St. Augustine's Written History
St. Augustinians went to work rebuilding their town with coquina from the Royal quarries. Due to increased attacks by Governor Moore, St. Augustine's defenses were increased by adding a deep moat, earthworks, and defensive walls to protect the city from attackers.. The British continued their southward expansion, building Fort King George, which was less than 100 miles from St. Augustine, in 1721. In response to British expansion, Governor Benavides appointed Francisco Menendez to organize former slaves from British colonies into a militia company, now officially recognized as Florida's first National Guardsmen. He paid Yamassee and Creek Indians to attack the fort. British Colonel John Palmer led a force of Carolinians into Florida to attack the Yamassee Indians, and burned the original Mission Nombre de Dios. In 1733, the British founded Savannah and officially proclaimed their new colony to be called Georgia. Manuel de Montiano replaced Francisco del Moral Sanchez as governor in 1737. With the assistance of a military engineer, Antonio Arredondo, Montiano prepared for the British invasion, requesting help from Cuba. Arredondo built bomb-proof coquina rooms inside the Castillo, rebuilt the mission, and completed a tall watchtower.
In 1739, England declared war against Spain, often called the "War of Jenkin's Ear." Robert Jenkins, captain of the ship Rebecca, claimed that the Spanish coast guard had severed his ear. In 1738 Jenkins exhibited his pickled ear to the House of Commons. The Brtish Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, declared war on October 23, 1739. In 1740, Georgia’s Governor Oglethorpe sailed British troops and captured the two small forts guarding St. Augustine. In May, Oglethorpe returned with an army of some 1,500 men and a naval force under the command of Vincent Pierse. On June 23, Oglethorpe positioned cannons and mortars near present-day Vilano Beach and Anastasia Island, and had his naval force block the inlet. For the next 27 days, the English fired upon the city of St. Augustine. On the night of June 25, Montiano launched a surprise attack on the British garrison occupying the captured fort. In the early morning hours, the Spaniards killed 111 of their enemies at Fort Mose – including Colonel Palmer who had burned the Mission Nombre de Dios 12 years earlier. Oglethorpe ineptly decided to send Montiano a formal demand that he surrender the city to the British.
Faced with a lack of annual subsidy for the past two years, Governor Montiano wrote Cuba about his new plan to arm a ship as a privateer. "Privateers" were independent pirates sanctioned by their respective governments, and required to share their booty with their government sponsors. Montiano decided it would be the best way to provide food for the city of St. Augustine. In October, St. Augustine’s privateers sailing aboard the Campeche, captured a ship filled with rice off Charleston, South Carolina. By the end of the year, more than forty English ships had been captured and their cargoes sustained the Spanish population.
Montiano soon learned that seven supply ships sailing from Cuba had managed to elude the British and were at Mosquito Inlet, about 70 miles to the south. Within days, these small boats delivered supplies needed to re-fill the nearly empty storehouses at the Castillo. On July 20, the Spanish defenders of St. Augustine awakened to find their enemies had vanished during the night. Oglethorpe's attack had only killed two Spanish soldiers, and the naval force under Pierse had given up and left.
In 1740, the Spanish built Fort Matanzas to protect the southern border. Governor Montiano then launched an attack on the British at Fort Frederica The resulting Battle of Bloody Marsh ended in a serious defeat for the Spanish forces. Governor Oglethorpe then decided it was time for another attack on Spanish Florida. In 1743, he brought his army quickly southward in an attempt to catch the Spanish off guard. Unable to draw the Spaniards from their defenses, Oglethorpe eventually gave up and returned to Georgia.
When the Seven Years War broke out between England and France in 1756, England placed an embargo on the export of goods to neutral ports. New York merchant William Walton convinced the English that the flow of supplies to St. Augustine was essential to the welfare of New York. The French soon found that the harbor was a perfect location for conducting raids on their enemy’s merchant fleet, and by late 1758, the French were arriving on a weekly basis with a newly captured English ship. When Spain joined with France in the war against England in January of 1762, all trade stopped between La Florida and the British colonies to the north, and Havana was captured by the English.
Pablo Costello, a military engineer, arrived on one of the last ships to leave Havana. In addition to other improvements, he organized a construction crew to build a massive earthwork, known as a "glacis," designed to force attacks directly into the line of fire of the cannons. Once again, St. Augustine turned to privateering to battle starvation. In only ten days, the San Christoval captured three English ships filled with essential food. Unfortunately, two of their prizes sank while trying to cross the bar at the inlet and never made it into the harbor. Three more privateers eventually joined the San Christoval and despite several setbacks, were able to feed the residents with captured English supplies.
In February 1763, England and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris ending the conflict, and St. Augustine was given to England. After 200 years spent building their city, the residents of St. Augustine would have 18 months to dispose of their property and leave Florida. In exchange, the English were returning Cuba to Spain. In accordance with instructions from Spain, Governor Felio arranged for many men of the garrison and their families to leave on April 1. The King of Spain had agreed to purchase land for the residents in Cuba, but few were enthusiastic about their forced departure. On July 20, the first regiment of British soldiers arrived from Havana and the next day Governor Felio turned over the Castillo’s keys to their commander. On August, 1,300 St. Augustinians sailed away from their hometown – most went to Cuba, but some headed for the West Indies and Mexico.