Today marks the the 274th Anniversary of the start of the 1740 Siege of St Augustine led by British General James Oglethorpe who was the founder of the colony of Georgia. As is well-known Oglethorpe believed in rehabilitating debtors and thus Georgia became largely a penal colony. The area settled around Savannah had long been contested between Britain which ruled the Carolina’s and Spain which ruled Florida. Oglethorpe’s settlement meant Savannah was to remain British for the rest of the colonial period.
In 1739, the War of Jenkins Ear which was essentially the North American theater of the War of Austrian Succession broke out. By 1740, England felt they could knock Spain out of the American part of the war by capturing St Augustine.
On his way to St Augustine, Oglethorpe captured Fort Mose the first settlement for free blacks in what is now the United States. The residents had mostly been runaway slaves from the British colonies. When the British captured Fort Mose, the free black residents fled to St Augustine where they played a critical role in the city defense.
Oglethorpe and his British forces began the siege of St Augustine on June 13th. The Spanish decided while St Augustine was under siege to launch a counter-offensive aimed at Fort Mose where the British had left behind a garrison. The Spanish and free black force liberated Fort Mose and within weeks a Spanish fleet from Havana had reached St Augustine prompting a British withdrawal back to Savannah.
Florida had been saved from British occupation for at least the next twenty-three years. In 1763, after British victory in the French and Indian War (The American theater of the French and Indian War) Florida became British for the next twenty years.