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In Their Own Words

March 28, 1736

Oglethorpe Reported on Situation to the South of Georgia

In Dec. 1735, James Oglethorpe had sailed from England with a new group of English colonists. Their destination, however, was not Savannah but rather St. Simons Island to the south. A second phase in the life of Georgia began in March 1736, when they arrived and began construction of a town to be known as Frederica. Shortly thereafter, Oglethorpe, Tomochichi, and a group of Indians left on a reconnaissance expedition to view the southernmost boundary of the lands claimed by the Creek Nation. Since Frederica was built on land claimed by both England and Spain, Oglethorpe was particularly interested in seeing firsthand the location and size of Spanish settlements and fortifications to the south. On Mar. 28, shortly after returning from this expedition, James Oglethorpe wrote two letters. One was a brief letter to the Trustees indicating how busy he had been:

“… I … could not ‘till three days since spare time to undress myself and have not lain in sheets from leaving the ships ‘till then. The Indians and the Highlanders have behaved well with great courage, fidelity and affection, and the English that came with me are not far behind with them, particularly Mr. [William] Horton who has not undressed himself since he came there, though he has a tend and bed standing, which he has given to the sick and has been with me in an open boat in all the Southward expedition.”

Rather than detail what he observed on the expedition to the south, Oglethorpe included a copy of a letter he had written the same day to Thomas Broughton, Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina:

“Pursuant to His Majesty’s commands I have settled and fortified on the Island of Saint Simon’s and have took the best measure that my small judgment suggested to me for putting the place into a condition of defense … .

“After this was done I went down to the frontiers to see where His Majesty’s dominions and the Spaniards’ join. A detachment of Creek Indians invited me to go down with them to show me how far their claim and possession extended. I found that they have been in quiet possession ever since the last war of all lands on the North side as far as the mouth of Saint John’s River and that the Spaniards have two guards called lookouts on the South side of that river, the one 7 or 8 miles from the sea, the other at the sea point… . [H]aving viewed both the Spanish out-guards, I went ‘round the Southward-most point of His Majesty’s dominions in North America, which I called St. George’s Point and is over against the Spanish lower lookout, from which it is separated by the mouth of Saint John’s River which is there about a mile wide. From thence I returned and found that the Highland men, whom I had left upon an island at the Southward-most entrance of this port, had fortified themselves there. I called the new fort Saint Andrew’s and the island [on which] it stands the Highlands.

“I shall be obliged to keep a boat on the River Saint John to prevent the Creek Indians from passing to hurt the Spaniards, the Governour of Augustine having informed me that he is very apprehensive of those Indians. And as I cannot answer for the Indians and that an hostility committed by them might be construed to be my doing, I shall acquaint him that I cannot be answerable for keeping up the tranquility but my maintaining a boat and guard to prevent them from passing the river.

“The gentlemen that brought letters from the King of Spain’s Secretary of State and his ambassador at London to the Governour of Augustine and who came over in the ship with me is still at Augustine. Major Richards who conducted and the Governour full of civility and professions of friendship mixed with some complaints of the Creek Indians not permitted them to settle the Appellache Towns.

“… The Governour has acquainted me that he will send an officer as his plenipotentiary to treat with me for settling the boundaries and the matter of the Appellache Towns. I have acquainted him that I am ready to receive his plenipotentiary or to meet him personally on the frontiers which is at Saint John’s River… .”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), General Oglethorpe’s Georgia: Colonial Letters, 1733-1743 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), Vol. I, pp. 257-258.