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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

On the site of the Negro fort he built Fort Gadsden


Defection of Spanish colonies]

Amelia Island, at the mouth of the St. Mary's River in Florida, had long been the resort of lawless men, among whom were European adventurers attracted by the South American revolution, and many fugitive slaves from Georgia and South Carolina. A plan was formed to organize a revolution on that island and to add Florida to the revolting South American republics. The forces gathered there became too strong for the Spaniards, and President Monroe decided to interfere. Gaines was sent to Amelia Island; but before he arrived, Aury, the commander of the malcontents, had surrendered to Commodore Henley. General Jackson, who was operating in those parts against the Seminoles, declared that "the cause of the United States must be carried to any point within the limits of Florida where an enemy is permitted to be protected." All eastern Florida, he set forth to the President, should be seized when Amelia Island was taken, and should be held as an indemnity for the outrages of Spain upon American citizens. This plan, Jackson said, could be carried out without implicating the United States. "Let it be signified to me that the province of Florida would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished."

[Sidenote: Andrew Jackson in Florida]

[Sidenote: Summary military measures]

[Sidenote: Pensacola


When the order to assume command reached Jackson, he raised a volunteer force in Tennessee from among his old soldiers. With these and the troops left by Gaines he marched into Florida. On the site of the Negro fort he built Fort Gadsden. He then advanced to the Bay of St. Marks, defeating the few Seminoles whom he encountered. On April 7, he raised the American flag there in place of the standard of Spain. Two Seminole chiefs who had taken refuge on an American vessel in the bay, and who were supposed to have participated in the massacre of a party of Americans, were brought on shore and hanged. Leaving a strong garrison at St. Marks, Jackson marched a hundred miles to the Indian town of Suwanee, where he hoped to capture Billy Bowlegs and his band. But the Indians, warned of his approach, escaped across the river. Suwanee was destroyed. Jackson, when at St. Marks, had taken prisoner one Arbuthnot, a Scotchman and supposed Indian sympathizer, whom he ordered to be confined until his return. At Suwanee, Captain Ambrister, a former English officer, intending to join the Indians, blundered into Jackson's camp, and was held a prisoner. On his return, Jackson ordered the two men to be tried by court-martial, on the charge of warning the Indians of the approach of the American soldiers, and both were convicted and executed. Jackson, on reaching Fort Gadsden, received from the Spanish Governor of Pensacola a protest against his invasion. He turned back, occupied Pensacola, and took the Fort of Carrios De Barrancas, to which the governor had fled.

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