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In Their Own Words

May 31, 1740

News of Fort Capture Received

In his journal, William Stephens wrote of receiving news from James Oglethorpe’s expedition to try to capture St. Augustine in the ongoing war with Spain. They had won a minor victory early on in the campaign:

“…The Time was now come, when Truth must appear, by the Arrival of a Person who came immediately from the Camp (William Ewen) who had formerly been a Servant in the Stores, and now came away in haste from Mr. Houston, whose Employment was to deliver out Provisions to the Generirs Regiment; so that he brought no Letters from the General, but made Report, on his own Knowledge, in Substance as follows, viz. That the General was broke up from the late Camp on the Main, opposite to the Inland St. George, and advanced nearer the Enemy: That upon receiving Intelligence there was a large Cow-Pen not far off, which had more than a thousand Cattle belonging to it, supposed to be the King of Spain’s own, for the Use of the Garison of Augustin, and defended by a Fort called St. Diego; his Excellence resolved to take that in, and accordingly marched to attack it, making use of a little Strategem, as well as Force: Which was, by appointing three or four Drums together beating here and there in divers Places in the Woods, and now and thcti a few Men appearing suddenly, and then withdrawing out of Sight again; which the Enemy in the Fort were so confounded at, not doubting but they were invested by a greater Number of Troops than we really had, they made but a feint Opposition, by firing a few Guns over our Mens Heads
(which whether so intended or not, is uncertain) and upon May being summoned to surrender, they did not long hesitate ere they did so, on Condition of being treated as Prisoners of War, and (what they principally insisted on) not to be delivered into the Hands of the Indians with us; which was granted; and they were in Number forty-six Spaniards, and four Negroes, most of whom were sent on board our Men of War, only the Commander had his Liberty to walk to and fro in the Camp, on his Parole given to the General; and one other, said to be a Gunner, and upon good Examination found to be an expert one, upon his Request to take on in our Service, the General readily accepted of him; and from what private Intelligence he got of him, shews him great Countenance; a very agreeable Instrument at this Season. The Camp is now said to be within thirteen Miles of Augustin, and the General has been several Times to view it, at a very little Distance: Great Numbers of Boats of all Kinds and Sizes lie ready for any Service, within the Mouth of the River St. Juan, and two Men of War (the Phoenix and Flamborough) without all, to protect them; some being employed in fetching Mortars, Bombs, and other Stores of Ammunition to the Camp, from Frederica, and where else they had been landed: Several other Men of War are constantly cruising, to prevent any one getting into, or coming out of Augustin; wherefore it is presumed we shall now soon hear of the Town’s being actually besieged, which all our Troops are brisk and intent upon: In the mean Time, after such a prodigious Seizure of Cattle, our People eat roast Beef in Plenty, and are likely to do so awhile to come, as well as mount Spanish Horses, which they also took great Numbers of.”

Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, pp. 583-584.