This is the location of what is almost certainly the least-known important battle in American history, the Battle of Bloody Marsh, 1742, Saint Simon's Island, Georgia. The victors were the British, the vanquished Spanish.
After this battle, the Spanish empire abandoned all of North America north of present-day Florida. Before the battle, Spain had claimed all land presently comprising Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
Georgia was the last of the 13 future-USA colonies to be settled, partly because Spain had claimed it in the 1500s. Britain wanted Georgia and called the territory south of South Carolina "debatable land." They (and the Spanish) knew that the debate would be carried out by gunfire, not rhetoric.
The main British figure was James Oglethorpe, a former member of Parliament who could have lived at ease in Britain. But he wangled a commission from King George II to establish British settlements in Georgia. He started with Savannah in 1733 and in 1736 established a coastal fort at Saint Simons Island that he named Fort Frederica, after the Prince of Wales (using the feminine form because there already was a Fort Frederick in South Carolina).
|The ruins of Fort Frederica today with three cannon. The nearest two|
are of the period, though not of this fort. The far cannon was emplaced
here when the fort was active.
|The town of Frederica. There were many houses here once. The ruins |
of the military garrison building stand in the distance.
Campaigns moved slowly then. The Spanish moved against Saint Simons in 1742. They captured Fort Saint Simons quickly after Oglethorpe ordered it abandoned and burned. The Spanish then set up to cross the island, which was heavily overgrown and marshy in that day.
The leading Spanish element was a recon patrol, sent to find landward approaches to Fort Frederica. In this it failed, but Oglethorpe's Indian allies reported the patrol was within a half-mile of the fort. Oglethorpe, who had a bit of a temper and impulsiveness, rounded up some Highlander soldiers and set forth to ambush the Spanish. This he did, joined by numerous Chicksaw, Yamacraw and Creek warriors.
The skirmish lasted less than an hour, but it cost the Spanish recon element 36 killed or captured, about a third of their number, including an officer second in command of all the Spanish troops. The rest fled toward Fort Saint Simons, where they encountered a relief force of Spanish troops coming to their rescue. This firefight became known as the Battle of Gully Hole Creek.
Meanwhile, Oglethorpe learned from interrogated prisoners that a larger Spanish force was planned to come down the single, narrow road connecting Fort Frederica with Fort Saint Simons. He marched to a position where he could ambush the Spanish as they crossed a causeway across a marsh. Once there, he decided he needed more troops and personally rode back to Fort Frederica to get them.
|North is at the bottom of this map|
Finally, the Spanish commander decided to withdraw, which was just as well since many of his troops had already done so in a freelance manner. After two more weeks of each side jockeying for position and advantage, but no fighting, a British fleet arrived and the Spanish abandoned the island. As it turned out, Spain never pressed a claim for Georgia again.
On the British side the two battles were greatly exaggerated, while on the Spanish they were greatly minimized. The Spanish commander, Manuel Mantiano, claimed that he lost only seven killed at the marsh, while the British said they killed at least 200 and the marsh's waters ran red with Spanish blood (hence the name of the battle).
The next year, Oglethorpe (now a national hero) left for Britain, where he married an heiress. He stayed in Britain the rest of his life and never returned to Georgia. There was only a little more fighting in the Americas until the war ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. The treaty ceded Georgia to Britain; in 1763 Spain gave Florida to Britain as well in a territory exchange under the Treaty of Paris.
With the end of Spain's threat to Georgia, Fort Frederica had no purpose. Britain pulled the 42nd Regiment of Foot from the fort in 1749, though a tiny garrison remained there until at least 1774. The town adjacent faltered without the garrison and by 1755 was mostly empty. Most of the town burned in 1758 and all but a tiny number of the few residents left.
Today the fort and the town's remains are owned by the National Park Service and are open to the public. Their combined layout is interesting in that both the fort and the town are surrounded by ramparts.
|A cannon actually emplaced at Fort Frederica in its active days.|
|Wide shot of the fort. The ramparts are merely short |
ridges now and only one building remains above ground.
|Looking down Broad Street of the town of Frederica. Very little|
remains of the town today.