Spanish Florida, 1559-1763
In 1559, Tristan de Luna y Arellano led an attempt by
Europeans to colonize Florida. He established a settlement
at Pensacola Bay, but a series of misfortunes caused his
efforts to be abandoned after two years.
Spain accelerated her plans for colonization, prompted
by French adventurers. Pedro Menendez de Aviles
hastened across the Atlantic, his sights set on removing
the French and creating a Spanish settlement. Menendez
arrived in 1565 at a place he called San Augustin
(St. Augustine) and established the first permanent European
settlement in what is now the United States. He accomplished
his goal of expelling the French, attacking and killing
all settlers except for non-combatants and Frenchmen who
professed belief in the Roman Catholic faith. Menendez
captured Fort Caroline and renamed it San Mateo. Their
pattern of constructing forts and Roman Catholic missions
continued. Spanish missions established among native people
soon extended across north Florida and as far north along
the Atlantic coast as the area that we now call South Carolina.
The English, also eager to exploit the wealth of the Americas,
increasingly came into conflict with Spain's expanding empire.
In 1586 the English captain Sir Francis Drake looted and
burned the tiny village of St. Augustine. However, Spanish
control of Florida was not diminished.
In fact, as late as 1600, Spain's power over what is now
the southeastern United States was unquestioned. When English
settlers came to America, they established their first
colonies well to the North of Jamestown (in the present
state of Virginia) in 1607 and Plymouth (in the present
state of Massachusetts) in 1620. English colonists wanted
to take advantage of the continent's natural resources and
gradually pushed the borders of Spanish power southward
into present-day southern Georgia. At the same time, French
explorers were moving down the Mississippi River valley
and eastward along the Gulf Coast.
The English colonists in the Carolina colonies were particularly
hostile toward Spain. Led by Colonel James Moore, the Carolinians
and their Creek Indian allies attacked Spanish Florida
in 1702 and destroyed the town of St. Augustine. However,
they could not capture the fort, named Castillo de San
Marcos. Two years later, they destroyed the Spanish missions
between Tallahassee and St. Augustine, killing many native
people and enslaving many others.
Spain's adversaries moved even closer when England founded
Georgia in 1733, its southernmost continental colony. Georgians
attacked Florida in 1740, assaulting the Castillo de San
Marcos at St. Augustine for almost a month. While the attack
was not successful, it did point out the growing weakness
of Spanish Florida.
Text from: A Short History of Florida
Used with the permission of Florida's Division of Historical