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Spanish Occupation, Second

A History of Florida


Settlements Abandoned. The Spaniards did not find it easy to get new colonists in place of the English. Some fine estates on the St. Johns River and the east coast were now unoccupied, and settlements in other places were abandoned. The few people at St. Augustine hardly dared go beyond the protection of the guns of the fort; for the Indians now began to give trouble in various ways.

Alexander McGillivray. The Spaniards were very anxious to gain the friendship of the neighboring tribes, especially the Creeks. The principal chief of the Creeks was Alexander McGillivray, the son of a Creek woman and a Scotch trader. He was remarkably intelligent and had been well educated. He took the part of the English during the Revolution, and was very active in their service in Georgia. He held the rank of colonel in their army.

At the close of the Revolution what disposition did England Make of the royal colony? Who remained in Florida? What of the desolateness of Florida at the time of the second Spanish occupation? What danger threatened the few people in the colony?

In 1784, he made a treaty for the Creeks and Seminoles with the Spanish government, promising to prevent all white men going into their country except with the consent of Spain. He also did much to gain the friendship of other tribes for Spain. For all these services the Spanish government gave him a colonel's rank and pay.

Later still McGillivray represented the Creeks in a treaty with the United States, and displeased both Indians and Spaniards by promising that after a certain date all the trade of the Creeks should pass through ports of the United States. And now it was proved that while be received a large salary from Spain, be was receiving a large salary as agent for the United States, and that he wore sometimes the uniform of a Spanish colonel and sometimes that of a brigadier general in the American army. So this very remarkable Indian chief had held high commissions under three great civilized nations. He died in 1793, and was buried at Pensacola with Masonic honors.

William Augustus Bowles. A bold attempt was made in 1789 by General William Augustus Bowles to regain possession of Florida for the English. Bowles was a native of Maryland, and during the Revolution had held a command in the British army. While stationed at Pensacola he was dismissed from the service, and in search of adventure went away with some Creek Indians. He afterward married the daughter of one of their chiefs, and made his home among them for a while.

What alliance did the Spanish now seek? What remarkable character brought about such alliance? What different positions of power did McGillivray hold under different governments? What treaty did he make with Spain for the Creeks and Seminoles? Where was he buried? What nation lid Bowles serve? Tell of the career of this man.

Meanwhile the Spaniards of Louisiana had captured Pensacola. When this news reached Bowles he marched there against the Spaniards, at the head of a large force of Indians. The expedition was unsuccessful, but on account of his undertaking it, Bowles was restored to favor. He was of a restless disposition, however, and was not satisfied with one profession. He went to New York and afterwards to the Bahamas, and became an actor and then a portrait painter. During the second Spanish occupation he was sent by the English to establish a trading post among the Creeks.

St. Marks Surprised. But merely to establish a trading post did not satisfy his ambition. He first tried, without success, to got allies among the Indians in East Florida and in the Alachua district to aid in destroying the Spanish power. He was more successful among the Creeks. He told them that the goods at the various trading posts were really presents that had been sent to the Indians and had been wrongfully kept from them. The Creeks believed this and were easily persuaded to join him in making war against the Spaniards. As a proof of their confidence they gave Bowles the title of king of Florida. But the reign of the king of Florida was short. He made Miccosukee his headquarters. From there he marched against St. Marks, and took the fort by surprise, but was obliged to give it up. Then the Indians would follow him no more. They called him no longer king but "Lying Captain," and gave him up to the Spaniards.

What invasion did he lead? What plot did he later undertake?

He was taken to Cuba and kept in prison until his death, which took place in a few weeks. When he was ill the governor sent word that he should like to visit him. "I am fallen low, indeed," said Bowles, "but not so low as to receive a visit from the governor of Cuba."

Florida Map
Florida Organized under British Rule

Boundary Disputes. There came a time when the question of the northern boundary of West Florida gave a great deal of trouble. The English bad made the boundary line on latitude 32 degrees and 28 minutes, but in the treaty with the United States at the close of the Revolution, the line was fixed at 31 degrees. Spain, however, would not give up the territory between the two lines, saying that she had conquered it from England, and England had no right to dispose of it. It was not until twelve years later that Spain agreed to make latitude 31 degrees the northern boundary of West Florida. In 1803 the United States purchased from France, Louisiana, which had been ceded from France to Spain in 1762, and re-ceded to France in 1800. Before 1762 France had owned the land west of the Perdido in West Florida, so when the United States bought Louisiana she claimed that territory. Spain said this was part of Florida, and would not give it up because, like the other disputed territory, it had been conquered from England and not received from France.

What allies did Bowles secure? What title did they give him? Where were his headquarters? What success did his expedition have'? How was he then treated? Tell of his death. What was the northern boundary of West Florida adopted by the English?

Republic of West Florida. The territory called the Baton Rouge Government lay between the Mississippi and the Pearl rivers; that called the Mobile district lay between the Pearl and the Perdido. Both were claimed by Spain as part of Florida, and both were claimed by the United States as part of the land purchased from France. A time came when Spain was too busy fighting the great Napoleon to pay much attention to the Floridas. Then the inhabitants of Baton Rouge declared themselves an independent people, gave their territory the name Republic of West Florida, and asked to be admitted into the Union. After one month the Republic of West Florida was annexed to Louisiana, October 27, 1810.

Mobile District. When war was declared between the United States and England, in 1812, the United States government was afraid to leave the Mobile district in the lands of Spain, as that nation was now a friend of England. General Wilkinson sailed from New Orleans to Mobile with six hundred men, and in April, 1813, received the surrender of the Spanish commander. This made the Perdido River again the western boundary of Florida, and so it has remained ever since.

What boundary did they accept in the treaty with the United States? What claim did Spain make for a more northerly line? What was the claim of the United States to the territory west of the Perdido River'? Tell of the Republic of West Florida? How was it, formed? What became of it? What was accomplished by its existence?

Excerpt from Part One, Chapter 12, "Second Spanish Occupation" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents.


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