|St. Augustine British Period
by Gil Wilson (Introduction)
ab urbe condita - 198 to 219
|Moncrief's Drawing of the Castillo
Library of Congress
|Castillo Plan 1779
Library of Congress
|Father Camp's Statue Cathedral
Photographer: Gil Wilson
Great Egret (left) - Sandhill Crane (right)
|The British East Florida Seal
The British were here! The British were here! But only for a very short time. The British were here from
the end of the Seven Years War (French and Indian War 1763) to the end of the American Revolution
(1783). Florida was exchanged to the British for Havana that the British had captured during the war in
1762, the treaty was signed in February of 1765 in Paris (Treaty of Paris) with Spain, France and England.
Florida becomes the 14th colony. The two new provinces of East and West Florida were legally constituted
by royal proclamation of George III on October 7, 1763. By April 25, 1764 The Great Seal for East
Florida was designed as: "On the one side a Fortified Town and Harbour with this Motto or Legend
beneath Moresque Viris et Moenia Ponet and this Inscription round the Circumference Sigillum
Provinciae Nostrae Floridae Orientalis and on the Reverse His Majesty's Arms, Crown, Garter,
Supporters and Motto with his Inscription round the Circumference Georgius III Dei Gratia Magnae
Britanniae Franciae et Hiberniae Rex Fidei Defensor Brunsvici et Luneburgi Dux Sacri Romani
Imperii Archithesaurarius et Elector."
Map of the New Colonies (East and West Florida)
Gibson makes a map of the new colonies in the early 1760s. Jeffery's makes a 1763 map of St. Augustine.
Arrival of the British
On July 20, 1763 Captain John Hedges and four companies of the British 1st Regiment arrived at St.
Augustine from Havana. The last Spanish governor, Governor Feliu gave the keys to the fort to Captain
Hedges. The next British commander with the 9th Regiment of Foot came within 10 days after the transfer:
Major Francis Ogilvie.
Proclamation of 1763
King George III on October 7, 1763 issues a proclamation that sets aside areas for Native Americans on
the new North American possessions. The land also gave the boundaries of the two new colonies of East
and West Florida.
Departure of the Spanish
On January 21, 1764 the last Spanish ship departed only the following Spanish remained: Francis Xavier
Sanchez, Manuel Solana, Antonino de Leon, Sebastian Espinosa, Francisco Canto, Pableo de Aguilar,
Francisco Salgado, Josef de Almo and Luciano de Herrera. Luciano de Herrera passes information to
Spain on British activity over the years, especially the important Revolutionary War years. He will become a
citizen of Spain again in the Second Spanish period.
Arrival of Governor James Grant
Over one year after the official transfer on August 28, 1764 Governor Colonel James Grant (Cornpuller)
arrived on the sloop Ferret. Major Francis Ogilvie had been the government for a year. For the British
improvements to the town John Moncrief was the royal engineer (in 1762 at 21 years old a graduate of the
Royal Military Academy in Woolwich.).
Rev. John Forbes became the Anglican priest for the town. James Box was the first attorney general. James
Moultrie was the first chief justice and the first council president (he died on August 6, 1765). John Moultrie
was the 2nd Council president (later Lieut. Governor) and John Dunnett was secretary and clerk of the
council. John Hewitt was the master carpenter for many of the British buildings including St. Peter's Church.
The hospital mates were Hennry Cunninghame, Jos Dyason, David Yeates and John Somen.
Rev. John Forbes
Rev. Forbes received his Master of Arts from the University of Aberdeen in the spring of 1763. In the
spring of 1764 in London Forbes was recommended by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in
Foreign Parts to be minister of St. Augustine. The original appointee as Chaplain to the garrison at the fort,
Ralph Church turned his commission over to Rev. John Forbes. In November of 1764 he became a justice
of the peace and on May 1765 he became a member of the Governor's Council. He would hold that
position until June 1783. (His son- James Grant Forbes would become the American mayor in 1821.)
Mr. John Kenward, Storekeeper and Paymaster, Mr. William Penn, Clerk of the Survey, Mr. Henry
Skinner, Barrack Master, and Mr. Richard Pritchard Surgeon were appoint by the Office of Ordnance in
James Moncrief, a graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, was an engineer and captain-
lieutenant. He converted the Spanish monastery, bishop's house, and hospital into the British barracks,
statehouse and courthouse. John Hewitt was a master carpenter and building contractor. He would be
active in the conversion of St. Peter's Church. The church renovation was directed by Rev. Forbes. By the
1770's St. Peter's received a tower, steeple and contained the town clock. The church was a renovation of
the old La Soledad catholic church. Today the site of the church and cemetery is a parking lot beside the
William Stork, a German botanist and a member of the Royal Society, had visited East Florida and
published three pamphlets to encourage the settlement of East Florida. An Account of East Florida, With
Remark on its Future Importance to Trade and Commerce (London, 1766).
In 1764 East Florida was guarded by 94 men of the 9th Regiment. They were spread out over East Florida.
The fort had 20 guards, the town 18 with 10 more serving around town. Picolata had 10, Mantanzas 8, Fort
Mossa 16, Signal House 2 and Appalachia 16. The commander was Lieut. Col. William Taylor with Major
Francis Ogilivie second. Other officers included Lawrence Reynolds, John Harries, Thomas Whitmore,
Robert Eyare, and William Jenkins.
On October 13, 1764 Governor Grant issued a proclamation to all the colonies advertising grants of land in
East Florida. Efforts to find workers for the new colony and the colony began to depend more and more on
In June of 1765 the East Florida colony received from Charleston its Pilot Boat called The Dependance.
The cost of the boat was 1423.7 pounds
Benjamin Barron, who was the former secretary to Sir Charles Hardy (a former Governor of New York)
was appointed Postmaster for the Southern District in 1765. The deputy postmaster was responsible for
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, East Florida, West Florida and the Bahamman Islands. The
deputy postmaster would reside in Charleston. The mail route would be directly from Charleston to St.
Augustine by packet boat. All mail would be routed directly to Charleston and then proceed to St.
In 1765 schoolmasters, Enoch Hawksworth and Jones Reed arrived. The schoolmasters were appointed by
the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel". They were responsible to Governor Grant for designing the
Governor 1,200 pounds, Chief Justice, 500 pounds, Attorney General 150 pounds, Secretary and Clerk of
the Council 150 pounds, Register 100 pounds, Surveyor of lands 120 pounds, Assistant surveyor 50
pounds, Agent 200 pounds, minister of St. Augustine 100 pounds, schoolmaster 25 pounds. Other colony
expenses included 100 pounds for the minister at St. Marks. There was also a 1000 pound allocation for
unseen expenses, 500 pounds for the encouragement of the culture of silk, vines and other articles of
beneficial produce, and a 1000 pound allowance for goods for presents to the Indians.
Governor Grant received a letter dated May 16, 1765 advising Grant of the impending visit of Mr. John
Bartram of Philadelphia. The letter from John Ellis recommended Bartram who the King felt would produce
such discoveries that would improve the trade and manufacture of the two new colonies. Grant received
another letter from A Gordon in Philadelphia also recommending support of John Bartram. A third
recommendation was sent by Henry Bouquet in June. He pointed out to Grant that "Under the character of
a Quaker, you will find him a good natured, obliging and upright man and perfectly master of the natural
history of North America." He also hoped that Grant would help procure him "a couple of faithful Indians to
attend him in the woods." In October 11, 1765 the two Quakers came to St. Augustine. They were John
and William Bartram, American naturalists. John had just been appointed the King's Botanist a year earlier.
They will write a Diary of a Journey Through the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, 1765-66.
William Gerard de Brahm
In 1765 William Gerard de Brahm was appointed by the King as surveyor-general of the Southern District
of North America and Surveyor of land in the government of the newly formed colonies of East and West
Florida. He would set sail from Savannah in the schooner Augustine and chart the coast between St.
Augustine and Cape Florida. He also received a 10,000-acre grant of land. In October of 1770 Governor
Grant claimed that he was guilty of overcharges and obstruction of applications for land grants. He returned
to England to stand trial but had his son-in-law Captain Frederick George Mulcaster appointed in his place
by Governor Grant. In June of 1772 he filed the surveys that he had made and also included information in
his book The Atlantic Pilot. Captain Dunsford was appointed the original Deputy for East Florida (he was
already in the Ordinance service). (Captain Dunsford participated in the siege of Havana.)
In 1767 the British added a group of people to the St. Augustine mixture. From the Island of Minorca ( a
British possession since 1713 but for centuries related to the Spanish province of Catalonia), Corsica,
Greece, and Italy people were recruited as indentured servants by Dr. Andrew Turnbull (in a business
adventure with Sir William Duncan) to go to New Smyrna Beach in Florida to create an indigo plantation.
On April 17, 1768 leaving Gibraltar the ships Charming Betsy, Elizabeth, Friendship, New Fortune,Henry
and Carolina, Hope, American Soldier, and Betsey carried 1403 passengers of which 1,255 arrived in
Florida. The first four ships arrived in St. Augustine on June 26, 1768. In 1766 letters of recommendation
for Dr. Turnbull were being sent to Gov. Grant. Dr. Turnbull came recommended to Gov. Grant by Lord
Shelburne. Shelburne listed him as "a Gentleman of real worth, knowledge, and abilities." Turnbull would
become the secretary of the colony.
In 1769 the colonists tried to escape the plantation. A riot ensued where the storehouse was broken into
and one of the overseers Mr. Cutter was wounded and had an ear and two fingers cut off. The action was
put down on orders of Governor Grant by Major Whitmore the Ninth Regimental Commander on the H.M.
S. East Florida and another ship. 5 leaders were convicted and sentenced to death. Gov. Grant pardoned
Georgi Stephanopoli, Clotha Corona and Elia Medi. Carlo Forni and Massodoti were hung under the
supervision of Mr. Woodbridge the Sheriff.
In March of 1777 a delegation of the New Smyrna inhabitants came to St. Augustine and requested an
appointment with Governor Tonyn. This group had no effect. A later group of 90 returned and Governor
Tonyn was more favorable to their case. The Governor first turned to Attorney General Gordon. Then Mr.
Younge, a justice, brought proceedings on their part and they remained in St. Augustine. The cases were
dispositioned to the Clerk of the Pleas, Spencer Man, a justice of peace. The courts ordered the New
Smyrna colonists released from their contracts. By November 9, 1777 Father Camps was the last
Minorcans to leave New Smyrna.
The Minorcans history starts in the British years and continues through today. This will keep the Catholic
Church alive in the British period and begin the Orthodox experience in St. Augustine. Today in St.
Augustine on St. George Street you have the opportunity to tour the St. Photos shrine.
Dr. Father Pedro Camps was the Minorcans priest that enabled the community to stay together. He had
arrived with Father Bartolome Casanovas. However for his advocacy of the Minorcan community Father
Casanovas was banished. Father Camps kept the records of the births, deaths, and marriages in the
Minorcan community in a book today called the Golden Book of the Minorcans. November 9, 1777 the
New Smyrna church was transferred to St. Augustine. Father Camps lived in St. Augustine till his death in
the 2nd Spanish Period on May 19, 1790. At the Cathedral today you can see a statue of Father Camps.
The statue is nearly 8 feet high and weights 2,000 lbs. The sculptor is Joseph Viladomat of Barcelona,
Spain. It was dedicated in 1975.
In 1768 a reorganization of the military took place. St. Augustine became the main station for troops in the
Southern District and the headquarters of the Southern Brigade. Between August 1768 and March 1769 12
companies of the 21st and 31st regiments were moved from West Florida to St. Augustine. The 21st moved
on to Charleston till quarters could be created in St. Augustine. By 1770 various troop movements caused a
reduction of strength in St. Augustine.
By 1770 the Church at the Mission of La Leche had become the military hospital. Robert Catherwood was
the first surgeon of the military hospital.
James Grant left St. Augustine on May 9, 1771 placing John Moultrie in charge. Moultrie's contributions
were public works programs in St. Augustine (conversion of the Bishop's House into a State House, bridge
across the San Sebastian River, court house and a jail) and the King's Road connecting the town with the
Mosquitoes plantations to the south and the St. Marys River to the north.
Thomas Woolridge, a hanger-on of the Earl of Dartmouth, who obtained successively and held concurrently
the offices of provost marshal, fort adjutant and barrack master in St. Augustine on the military
establishment, and receiver general of quit rents (a pure sinecure), was suspended by Moultrie in July 1772
for leaving the province without obtaining the requisite permission.
In 1774 Colonel Patrick Tonyn (picture on tile at Oldest House) would become the second British governor
of East Florida. He was commissioned as Governor on July 22, 1773 but it took till March 1, 1774 to reach
the colony. He would engage in disputes with Dr. Turnbull and Chief Justice William Drayton (Drayton was
the 3rd Chief Justice with Grover being the 2nd) that would create difficulties for the colony and eventually
drive both men from Florida (Drayton was removed as Chief Justice after disagreements with Moultrie. He
would later become a patriot in South Carolina.) An elected House of Assembly was formed by the British
on March 27, 1781. The colony was governed by the Governor, Royal Council, and the courts. One of the
members of the council was Captain Frederick George Mulcaster, the engineer at St. Augustine. He was the
brother of King George III. His eldest son was born in St. Augustine.
During the American Revolution Augustin Prevost (portrait) became the British Commandant of East
Florida. He had fought under Wolfe at the Battle of Quebec. However, his part in the capture of Martinique
and Havana linked him to St. Augustine early. He brought the Royal American Regiment (60th) with him.
This regiment had been formed after Braddock's defeat in the French and Indian War and had a service
uniform of neutral colors instead of the red coats.
Jacob Van Braam (1725–1784)
Another member of the Royal American Regiment was Jacob Van Braam. He had early experience in the
Dutch army and was the translator of George Washington at the beginning battle of the French and Indian
War where George Washington would say that he mistranslated the French for assassination for
Washington's role in the death of Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville. In 1775 Jacob Van Braam
rejoined the Royal American Regiment and served at Saint Augustine in East Florida and as a captain in the
British campaign in Georgia.
There is virtually nothing to see of the British twenty years in St. Augustine except far down Marine Street
across from the Florida National Guard is the Bakery (picture).
In August, 1775, a British vessel, called the Betsey commanded by Capt. Lofthouse, from London was
captured by the Americans from South Carolina in the Commerce off the bar of St. Augustine. The vessel
carried 111 barrels of gunpowder. The British Navy would successfully patrol the ocean, inter coastal, and
rivers. Captain William Lynford, Jr. was the chief harbor pilot of Savannah Georgia who fled to St.
Augustine. He ended up as a pilot for a British-man-of-war on the coast of Florida. One of many new
When the news of the signing of the Declaration of Independence was received in St. Augustine, John
Adams (or Samuel Adams see James Grant Forbes History of St. Augustine)and John Hancock were
burned in effigy in the plaza (in this spot in the second Spanish period they wanted to erect a monument to
Cortes). William Moultrie, the brother of John Moultrie, was the American Commander of the first
attempted invasion of Florida. Fort Moultrie in Charleston harbor was later named for him.
By October 1775 the regular garrison was reduced to 35 soldiers of the 16th Foot and some local
militiamen. Governor Tonyn prepared for Florida's defense. Fort Tonyn was built where the King's Road
from St. Augustine crossed the St. Mary's River. Forts existed at Picolata, Anastasia, Matanzas and
Smyrna. Another fort was constructed at Cowford (Jacksonville) on the St. John's River.
On November 2, 1775 Governor Tonyn issued a proclamation that invited the loyal to come to Florida and
promising them free land. Starting in the spring of 1778 large groups of Loyalist exiles from South Carolina
arrived in Florida. The men formed two small regiments - the South Carolina Royalists and the Royal North
Carolina Regiment. Other men enlisted in Browne's Rangers.
On August 20 residents were summoned by Governor Tonyn to create a Battalion of militia. John Moultrie
was selected as Colonel, Robert Bisset as Lieut Col. and Benjamin Dood as Major. It was eventually
formed into 8 companies but never properly mustered. They were also attempting to recruit four black
A company of 200 men were formed with Col. Fuser in command for garrison duty in the fort. Walter
Stewart, a member of the militia, was found with a comb belonging to Captain Sawyer of the Porcupine. His
punishment was to be lashed to a cannon and flogger. This incident caused a substantial amount of protest
within the militia ranks.
The Florida East Coast Rangers
The Florida East Coast Rangers was organized here in 1776. (General Return) These solders were
commanded by Thomas Browne from Augusta, Georgia. He had been tarred, feathered, and partially
scalped by the Georgians for his loyalty to King George III. He was authorized to raise seven companies of
white troops and four blacks. In addition Chief Cowcatcher of the Seminoles supplied Indian troops. (Copy
of Governor Tonyn's orders on the invasion of Georgia.) By 1779 they were reorganized and placed into a
provincial infantry regiment as the King's Rangers.
Revolutionary War Prisoners
In the fall of 1776 the first batch of prisoners arrive in St. Augustine from Virginia. There were 28 prisoners
and their slaves sent by Lord Dunmore. Some were kept on the sloop Otter that was used as a prison ship.
Some including Col. Lawson and Captain Weltcoat were kept in the Fort.
Reverend John Kennedy arrived in 1777 with a royal appointment to the Free Schools in East Florida as
schoolmaster up to 1785. The subjects taught, according to a table of fees fixed by the Council in 1775, and
included English, writing, arithmetic, Latin and Greek.
On the Plaza you may notice next to King Street and the Government House a plaque that honors the
American signers of the Declaration of Independence that were kept here in the American Revolution.
Thomas Heyward Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge were the signers as well as many other
people who were held in town and at the Castillo (now called St. Marks by the British). Also held were
General Gadsden and Mr. Calhoun. General Gadsden (his son, the Rev. Dr. Phillip Gadsden was in the
American Period the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in the fall of 1825) and Mr. Calhoun refused parole
and were held at the fort. Eventually General Rutherford and Col. Isaacs of North Carolina joined them.
The Patriots were captured in the fall of Charleston, South Carolina. Josiah Smith was one of a group of
thirty-seven Charlestonians who, in spite of the parole, were sent to St. Augustine, Florida, in 1780. Smith
remained in St. Augustine for about a year, when the British exchanged him sending him to Philadelphia.
Some French were also held prisoners here. They included Chevalier De Bretigny, sixteen of his officers,
and two hundred of his enlisted men who were captured by the British Florida Navy. Included in this group
was at least one person who would report back to France on the possibility of taking St. Augustine. There
were at least 17 French vessels taken from the Charleston area with crews (over 400 people) to St.
Augustine. These people were originally kept on Anastasia Island in the tower on the lighthouse. However
as the group increased in size they were given liberty for the island. These men were finally sent on to the
Spanish sailors were also held in St. Augustine. At least 52 total were held but they were given privileges to
wonder about St. Augustine. One can only wonder if it was a homecoming for any of them.
William Brown served as Tonyn's Commissary for Prisoners. Lieut Col. Glazier served as Tonyn's
Secretary and Commandant of the Army.
Of course, there is one other British landmark that almost every tourist to St. Augustine experiences -- St.
George Street named after good, old King George III.
In 1780 the brig Bellona under Captain Harrison from North Carolina drifted on to Anastasia Island. The
crew of 70 plus men was made prisoners by the guards in the light house. Some were held there and some
were taken to the fort. Some of the European captives entered the 60th Regiment and some joined the
The Tolomato Cemetery
The Tolomato cemetery was started during the British period as a burial place for Minorcans. Later it
became a general Catholic cemetery. Many famous St. Augustine residents were buried there including
Father Camps, Father Verela, Bishop Jean Verot, and General Jorge Biassou. The site was the location of
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Tolomato, a church, for the mission of the Tolomato Indians from
Georgia. Before the British arrived it was used by German immigrants for a church.
East Florida Assembly
By March, 1781 the dream of a East Florida Assembly finally became a reality. It's first act was a militia act
that allowed for an unlimited number of slaves to be drafted and used as a labor force or soldiers. The
authority was shared between the Assembly, the Council, and the Governor. The Assembly met in the State
house that stood where Trinity Church is now located. John Moultrie was president of the council at this
point with Reverend John Forbes, Henry Yonge, James Hume, Col. Thomas Brown and John Holmes.
At the end of the Revolution a German traveler by the name of Johann D. Schoepf visited St. Augustine and
discovered a black Baptist minister preaching to a black congregation in a cabin outside town.
End of British Rule
The Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution and the resulting treaty with Spain ended the British
colony of Florida. The 60th Regiment were among the last British soldiers to be removed from St. Augustine
(image of 60th cartridge box found in Florida) . This was done in October of 1782. They were replaced by
provincial troops of the King's Rangers two regiments from North and South Carolina under the command
of Colonel Archbald McArthur. November 1783 three companies of the 37th Regiment arrived from New
York. On July 12, 1784 Governor Tonyn and General McArthur delivered the Castillo to Spanish
Governor Vicente Manuel de Cespedes.
Go to 2nd Spanish Period
|Like us on
|Map of British Colonies
|St. Augustine of Hippo