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In Their Own Words

January 22, 1740

Oglethorpe Wanted to Attack St. Augustine

From St. Simons Island, James Oglethorpe wrote the Duke of Newcastle, Britain’s Secretary of State, with information about the Spanish threat to Georgia and requesting permission to attack St. Augustine, capital of Spanish Florida:

“I formerly acquainted Your Grace that the Spaniards attacked the island of Amelia in this province and killed two men there and barbarously mangled their bodies. I received farther advices of their intending an invasion… .

“They have, contrary to their treaties, lately built a fort on the Northern side of the lakes which form the River Saint John’s, on the lands belonging to His Majesty. This river is also called Saint Matthias and by that name mentioned as the boundaries of Carolina in King Charles II’s grant to the Lords Proprietors… .

“The Assembly and province of [South] Carolina, being sensible that they are not in any safety whilst the Spaniards possess Florida and the strong fort at Augustine, have desired that I would attack it and have offered to give me assistance for that purpose. I have held a council of war, and the result of it was that if the Assembly would grant a sufficient sum to raise 600 men and 800 pioneers with provisions, embarkations, &c., with the assistance of the regiment and our Indian allies and the Northern squadron of men of war, we might undertake the siege [of Saint Augustine] successfully.

“Captain Pearse who commands His Majesty’s ships in North America is arrived here pursuant to His Majesty’s orders for the protection of this province, and I, having showed him His Majesty’s instructions from Your Grace, have desired his assistance to annoy the Spaniards by attacking Augustine, the taking of which will be the surest means of protecting this province and Carolina. For whilst they have that fortress [the Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine], they can always annoy us and favour the revolting of the Negroes, several fatal instances of which Your Grace has been informed of.”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), General Oglethorpe’s Georgia: Colonial Letters, 1733-1743 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), pp. 441-444.