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The Spanish official account of the attack on the colony of Georgia, in America, and of its defeat on St. Simons Island by General James Oglethorpe online

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Georgia Historical Society

Vol. VII






/ )

Published by

The Georgia Historical Society

Savannah, Ga.

Savannah, Ga.

Savannah Morning Nevrs



The translation that follows was made from manuscripts
in the library of Mr. W. J. DeRenne, copied from the origi-
nal documents preserved in the Archives of the Indies at
Seville. Each of these manuscripts bears a heading giving
the provenance of its original, and each is further certified
as being a true copy. Heading and certificate are reproduc-
ed with the first document of the translation, but it has not
been thought worth while to repeat them with the remain-

The papers of this collection fall more or less naturally
into groups : — Letters and orders, diaries, reports and re-
turns. The list of sea- and shore-signals, and one set of
naval instructions, have with the returns been placed last
as being somewhat detached, logically, from the substance
of the other papers. They have their significance and in-
terest, however, in that they reveal the extreme care be-
stowed on the expedition. It will be noticed that the list
of signals and the set of naval instructions relate to an
earlier expedition, planned but not carried out.

The sketches of guns and mortars are due to Lieutenant
J. W. Lang, 9th Regiment of Infantry, United States Army.
They are reproduced from illustrations in the catalogue of
the Artillery Museum at Madrid.

The Treaty of Vienna, November 18, 1738, gave Spain
but a short respite from war. Claims and counterclaims
arising chiefly out of colonial questions, led to much diplo-
matic parleying with England, and in January, 1739, she
saw herself obliged to pay that country an indemnity of
£95,000. On the presentation of a demand for a counter-
indemnity, England threatened war; on August 20th au-
thorized reprisals, and finally on October 30, 1739, declared
war. It is of this war, terminated b}^ the Treaty of Aix-la-
Chapelle, October 18, 1748, that the events of the following
pages form a part.

War or no war, the Spanish had long been contemplating
an expedition against the English Colony of Georgia.
They kept such an expedition on the stocks, as it were, to

be launched when opportune; and finally did launch it in
June of 1742 to overwhelm the English King's new Colony
"in the place called Georgia." To the King of Spain, and to
his subjects in Cuba and Florida, the chief object was puni-
tive: the insolent and perfidious English were to be chas-
tised and the chastisement was to be extermination. There
was no notion of conquest; once the object attained and the
English swept ofif the face of the earth, troops and ships
were to return to their respective garrisons in St. Augus-
tine and Havana. So much stress, indeed, w^as laid on this
withdrawal as to justify the belief that its accomplishment
was' almost as much a matter of concern as the advance it-
self. This concern undeniably affected the morale of the
commanding general, if not of the entire expedition.

In forming an estimate of the events dealt with in the
following pages, it is needful to place one's self in a proper
point of view. If w-e place ourselves abroad, the events are
inconspicuous ; if we recross the Atlantic, they loom large.
In reality, we must not regard the attempt of Spain on
New Georgia as an affair between small numbers in a dis-
tant and unimportant land; it was Spain and England striv-
ing for mastery in a vast continent, and although Spain, as
already said, had no notion of conquest, to England, that is
to Oglethorpe, the notion of permanency was ever present
and fundamentally real. To him the question was whether
his beloved Georgia should be a Spanish waste, or a living,
free, English colony, a potential State. How he answered
this question we all know: he brought to naught as grave
a danger as ever threatened the Colonies, and he did it

The point of view must needs then be local, but with a
national outlook ; it follows that the papers in this collec-
tion acquire a double interest. And this interest grows
with the conviction, begot of an examination of the records,
that Oglethorpe- by all the rules of the game, should have
been jjeaten. He was out-manned, out-shipped, and out-
gunned. But he was a soldier, and knew his business; al-
though men, and ships, and guns are necessary, alone they
are not suflficient. They must first be welded into a homo-
geneous instrument and then intelligently used, before pos-
itive results can be expected. This homogeneity was lack-
ing to his adversaries, a fact that he must have been ac-
quainted with ; moreover, they had not had time to know
their commander, Montiano, nor he his troops. And lastly,
it is in the highest degree probable that Oglethorpe had
measured his antagonist.

That Montiano had failed to take his own measure, is
proved by his pitiable report to his King. Without in the
least intending- it, in complete unconsciousness, he strips
his own inefficiency bare for our inspection and examina-
tion. Psychologically, conditions were against the Span-
iards from the outset, but this must not in the least be taken
to detract from Oglethorpe : he had to reckon on the one
hand with a force much greater than any he could muster,
and on the other hand, with certain possibilities in his favor;
but in respect of these he might very easily have been in

The Spaniards sailed into St. Simons gallantly enough,
and landed their men between the forts and the town of
Frederica. No resistance was offered. Bearing in mind
that a landing under fire is, for the landing party, a delicate
operation, we may well ask why Oglethorpe should have
neglected this opportunity to do his adversary a serious
harm. But a little reflection will show that this case really
ofifered no opportunity. As soon as it became evident that
the run-past of the ships was, or would be, successful, the
evacuation of the forts was imposed. To leave troops in
the forts, even if they could have held out, was foll}^ so
clear that we need waste no time over the matter. But
once withdrawn, where should they go? Should they pro-
ceed to resist this disembarkation, either alone, or in junc
tion with other forces brought down for the purpose?

But Oglethorpe could not tell where the Spaniards would
land : it was not inconceivable that they would deliver their
first attack on the town itself. If, however, they should
choose to land between the town and the forts, then it was
the part of wisdom to leave them to follow this course ; for
once ashore, they would have miles of swamp to cross be-
fore reaching him, and his inferiority in numbers would be
more than compensated by the advantage of positions se-
lected in advance. If he had attempted to oppose this land-
ing, he would have had the morasses at his back, and so in
case of check, have converted an admirable natural defence
into a most serious obstacle to successful withdrawal.
Moreover, so few were his men that he could not afiford
to divide them ; and lastly, and quite apart from any other
consideration, he had no guns to oppose to the Spanish
naval artillery, against which any musketry fire that he
could bring to bear, ineffective in those days beyond two
hundred yards, would have been powerless.

The issue proved the wisdom of his dispositions. The
first attempt of the Spaniards to push their way through the
morasses was also their last, nor did they later make any

effort of any other sort. This failure to undertake any-
thing more must be regarded as discreditable to the "glory
and reputation of the arms of the King," particularly if the
Spanish account of losses be correct. That it is not, we
know from other sources. Indeed, so great were Montia-
no's losses, and among his best troops, so sudden and un-
expected his check, so uncompromising his defeat, that the
matter was really then and there settled. In plain English,
he had no stomach for further business. After that disas-
trous beating when his grenadiers fell only to incarnadine the
waters of the swamp in which they were entrapped, he sent
out only Indians to see '"if they could find some other road
to Frederica". Meanwhile his rations were being reduced,
he had not got his guns ashore, and rumors unnerved him.
In these straits he fell to calling councils of war and so was
lost. That he had made only one genuine effort to reach
his objective, that in spite of the failure of this effort, he
still outnumbered Oglethorpe, that in any case his fleet was
substantially intact, these things made no impression on
him. His one concern was to withdraw. And yet so blind
was he to his own shortcomings that he attributes his fail-
ure to the Almighty and actually asks his King to approve
his conduct of affairs and to bestow honors upon him. To
be sure, he had razed a few earthworks evacuated by their
garrisons, carried off a few guns spiked by the enem}^
burned a few houses abandoned by the inhabitants. And
here we may now well leave him, recounting his victories
over inanimate things, and glossing his failure, for this fail-
ure made the State of Georgia possible.

C. DeW. W.
West Point, New York, October 19, 1912.

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Report Upon the Expulsion of the English from the Territories
They Have Usurped in Florida, and Survey of Limits and
Incidences. From 1738 to 1743; Case 87, Drawer 1, File 3.

Affidavit of Juan Castelnau, a Prisoner in Georgia.

Havana, July 24, 1739.*
Don Juan Francisco de Guemes y Horcasitas transmits
the depositions made by Juan Castelnau, a native of Los
Pasages in Guipuzcoa, on the present state of the Settle-
ments of New Georgia, where he was held a prisoner for 18
months, and of its fortifications, forces and establishments.

Sir: Juan Castelnau, who says he is a native of Los Pas-
ages in Guipuzcoa, having come from Cartagena in this dis-
patch boat now on her way to those kingdoms [i. e. Castile
and Leon, or Spain] with the order and permission consist-
ing in a decree petitioned for by him of Lieutenant General
Don Bias de Lesso, I have taken the declarations that follow
to substantiate the reasons he gave to obtain the said per-
mission. As I find from them that he has told the truth, and
given an exact account and trustworthy news of the state of
the towns of New Georgia, its fortifications, forces and es-
tablishments, both as these were at the time of the expedi-
tion intended and planned for the past year of 1738, and
as they were after the arrival of the Commanding General
Don Diego Ogletop,** I have thought it proper to send your
Lordship the testimony of his declarations, to the end that
His Majesty may be thoroughly informed of past and pres-
ent conditions, because it agrees with all the inquiries and
news which I had made and acquired for the expedition,
and with those of the Governor of Saint Augustine in

• It should he recollected that these dates are Gregorian; those of the
contemporaneous English accounts are Julian. The difference, as Is well
known, was at this epoch, eleven days.

•* Oglethorpe's name has In all cases, been left exactly as the Spaniards
•wrote it.


Florida, made after the return of Don Diego Ogletorp to
those Colonies.

God keep vour Lordship many years.

Havana, July 24, 1739.
Your most obedient servant kisses your hand.
Don Juan Francisco de Guemes y Horcasitas.

To Sefior Don Joseph de la Quintana.


In the ciiy of Havana, on the 18th day of July, 1739, Don
Juan Francisco de Guemes y Horcasitas, Field Marshal of
the Armies of His Majesty, his Governor and Captain Gen-
eral over the said city and of the Island of Cuba, said: —
That the day before yesterday, the 16th of the current
month, there came into this port [Havanal from that of
Cartagena of the Indies, the dispatch frigate on her way to
the kingdom of Castile and aboard of her, Juan Castelnau,
a native of Los Pasages in the Province of Guipuzcoa, who
was for 18 months a prisoner in New Georgia and other
settlements, which the English have occupied ; and that up-
on his lil)eration, he succeeded in passing through Virginia
and other parts to the' city of Santo Domingo in the island
of Hispaniola, and thence to Cartagena aforesaid. Here
he presented himself to His Excellency Don Bias de Leso,*
Lieutenant General of His Majesty's fleets, Commander of
the Galleons there stationed, and of all the naval forces in
America, who upon request ordered him to proceed here
in the dispatch frigate. In order now to possess ourselves
of all that he has seen, surveyed, and understood, let him
appear forlhwitlT. and under oath, clearly and distinctly
set forth the matter, according to the questions that may
be made to him. And by these presents, I so provide, com-
mand and sign.


Before me, Miguel de Ayala,

Chief Clerk, State and War.

• I.^ao. or I.czo. la mentioned by Altamira (Hlstorla de Espana, Vol. IV.,
p 1S4) »■ one of tho celebrated Spanish seamen of the time.


Declaration of Juan Casfelnau.

His Lordship, the Governor and Captain General imme-
diately caused Juan Castelnau, a native of Los Pasages, to
appear before him, who being- sworn before God and on the
Cross according to law, promised in consequence to tell the
truth, whereupon the following questions were put to him;

Asked why he had come to this place in the dispatch
boat that had anchored in its port, the 16th instant, on its
way from Cartagena to Spain, he said, that finding himself
in Cartegena, he had asked permission of His Excellency
Don Bias de Leso, Lieutenant General of the Fleets of His
Majest}^, Commander of the Galleons in that port, and of
all the naval forces in America, to go to Havana and make
report to His Lordship of the state of the Colonics of New
Georgia in which the English had kept him a prisoner for
18 months, as appears from the petition which he presented
to the said Don Bias de Leso and from his decree in evi-
dence. Asked why and when he had been apprehended by
the English of the Colonies of New Georgia, where he de-
clared he had been, he answered that it was because they
took him for a spy of Spain, and that it was in the beginning
of the year 1737 on passing from Florida to Carolina, when
he was examined by two tribunals ; that after two months
of confinement on account of said suspicion, the tribunals
finding him guiltless, had enlarged him.

Asked how he had passed from Florida to Carolina, and
for what reason he was in Florida, he said he had gone
from Pensacola, where he had assisted the paymaster of
that post, to Florida with the idea of crossing Carolina on
his v/ay to Europe in order to return to his own country,
and that to that end he had received authority from the
Governor of Saint Augustine in Florida, who was then Don
Francisco del Moral Sanchez, to make a journey through

Asked where he had been after being set at liberty in
Carolina, as declared by him, and for how long, he answer-
ed that returning to Florida for the purpose of seeing if he
could not earn some money on account of having spent and
consumed that which he had before while a prisoner in
Carolina, he had embarked in a pirogue at Port Royal and
arrived at Savannah, a town which they said was the cap-
ital of New Georgia, through fear of falling in with the
English commanding officers of the other ports. He put
to sea with the master of the said pirogue, and bad weather


coming on, they were driven in and compelled to save their
lives by going ashore on an island called Emilia, whence
a guard of four Englishmen there stationed took him to
Saint Simon's. Here had his residence a commanding of-
ficer called Captain Gasquin, who, after enquiring into the
reasons which had brought him thither put him aboard the
manual or coast guard vessel of the place, invariably forbid-
ding him to communicate with whatever Spanish vessel
might be in those waters, until the Commander Don Diego
Obletor having arrived from London, he recovered his

Asked in what manner he had proceeded from those parts
to Cartagena, he said that Don Diego Obletor had assisted
him to embark in a ship sailing to Virginia, whence he had
gone by land to Mallorca.* Here he embarked in a bilan-
der bound for the French coast of San Domingo, and having
arrived, he betook himself to the city, and made report to
the President of all that had befallen him ; and the Presi-
dent after taking his declaration, had sent him on to Car-
tagena, to Don Bias de Leso.

Asked if he had been able to learn anything of the posts
occupied by the English in those parts, of what strength
they were and how fortified before the coming out of the
Commander Don Diego Obletor, he answered that he had,
that the established posts were Savannah or New Georgia,**
containing some 200 houses of wood, very far each from the
other, for which reason they take up much room ; the town
situated on a bank of the river of the same name, on a bluff
forty feet high with a battery of 10 pieces, about 8-pound-
ers, without any garrison whatever, the service of the bat-
tery being undertaken by the citizens themselves ; that only
the area surrounding the battery is inclosed by a stockade
of pine logs about 18 feet high and one foot thick, and that
the rest of the settlement is open : that at the mouth of the
river stood a tower of wood constructed both as a lookout

• Evidently New York; elsewhere In these papers we have Xoyorca: the
scribe could readily write Mnllnrrn, with which name he was acquainted, for
Noyorca, of which he had probably never heard before.

•• It will be remarked that to the affiant. Savannah and New Georgrla
mean the same thinp. Similarly. In the papers that follow, Florida Is fre-
quently used where we should v.Tlte Paint Auprustlne. ."Sometimes the con-
text enables us to dlstingnish between the chief town and the Colony, some-
times It does nrit. Thus, when Horcasltas tells Mnntlano "to raze and destroy
Carolina and its plantations," he may mean Charleston and surrounding:
plantations, or the Colony, though the former Is perhaps the more likely.
Where no doubt can exist, the name of the town has been given In the trans-
lation. In other cases the MS. has been followed.

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and as a beacon for that port, which the English call Tebi,
and we Cruces. And farther to the south lies the Island
of Saint Simon, before reaching which there is another fort
facing the Island of Santa Cathalina which they call Darien,
garrisoned by about thirty Scotchmen, and mounting six
guns of the same calibre. That in the aforementioned is-
land [of Saint Simon] there is a town called Frederica sit-
uated on the bank of the river Saint Simon, and said to
contain thirty or forty houses or huts of boards and palm
leaves, with another battery also of ten guns of the said*
caliber, without any troops for its service, the citizens act-
ing as guard. South of this town, say a league and a half,
is a careening ground with three or four houses of boards,
and on the point on the south of the island they have con-
structed a battery of sixteen guns of the same calibre to
sweep the entrance of the Harbor of Gualquini, which the
English call Fort Frederica, beneath whose guns lay the
manual in which he was a prisoner. Continuing further
south, on the Point of Bejecez, on the Isle of Whales stands
a fort which they called Saint Andrew with sixteen or
twenty men commanded by Captain Makay, mounting ten
guns of the same calibre. Still farther south yet is the Is-
land of Emilia which we Spaniards call San Pedro, where
they keep four men as a lookout, and have one gun and a
stone mortar. That these were at the time in question the
settlements, fortifications and forces which they had. He
was further of the opinion that all the settlers to be found
might number three hundred men, all of whom were capa-
ble of bearing arms.

Asked on what date he set forth from those Colonies to
go to Virginia, when the Commander Don Diego Obletor
arrived, and what troops he brought with him, he answered,
that he himself set out on Nov. 4, 1738, of the past year, and
that the Commander Don Diego Obletor arrived in the pre-
ceding September of the same year with five transports and
one vessel mounting more than twenty-two guns, and said
to be a warship called the Blandfort, and that in the said
transports he had brought over about five hundred men
and more according to appearances, said to be regular
troops ; that in the month of July of said year, Lieutenant
Colonel Cocran had arrived from Gibraltar with three hun-
dred men drawn from its garrison, that after the arrival

• 1. e. said of the battery at Savannah.


of the Commander Oblctor there came an English packet
boat loaded solely with artillery and implements of war;
that the troops mentioned were distributed, six hundred
men in the Isle of Saint Simon in Fort Frederica, and two
hundred in Saint Andrew ; and that at the same time when
the five hundred came with the Commander Obletor, came
also two hundred women with them, the purpose being to
compel the soldiers to marry them.

Asked if after the arrival of all these people, and while
he A'as still in those parts, he had seen or learned whether
they were making new fortifications or occupying other
posts or laying out new settlements, or whether he detect-
ed any especial design of the Commander Obletor, he said
that he saw them tracing out under the direction of a French
engineer they had brought out, a castle in the fort at Fred-
erica, and for this purpose had collected a supply of bricks
and timber in the same Isle of Saint Simon between the
town and the careening ground ; that with the same engin-
eer they were taking soundings on the bar and in the chan-
nel ; that they were building two other small forts to com-
mand the land approaches from Florida to Georgia so as to
guard against any surprise by Spanish Indians ; that each
one was occupied by a corporal and 20 settlers, that one of
these [forts] was called Fort Augustus, but he had forgot-
ten the name of the other ; that they had not laid out any
new settlements; that he had [not]* detected any especial
design on the part of Commander Obletor, but that he had
heard the officers say that the design in view was to take
possession of Saint Augustine in Florida, and had remarked
that in case the outl)reak of war was doubtful they had
made certain arrangements looking to this end.

Asked what number of Indians they had under allegiance
in those parts, where they were situated, and to what use
they were put, he said it seemed to him there were about
200 kept in two towns, one immediately adjacent to New
Georgia, in which they had set up a school for the children,
and the other must be at Darien ; that they were to be used
to commit hostilities on the Spaniards and that he had
strong proof of this; for while he, the declarant, was there,
the Governor of Saint Augustine in Florida had the year
before in 1738 written to Captain Gasquin for satisfaction
by punishing some Indians guilty of homicide, and that

• The context shows that the negative particle has been through error


he had seen the same Indians on their return from this af-
fair regaled by him with aguardiente and other things, and
told that whenever they brought in Spanish scalps they
would be rewarded, and that he had this from a nephew of

Asked if a town of Esquisaros which is called Surisbu,*
on the bank of the Savannah, adjoining Port Royal due
west, is well advanced, and populous, he said that this town

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Online LibraryGeorgia Historical SocietyThe Spanish official account of the attack on the colony of Georgia, in America, and of its defeat on St. Simons Island by General James Oglethorpe → online text (page 1 of 10)