The Spaniards had not given up their claim to the territory of Georgia. As the English colony grew larger and built forts on the islands and along the rivers, the Spaniards in Florida became more and more jealous. Finally the king of Spain sent a message to the king of England to allow no more forts to be built in Georgia and to send no soldiers there. When this message was read in the King's Council, the Duke of Argyle said: "This should be answered, but not in the usual way---the replay should be a fleet of battle-ships on the coast of Spain." Spain threatened to invade and put an end to the colony of Georgia. England then declared war, October, 1739.
Fearing that the French and Spanish would alienate the good will of the Indians, Oglethorpe decided to go in person to a great meeting of the warriors at Coweta Town, three hundred miles from Savannah. Seven thousand warriors were to be present, and the safety of Georgia depended on their friendship. The journey was long and dangerous, but Oglethorpe did not allow the perils to deter him. With a few chosen friends he set out in July, 1739. Following the river for twenty-five miles, the party landed and submitted to the guidance of Indian traders. Across deep ravines, through tangled undergrowth and deep swamps where the horses would mire up, the travelers toiled for many weary weeks. Often they had to build rafts on which to cross the streams. The smaller ones they swam or waded through. At night Oglethorpe would wrap himself in his cloak, lay his head upon his saddle, and sleep on the ground. If it happened to be wet, he sought shelter under the trees or under tents made of cypress boughs. For over two hundred miles they neither saw a human dwelling nor met a living soul. At their journey's end the Indians met them with every expression of love and joy.
Oglethorpe soon won the hearts of the red men, and he made firm treaties of peace and friendship with them. As one of their beloved men, he drank of their black medicine and smoked the calumet, or pipe of peace. The importance of this treaty, in view of the approaching troubles with the Spaniards, cannot be overestimated.
The Spaniards began the war by landing a party of men on Amelia Island and killing two unarmed men who were engaged in carrying wood. After cutting off the heads and mangling the bodies of the men, they fled to their boats and sailed away. Oglethorpe called out a thousand soldiers and a troop of horse, and with a regiment of Highlanders went in pursuit of the Spaniards. He followed them up the St. John's River, burned all their boats, and drove them into the city of St. Augustine. He then returned to Frederica.
Oglethorpe next organized a large force of Indians and colonists to invade Florida, December, 1739. Going up the St. John's River, he sent before him a party of Indian scouts, who fell upon a small fort of the Spaniards at daylight and burned it to the ground. Going further, another fort was attacked and captured. This gave Oglethorpe possession of the St. John's River, and cut off the Spaniards in St. Augustine from their Indian allies.
Oglethorpe made up his mind to attack St. Augustine itself. In May, 1740 he left Frederica with nine hundred men and eleven hundred Indians. He captured first Fort St. Diego, nine miles from St. Augustine, with fifty-seven men and nine cannon. Fort Moosa, two miles from St. Augustine, was abandoned by the Spaniards when they heard of the approach of Oglethorpe, and the garrison retreated to the city.
Oglethorpe decided to attack the city both by land and sea. After making all arrangements and drawing the land troops up in order and giving the signal for the attack, it was found that the ships could not get close enough to the city to support the land forces. Accordingly, the plan of storming the city was abandoned, and a siege was begun.
In order to prevent any help reaching the city, Oglethorpe ordered one of his offices, Colonel Palmer, to take a body of men and scour the country; to be always on the march, showing himself everywhere; to pick up stragglers, cut off all supplies, deceive the enemy as to the strength of his force, and not rest two nights in the same place. Colonel Palmer disobeyed this last order, and stayed three nights at Fort Moosa. The Spanish herd that he was there, and surprised his men early one morning, killing over twenty of them, and recapturing the fort. This opened the way for supplies of food, of which the people already stood in need, to reach the city. Oglethorpe now resolved to storm the city. For twenty days his batteries threw shot and shell into the city. At the end of this time a fleet from Cuba came to the relief of the Spaniards. Moreover, many of his soldiers were sick, the climate was very hot, the Indians were growing restless, and Oglethorpe himself was not well.
The attack on St. Augustine was therefore reluctantly abandoned and the English returned to Frederica, July, 1740. Oglethorpe had lost four hundred and fifty men and four forts.
[To show the danger to which General Oglethorpe was exposed, the following story is told of his escape from the murderous designs of the dissatisfied soldiers. When Oglethorpe was on the Cumberland Island superintending the building of forts and earthworks, he was one day standing at the door of his hut conversing with an officer, Captain Mackay. One of the soldiers came up and in a rude and impertinent manner demanded more rations. Oglethorpe replied: "We have given you all we promised, which is enough; but if you need more, this rude speech and disrespectful behavior is not the proper way to get it." The man thereupon became very insolent. Captain Mackay drew his sword, but the soldier caught it, broke it in half, and threw the hilt at the captain's head. Rushing to the barracks, he seized a loaded gun, and crying out, "One and all," with five others ran back toward Oglethorpe. When they had approached quite near, one of them fired, the ball passing close to Oglethorpe's ear, the powder burning his clothes. Another aimed his piece, but it missed fire. A third drew his sword and thrust it at the general, who, having drawn his own sword, parried the thrust. At this time an officer rushed up and ran the ruffian through the body. The others fled, but were caught, tried, and shot for their mutinous conduct and murderous assault.]
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