Amelia Island affair
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The Amelia Island affair was an episode in the history of colonial Florida under Spanish rule.
The Embargo Act (1807) and the abolition of the American slave trade (1808) made Amelia Island, on the coast of Spanish Florida, a resort for smugglers with sometimes as many as 300 square-rigged vessels in its harbor. In June, 1817, Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish adventurer styling himself the "Brigadier General" of the United Provinces of the New Granada and Venezuela and general-in-chief of the armies of the two Floridas, came to Amelia Island. A peripatetic military adventurer, MacGregor, supposedly commissioned by Simon Bolivar, had raised funds and troops for a full-scale invasion of Florida, but squandered much of the money on luxuries; as word of his conduct in the South American wars reached the United States, many of the recruits in his invasion force deserted. Nonetheless, he overran the island with a small force, but left for Nassau in September.
His followers were soon joined by Louis-Michel Aury, formerly associated with MacGregor in South American adventures, and previously leader of a pirates' gang on Galveston Island, Texas. Aury assumed control of Amelia, got a legislature elected, set a committee to drawing a constitution, and invited all Florida to unite in throwing off the Spanish yoke. For the very brief period that Aury controlled Amelia Island, the flag of the revolutionary Republic of Mexico was flown, which was the flag of his clients who were still fighting the Spanish in their war for independence at that time. The United States, which had plans to annex the peninsula, sent a naval force which captured Amelia Island on December 23, 1817.
LETTER TO His Excellency Governor Rabun. July 10 1817. from John Floyd in Bryan Lang Library Woodbine Georgia
[Excerpt] ............I presume that you have .......... this heard of the capture of Amelia Island by the Patriot General Gregor MacGregor. The place was surrendered without opposition to a land force of sixty men headed by the General in person his whole force including seamen on board of an armed Brig & Schooner it is said does not exceed two hundred men and the most of them volunteers. The persons and property of the Inhabitants are respected and six months allowed them to decide on the course they may choose to take. The Spanish Commandant and Soldiers have been suffered to go to St Augustine. Sir Gregor MacGregor is said to be about 35 years old 5.8 high, handsome, and of fascinating manners. His lady is with him, a South American and sister of General Bolivar. It seems that the General expects considerable reinforcements when operations will immediately commence against St Augustine. The revenue department was among the first things attended to. A judge of admiralty and collector were immediately appointed and George Ker is among them in hopes it is said of obtaining the appointment of Provincial attorney. From such a state of things the necessity of having regular troops on these frontiers is more than ever obvious and why the General Government should so long neglect this section of the Union is to me incomprehensible. It does not require the gift of prophecy to force the motly hoard that will soon hang on our skirts from their privateering prizes and in all probability may produce a state of things very seriously injurious to certain species of property and on the other hand are redoubled ......on the port Customs House department to preserve obedience to the restrictive acts of Government.
I have the honor to be your Excellencys Obt Sert Jno Floyd
LETTER by John Floyd, b1769 in Bryan Lang Library, Woodbine Georgia. [Bryan Lang Library Woodbine Ga] [incomplete letter, unknown recipient]
Private Fairfield, October 17 th 1817 Sir,
As it may in a two fold point of view be interesting to be acquainted with passing events in the neighborhood of Fernandina. I take liberty of communicating for you information such as may be considered divested of the influence of prejudice or partiality the extravagance of which seems too often to have marks the representations given by the friends as Enemies of those engaged in the novel experience against his Catholic Majesty of Province of Florida. Sir Gregor McGregor continued his Bombastion Career until the Royal expedition from St Augustine was matured and a formidable attack daily expected upon the Patriots newly acquired possession of Amelia. The Genls force had dwindled to almost nothing, and the few who still adhered were displeased that none of the Golden prospects which had beguiled them into his service had been abound by him in good faith or were likely to be realized under his superintendence. Under these perplexing circumstances the Genl was willing to profit by yielding to his propensity for obeying the first laws of nature, & as it is said, that his genius uniformly [page 14] takes the lead of his courage he was at no loss to find a pretext for abandoning an enterprize [sic] which presented no charms under such a State of things and came at once to the determination of relinquishing a command fraught with difficulty and danger. Alleging that he had been actuated by motives of honorable conquest. That is was repugnant to his feeling as a man of honor to remain a man Centinel [sic] of a part for the accommodation of privateermen (yet mercantile cupidity, had be such inducements, secured him the possession of so favorable a portion for its encouragement) Colonels Posey and Parker follows the example of the Genl leaving their fellows to the exercise of their discretion as to the course they should pursue in this hour of danger. They in this dilemma unanimously appointed Colonel Irvine to the command and determined to defend the place to the last extremity. The timely arrival of Riggles Hubbart in the Morgianna and another pa...atu [?] enabled them to maintain this resolution and the royalists who soon after appeared in considerable force after making a few feints were driven off. Soon after this affair commodore Aurey in the St Joseph with some valuable prizes and a considerable sum of money arrived, denied Mcgregor authority and insisted on the Command or that he would have the place with his force [page 15] prizes and money. Irvine and Hubberts claims to supremacy were obliged to yield to the advantages of resources which they could not command and as in chief and Hubbart governor, which title appears to be merely nominal. This compromise however seems to partake of jealousy between the parties which begins to discover itself. There were a few days ago four armed vessels at the port of Fenandina two of which are what they call Government vessels under the Buenes Ayrian & Venezuelan flag and the Mexican flag is also displayed on the fort and some of their armed vessels, independent of their three privateers and two prizes have been detained by the Suranac Brig of war laying in the roads for the preservation of neutral rights between the Spanish and American Governments. The present strength of the Patriots at Fernandina with the natural and artificial means of defense makes them feel safe from any force that can immediately be brought against them. They appear however to be without system discipline or subordination. Indeed every thing seems to be at the mercy of whatever a majority may determine [page 16] may determine upon. From a view of the assemblage of characters it would appear to a spectator that they are composed of the refugees of nations and men of desperate fortune. As proof of the want of subordination, a fracas took place on Sunday last, which originated between the deferent colours. The tumult became general, the black soldiery gained the possession of the fort which was unguarded by either in a very little time the sailors and French of all colours were arrayed against each other. (not enmilatain?) Those in the fort charged the Cannon and formed on the Battery while sailors who were but partially armed drew up an eighteen pounder (from a position to which it had been advanced during the late attack, for the dislodgment of the royalists from M. Clines hill) within 40 or 50 yards of the rear of the fort enclosed on that side by Palllisades and defended by two six pounders each trailed thus guns preparatory for havock and sharing [?] in defiance of each other. The Tars were preping all; men with [page 17] the boatswain whistle and seemed impatient for the attack, which seems only to be prevented by a moderator keeping his foot on the touch hole of the gun which heavely charged and on which the Governor was frequently mounted. The general and Governor exhausted their argumentative powers the only means they possessed to prevent a sanguinary conflict, it was a considerable tome before tranquility could be restored. The few North Americans of colour associated themselves with the sailors a strong evidence of the predeliction for country. The measures adopted by our government seems well calculated to prevent the entry of Africans. Such a state of things cannot in my opinion promise any advantage to the Southern section of our country the want of stability and the power of restraining their own subjects from act of violence must be man....... as life dangerous to us as neighbors. I trust that you will have the goodness to excuse the propencity of this letter and the liberty which I take in trespassing on so much of your time AND Believe me to be with sentiments of esteem and regard your Obt Sert Jno Floyd
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