Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fort Frederica National Monument - St. Simons Island, Georgia

Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island has been one of my favorite historic sites since my parents took me there when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. It is hard not to be fascinated with the massive old oaks and the picturesque ruins of Oglethorpe's colonial settlement.

The fort was established in 1736 by English General James Oglethorpe, the founder of the Georgia colony, who anticipated that it would serve as a barrier to Spanish attacks on his fledgling colony and its capital of Savannah. His plan proved very prophetic.

The War of Jenkins' Ear (named for the severed ear of a captured English sea captain) spread to America and Oglethorpe launched a campaign against St. Augustine, Florida, in an effort to capture the Spanish capital. He was unable to reduce the powerful fort of Castillo de San Marcos and withdrew back to Georgia. Two years later, in 1742, Spanish Governor Don Manuel de Montiano retaliated by leading a fleet of warships and an army of 5,000 men north to Georgia.

Fort Frederica by that time had evolved into a powerful citadel on the riverfront and a growing English village surrounded by a stout wall of earth and timber. Spanish ships briefly engaged the cannon of the fort and Montiano attempted to carry out land operations but was defeated by the English at the Battles of Gully Hole Creek and Bloody Marsh.

Frederica survived, as did Oglethorpe's colony of Georgia. Peace returned to the frontier and Georgia grew. The return of peace, however, ultimately spelled the end of Fort Frederica. There was no need for the garrison there and with the end of the garrison came the end of the English village on St. Simons Island. The town dwindled away, was largely destroyed by fire before the American Revolution and ultimately was reclaimed by the forest.

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