Florida Humanities Council

A Comparative Timeline of General American History and Florida History, 1492 to 1823

Printable version of the timeline.

Early exploration and establishment of colonies. Observe the trajectory of Spanish exploration in the Southeast versus English exploration along the Atlantic seaboard. Note the conflict in territorial interests beginning in 1586. While the Spaniards were expending efforts on creating Indian missions, the English of Virginia were rapidly expanding into commercial export of tobacco. By 1670 the Spaniards were entrenching behind defenses and encouraging slaves to runaway from their English masters, while English settlers retaliated with attacks on St. Augustine and the mission system.  How did this rivalry between colonists and empires affect the region? Look at the dates around the War of Jenkin's Ear (1739-1742). What's the relationship between the founding of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the Stono slave revolt in Carolina, and Oglethorpe's attack on Spanish Florida? Can you relate this to issues about the American Civil War? ship
Major dates in the history of Spanish Florida
Comparative dates in British colonial history
1492 Columbus sails into the Caribbean.   1492 Columbus sails into the Caribbean.
1493 Columbus founds the town of La Isabela on Hispaniola.
1497 John Cabot explores the Atlantic coast of North America.
1513 Juan Ponce de León explores the Florida coast.
1524 Giovanni de Verrazano explores the coast of North America.
1528 Pánfilo de Narváez leads an expedition through Florida. (Religious and dynastic turmoil in England dampen interest in further exploration overseas)
1539 Tristan de Luna tries unsuccessfully to start a colony at Escambia Bay (Pensacola).
1559 Tristan de Luna tries unsuccessfully to start a colony at Escambia  Bay (Pensacola).
1562 Jean Ribault and French settlers land in northeast Florida.
1564 French settlers build Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River.
1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés destroys the expedition from France and establishes St. Augustine.
    1585 English settlers make their first attempt to settle Roanoke (Virginia)
1566 Menéndez founds his capital for La Florida at Santa Elena (Port Royal Sound) in what is today South Carolina.
1577 Spaniards begin to conquer Florida, allying or fighting with local native American tribes and chiefdoms.
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
A detail of Francis Drake's attack on the town of St.Augustine in 1586.
A detail of Francis Drake's attack on the town of St. Augustine in 1586.
1586 Sir Francis Drake, after raiding the Spanish Caribbean, attacks and burns St. Augustine. 1586 Sir Francis Drake visits Roanoke and takes the settlers back to England.
1587 Spanish settlers abandon Santa Elena and leave the Carolina coast. Settlement focuses on the Florida peninsula. 1587 Sir Walter Raleigh sends a second group of colonists to reestablish Roanoke.
1588 Replacing the unsuccessful Jesuits, members of the Franciscan  order start a mission for Indians on Cumberland Island (now part of Georgia). 1588 English ships destroy the Spanish Armada in the English Channel, altering the balance of naval power in Europe.
    1590 The latest wave of English colonists to Roanoke find the colony abandoned and return home to England.
1597 The Guale Indians of coastal Georgia rebel against Spanish rule and efforts at religious conversion.    
1607 The Franciscans begin to establish missions among the Timucuan Indians of northeast and north central Florida. 1607 Captain John Smith establishes Jamestown.
1610s Plague spreads among the 16,000 Indian converts of Florida.    
    1616 The new colony of Virginia exports 2500 pounds of tobacco.
    1620 The Pilgrims establish Plymouth colony.
1623 The Franciscans reintroduce religious instruction among the Guale and establish more missions.    
Parish church of St. Augustine
The parish church of St. Augustine (constructed 1797)
Cross found at an early mission site
A cross from an early mission site.
    1626 The Dutch establish New Amsterdam (later, New York)
    1630 Virginia exports 333,000 pounds of tobacco. Boston is founded.
1633 For the first time, the Franciscans try to establish missions among the Apalachee of the panhandle region.    
1634 The colony of Maryland is established. 1634 The colony of Maryland is established.
1635 There are at least 41 missions among the Indians of northern Florida, with an estimated population of 30,000 Indians. 1635 The Reverend Thomas Hooker petitions to create Connecticut.   
1638 Possible founding date for San Luis de Talimali, soon to be the most important settlement in Apalachee, and the western capital of La Florida. 1638 Virginia exports 3.1 million pounds of tobacco.
1647 War erupts in Apalachee between Christian and non-Christian Indians.    
1650 The missions of La Florida reach their greatest extent. Yellow fever and small pox kill hundreds of Native Americans throughout the decade. 1650 Although slaves only comprise a small proportion of Virginia's labor force (which is mostly indentured servants), colonial authorities legalize chattel slavery, opening the path to keeping Africans and their children in bondage.
1656 Census shows 26,000 Christian Indians in 38 missions.    
1658 Angered by Spanish demands for labor, the Timucua Indians rebel  against Spanish rule and Gov. Diego de Rebolledo.    
1659 The Council of the Indies in Spain orders the arrest of Gov. Diego  de Rebolledo for mishandling Indian affairs. A measles epidemic kills an estimated 10,000 Indians.    
1663 The colony of Carolina is chartered. 1663 The colony of Carolina is chartered.
1670 The Treaty of Madrid defines Spain's territorial claims in North America.    
1672 Officials in St. Augustine commence the building of a stone fortress, the Castillo de San Marcos.    
1675 A bishop's census shows 33 missions with 13,152 people.    
1683 Governor Juan Marquez Cabrera begins to employ former slaves as soldiers in Florida's militia.    
1684 La Salle brings a French expedition into the Gulf Coast.    
1687 Eleven slaves (eight men, two women, and a child) flee from slavery in Carolina and go to St. Augustine.    
1693 King Charles II declares that slaves fleeing English possessions will be set free upon arriving in Spanish territory.    
1694 Charles II issues a royal order to occupy Pensacola Bay.    
1698 Spaniards establish Pensacola to block French expansion along  the Gulf of Mexico.    
Fort MoseDetail from Thomas Lopez's map of St. Augustine showing the free black community of Fort Mose (far right).
    1700 Fears grow in Carolina that slaves,  now numerous, might be encouraged by Spain to rebel against slave-owners.
1702 An expedition led by James Moore of Carolina invades Spanish  Florida and burns down St. Augustine but fails to capture the Castillo. 1702 War of the Spanish Succession/Queen Anne's War
1704 In a second expedition, James Moore sends Indian allies of the  English to raid and destroy the Spanish missions.    
1711 From a population of perhaps 8000 in the 1670s, only 401 refugees survive the attacks on the missions.  They settle near St.  Augustine for protection. 1711 Colonists in Carolina put down an attempted slave revolt.
    1712 Colonists in New York put down an attempted slave revolt.
    1714 Colonists in Carolina put down a second slave revolt.
    1715 Escaped slaves help the Yamassee Indians make war on Carolina  colony.
    1723 The English aid the Creeks in retaliations against the Yamassee.
1724 Ten runaway slaves reach St. Augustine.    
1728 Carolinians under Col. John Palmer attack Nombre de Dios.    
    1733 James Oglethorpe founds Ft. Frederica, Georgia.
1738 Spanish officials establish Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, outside St. Augustine, as a town for freed slaves. 1738 Mose outside St. Augustine as a town for freed slaves.
1739 War of Jenkin's Ear between Spain and Great Britain.   1739 Angolan slaves at the Stono River, South Carolina, kill twenty whites in a revolt and are caught trying to flee to Florida.
1740 James Oglethorpe leads Georgia and Carolina militia on a military  expedition to destroy St. Augustine. 1740 The population of South Carolina reaches 40,000. Two-thirds of  the colony's inhabitants are slaves.
    1741 Colonists in New York put down another slave revolt.
1742 Governor Manuel de Montiano sends a retaliatory strike into Georgia.


British ShipsAge of Empire:  The French and Indian War (1754-1763) redrew the map of colonial North America, eliminating French possessions in Quebec and Louisiana.  Spain was forced to cede its colony of Florida to England.  In compensation, it received the Louisiana territory from France.  English colonies stretched along all of the Atlantic seaboard from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  This new "status quo" lasted less than 20 years, as thirteen of Britain's colonies rose in revolt against Crown and parliamentary policies.  How did Spanish ambitions to regain the Floridas affect the American Revolution?  What problems did a Spanish presence in Florida and Louisiana pose for the young United States?  Consider how the administrations of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe resolved these problems in the years between the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the First Seminole War (1817-1818). Original art, British ships, from Flags of Florida, Lt. Col. A.L.L. Martin.

The French and Indian War.
1745 to 1763
The French and Indian War.
1764 England divides its new colony of Florida into two colonies, East and West, with the capital of the former at St. Augustine and the  capital of the latter at Pensacola. 1764 Parliament passes the Revenue, or Sugar, Act.
1765 John Bartram, Royal Botanist, travels through British East Florida, including visits to the Seminole Indians. 1765 Parliament passes the Stamp Act.
1767 Dr. Andrew Turnbull of Scotland brings indentured servants from  the Mediterranean to Florida to work his indigo plantation at New  Smyrna.    
    1770 Eight British soldiers in the 29th Regiment fire on a mob in Boston,  killing five.
1773 John Bartram's son, William, returns to East Florida. 1773 American patriots stage the Boston Tea Party.
    1774 The First Continental Congress meets.
    1775 The American Revolution starts at Lexington and Concord.
    1776 Congress declares the colonies independent.
1777 Indentured servants at New Smyrna rebel and go to St. Augustine, creating the "Minorcan" community there.    
    1778 France and Spain agree to aid the American cause.
1779 Settlers loyal to George III flee into East Florida from South  Carolina and Georgia. 1779 The British capture Savannah.    
1780 Spanish forces from Louisiana capture Mobile in British West  Florida. 1780 The British capture Charleston.
1781 An expedition under Bernardo de Gálvez lays siege to Pensacola and forces the British army defending it to surrender 1781 American and French forces, assisted by a French fleet, trap Lord  Cornwallis's entire army at Yorktown, Virginia.
1783 England acknowledges Spanish sovereignty over British West  Florida and cedes British East Florida. 1783 Britain recognizes the independence of the United States.  

Lower Louisiana and West FloridaSpanish officials were horrified when Napoleon Bonaparte acquired the Louisiana territory from Spain and then sold it to the United States. Americans now had a wedge of settlement between the Floridas and Texas, and complete control over the Mississippi River. But when President Jefferson claimed all the lands between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains as part of Louisiana, the United States and Spain came to the verge of war. Tensions lasted from 1803 until 1807, when Americans became distracted by growing problems with the British.

Detail from the French map
"Lower Louisiana and West Florida" in Vue de la Colonie Espagnole du Mississipi, &c. (1803)

    1788 Nine states ratify the U.S. Constitution, establishing a new federal  system of government for the United States.
    1789 Parisians storm the Bastille, starting the French Revolution. George Washington becomes the first president of the United  States.
1790 Spain establishes new laws for East Florida, responding in part to  the proximity of the United States. The Crown ends its policy of  giving sanctuary to runaway slaves. It opens Florida to immigration.  New settlers must take an oath of loyalty to the Crown. It  opens trade between Florida and "neutral powers," which includes all ports of the U.S. 1790 Thomas Jefferson, as Secretary of State, proposes an expedition to explore the Missouri River.
1791 William Bartrams's Travels through North and South Carolina,  Georgia, East and West Florida comes out in print.    
1793 The cornerstone of St. Augustine's parish church (now the Cathedral Basilica) is laid. The church is finished in 1797. 1793 French republicans execute King Louis XVI for crimes against the people. England and Spain declare war on France. Thomas Jefferson again proposes an expedition to the Missouri.
1794 French agents in Savannah make plans to help Americans  living in East Florida rebel against Spanish rule. 1794 Farmers in western Pennsylvania rebel over a proposed tax on whiskey. Alexander Hamilton leads troops to suppress trouble.
1795 Spanish forces in East Florida suppress a revolt by American  settlers. Rebel leaders flee into Georgia. 1795 The Treaty of San Lorenzo between Spain and the United States  guarantees Americans free use of the Mississippi River and duty-free passage through the port of New Orleans.
Image from William Walton's The Army & Navy of the United States (1900)The early 1800s saw the people of the young American republic involved in disputes with France and Britain over safe passage of shipping on the high seas and with Spain over ownership of East and West Florida.  Territorial acquisitions that started through negotiation were eventually concluded by war as the United States used the War of 1812 to push Spain into surrendering its Florida possessions.  American troops occupied Spanish East Florida in 1812 and 1813.  Meanwhile, Americans fought their second war against the British, sealing the verdict of the American Revolution.

Image from William Walton's
The Army & Navy of the United States (1900)
    1797 France begins to attack American commercial shipping, leading to the Quasi-War, an undeclared naval conflict.
    1800 Under pressure, Spain returns the territory of Louisiana to  France. President Jefferson fears this will mean a strong  French military presence in the West.
    1803 The United States purchases Louisiana from France.  President Jefferson claims the Purchase also includes Spanish Texas and portions of Spanish West Florida.
    1805 Nelson destroys the French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. The U.S. Navy punishes the Barbary pirates for preying on  American shipping. The Lewis and Clark expedition reaches the Pacific Ocean.
1806 Dr. Daniel Turner, a Rhode Island physician living in St. Marys, Georgia, tells friends that tensions with Spanish settlers over the  Louisiana Purchase and other matters have reached a fever pitch and  might lead to an invasion of Florida.    
1808 Slave traders begin to use Amelia Island, East Florida, as a base of  operations for the African slave trade. 1808 Britain and the United States ban the African slave trade from their possessions. The French invade Spain.
1810 American settlers in the Baton Rouge District of Spanish West Florida rebel against Spanish rule. 1810 President James Madison orders American troops from Louisiana to occupy Baton Rouge and hold it for the United States.
1811 Governor David Mitchell of Georgia pledges to put an end to Spanish "piracy" at Amelia Island.    
1812 [March 17-18]. Encouraged by an American agent, Georgia militia, rebel Floridians, and U.S. troops occupy  Spanish East Florida. 1812 [June 18]. The U.S. Senate declares war on England but the next day refuses to declare war on Spain.
Gregor McGregorBetween 1812 and 1821 Spain struggled to hold on to the Floridas.  Gregor McGregor (right) led troops against Amelia Island in 1817.  That same year the First Seminole War broke out, and in 1818 Andrew Jackson led forces against the Miccosukee and Seminole towns between the Apalachiola and Suwannee rivers. 

Original artwork, Flags of Florida, Lt. Col. A.L.L. Martin.
1813 After one full year, the U.S. troops occupying East Florida withdraw to Georgia, burning many plantations as they go.   1813 Andrew Jackson takes on the Creek Confederation and defeats  hostile Creeks at Horseshoe Bend. Georgia and Tennessee militias move against the Seminoles in Spanish East Florida.
1814 Andrew Jackson's forces occupy Pensacola in Spanish West Florida and force a British fleet to abandon the area. 1814 British forces burn the government buildings in Washington but  retreat from an attempt to take Baltimore.
    1815 Andrew Jackson defeats a British invasion of New Orleans.
1816 Escaped slaves congregate around a fort the British set up on the Apalachicola River in Florida. 1816 The U.S. Army enters Spanish territory to wipe out the "Negro Fort" at Apalachicola.
1817 Gregor McGregor, an adventurer in the pay of Spanish liberationists, seizes Amelia Island in East Florida. Reacting to McGregor's take-over, American forces again occupy Amelia Island on behalf of the United States. 1817 James Monroe becomes president of the United States. Andrew Jackson (1818) leads troops into Florida to destroy the towns of Indians who have met force with force on the frontiers.
    1819 Spain agrees in principle to cede East and West Florida to the  United States.
1821 The Spanish Floridas are merged into a single American territory with a new capital at Tallahassee. Andrew Jackson becomes the  first (absentee) governor. 1821 A treaty acknowledging the transfer is ratified.     
    1823 President James Monroe outlines the Monroe Doctrine, that no European power will be allowed to establish colonies in the Western Hemisphere.
The remains of the city gate of St. Augustine. The sentry towers of the city gate of St. Augustine.

Printable version of the timeline.

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