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In Their Own Words

July 18, 1740

Report of Defeat at St. Augustine

William Stephens recorded a report of James Oglethorpe’s failed attempt to capture St. Augustine from the Spanish, but was glad to hear the loss of life had not been as bad as he feared:

“…Capt. Tingley arrived this Morning from the is South, where he had been to dispose of his Cargo [vide June 14.) and with him came Mr. Abraham Minis, a Jew Freeholder here, whom the Cargo was consigned to, and who was looked on by all of us, as an honest Man: Wherefore we could make no Scruple of giving Credit to what was told us, as real Fact. The Action which happened upon the Enemy’s sallying out in the Night, and attacking our Party early in the Morning, so often canvassed amongst us here, differed very little in Circumstances from what we had heard; and it was very sharp; but the Number slain was too much magnified on our Side; for out of about one hundred and thirty, which the Party consisted of, it is now said that forty were killed, and ten taken Prisoners; among the first of whom. Colonel Palmer was one; and among the latter, Capt. John McIntosh More, the Principal of the Darien People; the rest making their Escape. It is agreed by all, that the Enemy suffered twice as much; for our Men finding themselves enclosed, fought desperately, and made their Way thro’ and thro* them. Sword in Hand: But the certain Loss they sustained, is not to be discovered; for remaining Masters of the Field a-while, they buried their Dead, leaving us to do the same with ours; which we did soon after: But to countervail the Loss of Colonel Palmer, the principal Commander of the Spaniards there was killed at the first Onset, when our Men maintained a brisk Fire for some Time, before they engaged Hand to Hand; and it is still said the Spaniards were upwards of five hundred. They made a faint Attempt very lately of sallying with a Party of Horse, to perform some farther Exploit: But the General was so well provided for them, that they made more haste back, than they had done so far, and a great many Horses were seen to have left their Riders; as we were before told by those two Men whom we talked with on last Tuesday; and what the same Men then told us of the General having shipped off his Artillery, and his Reasons for so doing; as also of the Men of War standing off farther to Sea, for Fear of a Hurricane, was now confirmed: Moreover, the General seeing his Men beginning to grow sickly, and finding little more could be done, resolved to turn the Siege into a Blockade (as I imagined would be the Case) till they were recruited with good Health, and some additional Strength, intending after Michaelmas to have something more to say to them: In the mean Time, he was marched, with his little Army, to his former Camp at St. Juan’s.”

Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, pp. 621-623.