THE MEN WHO SAVED GEORGIA, Oglethorpe's Regiment
Prepared from contemporary documents
Mary Bondurant Warren, 2015
Who were these men facing the might of Spain, badly outnumbered, yet turned sure defeat into victory - a miracle! This is the story of those brave men who tried to protect their families, and the Colony from 1738 to 1749 in skirmishes and war.
Oglethorpe's name and fame is well known, but these are the untold stories of bravery and sacrifice made by the "private men" who took up arms, followed his leadership to victory, and saved Georgia. Was your ancestor among them?
Georgia was chartered by King George II in 1732, with men from Britain's debtors' prisons and their families, and to serve as a buffer for South Carolina from Spanish or Indian attacks. That mission grew to offer refuge from "Foreign Protestants" suffering persecution in Catholic Europe.
James Edward Oglethorpe, a Trustee of Georgia, came over with the first settlers, chose the site at Yamacraw Bluff, and named it Savannah. He sent Capt. George Dunbar to the Scots Highlands to recruit new settlers. Oglethorpe saw the need for mounted militia to protect their scattered settlements, so organized the English and Highland Companies of Rangers. With the help of the Creek Indians, the Georgians expanded their settlements further south.
Europe drew closer to war, and Britain faced off against Spain and France. King George authorized the 42nd Regiment of Foot, known as Oglethorpe's Regiment, and the soldiers started building Fort Frederica and Fort St. Simon's on St. Simon's Island., and a chain of smaller forts. To enlarge his force, the former Rangers joined the Regiment. A Company of Boatmen manned their small "navy." Money was slow coming to pay the troops, so Oglethorpe paid for wages and supplies with his own money.
St. Augustine, and its Castillo de San Marcos, built in 1695 - seemed impregnable. It was supplied from Havana, and outlying plantations. Cannons mounted on the Castle could fire on enemy ships at the harbor's mouth, and protect Spanish ships within the harbor. Spanish forts further inland controlled river crossings. Yemassee Indians, and runaway Slaves from Carolina lived nearby and joined the Spanish in attacking Georgia settlements.
Oglethorpe was ordered to attack and take St. Augustine. He petitioned the South Carolina Assembly for troops, ships, and supplies. After much delay, aid was offered, and British Men of War ships were to assist in the attack. Key to success was preventing men and supplies from reaching St. Augustine from Havana. Men of War were to blockade entrances to the St. Augustine Harbor. Oglethorpe and troops from Georgia and South Carolina attacked in July 1740. A Spanish sortie wiped out most Highland troops defending Fort Mosa. The ship failed the blockade, and left. Oglethorpe retreated back to Georgia. He and many of his troops returned ill with fever, and the specter of a retaliatory Spanish attack hung over the colony.
The Creek Indians protected Georgia by keeping the Spanish at St. Augustine with the Indians' hit-and-run attacks. Retribution was still to come.
Oglethorpe was warned in the spring of 1742 that there was a build-up of ships and troops at St. Augustine. He sent repeated messages to South Carolina, the northern colonies, and the British Navy, of a possible Spanish attack. He asked for assistance with men, arms, and ships, which never came.
A flotilla of more than 50 Spanish ships, and 3,000 or more troops, appeared off St. Simon's Island in July. Expresses were sent to alert Savannah, and Carolina, with pleas for help. With no war ships, few cannon, and perhaps 500 men, the Georgians faced sure defeat. It was "their finest hour."