St. Augustine Florida
GPS 29.927689°N 81.325169°W
|Fort Mose located at the top (North) of
Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose
In the Beginning
Africans were in the St. Augustine area before the Spanish. Menendez noted that one was spotted in the
swamps. He was probably a run away from some earlier slave trader.
Africans were part of America's heritage from the voyages of Columbus and in Florida Ponce de Leon.
Slavery for the Spanish was not the same as later American slavery. In Spanish slavery conversion to the
Catholic church was a way to eliminate the condition and slavery was not equated with simply being an
In 1686 a Spanish force, which included Africans and Indians, raided English plantation of Landgrave
Morton at Port Royal and Edisto and captured thirteen Africans, two of whom escaped back to Carolina.
The rest were put to work on the Castillo fortifications.
In October 1687 Governor Diego de Quiroga reported to Spain the arrival by boat of the first group of
fugitive slaves from Carolina consisting of eight men, two women and one nursing child. These fugitives were
also put to work on the Castillo fortifications but two of them were assigned to the blacksmith. The women
worked for the governor. They were all paid for their labor. The next year an English official arrived to claim
them but was turned away.
Proclamation of Freedom
In 1693, the King of Spain Charles II decreed that slaves who ran away from the British colonies would be
free if they converted to Catholicism and declared loyalty to Spain. The escaped slaves agreed to three
conditions in La Florida: First, they had to accept the Catholic religion. Second, they had to swear allegiance
to the Spanish King. Third, the men had to join the Spanish militia. "giving liberty to all...the men as well as
the women...so that by their example and by my liberality others will do the same."
The Spanish commissioned Yemassee slave raids on the Carolinas. “The slaves themselves at length, taking
advantage from those things, deserted of their own accord to St. Augustine, and upon being Demanded
back by this Government, they were not Returned, but such rates paid for those that could not be concealed
as that Government was pleased to set upon them.” The British raids on Spanish Florida in 1704 were
partially motivated to retrieve runaway slaves who took refuge at St. Augustine.
In 1716, Major James Cochran was sent from the Carolinas to demand that the Spanish government return
the slaves, but to no avail: “Their refusing to deliver up those slaves has encouraged a great many more lately
to run away to that place.” In 1719, a captain and twenty men were garrisoned at the inland water passage
from St. Augustine to prevent any further slaves or white people from deserting. The Spaniards, along with
their native and black allies, made numerous raids onto the British colonial settlements, devastating the
frontier plantations. On June 13, 1728, Governor Middleton of the Carolinas wrote to the Duke of
“I am sorry we are obliged so often to represent to the Government the difficulty we labor under, from the
new situation of St. Augustine to this place, whom without any regard to peace or war, do continually annoy
our Southern frontiers. The hostilities they commit upon us may be rather termed robbery, murders, and
piracies, they acting the part of bandittis, more than soldiers, their chief aim being to murder and plunder.
We formerly complained of their receiving and harboring all our runaway negroes, but since that they have
found out a new way of sending our own slaves against us, to rob and plunder us; They are continually fitting
out parties of Indians from St. Augustine to murder our white people, rob our plantations and carry off our
slaves, so that we are not only at a vast expense in guarding our Southern frontiers, but the inhabitants are
continually alarmed, and have no leisure to look after their crops. The Indians they send against us are sent
out in small parties headed by two three or more Spaniards and sometimes joined with negroes, and all the
mischief they do, is on a sudden, and by surprise: and the moment they have done it, they retire again to St.
Augustine, and then fit out again, so that our plantations, being all scattering, before any men can be got
together, the robbers are fled, and nobody can tell how soon it may be, or where they intend to make their
The escape of Franciso Menendez
In 1724 Franciso Menendez with six other males and three females fled from Carolina to St. Augustine.
They asked for baptism and sanctuary. They had heard of the King of Spain's promise of liberty. For their
escape they relied on English speaking Indians.
Colonel John Palmer March 1728
In March 1728 Colonel John Palmer of Carolina led a raid against St. Augustine destroying Nombre de
Dios. The black militia fought for the defense of St. Augustine and was rewarded by Governor Benavides by
the granting of their freedom and the abolishment of the slave market.
Slaves were still not free
In the beginning slaves who escaped were still not free. On September 28, 1729 Governor Benavides sold a
number of slaves for 300 pesos each with the proceeds going to the English. Some were taken to Cuba.
Eight were put to work sawing boards for the roofs of the churches and the convent of San Francisco.
Some worked for the soldiers.
On October 29, 1733 the Spanish crown decreed specifically that slaves fleeing the English settlements for
Florida and desiring to embrace Roman Catholicism would be automatically freed. It would take more than
4 more years before this happened.
The site of Fort Mose was built on a Native American site from 1729, where the last Timucua Indian lived
at "Mosa" with a remnant group of Apalachee Indians who had been displaced during the War of Spanish
Succession (1702-14). Later the Yamassees of Carolina and Georgia lived there after their rebellion against
the English in 1715. A mission Nuestra Senora del Rosario was formed there by Fathers Jose de Villalba
and Antonio Fernandez de Mora. Father Villalba group consisted of seven men, eight women, and seven
children of Apalachee stock, six Yamassee men, seven women, five children and one "heathen" man. Father
Fernandez had fourteen Christian men, nine women, seven children and one "heathen" women. The
Apalachees had been Christian for some time. The Yamassees had been converted since their arrival in St.
Creation of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose
On March 3, 1738, the refugee slaves including Francisco de Menendez the captain of the African militia
demanded their complete liberty on the authority of royal edicts. On March 15, Governor Mantiano fulfilled
the promise of the King’s edict and granted them unconditional freedom. He attempted in June to have the
slaves freed who were sold to Cuban residents and returned to St. Augustine. Some were returned and
served in the militia at Fort Mose. In that same month, a group of slaveholders from the Carolinas assembled
to meet Mantiano and demand that he return their slaves. Mantiano regretfully claimed that he was under no
authority to return them and referred them to the King’s orders.
In 1738, Mantiano granted a settlement for the runaway slaves about two miles north of St. Augustine. In a
statement dated June 10, 1738 the freedmen stated that Governor Montiano had promised to establish them
in a village named Gracia Real. Its strategic location made it essential for the defense of St. Augustine. The
decision was made to build it two miles north of St. Augustine in a salty marsh, so that it could act as a
military outpost for the town guarding the northern land entrance into town. Mantiano hired a Spanish
military officer, Don Sebastian Sanchez the nephew of ex-governor Moral, to oversee the construction of
the settlement. A Franciscan student priest Jose de Leon were appointed to instruct the thirty-eight freedmen
in the Roman Catholic religion.
The Africans were expected to farm and provide a portion of their crop for the sustenance of St. Augustine.
On November 21, an additional 23 runaways arrived at St. Augustine from Port Royal. Even though the
freedmen that established the settlement numbered only 38, Mantiano was optimistic that they could form a
successful village. The total population of men, women, and children eventually numbered somewhere
around one hundred. In the mean time, the free blacks ensured the King that they would faithfully defend St.
Augustine to the fullest extent: “That we shall at all times be the most cruel enemies of the English; and that
we shall risk our lives in service to Your Majesty until spilling the last drop of our blood in defense of the
Great Crown of Spain and Our Holy Faith.” It was named Fort Mose after the Indian name for that area
and it was established on the feast day of St. Teresa - Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose.
Fort Mose was small, only about twenty square yards. Nearly 100 former slaves, risking their lives to
escape captivity from the Carolina colony, found refuge in the small town of St. Augustine. On November
21, 1738 a group of 23 men, women and children escaped from Port Royal and made it to St. Augustine in
a stolen launch. Under the leadership of African born Captain Francisco Menendez, they constructed a log
fortress north of town to defend themselves from a potential British invasion. The Lieutenant was Antonio
Joseph Eligio de Puente. Menendez would serve for more than 40 years. Puente would serve for 26 years.
The one hundred Africans who settled in Fort Mose raised food for themselves and other settlements in St.
Augustine. They built churches and shops. The men formed their own militia, or military unit.
Word of the existence of free black settlement reached the Province of South Carolina to the north and
helped to set off the Stono Rebellion in September 1739. There had been earlier rebellions in 1711 and
1714. During the slave revolt, several dozen blacks attempted to reach Spanish Florida unsuccessfully.
Eighty slaves revolted and marched south in the Stono Rebellion. All of the Stono rebels were massacred by
the white slave owners who chased them down. Other runaways faced Indians in the wilderness, some of
whom helped the English by catching and returning the slaves.
The following year, war was declared between Spain and Britain.
General Oglethorpe Attacks (La Guerra del Asiento de los Negros,” or the “the war over the
contract with the negroes.”)
The British in 1740 still used the Julian calendar while the Spanish had adopted the modern Gregorian
calendar. Spanish dated accounts are eleven days ahead of a comparable British date accounts of the siege.
In May 1740, as the British soldiers from newly colonized Georgia and Carolina marched toward Fort
Mose, Fort Mose's inhabitants were safely evacuating to St. Augustine by order of the governor. One of
General Oglethorpe's stipulations to Carolina about their ex-slaves: "And I do further declare, that all
Negroes which have Deserted from South Carolina, and which shall be taken in Florida during the said
Expedition, shall be delivered up to their respective owners, on paying the Sum of five pounds Sterling per
head to the Captors."
General James Oglethorpe, invaded Florida with the British 42nd Regiment, Scottish Highlanders, and
colonial volunteers. Oglethorpe's soldiers marched overland from present day Jacksonville while ships
carried troops and artillery down the coast to Anastasia Island. June 4, the British troops set up camp at the
abandoned Fort Mose. Oglethorpe had the walls breached in two places and removed the gate from the fort.
On the 24th of June Colonel John Palmer of Carolina was sent to Fort Mose with Carolinians and
Highlanders. In the pre-dawn morning of June 26, three hundred Spanish soldiers, including the black militia,
staged a surprise attack on the British encampment. At four 0'clock in the morning they attacked the fort,
recapturing the fort and leaving 68 English dead and taking 34 prisoners (according to the report of
Governor Don Manuel de Montiano. By the end of the attack, the fort was burned and the 35 English
survivors ran home to tell about "Bloody Moosa." Colonel John Palmer was dead - a veteran of the English
wars against St. Augustine. Captain John McIntosh the commander of the Highlanders was sent to Spain in
chains. Captain McKay of the Georgia rangers escaped along with Captain William Palmer and Richard
Palmer's other son. The Spanish by retaking Fort Mose and the failure of the navy component to destroy the
half-galleys in the harbor broke the English siege of St. Augustine. The remaining British soldiers retreated
back to Georgia. Ten Spanish had died in the attack.
A English soldier's story: "At one in the morning some of the Rangers reported that they had heard the
Spanish Indians dancing the War Dance. At Four o'Clock the Colonel went to rouse them, to stand to their
Arms. But as usual, most of them lay down again. This put him into great Passion, saying that the Spaniards
would surely attack them after the Indian Manner and that general Oglethorpe had sent them fore a sacrifice.
Then a Sentinel called that a Party was coming and Colonel Palmer called aloud, "Stand to your arms! Not a
Man of you fire, but receive their first fire; then half of you fire and fall back, making Room for the rest to
come up, and we will kill them like Dogs."
Then poured in a large Volley, and the Colonel betook himself to the ditch. The Rangers did the same. (The
Indian leader) ran into the Fort, and got all the Indians together into one Flanker, there being a great Hurry
and Confusion, some being dressed and some undressed. The Enemy attacking in different Parties, rushed
on...Colonel Palmer in the Trench, kept firing and encouraging the Men aloud, and the Spaniards were
repulsed twice. At length they came on again Sword in Hand and entered the Gate. At the same Time
another Party entered one of the breaches, so that the Fort was at once full of Spaniards, it being then about
Half an Hour before Day. Firing as they marched and opening a Passage for themselves through the Enemy
(thirty-five English) made their escape. The Spaniards, as it pleased God, did not pursue their Victory; but
marched back to their Castle in great Triumph, shouting and firing in Sight of the Camps with the Prisoners
and Colours that they had taken in the Fort." Twenty of the African soldiers were given special recognition.
General Oglethorpe described the fort as: being about twenty Miles from Fort Diego within two Miles
Distance and in full Sight of St. Augustine (lying near the Creek which runs up between that and Point Cartell
up to Fort Diego) was made in the Middle of a Plantation for Safety of the Negroes against Indians. It was
four Square with a flanker at each Corner, banked round with Earth, having a Ditch without on all Sides
lined round with prickly Palmeto Royal and had a Well and House within, and a Look Out."
The first fort was never rebuilt It lies under a foot of water in a tidal marsh today.
Georgia starts in the slave trade
In 1749 Georgia that had been built as a free labor colony legalized the slave trade.
The Second Fort Mose
With the original Fort Mose demolished, African settlers lived inside St. Augustine until December 7, 1752
when the fort and town were rebuilt on higher ground to the northeast (approximately a quarter of a mile
from the site of the first Fort Mose.) Governor Fulgencio Garcia del Solis decided to have Fort Mose rebuilt
as a place to relocate the growing population of those seeking freedom in St. Augustine. To achieve this he
had to punish two ringleaders who refused to return and promise more severe punishment to the rest if they
didn't. Besides being on call as soldiers, the townspeople worked as sailors, fishermen, blacksmiths,
cowboys and builders. The second fort had three 195-foot-long walls ten feet tall that were made of packed
earth and faced with clay, sod and planted with prickly pear cactus. The fourth side faced a creek. They
also had 3 or 4 small cannon and munitions and a guard of four cavalrymen and an officer in charge.
In December of 1752 Father Vilches, a Franciscan, was appointed to be stationed at Mose. In 1753
Father Juan de la Via succeeded him.
By 1756 another fortification was completed at Mose. The engineer in St. Augustine had designed and
constructed more protection for the site. This installation was manned by the African militia infantry company.
In 1757 the priest was Father Gines Sanchez.
Father Juan Joseph de Solana described it in 1759: "The Fort at Mose is situated on the banks of the River
which runs to the north, and a distance of 3/4 of a league from the presidio, the part that faces the river has
no protection of defense whatsoever and is formed by two small bastions which look landward on which are
mounted two four-pound cannons and six swivel guns divided among them...The earthwork embankment is
covered with thorns...the housing which it includes are some huts of thatch..."
The chapel was: "ten varas long and six wide, the walls which are under construction are made of wood and
the sacristy, which is finished, and in which the priest lives, is a very small room and serves the chapel for the
In 1759 a census was taken of the Fort Mose residents. They identified themselves as four distinct African
ethnic groups: Mandinga, Carabali, Gambas, Lecumis, Sambas, Gangas, Araras, Guineans, Congo, and
Mina. The village consisted of twenty-two palm thatch huts which housed thirty-seven men, fifteen women,
seven boys and eight girls. These villagers attended Mass in a wood church where their priest also lived. The
people of Fort Mose farmed the land and the men stood guard at the fort or patrolled the frontier. They
cooked on Indian pots but ate off of Spanish and English tableware. No African artifacts have been found at
Fort Mose. Glassware indicates that the people drank wine or run and clay pipes show tobacco smoking.
Most of the Carolina fugitives married fellow escapees, but some married Indian women or slaves living in
St. Augustine. At the time of the census, Francisco Roso, Tomas Chrisostome, Francisco Xavier de Torres
and his son, Juan de Arranzate, Pedro Graxales, Joseph de Pena, Juan Francisco de Torres, Joseph
Fernandez and Juan Baptista had slave wives in St. Augustine.
Only six reported for duty each week, but served guard duty at night. In the daytime a regular detachment
from St. Augustine consisting of an officer, two artillerymen and four soldiers guarded the fort.
Engineer Pablo Castello gave a description in 1763 of Castillo de Mose. It was an enclosure walled on three
sides, but with no barrier on the side facing Macaris Creek. There was a moat in front of the three walls and
two semi bastions faced west toward land. The entrance into the fort was in the south wall. The village was
within the Fort with about seven structures.
The Moses Line
The Moses line ran from Fort Mose to the San Sebastian River. It had two salients east of the northbound
trail to San Nicolas and two west of the road. There was a gate in the road. At the river there was another
fort being built but was never finished. The fortification was known as the Estacada de las Dos Millas or
Two Mile Stockade. This line was the third parallel line that served as the outer defense for St. Augustine. It
was 10 to 15 feet high and planted on the top with Spanish bayonets. In front was a moat filled with tidal
After the British gained control of Florida in 1763, the inhabitants of Fort Mose, along with most of the
Spanish settlers, moved to Cuba. In a 1938 dig by Chatelaine many traces of the Mose line and the Fort
could be found. He saw earthworks covered with trees and vines still being visible.
The occupying British garrisoned Fort Mosé until they partially destroyed it in 1775. The Mose line was still
visible in 1769 according to William Stork's description. He could see the redoubts, the stockaded fort on a
pier on the St. Sebastian river and Fort Mose. During the British period Fort Mose was on governor grant's
Second Spanish Period
In 1789 Engineer Mariano de la Rocque reported that the fort was in very bad condition. During the Second
Spanish Period between 1783 and 1821, Minorcan farmers (Rafael Ximenes and Juan Friary) lived at the
fort site. The governor finally paid them for the repairs that they had made to the house in the Fort.
La Rocque recommended the rebuilding the unfinished fort on the bank of the San Sebastian and the
earthwork across the peninsula to the Mose area and the strong house of Mose with an earthwork around it.
The house had been used for Antonio Berta's slaves. Between April - August 1797 repairs were made to
the structure by Engineer Pedro Diaz Berrio. The walls were equipped with embrasures that would allow the
fort to fire on boats which may come up the creek from the inlet. Stakes were also placed in the creek. The
plan was to place a guard at the house that would be able to signal the Castillo any warnings.
In 1805 Engineer Manuel de Hita said that the creek running by Mose should be guarded. He
recommended the construction for a battery for two guns. The battery was never built. In 1808 it was finally
constructed and a chain was placed across the creek. In 1811 A Spanish council of war recommended that
the gun platform should be repaired, but it was not done.
The Patriot War and Fort Mose
Beginning in January of 1811 there was a clandestine attempt by the United States to take control of Florida
from Spain. A secret act was passes by Congress "to enable the President of the United States, under
certain contingencies, to take possession of the country lying east of the river Perdido, and south of the State
of Georgia and the Mississippi territory [East Florida], and for other purposes." U.S. citizens from Georgia
were recruited to foment an apparent rebellion in Spanish settlements. This was done to provide a pretext
for U.S. troops to come in and restore order.
On April 12, 1812, the First Regiment of United States Riflemen under the command of Lieutenant Colonel
Thomas A. Smith occupied Fort Mose with 109 men. The fort was occupied till May 16 when the Spanish
attacked with a schooner and four launches firing on the Fort. Smith was forced to pull back to an
encampment a mile further from St. Augustine. On May 16, 1812 the Spanish set fire to Fort Moosa to
prevent it form being reoccupied by the Americans.
Correspondence: Gen. Mathews to Lt. Col. Smith
United States Station, Picolata. April 8, 1812.
By virtue of the powers vested in me as United States Commissioner, with which you are furnished a copy, I
have to request you to march tomorrow, or as soon thereafter as possible, to Moosa Old Fort, a military
station in the vicinity of St. Augustine, with the troops under your command to hold & defend the same &
the country adjacent it being ceded to the U. States by the local constituted authorities of E. Florida, &
accepted by me as United States Commissioner. You will please to have such Detachment at this station as
you deem adequate to hold and defend for the United States.
I am very respectfully your friend & obt. servt. (signed) Geo. Mathews
Lt. Col. Thos. A. Smith Picolata Station.
Lt. Col. Smith to Secretary of War (copy)
Moosa Old Fort, 14th April, 1812. Sir :
I was unable to procure transports for the Detachment under my Command until the 1st Inst., on which day
I embarked for Picolata, (5) but owing to the violence of the wind & the boats being bad, I was unable to
reach it until the 7th. On the 8th, I dropped down the river in compliance with the enclosed requisition of
Genl. Mathews to Six Mile Creek, which I ascended about six miles. I deposited our little stores under a
Sergeant's Guard and proceeded to this place, which was occupied by the Patriot forces; they delivered me
peaceable possession on the 12th at 4 o'clock at which time I hoisted the American flag. On the following
morning soon after the troops were dismissed at reveille a Gunboat at the distance of about three quarters of
a mile fired four shot immediately over the Detachment, two of which passed within a few feet of some of
the men. The moment our flag was hoisted & the Troops prepared for action, they ceased firing and sheered
off. This Post is within two and one half miles of St. Augustine & in full view; I think the situation a bad one
for defence & will take a new position in a day or two. Genl. Mathews sent a flag to their lines today, which
was peremptorily ordered back.
From present appearances I have little doubt but ere this reaches you we shall have had an action. The
Governor has sent to Havanna & Nassau for reinforce ments, which it appears are daily expected. Should
they arrive I shall be compelled to fall back, but will oppose them at every defile until the Georgia Volunteers
can come to my, aid. Wagons and Carts to remove our stores cannot be procured. I shall consequently
have to destroy them if I have to give ground. As the contract I made for the supply of rations in East
Florida will be a losing one for the Contractor, I have no expectation of being able to get him to furnish
longer than the time contracted for (31st May). The officers with me are active & attentive, but the number
(four) is so small that I experience great inconvenience & wish the Public Service may not suffer on that
account, as it is impossible for them for any length of time to pay proper attention to the many duties that at
present devolve upon them.
I beg leave to recommend Mr. John Findley of Washington, Georgia, for appointment in the Regiment of
I have the honor to be, Sir, with high respect, Your Obt. Servt.,
Lt. Col. Smith to U. S. Adjutant & Inspector (Copy)
Sir : Moosa Old Fort, 26 April, 1812.
From the great exertions making by the Spaniards to put the works around St. Augustine in the best possible
state of defence, it becomes my duty to apprise the Honorable, the Secretary of War, that if it is his intention
that I should attack the Town, (8) that no time ought to be lost in forwarding four Eighteen or Twenty-four
Pounders, Ammunition, etc., etc., with the necessary tools for throwing up redoubts, which would enable me
to attack it with a certainty of success. The field pieces at Point Petre are entirely useless, not having any
ammunition or harness. I flatter myself that when the will of the Executive is known that this little Detachment
will not be found wanting in duty or exertions to fulfill it. My present effective force, Non-Commissioned
officers & Privates is one hundred & nine, having left small Detachments at Point Petre, Picolata, & Six Mile
Creek. The Troops suffer considerably for the want of Clothing, that furnished last fall being so much
damaged as to be unfit for issue. I have been without Provisions for several days, the vessel containing the
Contractor's supplies having been detained in consequence of the Embargo in Savannah. I will trouble you
to inform me whether it is necessary to forward Inspection Returns oftener than the troops are mustered.
I have the honor to be, Sir, with high respect, Your Obt. Servt.,
P. S. Since writing the above two British armed sloops have appeared off the bar & from the movements of
the small craft about St. Augustine I should not be surprised if they attack me. I have just been informed by
Genl. McIntosh that the Patriot force near me does not exceed 93 for duty. From the best information I can
obtain the Spanish force is about 400 180 Regular Troops, 50 free Men of Colour, the residue Militia of the
Town & vicinity.
When the Spanish retook the fort, they burned it, so no one could hold the fort against them again. The site
was never fortified again
The Seminole War
Fort Mose was occupied by American soldiers during the campaigns against the Seminole Indians until the
war moved to south Florida.
The Fort in 1860
In 1860, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) coastal survey by Orr noted the ruins of the Fort on a map of
that year. The Dorr survey map of 1860 showed remnants of the Mose line.
Flagler Digs it Up
Henry Flagler owned the land in the 1880s and used dirt as fill dirt for Maria Sanchez creek where he
located the Alcazar Hotel. By 1887, Mr. Henry Flagler had bought the Blackman or Batewell property,
which contained the site of the first Fort Mosé and most of the second Fort Mosé. Flagler had the top
several feet of topsoil removed for use as fill under the Alcazar Hotel downtown and the lowered elevation at
the Fort Mosé site transformed into salt marsh (Florida Times-Union: 6 Jan 1887, 1 Feb 1887,
and 30 Mar 1887) The change in the natural community of the Fort Site may have been caused by removal
of material from the area for use as fill in Maria Sanchez Creek, in downtown St. Augustine.
In the early part of the 1900s, the St. Augustine Historical Society placed a commemorative marker at the
correct location and was gifted the site by Judge David R. Dunham., but by 1965 it was decided that this
was, in fact, not the site of Mose.
Carter G. Woodson and the Search for Fort Mose
Carter G. Woodson launched the Journal of Negro History in 1916 and very soon sought out articles that
examined the colonial history of Florida. He was one of the first scholars to promote interest in Fort Mose.
In the 1920s he had Irene Wright comb through Spanish archives for information about that first free
community of ex-slaves. She would share those documents in the Journal of Negro History Vol 9, No 2,
Zora Neale Hurston
Publishes an account of the black settlement at Fort Mose in St. Augustine, Florida, in the Journal of
Negro History Vol 12, No. 4, October 1927.
Near St. Augustine, there is evidence of an old Negro Fort called Fort Moosa (spelled also Moze, Mosa,
Mossa, Mose, translated means Moss). There is a map of the Fort Mose, three miles from St. Augustine, on
general Oglethorpe's map of 1740, a copy of which may be had from the Library of Congress, Division of
Maps. Fort Moosa was captured and destroyed by General James Oglethorpe on the night of June 4, 1739.
"But this success (of Oglethorpe's expedition vs. Florida) on one side was more than balanced by severe
losses on the other. Colonel Palmer (of the Oglethorpe forces) took his station on the dismantled Fort Mose
where he was attacked by a party of five hundred men, Spanish, Indians, and Negroes, early in the morning
of the 15th of June. He fell at the first fire of the enemy. His men succeeded in retreating through the
surrounding force, with the loss of more than half their number. It was obvious after this (reverses beginning
at Fort Mose) that the enterprise must be abandoned, and the General reluctantly consented to retire."
In 1741 Oglethorpe visited Savannah, but there was much in that place to give him dissatisfaction. The
vicinity of South Carolina, where the slaves were to the whites in proportion of four or five to one, created
"One Captain Don Juan de Aila went to Spain in the year 1687 to procure additional forces and ammunition
for the garrison of St. Augustine...He was allowed to take twelve Spanish Negroes for the cultivation of the
fields of Florida, of whom it was said there was a great want in that province. By a mischance he was able
to carry only one Negro there, with the troops and other cargo, and was received with universal joy in the
city. This was the first occasion of the reception of African slaves, although it was made a part of the royal
stipulation with Menendez de Ailes that he should bring over five hundred Negro slaves."
The compact made between the King and Menendez was that he should furnish one galleon completely
equipped, and provisions for a force of six hundred men, that he should conquer and settle the country. He
obligated himself to carry 100 horses, 400 sheep, and some goats, and 500 Negro slaves for which he had
a permit free of duty.
Another source refers to "Fort Mose as an outpost of the place (St. Augustine) on the North river about two
miles North of St. Augustine. It was a fortified line, a considerable portion of which may now be traced,
extending across from the stockades on the St. Sebastian river to Fort Mose. A communication by a tide
creek existed through the marshes, between the Castle of St. Augustine and Fort Mose."
A committee of the South Carolina House of Commons, in a report upon the Oglethorpe Expedition, thus
speaks of St. Augustine, evidently smarting under the disappoint of their recent defeat, July 1741:
"St. Augustine in possession of the Crown of Spain...the town is not very large and but indifferently fortified.
The inhabitants, many of which are Mulattoes of savage dispositions, are all in the King's pay. Also being
registered from their birth, and a severe penalty laid on any master of a vessel that shall attempt to carry any
of them off. These are formed into a militia, and have been generally computed to be near about the same
number as the regular troops."
Among the principal grievances set forth in this report, was the carrying off and enticing and harboring their
slaves, of which a number of instances are enumerated; and they attributed the Negro insurrection which
occurred in South Carolina in 1739 to the connivance and agency of the Spanish authorities at St.
Augustine...."That they had from first to last, in times of profoundest peace, both publicly and privately, by
themselves, Negroes and Indians in every shape molested us, not without some instances of uncommon
In the History of English Occupation of Florida by Roberts and Stark, in plans and descriptions of Fort
Mose, appears the following: "A Negro fort is shown about a mile to the Northward. The inhabitants of St.
Augustine are of all colors, whites, Negroes, Mulattoes, Indians. A mile further is another fortified line with
some redoubts, forming a second communication between a stockade fort upon St. Sebastian river and Fort
Moosa, upon the St. Marks river." "Inhabitants of East Florida from 1663-1771, householders, besides
women, etc., 288; imported by Mr. Trumbull from Minvica & Co., 1400; Negroes upwards of 900."
General Oglethorpe proceeded to Fort Diego...25 miles from St. Augustine, defended by 11 guns, 50
regulars, besides Indians and Negroes. "He ordered the gate of Fort Mose to be burned and 3 breaches to
be made in the walls, lest, as he playfully but too prophetically said-it might, one day or other be a mouse
trap for some of our own people."
In a copy of "Collections of the Georgia Historical Society," Volume VII, Part I, "Siege of St. Augustine &
Letters of Montiano (also spelled Monteano), published by Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Ga.,
appears the following:
"On Nov. 21 (year not so clear but 1739 seems indicated) 23 Negroes of both sexes and children came
here fleeing from Puerto Real, 19 belong to Devis, 8 are workmen. I am struggling with all the freemen to
establish them in Moze (another spelling of Mose), half a league from here to the North, so that they may
form a settlement and cultivate those lands...The free Negroes here are 38 in all, and it is not impossible they
may form a good village." (Excerpt from Letters of General Montiana.)
In the siege of St. Augustine by Oglethorpe. "The Spanish authorities at St. Augustine sent emissaries to the
borders of Carolina to entice away Negroes, promising them freedom and protection. Many Negroes had
gone to them from time to time, a sufficient number it was said to form a regiment, which was placed on the
same footing as the Spanish regulars."
1742 Governor Monteano's attack upon Oglethorpe at St. Simons Island is mentioned. "The Spaniards
moved up to a point about 4 miles below Frederica and landed some 5,000 men-among the troops landed
was a regiment of artillery, a regiment of dismounted dragoons, a regiment of Negroes and another of
Mulattoes, besides the Havanna Battalion and the St. Augustine forces."
Zora Neale Hurston
1968 Purchase of Land
The property was purchased in 1968 by F. E.(Jack) Williams III, a resident of St. Augustine and military
historian, who believed that the location of the historical society marker (in spite of the society's disclaimer)
was in fact the correct site of Fort Mose.
The 1971 Dig
In 1971 Williams contacted the late Professor Charles Fairbanks of the University of Florida about the site,
and Fairbanks brought the University of Florida archaeological field school to Mose for a two-day test
project. He found pottery, musket balls and other items but he did not find a fort. The work verified that mid-
eighteenth-century remains were deposited at the southernmost portion of Williams' property, and Fairbanks
concluded that this was the probable location of Fort Mose.
The 1976 Dig
A more extensive survey was carried out in 1976 by the Florida State University archaeological field school
under the direction of Kathleen Deagan, who had been a first-year graduate student at Fairbank's field
school. The 1976 work confirmed Fairbank's observations. It also eliminated from consideration several
other areas of the property that yielded no remains from more than a hundred subsurface tests.
In 1985 the effort to secure funding for the extensive excavation of Fort Mose were successful. In that year
Florida state representative Bill Clark of Fort Lauderdale visited the site and was both moved and
impressed by its importance to African-American history. After discussions with Florida Museum staff,
Clark introduced a bill in the Florida legislature that provided funds for the historical and scientific study of
Fort Mose. The original site of the fort was uncovered in a 1986 archaeological dig by Kathleen Deagan.
110 objects could be attributed to the 1st Spanish period.
The Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund of the State of Florida
On October 20, 1989, the Trustees obtained title to a 19.99-acre property constituting the initial
area of Fort Mosé Historic State Park. The Trustees acquired the property from F. E. Williams
through the exercise of the power of domain over the property, paying good faith estimate value
of $100,587. The acquisition was funded under the LAFT program. On December 17, 1998, the
Trustees purchased a 6.62-acre property under P2000/A&I program and added the new property
to Fort Mosé Historic State Park. In 2004, St. Johns County authorized the Division of
Recreation and Parks (Division) to maintain and manage the county’s 7.29-acre property, located
adjacent to Fort Mosé Historic State Park, as part of the park. The Division is in the process of
leasing this property from the county.
On October 30, 1989, the Trustees leased Fort Mosé Historic State Park to the Division under
Lease No. 3809. Lease No. 3809 is a 50-year lease, and it will expire on October 30, 2039. The
Division has been managing a 7.29-acre St. Johns County’s land since February of 2004 through
a letter of authorization from the county. This authorization will terminate when the lease
agreement between St. Johns County and the Division is executed. According to Lease No. 3809, the
Division will manage For Mosé only for the conservation and protection of natural and historical resources
and to use it for resource- based public outdoor recreation compatible with the conservation and protection
of the resources.
National Historic Landmark
Fort Mose was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994 and was entered as a National Register of
Historic Places. Statement of Significance (as of designation - October 12, 1994): "Fort Mose, a free Black
military and residential community, officially known as Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, was the first
legally sanctioned free Black community within the present boundaries of the United States. Its inhabitants
were mainly runaway Black slaves from the British colonies of South Carolina and Georgia, who escaped to
freedom in Spanish Florida in small groups at least as early as 1687. They emigrated to Cuba in 1763 when
Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain. The site is not open to the public." It was dedicated in a public
ceremony on February 3, 1995.
Formation of the Fort Mose Historical Society
On June 26, 1996 the founding members of the Fort Mose Historical Society donned knee high rubber
boots and waded into the marsh, heading towards a small patch of trees surrounded by water and mud flats.
In the mid-morning sun on the site of Garcia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose or Fort Mose, they voted the
Fort Mose Historical Society into existence.
In 2006 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Florida Park Service broke ground for a
visitor center and museum to interpret the history of Fort Mose and the people who lived there. Hammond
Design Group designed the building which was constructed for 1,200,000. The visitor center opened in the
summer of 2008.
The Park Today
The 24-acre (9.7 ha) site is now a Florida State Park, administered through the Anastasia State Recreation
|St. Christopher Medallion found at
|Fort Mose Museum and Visitor's Center
Plan of the land between Fort Mossy (Mose) and Saint Augustine - 1765, Plan of the land between Fort Mossy (Mose) and
St. Augustine, East Florida, Florida Photo. Archives.
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