Today is the 500th Anniversary of Juan Ponce de León’s landing in Florida. The landing is believed to have been near the Fountain of Youth just north of St Augustine, and for historical purposes we will stick with that even though the landing may have been as far south as present day Brevard County. Today I have a brief narrative about when the British almost captured the city from the Spanish in the early eighteenth century.
The War of Spanish Succession had a North American theater which in time has been distinguished from the European hostilities by using the name Queen Anne’s War. Governor James Moore of the Province of Carolina (a British American colony; was split in to North and South Carolina in 1729) had determined to attack Spanish St Augustine irrespective of European hostilities. In mid October, Moore with about 1,200 men (this number has been disputed) and 14 ships set sail from Charles Town (now Charleston, SC).
The British colonists initially landed at Amelia Island in late October and then made way to St Augustine to begin a siege on November 10th. In preparation for the siege, Spanish Florida Governor Joseph de Zúñiga y Zérda ordered all of the residents of St Augustine (about 1,500 at the time) into the Castillo de San Marcos and acquired food provisions for three months. The British failed to penetrate the fort although around Christmas time they had the entire rest of St Augustine burned. On December 30th, 1702 the British ships sailed back to Charles Town and Moore was ousted as Governor for failing to acquire Florida.
St Augustine was gradually rebuilt and Zúñiga y Zérda set on revenge especially after the British continued to raid Florida attacked Charles Town in 1706 but was unsuccessful. The British ruled St Augustine from 1763 to 1783 before it reverted to the Spanish after the American Revolution.
Later this week we will feature that 20 year period when St Augustine was ruled by British. This coincided with the American Revolution.