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In Their Own Words

October 03, 1739

Oglethorpe Prepared Colonists for War with Spain

This day’s entry in the journal of William Stephens described how James Oglethorpe prepared colonial Georgians for war with Spain:

“…The General intending to publish the War with Spain, in due Manner and Form; he gave Orders for all the Freeholders to be under Arms at Beat of Drum, and that the Magistrates, in their Gowns, should be on the Bench at Noon in the Court-House; whilst in the mean Time he directed a proper Declaration to be wrote, setting forth the Orders he received from his Majesty’s Secretary of State, relating thereto; and also another Paper, cautioning all Persons in this Province, to have a watchful Eye upon any Negroes, who might October attempt to set a Foot in it; forasmuch as many of them, at the Instigation of the Spaniards, had run lately away from their Masters in Carolina, and found kind Reception at Augustin: And moreover, the late Insurrection of them in that Province, which was but newly suppressed, gave Reason to apprehend, that some of such as had yet escaped, might be lurking about in Georgia, in hopes to make their Way to the Enemy; and in passing on, might do great Mischief among our Settlers; promising, as a Reward for taking them, what the Act here directs, and withal, what the Government at Carolina promises to pay, for every such runaway Negroe, delivered at Charles-Town, alive or dead. When the General came to the Court-House, where he found the Magistrates on the Bench, he took his Seat by them: and the Militia, who being drawn up before the Court-House, had grounded their Arms, and were all come within the Doors; his Excellence then made a Speech to them all, suitable to the Occasion, commending that Chearfulness which he observed to be in all Ranks of People, assuring them, that effedlual Care had been taken by him to prevent any Enemy from coming on our Backs from the West and South; and as we lay open only to the Sea, we had already some Frigates cruising on the Coast to protect us; and he had Assurance from the Government of more Strength at Sea; as also some Expectation of an additional Force by Land, to be sent him in a little while. Then he put those Papers into my Hands, which were prepared, directing me to read them to the People; which I did, as audibly as I could; afterwards the Constables read them again to the Men, on taking up their Arms; and next, they were affixed to the Doors of the Court-House. Upon the General’s Return to his Lodgings five Cannon were fired, and the Militia gave three handsome Vollies with their small Arms, as it were in Defiance, without the Appearance of any Dread of the Spaniards. …”

Source: Allen D. Candler, ed. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. IV, Stephens’ Journal 1737-1740, Atlanta, GA, 1906, pp. 426-428.