Spanish Florida


Spanish Florida

Spanish Florida (Spanish: "La Florida") refers to the Spanish colony of Florida. The Spanish first landed on the peninsula in 1513, and laid claim to the land from 1565 to 1763 and again from 1784 to 1821. The Spanish claimed a colony larger than the state that was established; during the 1560s their claim extended as far north as Santa Elena on what is now called Parris Island in South Carolina.

Early colonization

Several tribes of Native Americans were living in Florida when Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León arrived in 1513, reportedly searching for the Fountain of Youth. He sighted Florida for the first time, mistaking it for an island, on March 27, 1513, and subsequently landed on the east coast of the newly discovered land on April 2, 1513. He named the land "La Pascua Florida", having landed there during the Spanish Easter feast, Pascua Florida.

Ponce de León returned with equipment and settlers to start a colony in 1521, but they were driven off by repeated attacks from the native population. The earliest records of inland Florida are those of conquest survivors. Pánfilo de Narváez explored Florida's west coast in 1528, but was lost at sea upon his attempted seaward escape to Mexico. One of his expedition's officers, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, survived nine years trudging between Florida and Mexico, and returned to Spain and published his observations. He inspired Hernando de Soto's invasion of Florida in 1539. Members of his expedition later published details of Florida's natives, their lifestyles and behavior. In 1559, Tristán de Luna y Arellano established a brief settlement in Pensacola; it was abandoned in 1561.

The French began taking an interest in the area, as well, leading the Spanish to accelerate their colonization plans. Jean Ribault led an expedition to Florida in 1562, and René Goulaine de Laudonnière founded Fort Caroline in what is now Jacksonville, in 1564, as a haven for Huguenot settlers.

The Spanish founded San Agustín (St. Augustine in English) in 1565. Settled by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it was the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States and the oldest that has been continuously occupied. From this base of operations, the Spanish began building Roman Catholic missions throughout what is today the southeastern United States.

In 1565, Menéndez de Avilés attacked Fort Caroline, killed all the French soldiers defending it (except Catholics), and renamed the Fort San Mateo. Two years later, Dominique de Gourgues recaptured the fort from the Spanish and slaughtered all of the Spanish defenders.

In 1586, English sea captain, and sometimes pirate, Sir Francis Drake plundered and burned St. Augustine.

Throughout the 17th century, English settlers in Virginia and the Carolinas gradually pushed the boundaries of Spanish territory south, while the French settlements along the Mississippi River encroached on the western borders of the Spanish claim. In 1702, English Colonel James Moore and the allied Creek Indians attacked and razed the town of St. Augustine, but they could not gain control of the fort. In 1704, Moore and his soldiers began burning Spanish missions in north Florida and executing Indians friendly with the Spanish. In 1719, the French captured the Spanish settlement at Pensacola.

It was during this period that the peoples who would become the Seminoles began their migration to Florida

Possession by Britain

In 1763, Spain traded Florida to Great Britain in exchange for control of Havana, Cuba, which had been captured by the British during the Seven Years' War. Almost the entire Spanish population departed the area, along with almost all of the remaining indigenous population. The British divided the territory into East Florida and West Florida, and began aggressive recruitment programs designed to attract settlers to the area, offering free land and backing for export-oriented businesses. See West Florida Controversy.

In 1767, the British moved the northern boundary of West Florida to a line extending from the mouth of the Yazoo River east to the Chattahoochee River (32° 22′ north latitude), consisting of approximately the lower third of the present states of Mississippi and Alabama.

During this time, there was a migration of Creek Indians into Florida, leading to the formation of the Seminole tribe. The tribe was made up of mostly Lower Creeks from Georgia, Mikasuki-speaking Central Musckogees, and escaped African American slaves (see Black Seminoles), and, to a lesser extent, whites and Indians from other tribes. The aboriginal peoples of Florida had been devastated by war and disease, and it is thought most of the survivors accompanied the Spanish settlers when they left for other colonies in 1763. This left wide expanses of territory open to the Lower Creeks, who had been in conflict with the Upper Creeks of Alabama for years. The Seminole originally occupied the wooded areas of northern Florida, and eventually spread as far south as the Everglades, where many of their descendants remain today.

Britain retained control over Florida during the American Revolutionary War, but the Spanish, by that time allied with the French who were actively at war with Britain, recaptured most of West Florida. In 1783, at the end of the American Revolutionary War, the Treaty of Versailles (1783) between the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Spain returned all of Florida to Spanish control, but without specifying its boundaries. The Spanish favored the expanded boundary, while the United States, which received control of the lands to its north, recognized the old boundary at the 31st parallel. In the Treaty of San Lorenzo of 1795 with the United States, Spain recognized the 31st parallel as the border.

econd Spanish colony

In the early 19th century, Spain offered generous land packages in Florida as a means of attracting settlers, and colonists began to settle in substantial numbers, both from Spain and from the United States. After settler attacks on Indian towns, Indians based in Florida began raiding Georgia settlements, purportedly at the behest of the Spanish. The United States Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817–1818 campaign against the Seminole by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. Following the war, the United States effectively controlled East Florida.

The Adams-Onís Treaty was signed between the United States and Spain on February 22, 1819 and took effect on July 10, 1821. According to the terms of the treaty, the United States acquired the Florida Territory, and, in exchange, renounced all its claims to Texas.

ee also

*History of Florida
*New Spain
*Colonial America
*Spanish colonization of the Americas
*East Florida
*West Florida
*Spanish missions in Florida
*Spanish missions in Georgia


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