310th Anniversary of the Apalachee Massacre – a Decisive Event in Florida History

One of the most significant and gruesome events in Florida’s Colonial History took place 310 years ago this weekend. The Battle of Ayubale took place  slightly north of present day Tallahassee and it was a decisive event in which Florida under Bourbon Spanish rule (The War of Spanish Succession was taking place at the time between the Bourbons who also ruled France and the Hapsburg’s, the rulers of Austria, Hungary and  the Netherlands) lost some of claimed territory in what is now Georgia to the British Territory  (English before the 1707 Act of Union) of Carolina as well as depopulating the Florida Big Bend area forcing the fleeing population which survived to either resettle in Pensacola or Saint Augustine. The war crippled Florida’s economy and destroyed the Spanish mission culture outside of the two major cities in the territory. As we’ve discussed in prior articles on this website, both Pensacola and Saint Augustine were subject to long sieges by the British during this war. Both cities saw a decline in population and economic decline following these sieges.

Prior to Queen Anne’s War which was a North American fight tied to the War of Spanish Succession, Spain and England had overlapping claims in what would later become Georgia. The war  was fought from 1702 to 1713. Carolina governed by the English and Spanish territory of Florida.

Wikipedia described the Florida front as follows:

Spanish Florida and the English Province of Carolina were each subjected to attacks from the other, and the English engaged the French based at Mobile in what was essentially a proxy war involving primarily allied Indians on both sides. The southern war, although it did not result in significant territorial changes, had the effect of nearly wiping out the Indian population of Spanish Florida, including parts of present-day southern Georgia, and destroying Spain’s network of missions in the area.

The most important battle of the conflict took place in 1704 at Ayubale. Wikipedia has a great write up on the battle which was a decisive victory for the English and its allied Indian tribes.

Following the end of the war in 1713, Florida’s claims over territory in southern Georgia was reduced, though much of the area remain disputed until 1763 when Great Britain captured Florida after the Seven Years War (The first truly world war which had battles in Europe, the Middle East and India as well as North America. In North America the war has been historically called “The French and Indian War,” but it was simply a theater in the larger world war between Britain and her allies versus France and her allies. )

According to David Weber’s 1993 work The Spanish Frontier in North America (which we will review in a future Thursday Bookshelf) Queen Anne’s War devastated Florida:

Spanish Florida never really recovered its economy or population due to the effects of the war, and was ceded to Britain following the Seven Years’ War in the 1763 Treaty of Paris.

Territorial maps during this period below:


North American after Queen Anne’s War


North America on the eve of the Seven Years War. Note the overlapping Spanish and English claims in South Georgia. This are has been depopulated during Queen Anne's War.

North America on the eve of the Seven Years War. Note the overlapping Spanish and English claims in South Georgia. This area west of Savannah had been largely depopulated during Queen Anne’s War and had not recovered by the 1750s.

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