War and Decline

War and the Decline of Frederica
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Spain saw the Georgia settlements as a threat to its interests in Florida. Spoiling for a fight, Oglethorpe returned to England in 1737 to raise troops. In 1738 he came back at the head of a six hundred and thirty man regiment of British regulars, the 42nd Regiment of Foot (Oglethorpe’s); a few hundred troops from Gibraltar; and most of the privates of a standing regiment in England, the 25th Foot.




The regiment’s eight companies of infantry and one of grenadiers carried the long musket, the famous Brown Bess and infantry swords. The elite grenade-carrying grenadiers were chosen for their size and combat skill. Oglethorpe mostly garrisoned his troops at Frederica and a new fort, Fort St Simons, on the south end of the island.

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In 1739 Britain and Spain went to war over the slave trade. Fighting ranged across the Caribbean and up the Georgia coast to Frederica. Expecting a Spanish attack, Oglethorpe enclosed the town with an earthen wall and ten foot-wide palisaded moat fed by the river. In early 1740 the aggressive Oglethorpe set out to capture St Augustine. With nine hundred troops and one thousand one hundred Indian allies, he laid siege to the Spanish town but could not breach its defenses. By mid-summer, his plans awry, a frustrated Oglethorpe was back in Frederica.
The Spanish now had the initiative. With fifty sailing vessels and two thousand troops they threatened Oglethorpe’s troublesome position in early July 1742. A column of men advanced to within sight of Frederica but the British beat them back. This was the high point of the Spanish invasion. Later that day, Oglethorpe’s men ambushed another column at Bloody Marsh.

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The Battle of Bloody Marsh: The Spanish commander Don Manuel de Montiano was the governor of La Florida. Spanish forces greatly outnumbered the British. On the 5th of July, Montiano sailed to St. Simon through the firing guns of the British. The Spanish landed nearly 1900 men from more than fifty ships near Gascoigne Bluff, close to the Frederica River. Oglethorpe and his men retreated from the fort before the Spanish could mount an assault. The Spanish took over Fort St. Simons the following day and began to scout out their opposition on foot.

They found the road between Fort St. Simons and Fort Frederica, but first assumed the narrow track was just a farm road. After realizing his mistake, Montiano sent about 300 men to reconnoiter the road. On the 18th of July, Spanish troops and a group of British soldiers, under command of Nobel Jones, skirmished with each other. Defeated by the British, the Spanish soldiers told their opponents that a larger Spanish army was advancing along the road from Fort St. Simons to Frederica. Oglethorpe positioned some men as rear guards.


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Oglethorpe left to get more forces. In another skirmish, the outnumbered British began to retreat. When they reached a bend in the road, Lieutenants Southerland and Macoy decided to stop, and their regiments and allied Indians hid in the dense forests. They watched as the Spanish broke rank, stacked arms and, taking out their kettles, prepared to cook dinner. The British forces attacked the Spanish off-guard, killing from fifteen to fifty (estimates vary). British forces routed the Spanish, and Oglethorpe was credited with the victory.

Oglethorpe continued to press the Spanish, trying to dislodge them from the island. A few days later, approaching a Spanish settlement on the south side, he learned of a French man who had deserted the British and gone to the Spanish. Worried that the deserter might report the small number of British men, Oglethorpe spread out his drummers, to make them sound as if they were accompanying a larger force. He wrote to the deserter, addressing him as if a spy for the British, saying that the man just needed to continue his stories until Britain could send more men. The prisoner who was carrying the letter took it to the Spanish officers, as Oglethorpe had hoped. Lastly, Oglethorpe arranged for some British ships to sail near, to suggest more forces were arriving.


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That same day, the British won the skirmish against the Spanish known as the Battle of Gully Hole Creek on the island. The Spanish left St. Simons on the 25th of July, ending their last invasion of colonial Georgia. Within a week the dispirited Spanish left the island, and Oglethorpe proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for this deliverance.

Born of war, Frederica expired with the coming of peace, after one more foray against Spanish Florida, Oglethorpe sailed to England for the last time in 1743. His regiment was disbanded in 1749. Without the income from the soldiers the town, its shopkeepers and tradesmen could not prosper. A visitor in 1755 described Frederica as “houses without inhabitants, barracks without soldiers, guns without carriages, and streets overgrown with weeds.” The town hung on a few more years and even survived a fire in 1758, but it had outlived its purpose and fell into ruin.


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