The 1702 Siege of St Augustine lifts on December 30

December 30 is the date in 1702 when the English Siege of St Augustine during Queen Anne’s War was lifted. A major event in Florida history. Below is an excerpt summary about this event from my forthcoming book “Albion Florida.”

With the war (Queen Anne’s War) now well underway and victory at The Battle of the Flint River in the books, the English invaded Florida, and initially landed at Amelia Island in late October. By November 3 they had overrun the island. San Felipe and San Marcos were abandoned by the Spanish and settlers as well as native Americans moved south.  Next, the English attacked San Juan del Puerto which was roughly where modern-day Jacksonville is located. 

Florida Governor Joseph de Zúñiga y Zérda dispatched Captain Joseph de Horruytiner on November 5 to head north and confront the invaders. Horruytiner never crossed the St Johns River as the English led by Carolina Governor James Moore sailed south for St Augustine avoiding Horruytiner’s troops.

On November 7, the English fleet of three ships sent ahead of the main expedition was spotted from the Castillo de San Marcos. The ships were sent to blockade the entrance to the inlet. 

Moore reached St Augustine on November 10 and then began a siege.. In preparation for the siege, Zuniga 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 English came with a force of about 800 men led by Moore. His force was mixed between English colonists and Native American allies. 

By comparison, the Spanish defenders were thin. 230 Spanish regulars were joined by about 150 freed slaves and natives. Governor Zuniga was weary of using native and free blacks as defenders but with limited forces and others dispersed to meet the English invaders elsewhere he had little choice. A relief mission from the Apalachee province delivered some provisions and cattle was also rounded up and brought into the fort. It was the first instance of a European power using free blacks as soldiers with qual standing in a military operation.

The English occupied the city with ease and the population inside the Castillo did have provisions of corn and eventually, as mentioned above, cattle. As Moore waited for an additional force from Jamaica to help storm the Castillo, relief Spanish forces from Havana arrived on December 26 blocking the entrance to the Inlet. 

Moore scuttled his fleet, burnt much of the town on December 30 and then led his men in retreat to the St Johns River. There they sailed back to Charleston.  The cowardice of the English force had been fully exposed and created anger in Carolina. Upon his return to Charles Town, Moore was met with intense criticism and acquisition of being a coward.

 But within a year Moore would be given an opportunity to redeem himself. This time he’d make Florida pay.  

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