bell of
the United States War Department, apparently hoping
that he would be employed by the federal government
to map the whole littoral of Florida.13 If so, he was
disappointed, but he was employed as a surveyor for
General Winfield Scott, who made a tour of inspection
during February 1822. Vignoles' duties took him to
Cape Florida, Cape Sable, the Tortugas, and up the
west coast to Tampa Bay.
Hardships that Vignoles encountered while making
the surveys for General Scott, including an episode in
which he was nearly drowned while swimming his horse
across a river, brought on a lengthy bout with "bilious
fever," which delayed for several weeks the completion
of the map and a volume of observations about Florida.
While recuperating from his illness, he traveled to sev-
eral of the cities of the eastern seaboard, no doubt look-
ing for business opportunities. If that was the case, he
failed to locate an attractive opening for his talents, for
he returned to St. Augustine and spent the summer
preparing the map and commentary for publication. In
September 1822 he carried his map and manuscript to



New York, where he arranged for the printing firm of
Bliss and White to publish the book. Henry S. Tanner,
of Philadelphia, prepared the engraving of the map.14
Vignoles had decided, unwisely it turned out, to hold
the copyright and to handle the distribution of the map
and book himself rather than to surrender any of the
proceeds from the sales to a publisher. In June he there-
fore placed a lengthy advertisement in several news-
papers describing the map and book and announcing
that both items would cost subscribers a total sum of
no more than three dollars.15 With the country deep in
depression and with interest in Florida real estate at
its lowest point in American history, Vignoles' venture
failed miserably. The few copies of the set that he man-
aged to sell did not cover the cost of publication, much
less his living expenses in New York.16
Completely discouraged by the adverse effects that
the depression had exerted on his business as a civil
engineer, as well as by the unhappy outcome of his
venture into publishing, Vignoles decided to return to
England when he received news of Dr. Hutton's death.
He was in severe financial difficulty when he left the
United States, and although he had no reason to believe
that his grandfather had reinstated him in the will, he
hoped that his aunt, Isabella, might share her inheri-
tance with him. Upon reaching London in late May
1823, Vignoles hastened to call upon his aunt, who wel-
comed him with affection. Although she was sympa-
thetic about Vignoles' pecuniary distress, he learned
that she was in no position to offer assistance to him.
Around 1815 Dr. Hutton had invested heavily in a
company organized to construct a bridge across the



Thames River in London between Blackfriars Bridge
and the old London Bridge. The elder John Rennie
(1761-1821), famous for his canals and harbor works
and a close friend of Dr. Hutton, was then erecting the
highly successful Waterloo Bridge (it was opened in
1817), and he also designed and supervised the con-
struction of the Southwark Bridge. Although Rennie
had used granite in the Waterloo Bridge, he employed
three 240-foot castiron arches resting on cypress pilings
in the Southwark Bridge. Completed in 1819, Rennie's
handsome castiron structure was widely acclaimed as a
technological triumph, and the bridge inspired the sub-
sequent widespread use of this new building material.
The cost of construction, however, had enormously ex-
ceeded Rennie's estimates, and the stockholders in the
Southwark company lost most of their investments.
Dr. Hutton's fortune was almost wiped out in the de-
bacle. Consequently, Vignoles' unmarried aunt inherited
little from her father in 1823 other than his house on
Bedford Row.
Although badly disappointed that his aunt could not
help him establish a civil engineering office in England,
Vignoles was soon to receive important benefits from
the close association between Dr. Hutton and the Ren-
nie family. Rennie's older son, Sir John Rennie, took
over his father's business and continued it with great
distinction, and in the process earned for himself a
great reputation. Knowing that his father had felt
responsible for bringing financial ruin to his friend,
young Rennie considered himself obligated to assist
Dr. Hutton's grandson. He therefore introduced Vig-



noles to members of his profession who could give him
employment. Later, after Vignoles had demonstrated
that he was an exceptionally competent and responsible
engineer in his own right, Rennie helped him obtain con-
tracts on an increasingly important scale. During this
period a warm personal relationship developed between
the two men, which ultimately brought a golden op-
portunity to Vignoles. This was an assignment as
resident engineer for the Liverpool and Manchester
Railroad Company during a crucial period in the con-
struction of the famous line which inaugurated the
steam railway era.
In 1825, with the success of his Stockton and Dar-
lington coal-carrying railway assured, George Stephen-
son, the great advocate of steam locomotives, turned
his attention to a far more ambitious project, the con-
struction of a railroad connecting the booming manu-
facturing city of Manchester with the port of Liverpool.
Stephenson was able to attract financial support for
this scheme without difficulty because the growth of
commerce between these two cities had outstripped the
carrying capacity of the canals which had been the
principal means of transportation in the first quarter
of the nineteenth century. When Stephenson's company
applied to Parliament for a charter, however, they en-
countered powerful opposition from agents of the Duke
of Bridgewater, who controlled the canals, and from
landowners who objected to the railway crossing their
lands. Self-educated and inarticulate, Stephenson was
an ineffective witness for the project before parlia-
mentary committees in the spring of 1825, and his



opponents trapped him into admission of errors in his
surveys that led to the rejection of the application
for a charter.17
A reorganized board of directors then turned to the
younger John Rennie for assistance in obtaining the
necessary charter for the projected railway. Indignant
at being asked to share the building of the railway
with another engineer, Stephenson withdrew from the
company. Rennie accepted the appointment as chief
engineer, but being occupied with other projects, he
turned the task over to George, his younger brother,
and to Charles Vignoles. George Rennie and Vignoles
shrewdly reduced political opposition to the L & M by
making minor changes in the route so as to avoid lands
of persons who were adamantly opposed to the line.
Vignoles also was successful in arranging an accommo-
dation with the Duke of Bridgewater, which removed
a major obstacle to incorporation of the company. Dur-
ing April 1826 Vignoles defended the company's request
for a new act of incorporation before committees of the
House of Lords and the House of Commons. In order to
avoid some of the criticisms that had been directed at
Stephenson's proposal to use locomotives rather than
stationary steam engines as the motive power for the
L & M railroad, Vignoles did not recommend either
system in the plan he presented to Parliament. Vig-
noles' skillfully prepared surveys of the route won the
endorsements of many prominent engineers consulted
by the committee members, and he was credited by
many contemporary observers with gaining approval
of the act by his lucid and candid testimony. In any
event, the charter of the L & M company was approved
in late April 1826.



Having successfully made use of the Rennies to ob-
tain the all-essential charter, the directors of the Liver-
pool and Manchester Railroad Company then decided
to re-employ George Stephenson to take charge of the
actual construction of the railroad. Although they knew
that the Rennie firm had a greater reputation as civil
engineers than did Stephenson, the Rennies' reputation
had been acquired in the construction of harbors, canals,
and bridges, while Stephenson was known to be the
most successful builder of coal-mine railways in Eng-
land. Although John Rennie was given the option of
sharing the post of chief engineer with Stephenson, he
knew that the former coal miner would not gracefully
divide authority with anyone. He therefore withdrew
from any further connection with the project.
Vignoles, who had been serving as the principal resi-
dent engineer of the railway since August 1825, was
left in an unenviable position by John Rennie's depar-
ture. Although he held no official position with the Ren-
nie firm, he had been appointed by John Rennie to his
post with the L & M railroad. Stephenson, who was
bitter toward the Rennies, naturally preferred his own
assistants, and he particularly objected to being com-
pelled by the directors to retain one of his rival's friends
in a key position. Vignoles, however, had supporters of
his own on the board, and their influence overrode for
a time Stephenson's animosity toward him. From the
beginning, however, it was clear to all concerned that
Stephenson was determined to rid himself of Vignoles
as soon as possible. Hence, Vignoles' work as an engi-
neer, which had been regarded as exceptionally good
while Rennie was chief engineer, was subjected to a
steady fire of criticism by his new superior. Finally,



Stephenson was able to present evidence to the directors
that Vignoles had made an error in his calculations
while laying out a tunnel on the approach to Liverpool.
Although Vignoles protested that the error was of
minor consequence and easily corrected, Stephenson
succeeded in having him removed from his post by a
reluctant board. As a result of this clearly political dis-
missal, Vignoles left the L & M construction job with
his reputation as an outstanding civil engineer undam-
aged. Thus, from his experience with the L & M, Vig-
noles gained invaluable publicity as a skilled railroad
builder which subsequently brought him many offers
from other railroad companies. He also was elected to
the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1827.18
Although the Rennies, along with many other engi-
neers of the time, still were not convinced while the
L & M was under construction that steam locomotives
were practical and economical sources of motive power,
Vignoles agreed with Stephenson that these machines
should be employed on the L & M railroad. In fact, he
was so convinced that the future of overland transpor-
tation depended upon steam locomotives that he invested
some of his hard-earned savings in John Ericsson's
"Novelty," which competed unsuccessfully with Ste-
phenson's "Rocket" in the famous trials held in October
1829 to determine which machine would be adopted
by the L & M.
The reputation that he had acquired as resident engi-
neer for the Liverpool and Manchester railroad brought
a flood of business opportunities to Vignoles when he
left the employ of the railway company. However, dur-
ing the next three years he was engaged on several im-



portant civil engineering assignments of a traditional
nature that had nothing to do with railroads, including
a survey of the Isle of Man on behalf of the British
government, improvements on the Oxford canal con-
structed originally by Thomas Telford, and a project
to improve navigation on the Slaney River in Ireland,
financed by the Earl of Portsmouth. With the railroad
building mania gathering strength during the early
1830s, however, Vignoles was drawn back into railway
construction. In 1830 he was appointed chief engineer
of two different companies in Lancashire which were
planning to build short coal-carrying lines. Under his
supervision both steam-powered railroads were success-
fully completed. One connected the town of St. Helens
with the River Mersey, and the other ran from Park-
side to Preston. Enjoying a salary of 650 pounds an-
nually from each railroad, Vignoles had finally attained
prosperity as well as professional prominence.
While his two railways in Lancashire were still under
construction, Vignoles received an offer to take charge
of the building of another short line in Ireland, a prop-
osition that gave him more personal satisfaction than
any other he ever received. For more than a decade
there had been an acute need for improved transporta-
tion facilities between Dublin and the new harbor which
the elder John Rennie had constructed in 1816 at Kings-
town. Nevertheless, plans to link the city with its harbor
by means of a canal failed to materialize because suffi-
cient capital could not be raised on the impoverished
island. With the emergence in the late 1820s of steam
railroads as a practical and cheaper alternative to ca-
nals, Irish promoters naturally turned their thoughts in



that direction. A company was organized, funds raised,
and the necessary legislation obtained from Parliament
during 1831. Shortly after the chartering of the com-
pany, the chief engineer died, leaving the project in a
precarious situation. The directors then tried to obtain
the services of Thomas Telford, and when he declined
to take over the Irish railroad, the directors employed
George Stephenson to survey the line and make an
estimate of the costs of construction. Stephenson and
his assistant, Joseph Locke, eventually reported to
the directors that 110,000 would be required to build
the railroad.
Colonel John Fox Burgoyne, illegitimate son of Gen-
eral Burgoyne of Saratoga fame and Wellington's great
engineer, was chairman of the Irish Board of Works, a
governmental agency authorized to advance the Dublin
railroad company a loan of 75,000. Not being satisfied
with Stephenson's plans and estimates, Burgoyne in-
structed the board's own engineer to prepare separate
estimates. As a result, Stephenson was eventually forced
out of the post of chief engineer for the Dublin to Kings-
town railroad. Burgoyne then arranged for Vignoles,
with whom he had been friendly since they had met
during the war in Spain, to supersede Stephenson with
a salary of 800 a year. Vignoles confided to his diary
that the pleasure of replacing the man who had fired
him from the L & M railroad was in itself worth at
least 1,000.
As in the case of the L & M railroad, the building of
the Dublin and Kingstown railway drew as much upon
Vignoles' skill as a diplomat as upon his engineering
talent. On one hand, he had to satisfy the requirements



of the demanding Board of Works; on the other, he
had to persuade influential landowners to sell rights of
way across their properties, although the parliamentary
act chartering the company did not require them to do
so. In the first instance, he succeeded so well that he
made lifelong personal friends of several key members
of the board. In the second, he was able to bring the
negotiations for the rights of way to a satisfactory con-
clusion by employing unorthodox methods. Not only did
he offer high prices for the tracts of land involved, but
he agreed to construct handsome edifices on the rights-
of way which would enhance rather than detract from
the adjoining properties. In one case, he promised to
erect a decorative iron bridge over the railroad to con-
nect the two pieces of property which had been separ-
ated by the railroad. In others, he built a harbor, pier,
and fishing and bathing lodges for Lord Cloncurry who
owned crucial waterfront property.
The actual construction of the six-mile-long line pre-
sented no unusual engineering problem, and it was
opened to traffic in 1834. Although Vignoles was al-
ready convinced that a flexible foundation for the rails
was preferable to the rigid granite roadbed then in
vogue, the directors of the company required that he
construct the railway on the accepted system. Despite
his reservations, Vignoles had to admit that his con-
tractor had produced a very solid smooth roadway. In
November 1834 the locomotive "Hibernian" attained
the remarkable speed of sixty miles an hour over a
short stretch of the line, and a second engine pulling a
car containing forty passengers reached a speed of
forty-eight miles an hour.



Hoping to publicize the formal opening of the first
Irish railroad, Vignoles obtained an audience with the
widowed Duchess of Kent with the intention of per-
suading her and her daughter, Princess Victoria, to be
present at the ceremonies. After reminiscing about
Vignoles' relations with her late husband, the duchess
disappointed the engineer by declining the invitation
on the grounds of political complications.
From the day of the opening of the line on Decem-
ber 17, 1834, the company enjoyed a profitable business
that exceeded their most optimistic estimates. During
the first few years the passenger traffic on the Dublin
and Kingstown produced receipts of 2,000 per month
(a sum proportionately larger than the earnings of the
Liverpool and Manchester railroad, when their differ-
ent lengths were taken into account), and the stock-
holders for many years annually received dividends
ranging from 5 to 10 per cent.
In 1835 Vignoles was appointed chief engineer for
two separate railway projects. One was to be a line
connecting Rugby with Derby by way of Leicester to
be constructed by the Midland Counties Railway Com-
pany. The other was to run from Manchester to Shef-
field through a tunnel 5,300 yards long cut through the
Pennines. Vignoles completed the first of these lines
with his usual dispatch, and the stretch between Not-
tingham and Derby opened in May 1839. His exper-
ience with the Manchester and Sheffield railroad was of
an entirely different nature. Errors in judgment brought
Vignoles close to financial and professional ruin.19
Before naming a chief engineer, the directors of the
Sheffield and Manchester Railway Company employed



both Vignoles and Joseph Locke, Stephenson's former
assistant, to prepare independent surveys of alternative
routes. After examining both, the directors selected the
route proposed by Vignoles, despite the obvious engi-
neering problems posed by the Pennines tunnel. Vig-
noles rightly assumed that constructing the tunnel
could be the most demanding part of the entire project,
and he planned to give it his personal attention. He
moved his family into a country residence nearby, and
brought his oldest son, Charles, back from Germany, to
act as an assistant. Having become emotionally com-
mitted to an unusual degree to the building of this rail-
road, Vignoles invested heavily in the company and
persuaded many of his friends to do likewise. Because
of the depression of 1837, raising capital proved to be
difficult, and it was not until May 1837 that the S & M
received its charter from Parliament. Work on the line
began in October 1838 with the breaking of ground
at one end of the tunnel. Encountering exceptionally
hard rock almost immediately, the workmen proceeded
slowly. Vignoles underestimated the logistical problems
involved in supplying an army of workmen in a very
isolated location, and he experienced severe personnel
problems as a result.
Because of construction delays and the continuing
difficulty in selling shares in the company, the project
became endangered. When in 1839 subscriptions were
called in by the directors, Vignoles was unable to come
forth with the 140,000 for which his purchase of 1,402
shares of stock had obligated him. As a result, he was
relieved of his post by the directors, who then sued for
that sum in the Court of Exchequer. An adverse judg-



ment handed down by the court in 1843 cost Vignoles
80,000, virtually wiping out all of his financial assets,
and leaving him with the necessity of starting over
again at the age of fifty. Many friends for whom he
had obtained shares in the S & M also suffered heavy
losses and some were forced into bankruptcy. The rail-
road was completed by Locke, who replaced Vignoles
as the chief engineer.
During the depression years, 1839-1844, Vignoles
struggled desperately to provide for his family by tak-
ing any kind of engineering work that came his way,
no matter how inconsequential. Once again, Sir John
Rennie came to his rescue at a critical moment in 1840,
employing him to design a floating pier at the South-
wark Iron Bridge. Still having all too much free time
on his hands the following year, Vignoles accepted an
appointment as professor of civil engineering at Uni-
versity College, the first such professorship in England,
and he retained the post for two years. During that
period, he delivered during each quarter a series of
lectures on the practical aspects of his profession.
Meanwhile, he designed an iron slip for the island of
St. Thomas. Constructed at Glasgow, the slip was suc-
cessfully installed in 1843, providing the island with a
badly needed harbor. Finally, to his great relief, he was
offered that same year an assignment in Europe which
was worthy of the attention of a civil engineer of his
professional stature.
Resigning his professorship at University College in
the spring of 1843, Vignoles went to Germany to pre-
pare plans for a system of state railroads for the king-
dom of Wiirttemberg. After a year, he presented the


king a set of plans and cost estimates for the railway
network. That monarch, however, decided not to adopt
Vignoles' proposals. Dismissed with a letter of thanks,
a diamond-encrusted snuffbox, and a payment for his
services of 2,500 guineas, Vignoles returned to England
disappointed at losing an opportunity to build railroads
in Germany, but restored professionally and financially.
This episode, despite its unfortunate outcome, opened
up a new and rewarding phase in Vignoles' career.
Henceforth, he was to be largely occupied with major
overseas construction projects.
Before taking up his overseas career, Vignoles spent
two busy years working on railroads in England and
Ireland. In 1845 the return of prosperity to Great
Britain released a pent-up mania for the building of
new railroads, with no fewer than 300 applications for
charters being presented to Parliament in the spring of
that year. Civil engineers, after having endured a lean
half-decade, suddenly were overwhelmed with oppor-
tunities for employment. As one of the better known
specialists in railroad engineering, Vignoles had his pick
of many projects. To be sure, most of the companies
he worked for were unable to obtain parliamentary ap-
proval for their schemes, but their political misfortunes
reflected no discredit on Vignoles. Even so, several rail-
roads were completed under his direction in Ireland, and
in the north and south of England, including the East
Kent Railroad (later renamed the London, Chatham,
and Dover), the Little Northwestern, and the Water-
ford and Lemrick in Ireland. In this period Vignoles'
rail shaped like an inverted capital T finally won gen-
eral acceptance in England, years after a similar type



had become common on American railroads. This rail,
spiked to a longitudinal wooden support, provided a
flexible roadway for trains which caused much less dam-
age to rolling stock than the earlier rigid granite-based
railway system introduced by Stephenson. Today, the
Vignoles rail is regarded as his principal contribution
to the development of the British railway system.20
For a brief period in the mid-1840s, Vignoles advo-
cated the so-called atmospheric system for propulsion
of railway trains in situations where steep grades could
not be avoided. Isambard K. Brunel and William Cubitt
shared his enthusiasm for the new system, but Ste-
phenson, regarding it as no more than a revival of the
stationary engine system, opposed the atmospheric
principal vehemently. Again, the unlettered self-made
engineer proved to be right when better trained pro-
fessionals were found to be in error. Between 1846 and
1848 Brunel gave the atmospheric principal a full-scale
test on his South Devon line, and ultimately had to
concede defeat because no effective means of sealing the
slot in the stationary pneumatic tube (through which
the train's piston arm moved) could be devised. A
leather flap which Brunel employed did permit the pas-
sage of the piston arm through the slot, but it failed
to make an air-tight seal after the piston and its arm
had gone past. Before this crucial test had been con-
ducted by Brunel, Vignoles designed a portion of a rail-
way connecting London with Brighton to operate on
the atmospheric system. Because the parent line was
not constructed immediately, Vignoles' plan was never
given a trial.
While enjoying a welcome rush of business in 1845,



Vignoles was approached by the directors of the East
India Company with a proposal that he spend three
years in India planning a railway system. Had the offer
come a year or two earlier, Vignoles would have ac-
cepted without hesitation. As it was, he refused their
offer of a salary of 4,000 per annum with an addi-
tional thousand pounds for an assistant, and insisted
upon 7,000 for himself, 1,000 for an assistant, and
transportation costs for both to India and back, with
their pay to run from departure to return. When the
directors refused to meet his terms, Vignoles rejected
their proposal. His arrogant attitude in this instance
reveals how greatly his professional circumstances had
changed for the better since the loss of his fortune five
years earlier. In later years, Vignoles came to regret
that he did not undertake the proposed survey for the
East India Company, recognizing that he had passed up
the opportunity to become the primary railway builder
for a subcontinent.
Of all the many foreign construction projects which
Vignoles carried out between 1847 and 1865, he was
proudest to the end of his life of the great bridge
he built across the Dnieper River at Kiev before the
Crimean War. Czar Nicholas I for many years had
wanted to construct such a bridge at a point where the
structure would be protected by his great Kiev fortress,
but he could find no engineer who would undertake the
project. Upon learning of the czar's interest in the Kiev
Bridge from the British consul at Warsaw in 1847,
Vignoles decided to apply for the assignment. Drawing
up a preliminary plan, he journeyed to St. Petersburg,
where he described his proposed bridge to the czar him-



self. Nicholas was highly pleased with Vignoles' plan
and awarded him the contract with the assurance that
all of Russia's resources would be put at his disposal.
Vignoles surveyed the location at Kiev, and then re-
turned to England to purchase the machines, iron work,
and various sophisticated materials which could not be
obtained elsewhere.
The construction of the half-mile-long bridge occu-
pied most of Vignoles' time and attention from 1847 to
1853. While designing the bridge, which at the time
would be the longest in the world, Vignoles faced sev-
eral serious problems with which English civil engi-
neers were not familiar. Like the Mississippi River, the
Dnieper flowed across a land where bedrock lay very
far below the surface. When Vignoles took borings of
the bed of the Dnieper, he was dismayed to discover
that the bed was composed of an enormously thick layer
of sand. He therefore had to design piers which could
stand firmly on that insubstantial material. A second
engineering problem of even more awesome proportions
was caused by an annual change of approximately fifty
feet in the water level of the river at Kiev, with a
corresponding variation in the velocity of the current.
Finally, the spring thaws not only released a mighty
surge of water down the Dnieper when the ice broke
up, but also sent immense chunks of ice downriver
with sufficient velocity to damage bridge piers. During
recent decades, spring floods had literally erased all
evidence of several earlier attempts to bridge the Dnie-
per in the region of Kiev.
Finding solutions to these problems was the greatest
achievement of Vignoles' career. Having no alternative,



he floated his piers on pilings of concrete sunk deeply
into the sand of the river bed. In fabricating the pil-
ings, he first built caissons of wooden poles which were
driven into the river bed by steam pile drivers. When
the caissons were water tight, he dredged out with
steam pumps the enclosed water and sand, and filled in
the resulting space with concrete. While he was con-
structing these huge pilings, a spring flood occurred,
which presented him with an unanticipated problem
that threatened to put an end to his construction project.
When the rapidly moving flood of water encountered
the bridge caissons, the powerful currents scooped out
vast quantities of sand from the bottom of the chan-
nels between the obstructions. Vignoles perceived that
his pilings would eventually be undermined no matter
how deeply he sank them into the river bed. At this
juncture, he consulted with Dutch and German engi-
neers who were familiar with this problem. They ad-
vised him to protect the foundations of his piers with
mattresses filled with stone. Following their advice,
Vignoles employed thousands of woodsmen and car-
penters to build large box-like structures containing
many compartments. These empty boxes were floated
into place on the upriver side of the piers and then
filled with rock until they sank to the river bed. More
rock was then dumped in from the barges moored over-
head until the compartments in the mattresses were
filled. River currents subsequently cut away at the sand
underneath the outer sides of the mattresses until they
settled to a permanent position sloping downward at
an angle of about forty-five degrees. These slanting
mattresses provided such effective protection for the



piers, that no change could be detected forty years later.
On top of his five piers, Vignoles built stone towers
from the tops of which he suspended the bridge plat-
form, utilizing gigantic wrought-iron chains composed
of links twelve feet long. Wrought-iron rods fastened
the platform to the chains. When complete in 1853 the
Kiev suspension bridge was justly regarded as one of
the great engineering feats of the nineteenth century,
and Vignoles was acclaimed one of England's eminent
civil engineers. Ill luck still continued to dog Vignoles,
however. The outbreak of the Crimean War prevented
him from receiving payment for building the Kiev
bridge until 1857. By then Czar Nicholas had died, and
Vignoles was unable to obtain further construction
work from his successor. By being away from England
for the better part of a decade, Vignoles had also lost his
connections with English railroad building, and other
and younger railroad engineers had come to the fore.
Vignoles' linguistic and diplomatic skills nevertheless
brought him all of the work that he could manage out-
side of the English-speaking world. Between 1853 and
1855, Vignoles constructed the earliest railway in wes-
tern Switzerland, a line connecting Lausanne to Morges
and Yverdon. Meanwhile, he also became chief engi-
neer on the Frankfort, Wiesbaden, and Cologne Rail-
way. In 1856 Vignoles laid out a Brazilian line con-
necting Bahia to the San Francisco River, a project
finally completed in 1863.
In 1858 Vignoles accepted an appointment as chief
engineer of the Tuleda and Bilbao railroad which ran
through the mountainous Basque country in Spain. Pre-
viously, Spanish engineers had failed to find a workable



route, but Vignoles succeeded in surveying a practic-
able right of way through the mountains. While con-
structing the line, he had to drive numerous tunnels
through the Cantabrian Mountains, including one in
which a half-mile of quicksand was encountered. One
difficulty, even worse than the tunneling, was resolved
only by diverting the Ebro River into another bed,
using techniques Vignoles had learned at Kiev.
After the Spanish project was completed, Vignoles
entered into a period of semi-retirement. He was con-
nected with railroad building projects on the Isle of
Man and in Poland, but most of the responsibility for
these assignments were borne by his son Henry, who
had worked with him on the Kiev bridge. He retired
from professional work completely in 1865, then being
seventy-two years old. He died on November 17, 1875.
Vignoles had seven children by his first wife, Mary
Griffiths Vignoles (1787-1834), of whom Thomas
(1821-1822) and Isabella (1823-1829) perished in
early childhood. The oldest son, Charles Ferdinand
(1819-?), was educated to be a civil engineer but fell
victim to a mental disorder that disabled him perman-
ently. Hutton (1824-?) and Henry (1827-?) Vignoles
joined their father's engineering firm upon completing
their educations, each becoming a successful civil engi-
neer. Olinthus John Vignoles, M.A. (1829-?), entered
the ministry and became assistant-minister at St. Pe-
ters Church, Vere Street, London. In addition to his
father's biography, Olinthus published a Memoir of Sir
Robert P. Stewart, Kt., Mus. Doc., professor of music
in the University of Dublin (1862-94) (London, 1899).
The oldest of the seven children and only surviving



daughter, Camilla (who was baptized Anna Hester, by
mistake), died unmarried in 1883 at the age of sixty-
five. Vignoles' first wife died in Liverpool in 1834, after
a long illness, at the age of forty-seven. She was buried
in St. James cemetery in that city. Vignoles married a
second wife, Elizabeth, in 1849. He had no children
during this marriage. Elizabeth survived her husband
by five years, dying in 1880. Vignoles, himself, died in
Hythe, Hampshire, on November 17, 1875, and was
buried in Brompton cemetery, London.
Vignoles received many professional honors during
his career. He was elected a member of the Royal So-
ciety in 1855, for example, and in 1869 he was chosen
president of the Institute of Civil Engineers. Because
most of his later working years were spent outside of
England, Vignoles is less well known today than many
of his contemporaries who had fewer achievements to
their credit than Dr. Hutton's irresponsible grandson.
Even so, the author of Victorian Engineering (1970)
counts him among the six greatest civil engineers of
nineteenth-century England.21

Vignoles' Observations upon the Floridas (1823) was
one of several works published soon after Spain ceded
her East and West Florida provinces to the United
States. Among these publications were: [Daniel Blow],
A Geographical, Historical, Commercial, and Agricul-
tural View of the United States; Forming a Complete
Emigrant's Directory through Every Part of the Re-
public; Particularizing the States of Kentucky ... East
and West Florida ... (1820); [Edward J. Coale], An
Original Memoir on the Floridas, with a General De-



scription by the Best Authorities, by a Gentleman of
the South (1821) ; William Darby, Memoir on the Geog-
raphy, and Natural and Civil History of Florida, At-
tended by a Map of that Country . (1821) ; James
Grant Forbes, Sketches, Historical and Topographical
of the Floridas; More Particularly of East Florida
(1821); and [William Hayne Simmons], Notices of
East Florida, with an Account of the Seminole Nation
of Indians by a Recent Traveller in the Province (1822).
All of these publications were intended to satisfy the
curiosity of Americans about their new territorial ac-
quisition; some were written for the benefit of trav-
elers, and several were brochures of real estate promo-
ters who were trying to lure potential purchasers of
Florida lands into their business grasp. The works of
Forbes and Vignoles fell into all three categories.
The book about Florida that attracted the most atten-
tion at the time of publication, and the one which sev-
eral generations of historians have considered to be the
best description of Florida at the time of its transfer
to the United States, was Forbes, Sketches . of the
Floridas. Because the author was a native of East
Florida and a United States governmental official in
Florida when the book came off the press, his account
was considered to be unusually authoritative. Further-
more, Forbes brought out his travel volume about Flor-
ida while interest in the new territory was at a peak.
Consequently, he was able virtually to monopolize the
Forbes was born in St. Augustine in 1769, the son of
John Forbes, an influential Anglican clergyman who
served on the governor's council throughout the period



of the British occupation of Florida. Through his poli-
tical connections, John Forbes acquired a large land
grant which his heirs could not persuade the Spanish
authorities to recognize. In 1783 John Forbes went back
to England with his family, and his son James was edu-
cated there. Upon coming of age, James engaged in
business on Santo Domingo for a brief period before
settling permanently in the United States. During the
War of 1812 Forbes served in the United States Army,
rising eventually to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Be-
cause Colonel Forbes was known to be familiar with
North Florida and because he was experienced in nego-
tiating with Spanish government officials, President
Monroe sent him to Cuba in 1821 to arrange the final
details of the transfer of Florida to the United States.
Upon the successful completion of this mission, Forbes
was appointed United States marshal for East and West
Florida on the recommendation of General Andrew
Jackson, the first territorial governor. Forbes also held
the office of mayor of St. Augustine for eighteen months
before leaving Florida for New York in late 1822 on
account of ill health. He still hoped to obtain a valid
title to his father's land grant while he was preparing
his Sketches of the Floridas, and he intended to use the
book as an aid in selling land to settlers.
Although the lengthy historical account with which
Forbes began his Sketches has been demonstrated to be
full of errors, his description of the land and its inhab-
itants were based largely on his own personal knowl-
edge, and is therefore valuable to historians. While
composing his manuscript, he relied on memory rather
than on notes or recent observations, so his work is



less specific than that of Vignoles who wrote from de-
tailed descriptions jotted down while on research trips
about East Florida.
Because Charles Vignoles' travel account was pub-
lished two years later than Forbes' Sketches and at a
time of severe economic depression, the book did not
receive nearly as wide a circulation as did Forbes'
work. In one of his letters, Vignoles commented that a
Boston newspaper published a favorable article on his
work, but research has not been able to uncover this
material. Historians also have until recently generally
ignored Vignoles' Observations, although Lewis C. Gray
cited Vignoles in his monumental two-volume History
of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860.22
This neglect by scholars has been caused more by a lack
of information about a very rare volume than by mis-
trust of Vignoles' accuracy.
If Vignoles' purpose in writing his Observations is
understood, the relative worth of any particular part of
his commentary is readily apparent to the reader. The
book was intended to be a supplement to Vignoles' new
map of Florida, which the author considered to be his
more important contribution. Having been engaged for
several years in charting the coastline of South Caro-
lina, Vignoles was keenly aware that the existing maps
of the waters off the South Atlantic states were dan-
gerously inadequate for navigational purposes. He was
convinced that northeast Florida would gain population
very rapidly in the near future, and he assumed that
water transportation by sea and river would be vital to
the newcomers. Hence, he focused his attention as a
map-maker on the northeastern coast of Florida; this



was where he expected sea-borne commerce to expand
in the immediate future. Employing a large rowboat, he
charted the shoreline and the larger streams that flowed
into the Atlantic, and recorded observations about the
characteristics of the lands bordering the ocean and
the streams. In addition, he undertook trips on horse-
back into the hinterland of East Florida to determine
the suitability of the various regions for agriculture.
Finally, he traveled by sea to the southern tip of the
peninsula of Florida, although his observations of the
southeastern coast necessarily were more superficial
than in the north.23
As a trained surveyor and military engineer, Vig-
noles had a keen eye for topography and natural re-
sources, but he was comparatively indifferent to Florida
society in all but its economic aspects. He had little to
say about the Indians, and he wasted few words on
descriptions of the towns. What he did produce was a
reliable guide for persons traveling by water and land
about East Florida, to which he added as much infor-
mation as he could obtain from other sources about
those parts of Florida with which he was not particu-
larly familiar. He also attempted to round out his
Observations by including some information about Eng-
lish and Spanish land grants, for this was a subject
that would concern immigrants interested in pur-
chasing Florida lands. He admitted frankly, however,
that his information about this subject was based on
questionable sources.
While preparing his commentary to accompany his
map, Vignoles went to unusual pains to make clear to
a reader which parts were based on personal knowl-



edge, which parts were derived from interviews with
local residents, and which parts were extracted from
written sources. Modern readers can rely implicity on
statements for which Vignoles himself is the authority,
because he strove for the same standard of accuracy
that he used in making mathematical computations.
Throughout his long career, Vignoles was transpar-
ently honest in all of his transactions. The same quality
permeates his Observations upon the Floridas.

The Florida State University.


1. Unless indicated otherwise, biographical information about
Charles B. Vignoles was derived from a biography written by his
son, Olinthus J. Vignoles, Life of Charles Blacker Vignoles (Lon-
don, 1889). Olinthus Vignoles used his father's journals and
letters as his principal sources, but also did extensive research
in the British Museum, the Institute of Civil Engineers, and in
the archives of several British railroads with which his father
had been associated. He indicated that his father's letters and
journals were in the possession of a younger brother, Henry
Vignoles. O. J. Vignoles published excerpts from a few letters
and described the remainder of the material from the Florida
period of his father as being scanty. Biographical sketches of
Charles B. Vignoles are in the Dictionary of National Biography
(DNB), s.v. "Vignoles, Charles Blacker"; N. W. Webster, Joseph
Locke: Railway Revolutionary (London, 1970), pp. 42-44, 105-9.
References to Vignoles are in [William Hayne Simmons], Notices
of East Florida (Charleston, S.C., 1822; facsimile ed., introduc-
tion by George E. Buker, Gainesville, Fla., 1973), pp. 22, 24;
James Kip Finch, Story of Engineering (New York, 1960), p.
218; Samuel Smiles, Life of George Stephenson and His Son
Robert Stephenson (New York, 1868), pp. 279, 291, 311.



2. The history of the British military campaign in the Wind-
ward Islands, during which Vignoles' father and mother per-
ished, is in Bryan Edwards, History, Civil and Commercial, of
the British Colonies in the West Indies, 4 vols. (Philadelphia,
1806), 4:287-310; J. W. Fortescue, History of the British Army,
2nd ed., 13 vols. (London, 1915), 4:350-84.
3. For references to Victor Hugues, see Edwards, History of
the British Colonies in the West Indies, 4:306-7; Sir Harry
Johnston, The Negro in the New World (New York, 1969), pp.
168-69; Henry Lemery, La Revolution Frangaise a la Martinique
(Paris, 1936), pp. 292-98; John H. Parry and Philip M. Sher-
lock, A Short History of the West Indies, 3rd ed. (London, 1971),
p. 171; Alexandre Moreau de Jonnes, Adventures in Wars of the
Republic and Consulate (London, 1920), pp. 118-20; P. Levot,
Histoire de la ville et du port de Brest pendant la Terreur
(Brionne, 1971), pp. 154-73, 181-213; Fortescue, History of
the British Army, 4:370; Thomas Ott, The Haitian Revolution,
1789-1804 (Knoxville, Tenn., 1973), p. 86; Vignoles, Charles
Blacker Vignoles, p. 7.
4. DNB, s.v. "Hutton, Charles"; Vignoles, Charles Blacker
Vignoles, pp. 6-7.
5. DNB, s.v. "Hutton, Charles"; Vignoles, Charles Blacker
Vignoles, pp. 5, 8-15.
6. Fortescue, History of the British Army, 4:chap. 17.
7. R. Money Barnes, The Scottish Regiments (London, 1956),
p. 126.
8. Ibid., pp. 129-30.
9. DNB, s.v. "MacGregor, Sir Gregor."
10. Charleston (S.C.) Courier, January 23, November 3, 1821.
11. Ibid., January 3, 1822.
12. Clarence E. Carter, ed., Territorial Papers of the United
States, 28 vols. (Washington, 1933-76), 22:360.
13. Bell was at the time acting secretary and acting governor
of East Florida. The Vignoles materials are in the National
Archives (War Department, CE, Bulky File No. 40). See Carter,
Territorial Papers, 22:754.
14. Copies of the Vignoles map of Florida are in both the
National Archives and in the Library of Congress. In the Na-
tional Archives, one is filed as Ref. Coll.: Florida 1823; another
is filed as L69 in RG 77. Photocopies are available in Florida,
including the Robert Strozier Library, Florida State University,



15. Vignoles' prospectus was published in the Charleston
(S.C.) Courier, July 22, 1822, as follows:

Early in October, will be published, A New Map of Florida,
compiled from recent actual surveys and observations, and also
from authentic documents, made and collected during a residence
in that country.
To accompany the Map, but for the public convenience issued
separately, at the same time, Observations Upon the Floridas,
from original notes taken during several journies [sic] in the in-
terior, particularly through parts hitherto unexplored, and infor-
mation drawn from the most authentic sources,
By Charles Vignoles,
Civil and Topographical Engineer, lately of South Carolina; and
at present a resident Surveyor of East Florida.
The Map will be about 26 inches square, delineated on a scale
of 20 miles to the inch; the whole of the principal and almost all
the tributary water courses and the chief lakes will be laid
down; the existing carriage roads and all the main Indian paths,
the names of places of entertainment, &c. will be noted-the local
appellations being carefully retained to avoid confusion, as it
will be an object to render the Map as convenient and useful as
possible to travellers; independent of the general details, all large
grants of lands will be located as far as is practicable.
The accompanying book will contain a review of the state of
the province in a statistical and civil light, for a few years pre-
vious to and at the time of its Cession.
A summary description of the country in general as respects
soil, climate and topographical details, with remarks on the dif-
ferent appropriate cultures, particularly coffee, sugar, Cuban
tobacco and fruit.
An abstract as far as is obtainable of all the grants made by
the Spanish authorities in the Floridas, with the names of the
original grantees, &c. explanations of the principal [sic] upon
which lands were generally conceded, and an account of the dif-
ferent laws, royal orders &c. authorizing the Gouvernors to
make grants.
Such information respecting the Indians, the wrecking systems
among the Keys and Reefs, and other general points as they may
be considered useful or interesting to the public.
The price will be made as low as possible, it being presumed



that the Map and Pamphlet may be issued at a sum not exceed-
ing $3 for both. Names of Subscribers for the Map and Book will
be received at this Office until the 1st September next, and the
copies will be accordingly forwarded as soon as published, pay-
able on delivery.
St. Augustine, June 29, 1822.
16. The Library of Congress lists a work by Vignoles entitled
The History of the Floridas, from the discovery by Cabot in
1497, to the cession of the same to the United States, in 1821.
With observations on the climate, soil and productions. By Charles
Vignoles ... Brooklyn, N.Y. Printed by G. L. Birch, 1824. Birch,
99 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., was the printer who produced
the 1823 version which was published by E. Bliss & E. White,
128 Broadway. Very likely Vignoles owed Birch money which the
latter tried to recoup by selling the book under a title better cal-
culated to attract purchasers. He may have done this with or
without Vignoles' approval.
17. Webster, James Locke, pp. 40-44; Smiles, George and
Robert Stephenson, pp. 254-323.
18. Webster, James Locke, pp. 42-43; Vignoles, Charles
Blacker Vignoles, pp. 111-20.
19. Webster, James Locke, pp. 105-10; Vignoles, Charles
Blacker Vignoles, pp. 233-44.
20. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., s.v. "Railways".
21. Lionel T. C. Rolt, Victorian Engineering (London, 1970),
p. 23.
22. Lewis C. Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern
United States to 1860, 2 vols. (Gloucester, Mass., 1958), 2:901.
23. Not everyone agreed as to the accuracy of Vignoles' map.
In a letter to the secretary of war, dated September 29, 1823,
written at St. Augustine, James Gadsden wrote: "Little confi-
dence is to be placed in the accuracy of Vignoles' map-as to the
Interior of the Country; the Sea Coast may be correct as he had
resort to some of the best English & Spanish Charts-The inte-
rior of Florida has never been explored, that I can ascertain-
Vignoles made but a short excursion into the Country West of
St. Augustine-He never was more than 20 miles South of
Alachua-The position of Okahumky & other Indian villages as
laid down by him is grossly erroneous." Carter, Territorial
Papers, 22:754.






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Southern District of Ne~o-York, ss.
BE IT REMEM BEREI), that on the firstday of March, in the forty-seventh
year of the Independence of the United States of America, CHAULES VIGNOLES,
of the said District, hath deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof
he claims as proprietor, in the words following, to wit:
Observations upon the Floridas. By Charles Vignoles, Civil ard Topographical
In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, An act
for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books,
to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;"
and also to an act, entitled, An act supplementary to an act, entitled, an act for the
encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the
authors and proprietors of such, copies, during the time therein mentioned, and ex-
tending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical
and other prints."
Clerk of the Southern District of New.York.

G. L. Birch, Printer, 99 Fulton-street, Brooklyn.

Introductory Observations, 7
Historical Observations, 17
Topographical Observations, 35
Observations upon the Soil and its natural
growth, - 86
Observations upon the appropriate articles
of culture, 95
Observations upon the temperature and climate, 109
Observations upon the Florida Keys and
Wreckers, 117
Observations upon the Indians, 129
Observations upon the Land Titles, 138
Appendix, 155


THE newly acquired territory of Florida has ad,
vanced the soil of the Union to the very verge of the
tropics, and by placing the ports from the mouths of
the Mississippi round to Amelia island, under the
American flag, has hermetically closed all approaches
to our interior. The various political advantages
arising from the cession have been often set forth, and
are too well appreciated to require enumeration in a
pamphlet of topographical details. The country has
singularities and advantages in various points of view,
which. at a remoter period, may be estimated with
impartiality, and found to be of importance.
The following observations upon the Floridas have
been collected, during a residence in the country; in


which period several extensive journeys were made,
with a view of obtaining materials for the construction
of a new map, and for the purpose now brought forward.
Some reports sent to the Indian department, at the
seat ofgovernment, copies of which appeared in one of
the Boston papers, contain a few of the results of the
author's personal observations, and make the basis of
these notes, though now modified, and in several parts
changed, from the acquisition of better information.
Those who may peruse these pages must not expect
the glowing narrative of an agreeable excursion,
through regions comparable to a paradise. The sub-
sequent relation has only truth to recommend it, and
from the very nature of the work, must appear dry and
tedious to all not immediately interested in the re-
sources of the territory. It will be observed that a
fuller account is given of the Atlantic border than of
the Mexican shore; its evident pre-importance, on
some accounts, led naturally to the earliest examina-
tion, and the many excellencies it possesses encoura-
ged investigation, which the nature of the coast, and
its nearer vicinity to recourses, rendered more practi-
cable; added to which the author's domicile at St.
Augustine, and the total ignorance of a country so
comparatively near the capital, induced him to ex.
plore and remark personally; and in consequence it
may be noted, that on the map almost the whole sea.



cast from St. Mary's river to cape Florida, is from
his own actual survey; the names of places are set down
as best known to the very few residents in the vicini-
ty, and the traveller or shipwrecked mariner may rely
upon the general accuracy of the detail. The fabu-
lous reports of the inland bays, lakes and waters,
which have heretofore existed, respecting the south-
ern part of the Florida peninsula, will be readily ac-
counted for, on a view of the map, and a glance at
the description of what is there actually to be found.
It is lamented that no account sufficiently satisfac-
tory could be procured upon West Florida; the com-
plete separation of the two divisions of the territory
from all communication with each other, and the total
impracticability of the author's extending his enquiries
to that portion of the country, have been the occasion
of this defect. Enough, however, is to be gleaned
from former accounts to infer, that the soil and climate
is not materially different from the adjacent lands in
the Mississippi and Alabama territories. The able
editor of the paper published at Pensacola, laments
himself the dearth of topographical and statistical in-
formation, and has made his appeal to the few scat-
tered inhabitants to supply the defect; but it has
not been ascertained whether if with any and what
success, the appeal has been answered. Called by
his professional duties, it was not in the author's pow-



er to make an actual inspection of all the points he
attempts to describe ; but he is under the conviction
that his authorities are respectable, and he has not
relied, except upon concurrent testimony, from more
than one creditable source.
In sketching the civilhistory of the province for the
few years preceding the cession to the United States,
the author is almost wholly indebted to the valua.
ble manuscripts of George I. F. Clarke, Esq. surveyor
general of East Florida, and lieutenant-governor
of the northern district of that province, while under
the dominion of Spain. This gentleman, whose in-
formation on this and every other subject connected
with the country, is very extensive, furnished with a
peculiar urbanity every assistance; and likewise some
of the remarks on the Indians. The friendly assistance
and judicious hints afforded by N. A. Ware, Esq. one
of the commissioners of land claims, call for especial
acknowledgments; indeed the present map and pam-
phlet were first put into a train of publication at his
suggestion, and by his striking out the general ideas
upon it. In the observations on the keys and reefs
of the Florida point, the information of the resident
pilots at the cape, have been chiefly relied on, as
they were corroborated by the accounts of several
masters of vessels, particularly Captain Snyder of
New-York, who have navigated among them, and do
not differ from the directions of Romans, De Brahm


and their co-temporaries, who have been fully consult-
ed and abstracted, as far as they were considered
It had always been a particular wish of the author
to have given a list of all the grants upon record, but
not having been able to obtain permission to search
the archives, after the departure to Pensacola of the
honourable Edmund Law, who had previous to that
period the charge of them, he must confine himself to
general accounts. He has located upon the map as
many of the large grants as have come within ki
knowledge, but as he has no official information on
the subject of any of them, they must be understood
as having been laid down, solely with a view of grati-
fying the general existing desire of knowing, where
the larger concessions lay, and their relative position
to each other.
In constructing the map of Florida, the author has
availed himself of all the existing charts and maps,
both domestic and foreign of all nations, as well as of
various manuscript draughts. Among those consulted,
were Romans' chart of Florida, the British nautical
survey of West Florida, from the mouths of the Mis-
sissippi to the embouchure of the Suwanee, the roy-
al Spanish chart of the gulf of Mexico, from the ma-
rine depot at Madrid, and various other Spanish maps,
Ellicott's map attached to his journal, while running



the Florida line, Gault's survey of the Florida keys,
and a variety of other charts of the coast. Among
the manuscripts made use of were; Sketches of the ri-
ver Saint John, partly from the author's own drawing,
and the rest furnished by Peter Mitchel, Esq. correct-
ed by a sight of Capt. Le Conte's accurate survey of the
whole of that interesting river from its mouth up to the
the very head lake, and a very correct British manu-
script chart ofSt. John's river, from the bar to the Cow-
ford; the author's own survey of the coast from St. Au-
gustine to cape Florida, extending to the heads of all
the waters on the Atlantic border; but his best assist-
ance more particularly for the interior of West Florida,
was from the manuscript map drawn by the late Jos.
Purcell, Esq. formerly of S. Carolina, which is now in
the topographical bureau at Washington, to which, with
a liberality and attention never to be forgotten, the au-
thor was allowed access for the purposes of his map;
this document contained the results of all that was
known to the British government up to the time df the
re-cession of the Floridas by Great Britain to Spain,
The boundary line as lately run by Georgia, was fur-
nished me by the politeness of the Surveyor General
of that state; Saint Mary's River, from the manuscript
survey of Zephaniah Kingsley, Esq. an enlightened
and valuable citizen of Florida; Nassau river and
Dunn's lake, from surveys made under the direction



of Mr. Turnbull, a great proprietor in the Territory.
The author's journeys in the interior, assisted by the
valuable notes and information of Peter Mitchell, Esq.
enabled him to fill up the detail from the old path to
fort St. Marks, to the head waters of Tampa bay and
across, along that parallel to the Atlantic. The re-
mainder is filled in by the information derived from
Lewis, Hegan and Pent, respectable pilots at cape
Florida, who mentioned the names of various persons,
still living in the Bahamas, who had travelled there-
in, and by the unanimous testimony of every indian
and indian negro consulted on the subject. Mr. Lew-
is, his father and family, lived for many years on va-
rious parts of the western coast, from the mouth of the
Suwanee, down to Cape Romano, and he afforded me
much local information.
After all, I am aware the map is not perfect, but it
concentrates all that is at present known of the terri-
tory; and if, where information was wholly unattain-
able, no directions can be given to the traveller or
new settler, yet he may be assured that where the
detail is laid down, that it is accurate and will not
mislead him. Sensible of all possible respect for the
opinions of an enlightened public, the work is offered
to them, with all its imperfections on its head; but
conscious that some account was desirable of Florida,
the author has in the following pages, and upon the



map, used his humble endeavors to colect facts and
describe realities. Should his attempt to afford a bet-
ter knowledge of this new country fail, he hopes the
candor of: his judges will attribute it to any thing but
want of exertions, and pardon a futile essay, which
was at least founded on good intentions.

Since the manuscript of this work was completed,
the accounts from East Florida, respecting the sugar
cane, have been uncommonly favorable: several
large establishments are about to be erected, and
considerable investments are making for the ex-
press purpose of raising the cane. It is a matter of
infinite satisfaction, that the certainty of sugar beco-
ming the staple of Florida is already established : let
us hope that the success in this article, will induce
other not less certain sources of wealth to be explo"
red. The olive, the grape, the silk-worm, and many
more which are detailed under their proper head,
are equally worthy the attention of the agriculturist.
On the subject of the territorial government we
have reason to believe, that by the exertions of the de-
legate from Florida; Joseph M. Hernandez, Esq. the
east and west divisions will be placed under separate
administrations and a separate board of eormission-



ers, appointed for each province; by which means
all existing difficulties will be smoothed and the hold-
ers of titles enabled without difficulty or expense to
establish their claims, and settlers will pour in from all
parts of the union to enjoy the advantages so liberal-
ly bestowed by nature upon Florida.

The map of Florida which is published at the same
time with this book, by the author, will for the accom-
modation of the public, be sold, either bound up with
it, or separately in sheets, done up in cases or mount-
ed and varnished, with roller, colored or uncolored
as required


FLORIDA was discovered in the year 1407, by Cabot; but it does
not appear that the country was either named or explored until
fifteen years afterwards, when Don Juan Ponce de Leon landed,
in April, 1512, and finding the earth covered with a luxuriant
vegetation, in flower, he styled the new region Florida, or Florida
Blanca. It was visited a few years afterwards by Narvaez, and
many other adventurers ; and in 1938, Ferdinand de Soto, so cele-
brated in antient books of travels, disembarked an army in Spirito
Santo Bay, and marched through the interior, fighting the Indians
and destroying his troops, without gaining a single point ; and after
traversing round to the Missisippi, died at the end of thtee or four
years, near the mouth of the Red river. His narrative throws but
little light on the real state of the country, and at present is looked
upon as a mere historical romance ; for though he doubtless actually
passed through the places he describes, yet with a view to palliate
his lavish waste of life to the Spanish government, he has interwo-
ven fabulous accounts of gold, pearls and treasures, which never
existed. The first colony in Florida was planted in 1562, by
Ribault, a Frenchman, near the mouth of the river Saint John ;


but the unfortunate Protestants, who had fled from persecution in
Europe, found the vindictive spirit of bigotry follow, and in 1564,
Menendez exterminated them with a demoniac malignity, unequal-
led by the horrors of the fatal festival of Saint Bartholomew in their
own country. Dominique de Gorgues, in 1568, took ample re-
venge, and hung the murderers on the same branches from which
depended the bleached skeletons of his compatriots.
Saint Augustine appears to have been built about 1565, and is
undoubtedly the oldest town on the continent of North America,
except the Mexican settlements. At the time this town was eva-
cuated in 1763, by the Spaniards, one at least of the original houses
remained, with the date of 1571 upon the front, and all were with-
out chimnies or glass windows. Sir Francis Drake, in 1586, pilla-
ged the town; a ceremony repeated by the Indians in 1611 : and
in 1665 Captain Davis, in the piratical spirit of the times, once
more desolated the place, which, from these checks, and other
causes, does not appear to have much advanced in size or popula-
tion. Governor Moore of South Carolina, made a fruitless attack
upon the fort at Saint Augustine in 1702; and in 1725, Colonel
Palmer of Georgia, was equally unsuccessful. General Ogelthorpe,
with a large force from Savannah, was completelyrepulsed in 1740,
and retreated in disorder. At length the, peace of 1763 gave the
Floridas to Great Britain, and for the subsequent twenty years
Saint Augustine appears greatly to have improved. The author
has conversed with many persons who were there in June 1784,
when it again reverted to Spain, and has heard them speak highly
of the beauty of the gardens, the neatness of the houses, and the
air of cheerfulness and comfort that seemed, during that preceding
period, to have been thrown over the town. Neglect and conse-
quent decay, attended this interesting town during its occupancy by
the Spaniards; where time or equinoctial storms damaged any
buildings, public or private, the hand of repair never came, and at



the period of the cession, this once elegant place appeared ruinous,
dirty, and unprepossessing.
Pensacola appears to have been founded some time previous to
1696 ; it was in that year taken from the French by Riola, and in
1699, Monsieur D'Iberville failed in his attempt to retake it. In
1719, it was three times taken and retaken, and at length retained
by France ; but in 1722 was restored to Spain. The prosperity of
Pensacola and decay seems to have been somewhat similar to its sis-
ter city. The history ofFlorida is not the subject of this publication,
and the preceding paragraphs have merely been drawn out to re-
fresh the memory of the reader, who will find in various modern
publications more minute information; but as some interest has
been excited to learn the real state of affairs as connected with East
Florida, for a few years previouN and at the time of the cession, the
author is happy in being able to gratify the public wish. Sometime in
the summer of 1811, general Mathews appears, in consequence of
an act of congress passed in the preceding session, to have been au-
thorised by the executive to proceed to the frontiers of Georgia, to
accept possession of East Florida from the local authorities, or to
take it against the attempt of a foreign power to occupy it, holding
it in either case subject to future and friendly negotiation. This
act appears to have been passed in consequence of the revolution
which had just broken out in the northern district of East Florida.
This official appearance of American interference, alarmed the go-
vernment of St. Augustine, who appear to have appealed to the Bri-
tish minister at Washington, who accordingly expostulated with Mr.
Monroe, then secretary of state. General Mathews appears in his
zeal to carry the orders ofthe executive into effect, to have exceed-
ed his powers, indeed it has been confidently asserted that the in-
surrection was fostered by his appearance. His taking possession of
Amelia Island and other parts of East Florida, was officially blamed,
and his commission revoked in April, 1812, and the governor of



Georgia was commissioned in his place, in consequence, as the offi-
cial letter states, of general Mathews having employed the troops
of the United States, to dispossess the Spanish authorities by force :
ordering a restoration of Almelia Island and other parts to the Spa-
nish authorities-stipulating for the protection of such inhabitants
as had joined the Americans from the anger of the Spanish govern.
ment. A later letter states, that if the troops are to be withdrawn
that governor Mitchell is not to interfere, to compel the patriots to
deliver the country to the Spanish authorities.
The following letters will carry a true idea of the general history
of that part of the country.
ST. AousGTIME, 25th July, 1821.
Capt. John R. Bell, Commanding the province of East Florida.
The following is intended to comply with your desire of inform.
mation on the northern division of this province ; and in order to
your comprehending the true state of that section, and the charac-
ter of its inhabitants, to whom, as the officer that presided over
them for the last five years, I feel grateful for their confidence,
their devotion, and their support, permit me to recapitulate a part
of its history; and first to premise: that it is bounded on the
north by Camden county, Georgia, the southernmost part of the
Atlantic states; the river St. Mary, the line of demarcation, and
a very narrow one, has long been the "jumping place" of a large
portion of the bad characters who gradually sift through the whole
southwardly : warm climates are congenial to bad habits. Second,
that, unfortunately for Florida, the laws of both governments had the
effect of making each country the asylum of the bad men of the other;
consequently, Florida must have received, we will suppose, twenty
of those for one it returned to Georgia. This must be the result, on
taking only a numerical view of the population of the two countries.



And thirdly, that by the orders af the Spanish court, prohibiting
citizens of the United States from beingreceivedo settlers in Flori-
da, the only part from whence it was everto expect population
sufficiently large to make it respectable, the godd were prevented
from coming in, while the ba4 mat cae. The resultof an obser-
vation, perhaps inadvertent, made in congress long since, Ftoride
must ultimately be ours, if .en4from emigratik, and loudly comment-
ed on by the Spanish minister.
The revolution, commenced in March, 1812, had spread general
desolation and ruin over the whole province; the dust of a siege
had been thirteen months snuffed within the walls ef St. Augustine.
On the 6th May, 1813, the assailants were withdrawn, and the town
of Fernandina was restored to the Spanish authorities.
The Spagish government had published a general pardon to its
subjects, but, unfortunately, had limited it to three months, a time
too short for the hbullitions of individual feelings to subside. Many,
and those of the most energetic and influential character, would
not trust themselves among the opposite party. The time expired,
and those were consequently left out. And in August, of the same
year, hostilities re-commenced ; more sanguinary scenes ensued ;
and the insurgents aided by bands of idlers from Georgia, took and
kept possession of all the territory lying to the west and north of St.
John's river. Fernandina having become too weak fr offence, and
St. Augustine not being willing to let out all its troops, to hunt "bush
fighters," the newly styled Republic of Florida, over which the in-
fluence of order had not been felt since March, 1812, and having
now no compulsive inducement to union among its members, soon
fell into the most wretched state of anarchy and licentiousness ; even
the honest were compelled to knavery in their own defence, and
thus continued until August, 1816-while the most rancorous feel-
ings were bandied between the Pat-Riots" of the main, and the
damn'd Spaniards" of Amelia island.



At that period preparations were making on the -Main for a de-
scent on Fernandina, then too weak to stand even on the defensive,
and no succors were to be expected from our friends, nor was there
any thing like good quarters to be looked for from our enemies.
Governor Coppinger had lately received the command of the pro.
vince. I knew his energetic and benevolent character ; that his
discretionary powers were very great, but his want of means, deplo-
rable; and I personally knew the people of the main, and had had
in other days, influence among them. I proposed a plan of recon-
ciliation and re-establishment of order. It was patronized by the
governor, and I received orders to proceed according to circum-
stances. Messrs. Zephaniah Kingsley and Henry Yonge went with
me up St. Mary's river to Mills' ferry, and met about forty of them,
and after much debate an agreement for a general meeting at Wa-
terman's Bluff in three weeks, was concluded on.
The day of meeting arrived, and none others but the gentlemen I
have mentioned would leave Fernandina. We knew that nothing
short of an election of officers would subdue those people, even
should they be willing to submit to order at all; and that was a
course opposite to the principles of the Spanish government. How-
ever, extraordinary cases require extraordinary remedies; and
circumstances authorising a long stride, I provided several copies
of a set of laws adapted to their circumstances, blank commissions,
instructions, &c. A gathering of several hundred, besides a crowd
ofspectators from Georgia, met us at the place appointed, a mere
mob without head or leader. I tendered them a distribution into
three districts of all the territory lying between St. John's river and
St. Mary's, with a magistrate's court and a company of militia in
each ; and those to be called Nassau, Upper and Lower St. Mary's;
an election of officers from the mass of the people of each, without
allowing the candidates to offer themselves ; that the officers to be
elected should be immediately commissioned to enter on the func-




tions of their offices; and that all the past should be buried in total
oblivion. These were received by a general expression of satis-
faction; a table was brought out on the green, and in a few hours
a territory containing about one half of the population of East Flo-
rida was brought to order; three magistrates and nine officers of
militia elected, commissioned, instructed and provided with laws.
Every demonstration ofsatisfaction ensued ; they took up their offi-
cers on their shoulders, hailed by the shouts of hundreds. A plen-
tiful feast and many interesting scenes of friendship and mirth closed
the important day.
His excellency approved of the proceedings, and tendered me a
superintending jurisdiction on the whole, which I admitted, on his
consenting to strike out Amelia island : that had a commandant who
had a plenty of leisure to attend to the complaints of Fernandina,
and I have ever since allowed them the election of officers in filling
up vacancies.
Such I~seu the confidence and resignation of those people, that
all complaints and appeals that should have gone before the supe-
rior courts at St. Augustine, have been referred to me for an opi-
nion, and those opinions have ever been voluntarily conclusive, to
any amount. And such their devotion to the government, that at the
shortest notice, any part or the whole force of the three districts
hav met me at the place appointed, mounted, armed and victualled,
each at his own expense.
Three facts speak volumes in favor ofjhose inhabitants :-First,
that in five years there has not been one appeal and but one com-
plaint to the superior authorities, in St. Augustine, although the
high road to both has all the while been open. Second, that Geor-
gians prefer suing Floridians in that part of Florida to suing them
in Georgia. Third, that the credit of Floridians stands higher in
Georgia than ever it did before, from whence they get all their sup-
plies. Such is the deplorable state a human nature, that a rob-



bery or a murder will occur in the best regulated societies ; within
a fortification ; but I can venture to assert, that in no part of the
civilized world do fewer irregularities occur among so many inha-
bitants, than in the northern division of this province.
I would caution, that when the people of Florida are spoken of
with censure, some regard would be paid to the person speaking,
as to who be is, or from whence he gets his information; to the pe-
riod to which reference is had, and the part of Florida alluded to.
I am aware that the time has been when these were censurable, for
they were above four years in a state of anarchy; the broadside of
their country open to the idle and vicious of Georgia ; and even af-
ter they were caned to order, in 1816, some time was required for
purification, by compelling mahy to decamp, and others to mend
their manners. And on the other side of St. John's river, under an-
other local jurisdiction, many who were hunted out from the north-
ern division found toleration.
We knew that a practice called Lynch's law had done more good
in Georgiain a few months, before Florida was found to be an asy-
lum for the vicious, than the civil authority could have done in cas
many years in that part of the country; and we were aware that
some such energetic measure was indispensable to accelerate our
purification, Fises, floggings and banishment, therefore, became
the penalties for all wilful oin y c itted one property ofan-
oter, not as a law of Spain, but as a special compact of tp le.
A man who stole his neighbor's cow, was tried by a congress oftrom
twenty to thirty n hi distriet-smmoned. r the purpose,
and on being clearly convicted, he was sentenced to receive, tied to
a pine tree, from ten to thirty-nine lashes; and that was executed
on the spot, by each giving him two lashes, to the amount of his sen-
tence ; and the second offence of the same class was punished by
flogging and banishment from those districts. A few such examples
firmly managed, and executed under the rifles selected from a com-W



pany, drawn up for the purpose, (and but few were required) did us
more good than a board of lawyers, and a whole wheel-barreo
of law books could have done.
A mere remonstrance was sufficient to reduce to a small amount,
on our side of St. Mary's river, the very grievous evil of parties of
Floridians and Georgians combined, going frequently to the indian
country of Florida to plunder cattle ; a lucrative practice that had
been going on for years, and was carried to such excess, that large
gangs of cattle could be purchased along that river, at the low price of
from two to three dollars per head. Efforts to suppress it altogether,
we found to be in vain, without a suitable coincidence on the Geor-
gia side ; and experience had shown that the civil authority was too
heavy booted to make much impression on those moggasin boys."
I then wrote to general Floyd, who commanded a part of the Geor-
gia militia, and his prompt and efficient aid soon enabled us to put a
finishing stroke to a practice replete with the worst of evils.
When general M'Gregor got possession of Fernandina, he was in
the belief that he had conquered Florida to the walls of St. Augus-
tine, and that there was nothing more to be done, as related to these
people, but display his standard, fill up his ranks, and march to the
possession ; and under that impression he brought several sets of
officers. But neither the offers, threats nor intrigues ofhimselfand
his successors, Irvin, Hubbard and Aury, and their many friends in
many places, could bring one of them to his flag. Whereas, when
a call was made for volunteers to commence in advance the expe-
dition formed in St. Augustine, for the re-capture of Amelia island,
every man turned out, well equipped, not excepting the superannua-
ted. We got possession of all Amelia island to the very town of Fer-
nandina, and kept it for several days awaiting the trdbps front St. Au-
gustine. During that time twenty-seven of these men sought for,
gave battle to, drove from the field, and pursued to within the range
of the guns of Fernandina, above one hundred. of f'Gregor's met,


with the loss of seven killed and fourteen wounded, and without ha-
ving lost one drop of blood on our side ; leaving us to bury their
dead. The reverses that afterwards attended that expedition were
wholly to be attributed to the conduct of the commanding officer
who arrived from St. Augustine.
When the constitutional government was ordered in Florida, a few
months since, some small alteration were made in the laws of those
districts. They were but small, for the laws handed then) in 1816
were principally bottomed on the same constitutional government,
which had been in force in this province in 1813 and 14. But the
administration of St. Augustine having been pleased to form the
whole province, about fifty thousand square miles, into one parish,
making that city the centre, so far defalcated what those people
conceived their constitutional rights, that they petitioned govern-
ment ; and not getting what they expected, they had in meditation
to send a representative to the captain-general of Cuba, and further
should it be necessary, when the near approach of the surrender of
the province to the United States levelled all dissentions.
Those three districts contain about one half of the population of
East Florida, say about fifteen hundred souls, and embrace three
fourths of the agricultural interest of the whole province. They
are very thinly settled, and form one of the most inferior sections of
Florida, as relates to good lands, and indeed many other natural
advantages. The causes that have congregated so large a portion
of the industrious part of the population into one of the least delec-
table sections, are these : Its vicinity to Georgia, a populous cbun-
try, bordering on the river St. Mary, a near and ready market for
their produce and their supplies, and the facility of avoiding duties
of exports and imports; the occupancy or neighborhood of Indians
in better sections ; the want of protections ; the want of a popula-
tion sufficient to protect itself; and revolutionary broils with go.
vernment, forced upon us by foreigners in their over-strained assi-



duity for our welfare, gagging us with freedom, the most free, civili-
zed people perhaps in the world, and would fain lately have put
it down our throats with negroes' bayonets. [Vide the Jenett, the
Mathews, and the McGregor invasions, in 1794, 1812, and 1817.]
East Florida was literally evacuated by the British, when deliver-
ed to the Spanish authorities in 1784. Perhaps no such other ge-
neral emigration of the inhabitants of a country, amicably transferred
to another government, ever occurred. Spain allowed it many ex.
traordinary privileges, such as were not enjoyed by any other part
of her dominions, and continued augmenting them ever since. In
1792, Florida was opened to a general emigration, without excep-
tion of country or creed ; and it was rapidly progressing to impor-
tance, when the report of the Spanish minister I have mentioned,
closed the gates against American citizens, some time about 1804,
and virtually shut us in from the world as to a large population.
The decline of this province must be dated from that period, in
which a very large portion of the convulsions of Europe necessarily
fell to the share of Spain, from her contiguity to imperial France,
and which called her attentions and resources to objects of more
consideration. But that decline was graduated by the nature of
things to a slow progression, and we had other fair prospects in our
favour, notwithstanding the prohibition of a population from the Uni-
ted States, when the troubles of 1812 spread, in one year, universal
ruin. The war between the United States and Great Britain, and
the visit of McGregor, following in close succession, almost every
one, who had the means of migrating, abandoned a country so much
and so unmeritedly affected.
Your obedient servant,


Circular to the officers and people of the northern division of East
ST. MARY's, FLORIDA, 13th August, 1821.
John Low, Esq, Magistrate of the lower district of St. Mary's.
I take the earliest opportunity afforded me since my return from
St. Augustine, to communicate the following:
The authorities of the United States having received possession
of this province, on the 10th of last month, my functions as super-
intending officer of the northern division of East Florida, and those of
surveyor-general of the province, have ceased ; and my claims oq
the Spanish government do not permit my receiving, at present, of-
ficial charges under the present government. I have not however
taken my leave of you all, nor of my former residence : a recipro-
city of grateful feelings, happily experienced for the last five years,
forbid my doing so. 1 have therefore promised captain Bell, who
now commands this province, who has your welfare warmly at heart,
and with whose amiable disposition you will be well pleased, that
my every aid and assistance, ex-officio, shall be cheerfully employ-
ed for your good.
While in St. Augustine, I laid before captain Bell, a long and
candid statement of these districts ; a character of these people that
I trust wiiH ensure them the consideration of their new government ;
copies of which will be transmitted to the executive of the United
States, to general Jackson, and remain in Florida as a record of their
It was to me a pleasing task ; a tribute due to their devotion to
their country, and to the confidence and support I have all along ex-
perienced from them. Where but in this division of Florida can it
be said, that no part of half the population of a province have, in five
years, made an appeal, or a complaint, to superior authority resi-


ding at hand, and the high road for both always open ? Where but
in the same division can it be said, that foreigners prefer suing the
people of the country in their own courts, to suing them in theirs,
where they have then frequently in their power ? Where but in
this meritorious division can it be said, that any part of, or the whole
physical force of three districts, have never failed to meet, at the
earliest notice, and that cheerfully, to execute any orders given, ar-
med, mounted and victualled, each at his own expense, and without
pay ?
An active, brave, hardy, and hospitable people. A people, who
having been compromised and thrown into anarchy and confusion, by
foreign bayonets, and remained afterwards above four years in a
state of licentiousness, all came into order in one day ; and which
government they have steadily supported with their person and pro-
perty ever since, now five years 1 A people, who not all the offers,
threats, or intrigues of McGregor himself, nor those of his suc-
cessors, Irvin, Hubbard, and Aury, nor the craft and influence of
many others at Fernandina and elsewhere, could bring over one of
them from their fidelity to the Spanish government. A people,
seven and twenty of whom sought for, gave battle to, and drove from
the field above one hundred of McGregor's men, in a body, com-
manded by Irvin, in eight of their own quarters, without losing one
drop of blood !
The representation I have handed in, as a record in their favour,
is too long for insertion here ; but a copy remains in my hands,
and I trust will be read with general satisfaction. All papers laying
in my possession, and appertaining to individuals of these districts,
will be carefully distributed to their owners, as soon as leisure will
permit me to attend to them.
Captain Bell has authorized, according to the proclamation of ge-
neral Jackson, a continuance of all your offices and former functions,
until laws are formed by higher authority for the government of the



roviate. He recommends that the judiciary should be confined tq
such cases and matters as do not admit of, or require appeals beyond
the exclusive jurisdiction of these magistrate courts ; that all others
should lay over until farther orders. And he says, that all heinous
invaders of the public peace will find safe keeping in the hands of
the military at Fernandina if-sent there.
Yours sincerely,

The proceedings of the United States in West Florida having
been conducted by general Jackson, and repeatedly laid before the
public, do not need repetition here. It would be an invidious task
to detail the events that have occurred in East Florida since the ex-
change of flags. The variety of perplexing circumstances, the con-
flixion oflaws,and the embarrassments arising from the great distance
from the place whence orders emanated, which have successfully
been the fate of St. Augustine, will, by the wisdom of con-
gress, have entirely been removed, and forgotten before this book
issues from the press. The only circumstance of much interest
arose from the circumstance of the secretary of the province having
a day or two after the cession, found it necessary in the absolute want
of all law regulation, police, or magistracy, to exercise his au-
thority upon the occurrence of some peculiar Circumstances, re-
specting the carrying off of slaves, to confine for a very short ti me
one of the citizens in the fort of Saint Augustine : five months afa
terwards, upon a trial before the county court, damages were awar-
ded against captain Bell, when the inhabitants, by an unanimous re.-
solution made up the fine by subscription, and the following letters
were written to and from that gentleman, which having never beeu
made generally known, are now laid before the public.



John R. Bell, Esq. Captain of the United States Artillery.
ST. AUGUSTINE, December 21, 1822.
When a people receives from its rulers the protection due to the
persons and property of the individuals who compose it, when such
rulers cause the laws to be observed, and when their actions are
guided by the general good, so that their fulfilment of their august
charge, is consonant with the duties imposed on them by society,
they make themselves at the same time, worthy of the esteem and
gratitude of that community over whom they have presided.
The Floridians call to mind with pleasure the short but satisfacto-
ry period, when in you sir were united the civil and military com-
mand of this province, wherein we are aware you acted as far as
was practicable for the public welfare, in the administration of jus-
tice ; and consequently it was not with an ear of indifference that
the sentence given by the court of this county was heard, am ercing
you in the sum of three hundred and seventeen dollars and four
reals, for a proceeding, in which your sense of equity could not al-
low you to act otherwise than you did. It is not to be understood
however, that the award of the court is called arbitrary or unjust ; the
people are too well aware of the respect due to all tribunals to at-
tempt to trench upon their prerogatives : but they however know,
that under the circumstances in which you gave the order, in conse-
quence of which this fine has been laid, such a measure was
necessary for the tranquillity of this place. In a country recently
taken possession of by another government different in its laws, lan-
guage and customs, wherein the new authorities have no definite
knowledge of its inhabitants, its necessities, in a word of any thing,
there must naturally result in the changes from one administration to
the other some defects: which are consequences of the confusion



reigning upon the establishment of a new system. What a vast field
was there not opened for felons to commit in this state every species
of crime; and who is there that doubts the propriety of rigorous
measures being adopted against them in the very outset ?
Under these views, the inhabitants and the proprietors of this city
have been pleased to appoint us the subscribers to express to you
their sentiments ; and we therefore, have the satisfaction of being
their organs, for the purpose of offering the just tribute of gratitude
to merit; and they beg that you sir, will condescend to allow, that
the damages be paid by them, we being authorized to deliver the
amount immediately.
This is a general wish of people, who can duly appreciate men,
who, like yourself, have gained the esteem of many adherents,
among whom are ranked,
Your most obedient and affectionate servants.
[Signed] GAB. G. PERPALL,
ST. AUG UsTIE, 22d December, 1821.

I received your letter of this morning. The various emotions it
has excited it is impossible for me to express. The language of
feeling is biief; and I must reply to it with the bluntness and since-
rity of my profession.
I was called upon to ererqise the undefined and dangerous pow-



ers entrusted to me by the governor of the Floridas. I would wil-
lingly have evaded this invidious trust, but I was commanded, and it
was my duty to obey. I was not promised, have not expected, nor
have I received any benefit for my services. I found myself called
upon to protect a virtuous and industrious people, from the rapacity
and violence of adventurers from every part of the world who looked
for redemption from punishment, from the absence, as they suppo-
sed, of all law and government. I was actuated by a sincere desire
of protecting the rights of the citizens of Florida, committed to my
charge, without any regard to their being Spanish or American. I
did not think it necessary to ascertain with legal precision, whether
my powers were to be measured by the limits imposed by the old or
new constitution of Spain. The good of all, the peace of the whole
community were my only rule of conduct. I had no antipathies to
indulge in, no resentments to satisfy. I was a stranger to all. If I
have erred, if the verdict of a jury of my countrymen should at
some future period, be brought up in array against me when
circumstances are forgotten, I will powerfully appeal for my acquittal
to your affectionate letter, and challenge the world to pronounce the
person guilty of tyranny and oppression, who has received so unani-
mous a testimonial of approbation of his administration, from a peo-
ple so feelingly alive to a sense of injustice, so warm hearted and so
generous. I cannot therefore decline your offer.
The time is not far distant, when under the favoring influence of
the American constitution, the virtues of the antient inhabitants and
proprietors of Florida will be duly appreciated, when they will have
to claim and will assert their right to the exercise of government,
and when the base individuals, who now endeavour to set one por-
tion of the community in array against the other, will receive due
Be pleased to present my affectionate regard to the gentlemen
whose sentiments of approbation you have conveyed, and for your-


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