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This Day in Georgia History

July 13, 1742

Oglethorpe Ruse Confused Spanish

Near the Spanish encampment on the south end of St. Simons Island, Gen. James Oglethorpe was in a dilemma. The night before, a Frenchman accompanying Oglethorpe’s regiment had deserted to Spanish forces, thus foiling what would have been a surprise attack by the British. (As it turned out, the deserter was actually a spy hired by Gov. Manuel de Montiano, who was leading the Spanish invasion force.) Realizing that the deserter by now had revealed that the island’s defenders were far outnumbered by the Spaniards, Oglethorpe tried a trick. He wrote an alleged note to the deserter in French and instructed him to mislead Montiano by telling him that Oglethorpe only had a small force to defend the island. The note further directed the deserter to lead Spanish forces up the river. Oglethorpe then freed a Spanish prisoner and paid him to take the note to the deserter. On reaching Spanish lines, the prisoner was stopped and taken to Montiano. There he was questioned and searched, and the note was found. Montiano now didn’t know what to believe. Fearing that the deserter was actually a double agent, Montiano decided to call off the invasion and ordered his troops to get ready to board ships to return to St. Augustine.