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Indentured Servants Escape From an Infamous Florida Plantation Owner


In the 18th Century, Dr. Andrew Turnbull’s plantation in East Florida was the largest in North America. Turnbull employed more than 1,400 indentured servants from around the world – people fleeing famine and drought in their home countries. However, the conditions these servants faced on the plantation may have been more devastating than the hardships they left behind.

Enjoy Secrets of Spanish Florida? For more on early Florida settlements, check out the 4-hour extended version of “America’s Untold Story” now available on DVD.


Narrator: This is the story of America’s past that never made it into textbooks.

When most people were in school you began American history at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.

That Jamestown narrative is viewed very much in isolation that this was the first encounter between Europeans and Indians.

If you really wanted to look at the founding fathers, you’d look a lot earlier and you’d look south.

Narrator: It starts nearly a half-century before the Pilgrims landed.

The children who stepped ashore probably had their own grandchildren by the time Jamestown was founded.

Narrator: It’s a story that has taken archaeologists, marine scientists and historians several centuries to uncover

This stuff has not seen the light of day for 250 to 275 years.

I could feel the lip to it and put my hands inside and then I realized what it was.

This is one of the, maybe one of the most important documents in the United States history, no? If you read it, you go- it's a film. You could make a film out of it.

Narrator: What these discoveries reveal is a very different America.

It’s multicultural from day one.

You had Africans, you had a few Italians, Germans, Irish priests.

It really was America’s first melting pot.

[Music continues]

Narrator: How did this history become lost? And how does it change our thinking about race and immigration in this country to know what really happened?

If we took that as a beginning, I think we would have a very different picture of the United States

Narrator: This….is the rest of the story…of America’s birth.

It’s just as much a part of American History as Washington crossing the Delaware or Paul Revere’s ride.

What makes you American?

[cannon fire]

Narrator: This…is American history…revised.

[thunder clap]

Narrator: They had been walking night and day…struggling against fierce winds and rain that had already proven deadly.

[lightning strike, rain pouring down]

It’s a massive storm. No matter how hard they try to claw their way out they kept on being pushed back.


Narrator: 500 of them, making their way through swamps, in unfamiliar terrain, passing creatures they’d never seen before.


Dr. J. Michael Francis, Historian

They’re marching through—in some cases up to their waist, in some cases, higher, up to their chest through flooded swampland.

During the course of the march about a hundred of his troops dropped out. They didn’t make it.


Narrator: And waiting for them at the end of it all…a battle they might not survive.

[gun shot]
[men shouting]

And the stage is set for this really very rapid and a very bloody end game.

Narrator: This wasn’t the journey they had signed on for.
[music change]
It had started as a dream to settle a new territory more than 4000 miles across the ocean…a venture that first began in this modern-day seaport town of Avilés (ah-vee-LACE), in northern Spain. 450 years ago, Avilés was an important maritime center.

[wave crashes]

Hundreds of young men grew up learning how to navigate along these shores. One of them was Pedro Menéndez, who became, over time, one of the King’s most trusted men.

He understood the winds, the waves and the weather better than almost anyone at the time.

Narrator: Little was known about Menéndez or his influence on American history until Dr. Eugene Lyon began combing through Spanish archives in the 1960’s.

[Dr. Lyon: “Pedro Menéndez de Avilés”]

Narrator: Lyon spent six years in Spain, microfilming more than a million pages of archival material, and another decade translating them.

Any new document is like finding a treasure.

Narrator: What emerged is a story that radically changes our understanding of this country’s roots….
The year was 1565…and the entire east coast of what is now the United States had been claimed as Spanish territory by Ponce de Léon 52 years earlier. It was known as “La Florida” (Lah Flor-EE-dah) and it stretched north to Nova Scotia and all the way west to the Mississippi…and along the Gulf of Mexico to Texas.
King Philip-the-Second wanted to establish a strategic foothold here, to prevent other countries from encroaching on Spanish land. And he wanted to deter attacks on his Spanish treasure fleets.
Pedro Menéndez had once been a Captain General of those treasure ships…he had been looking for a reason to return to La Florida to search for his lost son, whose ship had disappeared during a hurricane off the Florida Coast.
Menéndez raised his own capital, hoping to develop a colony in La Florida that would eventually become self-sufficient and export its own goods. He convinced the King that such a venture could greatly add to Spain’s coffers.

[Gregorian chanting/singing]

But there was another reason the King wanted to start settling this new territory…and it went back more than half a century- to Columbus’ first voyage.

For the Spaniards at this time, religion is the driving force. Christ can’t come back until the whole world is evangelized.

Narrator: History books have focused on other motivations…the drive to explore the New World…the desire to plunder its riches. But Columbus was also a fervent Christian, who believed his explorations could play a role in fulfilling Biblical prophecies.

So, those prophesies are saying that Christ is coming back, we have to evangelize the world, and the monarchs of Spain will in fact be at the forefront of the apocalypse when they retake Jerusalem.

Narrator: For the next 73 years, Spanish Conquistadors would continue to explore the east coast of North America on behalf of the Spanish Monarchy. Not all of them shared this spiritual quest…but Pedro Menéndez did.

When he spoke to the king at court, he said, “such grief seizes me when I behold native peoples who are sunk in infidelity that I would give anything to redeem their lives and souls.”

[Gregorian chanting continues]

Narrator: That resonated profoundly with King Philip, who was such a devout Catholic he’d commissioned a Basilica to be built inside his own palace. It was specially designed so that his bedroom overlooked the altar, allowing the King to hear mass recited daily.

But there was little chance that religious missions would succeed in La Florida

[ seagulls caw]

So far no one in Europe had been able to survive long term in this inhospitable land.

Florida was a challenge. There had already been ten to twelve crown-sanctioned expeditions into Florida to establish permanence from Ponce de Leon forward, and no one had been able to do this.

It was just too difficult living there, scratching out a living.

Narrator: The King offered several inducements… Menéndez could claim 53 thousand acres as his own. He would be made Governor…and “Adelantado.” (Ah-day-lan TAH-doh)

Which literally means “he who goes before others.”


Narrator: The expedition would require 8 ships…carrying more than 1500 people and enough provisions to sustain the colonists until they could produce their own food and supplies.

You have tailors, hat makers, shoemakers, surgeons and barbers. One of the last individuals on the list is a master beer brewer.

Narrator: There would be soldiers on board to protect the settlement…26 families…seven priests…and a virtual melting pot of emigrants.

There were Spaniards, Portuguese, English, French we see, Flemish, Germans, and Africans.

And so it’s multicultural from day one.

Narrator: But just before the journey began, there was troubling news.

The French had established a fort smack in the middle of Spanish-claimed Florida. This was an insult to the King and he became quite angry at this trespass because he had in place a treaty which recognized Spain’s right to the whole Atlantic coast.

Narrator: Suddenly, overnight, the venture turned into a combat mission.

“You are to drive them out by whatever means you see fit.”

Narrator: Fortified with hundreds more soldiers, Menéndez was now in a race to beat the French Captain, Jean Ribault   [zhaun/ ree-BOH] to Florida. Ribault was headed there with supply ships to fortify Fort Caroline, the small settlement that France had just set up near the mouth of the river known today as the St. John’s. Jean Ribault was a formidable foe.

Very high temper…he was a great danger to the Spaniards.

Narrator: The French settlers were running out of food and adequate supplies. Fort Caroline was barely holding on- if Ribault did not reach there with reinforcements the fort could be easily taken.

But of course this venture does not unfold the way that Menéndez expects it to unfold.

[thunder clap]

Narrator: Hurricanes struck as soon as the Spanish ships got out to sea.


About a quarter of the way across the Atlantic, all but five of those ships were either sunk at sea or driven back to port.

Narrator: Only about half of the original 1500 passengers made it to La Florida. The ships headed directly to Fort Caroline. But they were too late. Jean Ribault had already beaten them there.

So as Ribault is unloading his three smallest ships the Spanish show up,

[pop of gunfire]

they identify themselves, they fire shots.

[pop of more gunfire]

The four French ships that are offshore cut their anchor lines to escape.

Menéndez could not follow because his ships were laden with supplies and men.

Narrator: Menéndez retreated to an inlet about 40 miles south of Ft. Caroline, hoping it would provide safe harbor. But Menéndez couldn’t get his main supply ships past the shoal. They unloaded as much as they could into smaller boats, and went ashore.

And the first thing he did ashore was essentially went about the business of legally establishing the settlement of St. Augustine.

Narrator: Much of our knowledge about what happened next comes from a document that is housed here, in the Archives of the Indies, in Seville, Spain.


The fact that it survives is amazing. You know, the fact that it’s even here.

Narrator: It is the original diary of one of the priests who accompanied Pedro Menéndez on the voyage. For several centuries American historians knew nothing of its contents…And even today, only a small number of scholars can decipher this archaic script. Dr. Michael Francis is one of them.

Dr. J. Michael Francis, Historian
“I, Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajalas, chaplain, give my word that everything said in this account is true.”

[church bells toll]

Narrator: In vivid detail, Father Lopez described the great pageantry that marked the landing.

There were trumpet salutes and the firing of cannon

[cannon fire]

and flags waving everywhere.

[Gregorian chanting]

Narrator: Menéndez christened the new settlement “San Augustin,” or St. Augustine. It was September 8th, 1565.

Eric Johnson
Traditionally, the Spanish representative of the King would go to the flag, plant the flag in the ground and proclaim the land in the name of the king. He, however, went over to Father Lopez and knelt down and kissed the cross. He proclaimed the name in “Nombre de Dios,” in the name of God- before the name of his king.

And Lopez observed the natives imitated all they saw done. Now there’s a picture for you.

Narrator: Father Lopez then conducted a mass of Thanksgiving…and Menéndez ordered that a meal be prepared for everyone, including the natives. This was 55 years before the Pilgrims even arrived in Plymouth. A few years ago Dr. Michael Gannon drew fire when he called this meal the true “First Thanksgiving.”

There was a guy who called me from WBZ in Boston. He said, ‘while I’m talking, do you realize that there is an emergency meeting of selectmen at Plymouth to contend with this new information that there were Spaniards in Florida before there were Englishmen in Massachusetts?’
And then he said ‘well, you know how you’ve become known up here in New England?” I said ‘no’ he said, ‘The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving.’


Narrator: But while the Spanish were celebrating their new settlement, Jean Ribault was planning his next move.

He says “we need to stage a preemptive strike, we need to hit the Spanish now as hard as we can before they entrench themselves.”

Narrator: Ribault left a small number of men to guard Ft. Caroline, then set out with the others on four ships…looking for the Spanish camp.

The French show up, off the bar at St Augustine and all of a sudden this huge storm bears down on them.

Narrator: Jean Ribault’s ships couldn’t make it over St. Augustine’s sand bar and his surprise attack failed. Instead, he went after Menéndez’ supply ships that were heading south, away from the storm. The Spanish got out safely but Ribault’s ships did not.

And of course they were shipwrecked, all of those Frenchmen, from Daytona Beach to a point just north of Cape Canaveral.

Narrator: The ships wrecked near the coastline and the French made it to shore.

They probably lost most of their weapons, most of their food, uh, they try to march back to Fort Caroline. Now unbeknownst to them, Menendez also makes a bold move.

Menendez figured that the weather's nasty, I bet you that Fort Caroline is probably undermanned right now. This is my chance. I need to go and I need to take this fort now.

[lightning strikes, thunder claps]

Narrator: Some historians say it was a hurricane…others believe it was a nor’easter…either one could have proven lethal.

Most of the accounts allege that few of the Spaniards wanted to go; they don't think they can make it and they don't quite know how far it is and they think that they'll perish and Menendez says, “we're going”.

It must have been horrible in full armor carrying your weapons. To march through Florida wilderness during a hurricane took a lot of determination.

Narrator: It took them about two days to get there, walking throughout the night. Father Lopez wrote, “They arrived within a quarter of a league of the enemy’s fort, where they remained all night up to their waists in water.”

Dr. Sam Turner, Maritime
Archaeologist: At the break of dawn they essentially charged the gate.

[crowd noises, yelling]

They really caught the fort completely by surprise. You know, the French never dreamed that they would face an enemy during this storm. They figured everyone would be battered down just like they were.

The French were all asleep. And the slaughter began.

Narrator: Only a few escaped into the woods. Menéndez and his men collected the spoils of war: food, weapons and a chest, with the French king’s orders for the fort, which violated Spain’s claim to La Florida
Menendez renamed the fort “San Mateo” [san mah-TAY-oh], left some of his soldiers behind as guards, and took the rest back to St. Augustine.

[feet trod through water]

A little more than a week later, about half of the Frenchmen who had survived the shipwrecks off the coast of Cape Canaveral, were trying to make their way back to Ft. Caroline on foot.

But when they got to Matanzas inlet they were unable to cross it. And native people in that region saw that these Frenchmen were stranded there and ran up to St. Augustine to advise the Spaniards and Menendez went down with 50 men.

Narrator: Menéndez told the French that their fort had been destroyed, and the men surrendered. Ribault was not among them.

Menéndez said “I shall deal with you as a good captain should.” That’s the only promise he made to them.

[sound of waves]

Narrator: Menéndez had his men bring the French across the Matanzas River by boat…ten at a time…they were then bound and marched to a point where Menéndez had drawn a line in the sand.

Menéndez had situated his men behind the sand dunes with daggers and spears and when each group of ten was brought over, Menéndez’s men set upon them and killed them. And soon it was 20, 30, 40, 50, 60--the bodies piled up.

Narrator: Menéndez spared a few of the French—mostly craftsmen, whose skills could be put to use building the new settlement.

Some of the men who were on board were Catholic, they swore to it, and Menéndez saved their lives.

Dr. J. Michael Francis, Historian
[reading and translating]

He says that the total number of Lutherans killed were 111 men and that there were 14 or 15 that were taken captive.

Narrator: Father Lopez’ account ends at this point.

[clank of an old elevator going up]

But another document continues the story even further-

Don Alvaro Armada Barcáiztegui, Conde de Güemes
We’ve kept these documents, and here they are.

Narrator: Don Alvaro (Ahl-vah-row) Armada is the Count of Güemes [(G)WAY-mays], and a descendant of Pedro Menéndez. His family archive houses over a million pages of handwritten documents.
One of them is a full account of the expedition written by Gonzalo Solis de Merás (Gahn-ZA-lo so-LEEZ de mar-AHZ) who was Menéndez’ brother-in-law.

Don Alvaro Armada Barcáiztegui, Conde de Güemes
This is one of the, maybe one of the most important documents in the United States history no?

Narrator: It describes the fateful day two weeks after the slaughter of the first group of French shipwreck survivors, when Jean Ribault and about 200 of his remaining soldiers met face-to-face with Pedro Menéndez. They met at the sand dunes about 14 miles south of St. Augustine. It was October 11th 1565.

Dr. J. Michael Francis, Historian
[reading and translating]

Ribault tries to negotiate safe passage back uh to France and then offers a, uh, a ransom.

Don Alvaro Armada Barcáiztegui, Conde de Güemes

An amount of money no?…an amount of money.

Yeah, a lot.

Don Alvaro Armada Barcáiztegui, Conde de Güemes:
--and Menendez said, ‘no.’


Narrator: Jean Ribault then recited a Psalm.

He begins to say a prayer and after he finishes,

[reading Spanish then translating]

"…dijo que de tierra eran y que en tierra se habían de volver…"

So he's saying to them that we are all of this earth and to this earth we shall return.

Don Alvaro Armada Barcáiztegui, Conde de Güemes
He's saying goodbye.

Dr. J. Michael Francis, Historian
So that within, in 20 years, all of this will be a tale, a story, a legend.

Don Alvaro Armada Barcáiztegui, Conde de Güemes
If you read it, you go- it's a film. You could make a film out of it, no? It's amazing, it's amazing.

Dr. J. Michael Francis, Historian
And then he looks at Menéndez and he says

[reading Spanish then translating]

"...que lo hiciese de ellos, mandando al adelantado..."

So he’s telling the Adelantado Menéndez, “Do with us as you will”.


Menéndez is quite open about what happens. Menéndez simply says “I could not risk keeping Ribault and the principal officers alive”

It was a very calculated choice. He did not have the food that would be required to feed them. He did not have arms sufficient to guard them. These hordes of Frenchmen could overwhelm his forces at almost any time. So, he made a calculated decision. Either kill these people or be killed by them.

So as many as 350 men were massacred, and that's how we got, get the name Matanzas Inlet, Matanzas River, that's “massacre” or “slaughter” uh in Spanish

Narrator: Jean Ribault’s last words- that someday this would all be legend- proved to be ironic. For centuries the true story of America’s beginnings went untold- American history textbooks do not even give it a mention.

Pedro Menéndez and the people that went with him, they are really the fathers of the- of the United States, the true fathers of the United States. They arrived before- before Mayflower, Jamestown and all that- here are the documents, here are the documents.

[gull sounds, water splashing]

Narrator: The search for clues to our past continues today. A team of maritime archaeologists is off the coast of Cape Canaveral National Seashore. They are looking for those fateful shipwrecks that not only cost Jean Ribault and his men the conquest of the New World, but ultimately, their lives.

[oxygen tank bubbling]

So we have for example a letter from Pedro Menéndez to the King of Spain, reporting that the French ships have wrecked. And he gives a very rough estimate of how many leagues away from St. Augustine they are. So that kinda puts us in the general area.

Narrator: They have honed in on an area near shore, where small artifacts believed to have belonged to Ribault’s men were found.

So shipwreck survivors uh who made it ashore, had some kind of campsite there. There’s a lot of artifacts, there are coins, dating 1550s and there’s actually one coin that is dated 1565 -- that’s the magic number.

Narrator: Ribault’s ships were carrying large quantities of iron: cannons and ammunition. The team uses a high-powered metal-detector that penetrates deep water.

Oh there we go. So now… Oh there we go! Look at that! There’s definitely something there.

Narrator: But disappointingly, the dive on this day turns up nothing.

At night, all the coastline south of us is just dark. And it really feels just like it must have felt 450 years ago. You can imagine, the—I mean there were bodies washing ashore, there was flotsam and debris from the shipwrecks all ashore, there was probably a horrible stench.

[thunder crashes]

All of the hopes of these people who are really the first to come over to seek the American dream. And it all came down to this storm, this fateful storm that just dashed their hopes to pieces.

Narrator: More than a year later…a breakthrough, just south of the area the team had been searching.

[“Treasure hunters have apparently found the nearly 500 year-old remains of La Trinité…”]

News programs reported that a private treasure hunting company had unearthed three bronze cannons believed to belong to Ribault’s fleet.

There really is no doubt, uh, to any of the archeologists who have really looked at what has been found, that this is the Trinite or certainly one of Ribault’s ships. So it’s a very exciting find. So this is the, this is the canon in question. And here’s the H with the crown above it for King Henry the second. The biggest smoking gun that has been found, was a stone pillar.

Narrator: It’s a stone column like the one depicted in this 16th century etching. The columns were used to mark territory when the French arrived in the New World.

We know a pillar very much like this one was established where Fort Caroline is, so present day Jacksonville. And we know, that Ribault loaded six more of these stone pillars onto his fleet.

Narrator: France has laid claim to the shipwreck and is in talks with archaeologists- including Chuck Meide’s team- to assist with the excavation.
Ironically, these ships have been sitting at the bottom of the ocean buried under rocket ship debris…just a few miles from the place where modern day explorers are launched into space.

They were the space shuttles of their time period. I mean these were the ships that were launched to explore the great unknown.


Back on land in St. Augustine, Dr. Kathleen Deagan and a team of archaeologists from the University of Florida have recently discovered what they believe to be the location of the original Menéndez settlement, where the Spanish first came ashore.

At first we couldn’t believe it, we said no, this couldn’t have been here all this time, and here we’ve been working for over 30 years on and off at this sight.

Narrator: They found the site at the Fountain of Youth Park Archaeological Park just north of downtown. There were hundreds of artifacts, including Spanish beads…musket balls…and uniform buttons.

It really wasn’t until some of the kind of smoking gun artifacts and archaeological deposits showed up that you would really let yourself say, this is, this is it. Its real significance is that it’s the first place in the United States that Europeans came and stayed.

Narrator: And there’s evidence of the children who first came here as well.

We found a little Figa amulet, which is a little clenched fist with the thumb between the fingers, and Spanish women had many of these hanging around babies’ necks to protect them against evil eye, and we just couldn't help imagining that this was associated with the first European child born in what's now the United States -- Martíniquo de Argüelles.

And we have references to children being born in St. Augustine, obviously soon after people arrive.

Narrator: Dr. Susan Parker scours parish records, now housed in St. Augustine, to reconstruct the lives of ordinary people.

It’s just whatever you can find to try to piece them together and give a voice and a face to many people that wouldn't have a voice and a face otherwise.

Narrator: Women and children are often missing from official accounts. But Parker has managed to breathe life into these first families through their letters back to Spain, and vital records.

I think we need to remember that it's 42 years between when St. Augustine was founded and when Jamestown is founded. If we look at that in a different way, that's almost two generations. In other words, the children who stepped ashore with Pedro Menéndez, probably had their own grandchildren by the time Jamestown was founded.

Narrator: At first, the relationship between the Natives and Spanish settlers was a good one. It’s said the Timucuan (teh-MOO-kwan) Indian Chief named Seloy [seh-LOY] gave Pedro Menendez his own council house, big enough to hold hundreds of people.
Shortly after settling in, Menéndez ordered a fort to be built…then he left to start up other settlements along the east coast.
But rations and supplies soon became scarce. By December of 1565 many of the settlers had died of hunger.

And most of the people who came here assumed they would have a better life, they might find gold and riches, they would have their own piece of land, but none of that ever happened. So within 6 months of arriving, most of the soldiers decided that they had had enough.

Narrator: At midnight in early March, a group of discontented soldiers mutinied. They descended on the munitions house to seize weapons.

They tied up the quartermaster and they took off with the weaponry and some of the supplies on ship. But the quartermaster was able to get himself free with the help of a few other loyal soldiers and he shot at the mutineers.


He did quell the mutiny.

Narrator: The leader of the uprising was immediately hanged for treason.
Pedro Menéndez returned two weeks later with food and additional troops. He pardoned those wiling to swear allegiance to him.
But it wasn’t just the soldiers who were unhappy. Evidence of burnt structures confirms another dark truth…that the good will with the Natives lasted less than a year.
The settlers had overstayed their welcome.

The Timucua after 9 months attacked and burned part of the settlement and that’s when it was abandoned.

[burning crackle]


Narrator: The settlers moved across the river…to a small piece of land, now known as Anastasia Island.
Very little is known about their life there. They only stayed on the island a few years. They returned to the mainland in 1572 and settled in a third location, where the oldest part of St. Augustine’s historical district is now located.

[crinkling sound of plastic tarp being lifted]

We found street deposits that date back to a late 1500 or early 1600’s.

Narrator: Carl Halbirt has overseen St. Augustine’s archaeology program for more then 25 years. It’s one of the few cities in the country that requires an archaeological dig be conducted before any new construction can begin.

Aviles Street is the oldest documented European street in the United States. And Philadelphia said, “Oh, we have the oldest street,”
(LAUGHS) and I said, “Ah, Philly can eat my dust,” you know? I mean it’s clear we beat them by a hundred years.

Narrator: Over the years that passed, Pedro Menéndez established another settlement in modern day South Carolina and 13 other forts along the east coast…but by 1574, nearly a decade after the first settlers had landed, only Santa Elena and St. Augustine remained.


In all of that time, Menéndez never found his son. He returned to Spain and was preparing to command another fleet for the King. But exactly 9 years to the day after he marched his troops through a deadly storm and captured Ft. Caroline- Pedro Menéndez died at home in Spain…of typhus. He was 55.

At the end he's a romantic. He's not a person who's looking for the jewels of- he doesn't care about that. He- he- when he died he was ruined, no money- no money- he spend all the money on his adventures. He's not a materialist, he's un- es un hombre idealista- an idealist - he catches (touches?) my heart.

Narrator: Over the next two decades, St. Augustine slowly transformed into the city that Menéndez had envisioned. And with the town’s growth came a blending of cultures.

Twenty to twenty five percent of the marriages recorded were between a Spaniard and a Native American.

Yes, there was a lot of intermarriage because they felt that these people were human beings just like them. There was such a huge difference in the acceptance of that in the Spanish colonies rather than in the British colonies.

Narrator: In fact, the artifacts that have been discovered throughout the city reveal that the population in America’s first colony more closely resembled the diversity of America’s population today…not the Anglo version that’s been depicted in textbooks.


In colonial English America, you would only see that way of life that appeared really English and very white. In the Spanish world, it looked very different. It was very multicultural and very integrated. And it really was America’s first melting pot.

Narrator: St. Augustine had finally emerged as a thriving 16th century town complete with shops, inns and taverns…
But all that was about to end.
Suddenly one day in June, 1586, a foreboding sight appeared on the horizon.

People looked out over the inlet and saw 23 heavily armed warships, 19 auxiliary vessels, which contained 2000 armed men.

Narrator: This was the fleet of the notorious English pirate, Sir Francis Drake…known to the Spanish as a vicious foe.

Susan Jackson, Author/Drake Archivist
They called him El Draque, the dragon. They thought he was in league with the devil.

He was this rampaging, fire-breathing, appalling monster of a man.

Narrator: The citizens of St. Augustine grabbed their valuables and fled.

[people running]

Narrator: Only about 80 soldiers stayed at the fort to prepare for the onslaught.

[man yells]

Narrator: Drake had been harboring a personal vendetta against Spain ever since he was a young man. It happened in 1568- his fleet had just seized a Spanish island when a storm forced them to seek refuge in its port. They negotiated a cease-fire…but the Spaniards went back on their word and attacked.

[cannon fire]

Drake’s ship escaped, but the others did not.

That burned in the heart of Sir Francis Drake his entire life, that he was betrayed by the Spanish and that he saw all of his friends die.

[Drake berating seaman]

Narrator: Drake’s fury with anyone who crossed him was legendary.

[Nat Sot Drake: “Now!”]

It’s said he once even ordered the beheading of his own friend.
Queen Elizabeth capitalized on that anger, turning Drake into her personal weapon against Spain.

Queen Elizabeth allowed him to do what he did best, which was plunder her enemies. This is politics.

Narrator: Which is how St. Augustine inadvertently became a pawn in that undeclared war between England and Spain. Drake and his men had been on their way home after looting several Spanish towns in the Caribbean when they spotted the fort. Drake knew that attacking Spain’s first settlement in La Florida would deliver a crushing blow to King Philip and his legacy.
Drake sent his men to scout the fort but they didn’t anticipate what was waiting for them.


Well, they’re attacked!

[Sounds of fighting continue]

They killed some of his soldiers when they came on land on that island

Narrator: A map published three years later depicts Drake’s version of what happened.

It’s the first map of any city in the US.

In the very back, in the cornfield there’s a little murder taking place and you have to look carefully. And it’s the killing of a captain, Anthony Powell, who was Drake’s kinsman as well as his best captain.


Drake didn’t really lose an assistant, he more lost a personal friend.

[“He will be avenged!”]

One of the accounts holds that that is what precipitated Drake’s rage.

[cannon fire]

Drake then landed and despoiled the city of anything of value.

[gunfire, men yelling]

Narrator: After two days, St. Augustine’s garrison had completely run out of ammunition. A Spanish officer later described the attack in a letter to the King.

[gunfire pop]

He said, “We fought valiantly, under odds that almost had never been seen.” And then they were forced to flee with such speed, that “We didn’t even have enough time to carry the treasury box.” And the next morning Drake’s forces took over the garrison.

[continued yelling, crackling of fire]

Drake and his men burned the entire town and the wooden fort. Everything went up in flames. Imagine what it was like for the community and the soldiers and the Governor to behold what they saw when they emerged from the woods. It was a site of smoking ruin.

I think we found the archaeological evidence for Drake’s raid.

Narrator: Carl Halbirt believes the city imploded, collapsing into a thick layer of ash.

We found a burned deposit that dates to the 16th century. We’re not talking about just a little lens, we’re talking about a lens about two inches thick of carbonaceous material. And within that carbonaceous material, were just lots of broken pottery.

Narrator: But the reason why Drake burned St. Augustine is still a matter of debate. According to the Governor’s “official” account, Drake made off with the entire hoard of silver and gold from the treasury box.

[chest creaking open, Drake laughs]

Or so the Governor claimed. This was his story.

Narrator: And that was Drake’s story as well. But two years later a former soldier told the King of Spain a different story.

He said that the four royal officials took all of the money out of it and filled it with lead. He claims that the Governor distributed the money amongst his cronies and their allies.

Narrator: Some believe that this was the real reason Drake burned down the town-

[Nat- Drake angered “You Spanish Bastards!]

But we may never know.

[“Take this away from me!]

Because historians believe Drake would have never admitted he’d been tricked.


After the attack ended, Drake returned to England to his opulent estate- a former monastery known as Buckland Abbey.

Drake sets himself up as, as a gentleman, and makes himself into the iconic English hero of the 16th century.

Yes, the pin-up boy, so to speak. He was, uh, accorded almost God-like status down in, uh, down in Plymouth.

[cannon fire]

Narrator: The collateral damage left in his wake was overlooked back home. Documents in the National Archives at Kew, England, show that Queen Elizabeth not only sanctioned these acts of piracy, she funded them as well.

Right here’s the name, Francis Drake. And the Elizabeth Bonaventure and the aide and the sum twenty thousand pounds. So the queen was a stakeholder in this adventure.

She made a lot of money out of this. Just to give one example, during Drake’s circumnavigation of the world, her share of the profits was three hundred thousand pounds. That was a huge amount of money.

Narrator: The sacking of St. Augustine was barely a notch in Drake’s belt in terms of monetary gain, but it was a huge strategic victory. Drake’s attack forced the Spanish to shut down Santa Elena (SAHN-ta eh-LAY-na), a settlement about 220 miles to the north. Some historians say this decision was a pivotal one: it weakened Spain’s foothold in North America.
The refugees from Santa Elena poured into St. Augustine, which was already struggling to survive.

[crinkling of plastic drawn back]

A stunning new archaeological discovery buried under the streets of modern day St. Augustine was recently unearthed when the city needed to lay underground utility lines.

There’s the arm bone. And there’s the vertebra

Narrator: Carl Halbirt believes these remains might be linked to a period of starvation that followed Drake’s raid.

I’ve been here in St. Augustine for 25 years. During that 25 years, we’ve literally uncovered hundreds of thousands of items that people used everyday. What we have now are the actual people who used those items. These are the people who enabled the city to survive.

Narrator: But they were barely holding on.
The Governor of St. Augustine turned to a Timucuan (Teh-MOO-kwan) tribe just out of town for help. They were led by a chieftain-ness named Doña Maria (DOH-nyah ma-REE-yah), who was also a Catholic.
According to a later account to the King, Doña Maria (DOH-nyah ma-REE-yah), provided enough corn to save the town from starvation.

And she received all kinds of honors and privileges from the Spanish crown. She was an ally. She was a loyal ally.


Narrator: Back in Spain, King Philip was anxious to finally put an end to the English curse. Holed up in his bedroom above the altar at El Escorial, he hatched a plan to conquer England.

[wind and wave sounds]

In 1588- just two years after Drake’s raid on St. Augustine- Philip sent his armada to claim England and return it to the Catholic Church.
But the “Invincible Armada” was defeated…and one of the key leaders of the battle against Spain was none other than the Queen’s pirate, Francis Drake.

In 1595 a Spanish admiral named Gonzalo Méndez de Cancio (gon-SAH-low/ MEN-days/deh/KHAN-see-oh) finally defeated Drake. In doing so he would become a key figure in the future of St. Augustine.

[Él es mi 12º segundo abuelo por línea recta de varón.]


He is my 12th grandfather on my father's side…

Narrator: Javier Cancio-Donlebún Ballvé (HA-vee-air/KHAN-see-oh/ Don-lay-BOON/ Ball-vay) still has the document his ancestor found that was crucial in bringing Drake down.

[Javier in Spanish]

This is a list of instructions captured on Francis Drake's ship. The original, from 1595.

Narrator: It was Drake’s plan for an attack on Spanish-held Puerto Rico (PWAIR-toe REE-co). The information helped Cancio plan a counterattack. This became Drake’s last battle- he died of fever and was buried at sea just a few months later.

[Javier in Spanish… “Esto se hizo luego muy famoso en España…”]

This heroic deed was very popular in Spain and even the great poet Lope de Vega composed a poem based on this event

Narrator: Gonzalo Méndez de Cancio was now Spain’s iconic hero…he had defeated his country’s archenemy. Cancio was appointed Governor of St. Augustine.
But when Governor Cancio arrived in St. Augustine he reported that the city was on the verge of ruin.
Cancio knew their only salvation was to form an alliance with the Indians. But that would not be easy.
As far back as the late 1400’s, slave traders from Spain, Portugal and England had been capturing Indians in Mexico and the Caribbean and selling them, causing a deep mistrust of Europeans.

Imagine what it must have been like for a native to see this ship with its huge black hull, white bearded men. It would be like an alien spaceship coming down, in your backyard. So naturally they fought it off in these places.

[pop of sound]

Narrator: And while the explorers saw natives as savage…the Spanish seemed equally barbaric to the Indians.

On these expeditions when they're hungry they eat shoes. And they eat horses. And they eat saddles. I mean- and they eat each other.

And then you have Hernando De Soto, who is a moral monster in the way in which he treated aboriginal peoples, and he maimed and killed his way north through Florida, cutting off Indian’s ears and noses and sending them back saying ‘this will happen to everybody unless you give me and my men safe passage.’

Narrator: But in 1542, King Carlos-the-fifth issued new laws, ordering that Native people who lived in the Americas were to be treated humanely. So by the time St. Augustine was founded, enslaving natives was prohibited.

There's a shift from conquest by the sword to conquest by the Gospel. And the king now wants pacification.

Narrator: By the late 1500’s- nearly two centuries before their famous missions in California - the Spanish had already built a system of missions throughout La Florida.

One of the most famous of the Franciscan friars in the 16th and early 17th century was Francisco Pareja. He learned their language, eventually he wrote a grammar of the language, a dictionary of the language. And wrote out the prayers of the Catholic church so that a typical Timucuan could read it. This is how the opening sentences of the Lord’s prayer sounded in Timucuan.

[Dr. Gannon reads the Lord’s Prayer in Timucuan]

It has a kind of musical charm to it, but this was the Timucuan language in sound but written out in Spanish consonants and vowels.

The Indians are using books, they’re learning how to read and write, and this is a time when some children in great European cities don’t even have books.

Narrator: A recent study of Timucuan (Teh-MOO-kwan) manuscripts have led to the realization that not only did these Natives read Spanish, but they also wrote in their native tongue.

We have about a thousand pages of Timucua.
Timucua is the first indigenous written grammatical language in the United States.

Narrator: Flagler College Professor of Religion Dr. Timothy Johnson has been working with other scholars to compare the Spanish and Timucua (teh-MOO-kwa) versions of seventeenth century religious writings.

And interestingly enough, sometimes the translations don’t always match up. There is a whole series of what are called superstitions in the Confessionario and the priest is supposed to ask the Timucua are you doing this? Are you doing that? One for example says do you take the antlers of the deer and praying believe that you will then be able to catch another deer as part of this devil’s ceremony? So that’s the Spanish but the Timucua leaves out every reference to the Devil.

Yamassee Indian Nation
The conflict came amongst a lot of tribes, when friars would try to define what the devil was… this disagreeable spirit that has been identified as the devil, could be that same spirit that came into our village and protected us from a bear. Uh protected the children from a wolf, you know? These are what they call good medicine.

Narrator: It’s believed these Timucuan books were written in the late 1500’s.

So we’re talking about a level of literacy that simply up to this point in time has not really been recognized. Literacy among many of the indigenous peoples.

Narrator: These Natives were also highly advanced in their knowledge of agriculture. Governor Cancio capitalized on that knowledge, using the Timucua to cultivate the savannahs and make them arable.

[Javier in Spanish: “Eran terrenos pantanosos…”]

It was swampland, a mosquito-infested area that couldn’t grow much of anything. According to documents in the Archives of the Indies, corn production increased more than three times what it had been in the entire decade before he arrived.


Narrator: This is one of the two wooden chests carrying St. Augustine’s first export: corn seed. Javier says it revolutionized agriculture in northern Spain. Fully one year before Jamestown was founded, the settlement of St. Augustine had already made a major contribution to Spain’s economy.

By the time Jamestown was founded, St. Augustine was a community of 120 shops and homes.

Narrator: But the arrival of the English in Jamestown in 1607 changed everything.

[bird caws]

King Philip the second had died…and his son had taken over.

[Javier in Spanish: “Felipe III ya más en manos de burócratas…

Philip III handed the Empire over to bureaucrats, who questioned the convenience of keeping garrisons like in St. Augustine.


Narrator: Unlike his father, who had routed out the French when they had violated Spanish sovereignty here forty years earlier,

[sound of metallic sword]

Philip- the-third decided not to challenge the establishment of Jamestown. It was too costly and his soldiers were too involved with wars in Europe.

King Philip III issued an edict that there was no more going up and down the coastline putting out fires. And really there never was any need to worry about Jamestown. It was never a threat to Spanish Florida.

Narrator: The Jamestown colony may not have posed much of a threat by itself, but England did.

Shortly after Jamestown, other settlements began. Spain could not put out all of those fires

Narrator: For the next 50 years, Spain turned its energies largely to Latin America and the western part of what’s now the United States…that allowed England to gain a foothold in the US from Massachusetts to the Carolinas.

[low rumble of storm]

By the mid-1600’s the vulnerability of the only Spanish settlement left on the east coast was about to become tragically apparent.
It was May 29th, 1668.
A French physician named Pierre Piques (pee-kay), who had recently been forced to leave St. Augustine in shame, was on a ship headed to Havana. He was about to get his revenge.

He and the Governor have become very acrimonious towards each other. The Governor apparently has a number of women that he is spending time with, inappropriately, according to the records.

Narrator: Some of the Governor’s paramours had shared confidences with Piques (pee-kay), who was indiscreet about what he learned.

And the Governor orders him to leave the town.

Narrator: But before Piques’ ship reached Havana, it was captured at sea by a pirate ship led by the English-sympathizer, Robert Searles.
Piques realized he had valuable information that could not only spare his life, but could also serve to retaliate against the Governor. He asked for an audience with Searles.
He told the pirates that a large quantity of silver bars had recently been recovered from the wreck of a treasure ship off the coast and it was being held for safe keeping in St. Augustine.

And he's feeling vengeful and so he gives Searles all the information he has about how the best way to get into St. Augustine, what the timing would be, and so he helps them get into the town.

[Searles: “and you better not be lying!”]

Narrator: Searles knew that no one at the fort would suspect that this Spanish supply ship had pirates on board.

And that was his Trojan horse. He came in on a different ship, not on a pirate ship but on this treasury vessel under disguise.

They attacked at midnight People were asleep - they like to catch them literally in their beds.

[people screaming, running in terror; pop of gunfire]

Narrator: There was chaos in the streets as people tried to escape. Official reports describe what happened to one 18 year old girl named Estefania (es-teffa-KNEE-ah), who ran out of her house carrying her baby sister.

And one of the pirates shoots,

[pop of gunfire]

and the ball from his gun kills the child in her arms and actually lodges into Estefanía's chest.

[gunshot pops]

Narrator: Estefania (es-teffa-KNEE-ah) survived. Her story appears in reports to the Crown. Historians say it puts a face on the viciousness of the attack.
When the carnage ended, 60 people were dead and 70 had been taken hostage.
The Governor negotiated a trade and many of those hostages were returned. But Searles kept the Natives and Africans as his spoils…then headed to the Caribbean to sell them as slaves. When Spain heard of this, the Crown realized it could no longer risk losing La Florida to foreign invaders and outlaws.

It pushed the Spanish crown into appropriating more money to build a new fort.

That's why the Castillo de San Marcos was built.

Narrator: It is now the oldest masonry fort remaining in the US.

It was a major turning point in the history of the southeast this strong fortress.

[music culminates]

Narrator: They were about to find out whether this new fortress would hold.
In 1702, English colonists from South Carolina launched their first attack on Spanish Florida.
Leading the onslaught was Carolina Colony Governor James Moore, who felt the Spanish presence in La Florida stood in the way of English expansion.

And so with the settlement of Charleston, that now made a English settlement that was close enough to launch an attack on St. Augustine from land.

[squeak of ropes tightening]

Narrator: Half of Moore’s troops set off by sea, the rest marched south through the backcountry, preying first on Spanish missions along the way.

[gun pops and people running]

All of a sudden here comes a rampaging army of Englishmen and Indian allies to kill them and crush them by the most violent means possible.

[continued gunfire]

Narrator: The missions were easy prey- the Natives living there were unarmed.

Jonathon Sheppard, Executive Director, Mission San Luis:
The friars had an issue giving firearms to the natives. Keeping firearms away from the natives is a way of keeping them pure, keeping them from harming one another, keeping them from committing murder, essentially.

Narrator: The British on the other hand, issued guns to any Natives who would fight on their side.
As troops got within a few days of the fort, a baptized Choctaw woman overheard Moore’s plan to attack…she managed to send word to St. Augustine.
Governor José de Zúñiga [SOON-ye-ga] knew that his soldiers were no match for the English troops from South Carolina. Provisions hadn’t arrived in months…the men were getting just two servings of bread a day.
Zúñiga [SOON-ye-ga] ordered everyone in the city to take shelter inside the Castillo. It was the only chance they had of possibly staying safe. And the food that they brought with them would help keep the soldiers fed.

[crowd noises, tapping of tent stakes driven into the ground]

Some fifteen hundred people descended on the fort and began setting up camp inside its walls.

It had to be terrible in there. Fifteen hundred people crammed inside the Castillo?

Narrator: On November 10th, 1702, the gates of the Castillo were shut.

[gates close with a ringing of iron against iron]

There was no way to know whether they’d be taken captive- or killed- at the end of it all.

[baby cries]

All they could do….was wait.

[music culminates]

By the time James Moore and his men arrived, the town looked deserted.

Everybody’s in the fort, and the town’s really free for them to walk into.

As the English got within range of the fort, the Spanish fired on them, and the exchange began.

[cannon fire and gunfire]

The Spanish artillery was so out of practice that they failed to hit anything.

[blast of cannon]

Spain’s economy had collapsed in the 1600s. The Spanish soldiers were still armed with matchlocks that De Soto’s soldiers had used in the 1530s and ‘40s. So they’re behind the times.

[continued gunfire]

Narrator: In fact, the first casualties in the Castillo weren’t caused by their enemy, but instead by over-zealous Spanish soldiers, who loaded too much ammunition into an old, cracked cannon. It misfired,

[cannon fires and explodes, men cry out and groan in pain]

killing the gunner and two other men. Five more were wounded.

[continued gunfire]

To keep the British from taking cover close to the fort,
Zúñiga made a radical decision.

The governor realizes very quickly that the houses that are closest to the fort will provide a place for the English to shoot.

[continued gunfire]

And so he orders about 30 houses burned, uh, that are closest to the fort.

Narrator: The siege continued for the next 52 days.

[continued gunfire and cannon fire]

And of course life goes on inside the Castillo.

[woman screams and groans in the throes of childbirth]

We know that there are two or three children born during the siege. The first child that's born there is actually born to a- um- a Native American woman and a black slave a few days after the siege starts.

Narrator: Moore’s army proved weak…and morale was low. The Castillo seemed to be impenetrable. What made the fort so resistant to artillery fire?

[test-firing small ballistics into sandstone]

This is what is expected to happen when a cannon ball strikes the wall of a stone fort.

Dr. Ghatu Subhash, Engineer:
It shatters violently, the fragments will fly off…

Narrator: Dr. Ghatu Subhash (GAH-too soob-HOSH) has conducted compression experiments on the unique stone used to build the Castillo, known as coquina. His team at the University of Florida’s Department of Mechanical Engineering want to understand why the fort was able to withstand artillery fire

[pop of small ballistic fired]

while other structures could not.

The principle behind why it withstood so elegantly and majestically is simply coquina was able to absorb energy locally, not sending the energy to global region, which is fracture.

Narrator: The coquina walls are composed of compressed shell fragments bonded together over thousands of years.

It's all a tunneling effect, so the ball comes, material ahead of it is being crushed, crushed, crushed, crushed. That's all.

[blast sound of test firing small ballistics hitting coquina]

Narrator: The tiny shells crumble, absorbing impact, so bullets and cannonballs sank into the Castillo rather than shattering the walls.
Coquina is a material unique to just a few regions of the world. St. Augustine is one of them.

They just got lucky. They just got lucky.

[men talking, arguing]

Narrator: As the days wore on, the English began to blame General Moore for their failure to take the fort.

The British start arguing among themselves because the British invaders have put a lot of their own money into this venture.

[people coughing, hacking]

Narrator: But conditions inside the Castillo were becoming dire as well. Food was running scarce.

That’s one of the things you do with a siege is ultimately you can starve them out. If- if you can't bombard them out, y'know you can just wait them out.

Narrator: The Governor sent out messengers, hoping one of them would reach Cuba.

He's hoping that he can send someone in a small canoe down the tidal creeks. Can you imagine taking a canoe out into the Atlantic Ocean?

[Castillo door clanks shut]

[sound of surf, creak of sailing ship]

Narrator: Amazingly, his plan worked. Suddenly four Spanish warships from Havana appeared on the horizon.
The siege was finally over.

[people clapping, rejoicing]

[snap and crackle of fire]

But before Moore’s army retreated they set fire to the remaining buildings in town.
It would take decades for the town to fully recover.

No food no homes. It’s late December, and almost January, so it’s not even a good time really to grow food.

[music, creak of wooden wheelbarrow, clang of steel]

Narrator: But while the people of St. Augustine were slowly piecing their lives back together,

[storm sounds]

James Moore was back in South Carolina, plotting revenge.

He suffered the loss of his pride. He was treated as a contemptible person

Narrator: Private citizens in the Carolinas had invested money in Moore’s raid, hoping to acquire Spanish Florida for the British.

They lost a lot of money, the backers of this expedition.

So, he decided to make up for it somehow.

Stealing people. Native Americans could be rounded up; they could be walked back to Charles Town, and sold in slave markets. And that was where the money was. It was in the slavery business.

Indians increasingly have to choose whether to become victims or to participate in the slave trade as slave raiders and so the Yamasees and the Lower Creeks in particular they have become very active slave raiders.

We did not understand the concept of what they identified slavery as. I think that if our people had known, that this would have turned out the way it did, they wouldn’t have assisted.

Narrator: Over the next two years, Moore and his raiders stormed Spanish missions throughout the interior of La Florida.

[crackle of fire]

There he burned and maimed and killed and it’s a disaster.

[lapping of water, gunfire, trudging over swampland]

Narrator: Most of the survivors of these mission raids were captured


and taken back to South Carolina.
According to his own report, James Moore took over 4000 natives- mostly women and children- to sell into slavery.

The historian of this period, John Hann, said that this was the largest slave raid in the history of the country.

And that's how he redeemed himself with all these slaves, all this income.

Oklevueha Band of Yamassee:
There is a term and it’s, it’s almost, it is an insult for a native person to say, “They act as if they have no family,” because kinship is humanness; because obviously they would never treat another human like that if they knew what it was to love and to hold something sacred. So in our eyes, they were less than human.

Narrator: Moore and his allies viciously killed over a thousand people during his raids.

Robert Blount, Historian:
Well it was terribly brutal. People were burned alive, um people were disemboweled, flayed, crucified. Christianized Indians and the friars might be nailed to the cross.

It was genocide. It was “ethnic cleansing.” History is written by the victors. So whoever tells the story is obviously going to tell it from their perspective. And there is an indigenous voice that really hasn’t been told.

In one document there’s a whole list of chiefs that were killed, which include women….

Narrator: Dr. Timothy Johnson has been studying eyewitness accounts of the genocide that occurred at these missions.

People are given the chance to deny their faith. They would stand up even watching and knowing full well what was coming their way. And so they’re really quite inspirational. Uh, the stories of what people would do, um, in the face of death.

Narrator: The Vatican has begun the process of canonization for some 82 Native Americans and missionaries killed for their beliefs during these raids.

And the Vatican said we believe that there are justifiable grounds to declare these people “Servants of God.”

Narrator: By 1706 the Spanish missions in La Florida had been almost completely obliterated. It dealt a demoralizing blow to Spanish Catholics. But it was also a crippling setback for St. Augustine; the missions had been its bread basket.

[drum cadence]

But as the town slowly rebuilt, the British began to turn their gaze again on the Spanish presence to their south. La Florida was a threat to the British way of life…particularly on the issue of slavery.
As far back as the days of the conquistadors, Africans had been an accepted and integral part of everyday life in Spanish America.

Probably the first African American to this part of the world was on missions here scouting with Ponce de Leon.

There were free black people here from the beginning of the colony onward.

These were people who helped build the early garrisons, they built residences; they did work that was critical for the survival of the community. They weren't working out, for example, on sugar plantations.

Narrator: The Spanish did have slaves, but slavery under the British was not the same.
Under English law, a slave was property- or chattel- without any legal or civil rights.

[Mother and child screaming]

Slaves could be bought, sold and punished- or even killed.
Although the Spanish bought and sold slaves too, the law recognized slaves had legal rights.

Slaves could, for example, purchase their own freedom. Slaves families could not be separated by law.

They marry, and their marriages appear in the church records so these were considered official marriages.

So we have to be careful not to say that somehow Spanish slavery was good slavery, better than English slavery, uh, it's still slavery At the same time, Spanish laws that govern slavery were fundamentally different.

Narrator: Spanish slaves could own property, sue their owners in court, and both men and women could even petition the King.

One of the largest differences was the belief that Africans were human beings who had souls. Whereas the British did not believe that at all. They were just savages and- y'know beyond redemption.

Which is why people ran from that system to seek some sort of sanctuary among Spanish people usually.

Narrator: Ever since the late 1600’s, Spanish Florida was becoming a sanctuary for African slaves who fled from British plantations.

Long before there was an underground railroad that ran north, there was an underground railroad that ran south.

Narrator: La Florida started granting asylum to slaves after a small group escaped by canoe from the Carolinas in 1687.

[woman pleading to be let go]

They asked Governor Diego de Quiroga (kee Row gah) for asylum, saying they wanted to become members of the “true faith”- Catholicism.
The Spanish, who had founded La Florida in part to convert the New World to Christianity, could hardly refuse.
King Charles the second decreed that because these people had adopted the Catholic Doctrine, they should all be set free and given anything they needed.

And of course that then initiates waves of runaway slaves from the Carolinas, from Virginia, you see in the record some slaves from as far north as New York.

The British were very much afraid of Spain's sovereignty in Florida accepting people and allowing them to gain their freedom.

Narrator: In fact, Spain’s open door policy was not just a vehicle to save more souls for the Catholic Church…it was also a way to destabilize the plantation economy of the British Colonies.

The planters were particularly concerned that if waves of runaway slaves make it to St. Augustine, all that's going to do is encourage more runaway slaves, and that will in the end dismantle the entire system.

Narrator: Around this time a young Mandingo child was captured in West Africa and taken to the Carolinas to work the plantations. Eventually he was given the European name, “Francisco Menéndez.” (fran-SEES-co men-EN-des)

The ship arrived in the Carolinas with less than 3/4ths of its human cargo. So aboard that ship most of the slaves that were captured from Mandingo in West Africa were dead. To imagine surviving that cramped inner space smaller than this chair. Y’know it takes an extraordinary will to live when you see others dying around you. And how you do that at eight or nine I don't know.

Narrator: As he grew into manhood, Francisco Menéndez became indispensible to his British owners. He could not only do the work of several men, but he also learned to speak several languages.
When he first escaped to Spanish La Florida in the early 1700’s, Menéndez sought refuge with various Indian tribes living in the backwoods, to the north.

What he learns in the three years living in the wilderness is how to move through the forest without harm, hurt or danger, sound or footprint, how to track and hunt, but he also learns during that time how to master British firearms.

[pop of gunfire]

Narrator: In 1715 Menéndez proved himself a fierce warrior, fighting the British alongside Natives in a conflict known as the Yamasee (YAH-mah-see) War.
The Yamasees had once been allies with the Carolina colony. But the British slave raiders had begun to turn on them.

And they’re watching their own family members or friends becoming slaves

It forced us to a situation where all the head warriors came together and were talking about war.

[Natives Americans yelling, running through the forest]

Narrator: Francisco Menéndez knew the enemy well and proved to be a valuable fighter for the Yamasees.
When the war was over two years later, Menéndez headed to St. Augustine. Escaped slaves had been living in St. Augustine for nearly a half-century now…and they had become an integral part of the community.


In 1738, Governor Manuel de Montiano gave them their own land and chose Francisco Menéndez, now a free man, as its leader. The community was located about a mile and half outside of the city.
It was called “Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, (Grah-seeya ray-AHL day SAN-ta Tear-AY-sa day MO-say) or “Fort Mose.” (MO-say). It was the first legally sanctioned free Black community in what is now the United States.
This was 125 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

That experience is not like anything we learn in our African American history textbooks, so they usually miss a whole century and a lot of different experiences if you think of it only as an enslaved plantation experience.

[sizzling-hot iron, pounding wooden chisel]

Narrator: The new fortified settlement had its own church, and was comprised of skilled blacksmiths, carpenters, cattlemen, boatmen and farmers.

[hoe striking the earth; hammer striking wooden stake]

This was a rough frontier; I don’t mean to glamorize it by saying people were made free here. Sometimes the food supplies would be disrupted, sometimes there were epidemic diseases It’s not easy, but it’s at least the possibility of everybody living freely, having property, not worrying that their children are going to be sold away from them.

I think that the United States is richer, it’s history is richer because it demonstrated that African and European people could live together, could benefit from each other’s skills and that as a beginning, I think we would have a very different picture of the United States.

Narrator: The location of Ft. Mose at the edge of town was an important defensive move -- there was no better soldier to defend St. Augustine than a man who did not want to become enslaved again.
The militia at Fort Mose would soon be tested. A year after the town was established, the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies erupted in South Carolina.

[drum cadence]

In response to this revolt, King George-the-second ordered Georgia’s troops to take St. Augustine and end the practice of harboring runaway slaves.

They were adamant that this place had to fall So they had to be wiped out.

Narrator: General James Oglethorpe had founded Georgia and had been its first Governor. Although he was actually against slavery, he’d been anxious to take La Florida away from the Spanish for years.
King George commanded Oglethorpe to- quote- “Spare no personal…danger” in exacting revenge on those slaves who had fled their owners.
When Governor Montiano heard that the English were coming to avenge the slave owners, he feared for the safety of the people at Ft. Mose.

So he orders them to abandon Mose, and come in to St. Augustine for their protection, because he figures they’ll be killed, and/or captured, and so they come into St. Augustine and the British just walk right into Fort Mose and take over.

Narrator: But 16 days later, the Spanish, the Black Militia and the Native allies returned.

[Gunfire and voices yelling]

They caught the British by surprise at daybreak and easily retook the fort. The British called it “The Battle of Bloody Mose.”

There’s a quote by Shakespeare. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Francisco Menendez. Greatness was thrust upon him.

Narrator: As many as seventy-five British soldiers were killed. [

[drum cadency]

Oglethorpe and his men retreated.

Some of the stories that came out after Mose that the English claimed the Black Militia did had created this view among the English that they committed all kinds of atrocities. And they used this as powerful propaganda as well. “This is what happens when these slaves escape and this is what they do to people.”

Narrator: Though they had won back their land, the village of Mose had been completely destroyed in the battle.

The free blacks from Mose move into St. Augustine and they live in St. Augustine and they’re property owners in St. Augustine and they become a critical part of the city's fabric.

Narrator: They stayed in St. Augustine for the next 12 years. Francisco Menéndez went to St. Augustine with the others…but when the King of Spain didn’t compensate him for his service, Menéndez signed onto a Spanish ship that was attacking English settlements.

He's eventually recaptured by the English and fully admits who he is.

Narrator: Menéndez acknowledged that he had been the leader of the Battle of Bloody Mose, and his English captors became incensed.

And they torture him brutally, because they believe the whole Spanish-Negro conspiracy.

They gave him a beating with a whip,

[whoosh and snap of a whip]

and in between they brined him in a salt. Pickled him.

So he was placed in a solution, that is- effectively eats away at his skin.
-would've been beyond enormously painful to experience that.

They just decided to sell him as part of the loot that they took on the ship. And they take him to the Bahamas and he's sold back into slavery.

Narrator: It is not known whether Spanish governors negotiated his freedom or he ran away,

[Nat sot: clank of chains falling]

but once again Francisco Menéndez miraculously escaped slavery. He returned to St. Augustine and led his people back to rebuild Ft. Mose.
By 1763, St. Augustine had been the Spanish stronghold in La Florida for nearly 200 years. During that time the town had fended off every attempt by the British to conquer it. But ironically, it took just a single stroke of the pen for all of that to change.
It happened at the end of the seven years war, when Spain was faced with the possibility of losing its valuable port in Havana. It chose, instead, to give up La Florida to the British.
For the people of St. Augustine, this was an unimaginable twist of fate…it meant certain death or enslavement for La Florida’s free Blacks and Natives. There was only one choice.

The Spanish are leaving and they take everybody that wants to go with them

And so by February of 1764, 3019 people had left St. Augustine for Havana. Every single Spaniard, with the exception of three families, all of the free blacks; the entire city was depopulated. Everybody left.

[gulls cry]

Narrator: As the Spanish ships sailed away from St. Augustine, the first legally sanctioned free black community in the United States disappeared with them…into the horizon.
Meanwhile, more than 4000 miles away, the British empire was celebrating the dawn of a new era. For the first time since Spanish conquistadors claimed La Florida 250 years earlier, all of the Atlantic coast of North America was finally under the control of Great Britain.

We all know about the thirteen British colonies, but at the time of the Revolution, there weren’t thirteen British colonies; there were fifteen. Nobody knows that, hardly.

Narrator: England divided the Spanish territory into two royal colonies: East and West Florida, making them the 14th and 15th British colonies in North America.
West Florida had a difficult time attracting settlers- the presence of some 28,000 Natives living near the Mississippi made the British wary of moving there.
Stepping in to govern the colony of East Florida was a British aristocrat named Colonel James Grant, heir apparent of Ballindalloch
(Bahl-in-dahl-lock) Castle in the Scottish highlands.
Grant was literally ‘of the manor born,” growing up on this 10 thousand acre estate in Speyside [SPAY side]. He left his comfortable life here to fight for his country when he was 24.

Lady Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell, Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire:
He was a very great military man. He was obviously very bright. He had a great estate. He had lots of servants to look after him and he needn’t have done that, he could’ve stayed here on the estate and done nothing.

Narrator: Grant left the lush rolling hills of Scotland for the relentless heat and sandy soil of East Florida, hoping to transform this unmanageable territory into a viable British trade colony.

Here was this subtropical region that suddenly they had that might potentially allow them to grow some sort of fruits or vegetables they would have to go elsewhere for.

Narrator: Many of the missing pieces of the story of British Florida were hidden in the attic turret of Ballindalloch Castle, buried among thousands of other papers that had been stored there and forgotten for centuries.
In the 1970’s Grant’s descendants asked the Scottish National Archives to inventory what was there. A decade later, Dr. Dan Schafer was allowed access to the papers, and began methodically reconstructing the history of British Florida.

[reading]: “This country, I am convinced, is totally unknown…”

Narrator: Grant’s letters describe East Florida as completely undeveloped, and since only three families remained after the Spanish left St. Augustine, Grant had no one to help him harness the wilderness beyond town.

How are you going to develop a province when there’s nobody here?

[rooster crows]

Narrator: Grant began by offering free land to successful plantation owners in other colonies.

He would say, “we have better climate, we have better everything than you have there, come here.” Well, if they come in to St. Augustine and find a dismal place and have a terrible time, they’re not gonna come. So, he lit up [laughs] their nightlife.

He was a bachelor, and he had one of the largest collections of wine in this area, and by this area, I’m talking about North America. He had three slaves who were trained in French culinary arts and he threw a party probably four or five nights out of the week

Yeah, he was quite a party guy. Every month he would do an inventory of the governors cellars.

Narrator: Those inventories, along with Grant’s letters, are now housed in the National Registry of Scotland in Edinberg (ED-in-borough).

During his first year in office, beverages drunk from the governor’s cellars tallied 86 gallons of Madeira wine, 76 gallons of Tenerife wine, 1200 bottles of claret, 519 bottles of port. Captain Rainesford went home speechless. Unusual for that captain. DeBrown, the surveyor general, once again got drunk. Mister Roe’s daughter, poor girl, got half drunk. Mrs. Sharp sung as did Mrs. Box.

[singing off key]

Neither of them well. Captain Southerland was hobnobbed but he got home sober.

Narrator: Grant’s marketing plan worked- investors poured in, establishing plantations ranging from 20- to 100-thousand acres.

I think you’d probably find few examples of more successful governors than he was.

Narrator: But along with that plantation economy came the British form of chattel slavery, which they introduced into colonial Florida for the first time.

{reading] “Success in Florida, my lord, will not be achieved until this country is brought to that rich and plentiful state by the labor of slaves.”

[ax falls with a thud]

Everything changed when the British came in in 1763, there was no longer slave sanctuary for British slaves to run away to from Carolina and Georgia.

And that’s why East Florida was overwhelming a slave plantation economy.

[gulls cry]


Narrator: In the meantime, in Cuba, the Spanish Free Blacks who had left before the British arrived were not faring well.

Within six years of their departure, 20 percent of that group had died in Havana.

These are the books of the burials of the people of color in Ceiba Mocha.

Narrator: For the past several years, Dr. Jane Landers has been tracking the fate of the residents of Fort Mose.

You can track epidemic disease through these burial records and see that so many people are buried on the same day. And sometimes they’ll even tell you of what disease…

Narrator: Landers and her graduate students from Vanderbilt University are digitizing the records.

As you can see, especially from the other book that we’re working on there, they’re very fragile. They’re old. They’re disappearing as we’re talking and filming here today. Some of them look like lace. Climate is a problem- it’s hot and humid. Bugs are a problem, so you’ll see worm paths through the paper. Fires occasionally.

Narrator: In addition to disease, the stress of leaving everything behind had taken its toll, not only on the Free Blacks from Ft. Mose, but also on the natives who had sailed with them.

There were 89 Timucua and Guale Indians who left with the Spanish and within six years, more than half of them had died.

Narrator: And as for Francisco Menéndez, about a year after he and his family arrived in Cuba, the trail goes cold.

You can see when they give up their homestead because you can see them making payments- uh, and at some point, they sort’ve disappear off of that account book.

Narrator: So far Landers has been unable to find his grave in any of the church cemeteries in Cuba. We may never know what happened to him.
Back in East Florida, illness forced Governor Grant to return to England for medical care.
A new leader was appointed- Colonel Patrick Tonyn (Toe-nin)- who stirred up opposition almost immediately.

He was the nastiest person I’ve ever read a letter from.

Such a vindictive nature that he had, and so self-serving that I find it really hard to like the man

Narrator: Tonyn drew resistance from several of Grant’s friends, including one who publicly insulted Tonyn’s wife.

He announced, “I will not allow my wife and daughters to interact with Mrs. Tonyn. I knew her in Scotland and she was a whore.” The gauntlet was thrown immediately and Tonyn never forgot, he never forgave.

The colonists believed they were entitled to elect representatives to a local House of Assembly. It was 1775. Tonyn viewed such demands as disloyalty to the Crown.
Tonyn lost even more ground when he began to mistreat the three domestic slaves he had promised to purchase from Grant.

[sound of a slap]

Alexander, who Governor Grant had trained to be a prize baker for all these great affairs, dinners that he was having, uh, was punished by putting an iron mask around his head that padlocked in the back.

Narrator: Alexander and the two other slaves eventually ran away to the woods. When Grant heard about this, he insisted that they be given sanctuary at his own plantation.

[reading] “You are publically to make it known that Governor Tonyn has nothing to do with them, that they have nothing to fear.” Which is a most remarkable thing to rebuke the other governor publically, was a remarkable thing to do.

Narrator: But by this time, Tonyn- and the rest of the British colonies- had bigger problems to contend with. The American Revolutionary War had begun.

[Cannonfire and gun shots]

As unrest boiled to the north, Tonyn kept a watchful eye on his citizenry.

He was here to keep this colony safe for King and country.

Narrator: East Florida had only been under British rule for a few years- Tonyn was not about to disavow his loyalty. The colony of West Florida also didn’t rebel- it had gone through 6 governors and interim administrators in little more than a decade.

I think that East and West Florida have been written out of the historical narrative because they remained loyal to the British crown during the Revolution, so they just don’t quite fit into that story of the American patriots.

Narrator: Much has been written about the conflicts fought in the 13 colonies and the help the rebels got from the French. But little is known about the pivotal role that battles along the Mississippi and Gulf Coast played in turning the tide of the Revolutionary War…or the vital part Spain had in supporting the American cause.

Dr. Roger Smith, Historian
It’s just as much a part of American history as Washington crossing the Delaware or Paul Revere’s ride.

[crashing surf, gulls cry]

Narrator: As iconic as the steeple of the Old North Church, this unfinished tower on the Cathedral in Málaga [MAH-la-gah], Spain, stands in silent tribute to the part it played in the American fight for freedom.

[in Spanish] Porque el dinero que el Cabildo de Málaga…

Because the money the Málaga Town Council was to use to finish this tower was sent instead to help fund the American War of Independence.

Narrator: During the Revolution, Spain secretly funneled money to the Americans through this man: Bernardo de Gálvez [GALL-vase], a native of Málaga, who was the Governor of Spanish-held Louisiana. By 1777 Gálvez had sent an estimated 70-thousand dollars’ worth of medicine, weapons and ammunition to the American rebels.
But in 1779, when Spain declared war on Great Britain, Gálvez was free to openly defend the American cause. He gathered recruits from Mexico, Free Blacks from Cuba, Native Americans, Spanish soldiers, Germans and Acadian French.

Galvez had a huge army--huge. And it was one that was multicultural in its make up- multiethnic.

Narrator: By 1780 the British had taken Charleston


and blockaded the port cities along the east coast.

The British war effort in the War of Independence is entirely based on the sea. And eventually they capture key port cities, basically to control the economic life of the colonies. So the British are saying, “We hold Charleston. If you want to trade, you trade through us.

Narrator: Gálvez knew the Mississippi was a vital route that circumvented the British blockade. He led attacks on the British forts along the gulf, taking Baton Rouge, Natchez and Mobile. But Pensacola was the most formidable British bastion on the coast.
The Battle of Pensacola lasted two months- one of the longest conflicts in the American Revolution.

And in taking Pensacola, this was the big prize. He effectively shut down anything that- that could have happened from the British front, um along the gulf coast, up the Mississippi. He's brilliant. This was a pivotal event in the American fight for independence.

Narrator: The importance of that battle has not been fully acknowledged in textbooks. Gálvez’ siege greatly affected the number of troops and ships the British sent just two months later…to Yorktown…the final battle in the War of Independence.

And after the loss of Yorktown, the British recognize there is, there is no way back from this. We have enough power to defend the West Indies, the Sugar Islands, the Caribbean trade, or to carry the war on in America. And it’s a no-brainer.

Back at that time, sugar was the oil of the day. Sugar afforded empire. So the British West Indies were the most crucial lands in the British Empire at this time.

Narrator: Loyalists began fleeing the colonies as the Revolutionary War was winding down. East Florida became a haven for as many as 12,000 refugees.
Most history books have largely ignored those thousands of loyalist families forced to leave their homes because of the war.

[shore birds caw]

But the remains of a ship believed to be transporting Loyalists to safety paint a very human picture of what those families experienced.


Remember these people were living through just perilous times. A war was raging around them they were about to lose their country. They had fought for king and country and now all the sudden they have to gather their families up.

Narrator: It was New Year’s Eve 1782. A fleet of sixteen British ships filled with refugees from Charleston was sitting off the coast of St. Augustine hoping to cross the bar. They needed to get into the harbor before American privateers attacked.

Pirates were out there trying to pick off ships.


And we know the very fleet that our ship was a member of, was being chased by privateers.
St. Augustine had a reputation for being the most dangerous inlet in North America. And as they sailed in you could see the wooden remains of shipwrecks jutting out on either side of the channel where ships had been lost before.

You know, the chances of getting across are terribly slim and we're all probably gonna die.

They knew this isn’t the time to try to get into St. Augustine, we’re going to wait until we have a better tide.

--and there’s a nor’easter blowing. It’s a recipe for disaster, really.

And there they are waiting off shore and the captain finally dares to cross the sandbar. *clap* BAM! The ship is run aground. Surf is pounding on the ship. It’s coming to pieces.

[waves and wood colliding]

All their possessions are spilling out into the sea. Only, I mean just within less than a mile of safe refuge their hopes and dreams are being dashed to pieces just like the ship that they thought was their salvation.

Narrator: Divers have pulled up a flintlock pistol…two loaded Brown Bess muskets, six cannons, and the intact ship’s bell. But the most remarkable artifact was one that instantly transported Chuck Meide back to the final moments of the ship’s demise.

And I could feel the lip to it and put my hands inside and then I realized what it was.

Narrator: It was a cooking pot, which led the archaeologists to a chilling revelation.

We had the remains of the last meal that was prepared in that pot. This is something that has not seen daylight in, as it turns out, 228 years. So that's a pretty special thing, I mean you're the first person to touch it. The last person to touch it did so under very different circumstances, probably in those chaotic moments in the middle of this tragedy when this ship was wrecking and was going to be lost forever.

Narrator: More than a year later, the Revolutionary War was over. The British period in Florida had lasted merely 20 years.
In the short time the English had been there the Loyalists had turned a barren land into a viable trade area. But they were about to lose it all. As a reward for Spain’s contributions to the American cause, East and West Florida became Spanish territory once again. Among those chosen to draft the Second Treaty of Paris was Bernardo de Gálvez- the Spanish hero who had defeated British troops along the Gulf Coast.
And now that the territory was back in Spanish possession, many of those survivors who had fled to Cuba to escape British rule returned. Most of them were just children when they’d left.
But even though the British were gone, slavery in the new United States remained. Runaway slaves began heading to Spanish Florida again, hoping for asylum.

And Thomas Jefferson is our Secretary of State, and he writes to the Spanish government and says “If you still wanna be friends with us, you will shut down this sanctuary and this policy.” Spain agrees, Spain is under a lot of duress at this point -- rebellions all over its wide empire.

Narrator: So in 1790, Spain reversed its century-old edict offering sanctuary for runaway slaves.

They have to post announcements everywhere that no longer will we receive and free runaway slaves. The royal policy was now officially closed. Thanks to Thomas Jefferson.

Narrator: Slaves still ran south, but this time they sought refuge with Seminole Indians in the backwoods of Spanish Florida.
Indian tribes took in these escaped slaves and let them live as allies. They became known as “Black Seminoles.”

And most of the time their autonomous communities were formed in very inhospitable areas in swamps where it was difficult for the slave catcher to come and get them again.

Narrator: Adding to tensions with the United States- the Spanish began offering inducements to move to its colonies.

You know, no taxes, a fair amount of land. Originally they wanted people to convert to Catholicism, but they dropped that provision, they said, now all you have to do, you have to take an oath of loyalty to the King, the Spanish King.

[hammering hot iron]

Narrator: For those who doubted the United States would succeed, it was an attractive offer.

Florida was trading like wildfire with Great Britain and that angered a lot of the Georgians, they were like, you know if you look at the Spanish side of the St. Mary’s River, it’s all full of British ships and if you look at our side of the St. Mary’s River, there’s nobody.

Narrator: Moreover, Americans worried that their southernmost border was not well protected.

That St. Mary’s river that divides Georgia and Florida today, that was an international border at the time.

[crack of gunfire]

In the late 1700s and 1800s, you couldn’t stop people from coming in and out of Florida or Georgia. And sometimes they were coming to seek revenge on someone they had a long-standing grudge against.

So that whole area was almost like a no man’s land. Georgians raided and Floridians raided back.


Narrator: It was a time of complete lawlessness.

Dr. James Cusick, Historian
I think Florida was always the Wild Wild West. I think we could have taught the West how to be the Wild Wild West.

Narrator: And the beginning of the 19th century brought more trouble. In 1800, Spain lost Louisiana, which bordered the Florida colonies to the west. It remained a French colony until Louisiana was purchased by the United States three years later.
On the world stage, the Napoleonic Wars had taken a devastating toll on Spain, which could no longer send much aid to its colonies.
The volatile tensions between the US and Spanish Florida came to a head just before the war of 1812.
As America was preparing to declare war over trade restrictions, they feared that the British - now allies with Spain- would stage troops in St. Augustine.

So we need to seize these Spanish port towns now before we have the British navy sailing into them.

Narrator: Unhappy that East and West Florida had become Spanish colonies once again, many Americans felt it was time to seize the territory for the United States.

[horse hooves]

Former Georgia Governor George Mathews created a private army and headed to Spanish Florida. He called his group the “Patriots.”

[crack of gunfire, thud of the butt of the rifle connecting with victim]

In March 1812, this force of more than 200 men seized the East Florida port of Fernandina on Amelia Island.

[battle sounds]

And the very next day, they raise the American flag and they ask the American army and the American marines to come take control of the town, which they do.

Narrator: It was known as the “Patriot War,” and it’s one of the most overlooked events in early 19th century history.
With Fernandina secured, the “Patriots” headed south to capture St. Augustine.
News of the Patriots’ move against Spanish Florida took the Madison administration by surprise. President Madison did not want to provoke Spain. He refused to publicly support the seizure.

But U.S. government does not make a move to pull the troops out.
American officers were given the instructions,


“kill the cattle,” because that way the Spanish forces can’t drive them in to town and use them for food. And people said that for miles around St. Augustine, there was just a stench of dead, rotting animals.

[crackle of fire]

Narrator: Meanwhile, the Patriots looted and burned the homes of anyone sympathetic to Spanish rule.
Incensed by the destruction throughout the area, the Seminoles and Black Seminoles took up arms. They stormed the plantations occupied by the Georgia Patriots and destroyed them, liberating hundreds of plantation slaves, who then joined their ranks.
They combined forces with a militia of about 60 Free Blacks from St. Augustine,


led by a six-foot carpenter and former slave known as “Big Prince Whitten.”
The raiding party waited at a place called Twelve Mile Swamp. When American troops sent out a convoy to get supplies, Whitten and his men ambushed them.

[gunfire, horse brays]

And the American commander, when he find out that that has happened, retreats.

Narrator: It was another victory for the people of Florida, but it would be the final victory for Spanish Florida.
The attack at Twelve Mile Swamp only fueled America’s anger. Newspapers and politicians in the southern states called for these Native and Black militias to be punished.

They could not have blacks with guns. And giving hope to people on the plantations that they too could join them and get their freedom.

Narrator: Just six years later, General Andrew Jackson led a retaliatory attack known as the First Seminole War. It was 1818.
No longer a dominant European power, Spain could not keep its territory from constant conflict.
Secretary of State John Quincy Adams demanded that Spain either control its Florida colonies and their defiance on the issue of slavery or cede the territory to the United States.

All the trouble that came from the War of 1812 destabilized the area so much, it made the acquisition of Florida, the transfer of Florida to the United States, I think it made it inevitable.

Narrator: In February 1821, the Adams-Onís Treaty made Florida a territory of the United States.

When the Spanish give up Florida in 1821, almost immediately the Americans begin to turn to the problem of Indians and how to get them out.

Narrator: The Native population that had thrived in the region for 12-thousand years before the Europeans arrived was now nearly extinct.
A small remaining group of Apalachees migrated to Louisiana.
The Yamasees, who had long been believed to be extinct, had scattered throughout Florida and South Carolina to survive.

To be Indian in Florida was dangerous, um so they would hide themselves.

So that’s where the swamp became our friends. But it kept us alive, and it kept us here today.

So we became known as “the hidden people,” because that’s what we did. We hid mostly amongst other tribes.

Narrator: And as for the hundreds of escaped slaves known as the Black Seminoles, most of them fled to the Bahamas.

Because the United States brought their form of slavery and ideas about black people right down into Florida.

Narrator: For the second time, the once-thriving Free Black and Native communities of Spanish Florida disappeared from the landscape, and from American history.

[Indian chant/song]

And we’ll see moments in the 19th century as white Americans are trying to make all Indians extinct, that they begin to say, “we see here the last of the Yamasees.” Um, so it leads to this notion that they are gone. That they have become conquered, right? But they didn’t.

My nation continues, as long as I keep telling these stories and keep telling our histories to our people. The purpose of my life is to continue these stories and continue to tell the history of the Yamasee people that we are still here.

They did not kill us. They did not kill us.

Narrator: It will take until the year 2055 before the American flag will have flown over the first permanent settlement in the United States as long as the Spanish flag flew over it.

We, as Americans, kind of inherited the English version of this story. And so we didn’t really get the full story.

[drum roll]

I think it's time that we put in the minds and in the hearts of the American people and the Spanish people that we went along for a huge period - that make us brothers in terms of history. No?

St. Augustine really is a microcosm of U.S. history, when you think about it, I mean, you have the Native Americans, you have the Spanish, you have the British, you have the Americans, this whole cornucopia of differences that occur in this one small area that measures probably no more than ten square miles in area.

This is how America started.

I think that if we could project St. Augustine as an example of what the United States started as, then I think that would create a whole different atmosphere in this country.

I think it’s very important to recognize that a certain period of time in American history, there was a place where different groups came together, and were able to live with each other, despite or because of their incredible diversity.

Will school kids in Boston and Virginia learn about, uh, the Spanish who were here before the other Founding Fathers that we know of? Uh, I don’t know; that remains to be seen.

I would like the rest of the United States to accept it as part of the history…It’s not an anomaly like “Oh, that’s Spanish.”

At the very base of it – it’s a pretty good story. [LAUGHS] Uh, you know, it’s, it’s, it has all these great implications for, uh, “Wow, this is a history that we have forgotten or underappreciated. But man, it, it… The foundation of it, it’s just a great story.”

It’s good to have a narrative of persistence, you know? We will survive. We will be strong. We will have problems. We may even have our towns burned down from time to time. But we will rebuild and we will carry on. That’s a powerful story for any country to have. It’s a powerful narrative.

[Music builds, and ends.]


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