Battle of St. Augustine

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Contemporary engraving by Thomas Silver depicting the British assault on Spanish St. Augustine, Florida, in June 1740.

Transcription of Silver’s Map:

“A View of the Town and Castle of St. Augustine, and the English Camp before it June 20, 1740. By Thos. Silver.

  1. The English South Trench [?] 3 18 Pounders & 2 small Morters
  2. A Marsh from whence we played with 20 Cohorns
  3. Eustatia Island, which is chiefly Sand & Bushes
  4. Sailors hawling Cannon in reach of the Castle
  5. A North Trench 3 18 prs & a Mortar of 24:1:10
  6. Genl. Oglethrop’s Soliders, Indians & Sailors Tents
  7. A Lookout taken the 12th of June
  8. Soldiers and Sailors landing June the 11th
  9. A Sand Battery quited at our Approach
  10. Capt. Warren Commander over the Sailors hoisting the Union Flag on board a Schooner
  11. The Sailors wells to Water the Shiping


  1. Flamborough
  2. Hector
  3. Squirrel
  4. Tartar
  5. Phoenix
  6. Woolf
  7. Spence

Employ’d in this Expedition about 200 Seamen 400 Sailors and 300 Indians

Forces of the Spaniards 1000 besides a Strong Castle and 4 Fortified Barks and a Shallow River hindring our Shippings Playing on them.

An Account of the Siege of St. Augustine in the letter on Board ye Hector. May 30 we arrived near St. Augustine, June 1st we were join’d by the Flamborough. Capt. Pearse, the Phoenix Capt. Fanshaw, the Tartar Capt. Towshend and the Squirrel Capt. Warren of 20 Guns each besides the Spense Sloop Capt Laws, and the Wolf Capt. Dandrige.

On the 2d Col Vander Dufen with 300 Carolina Soldiers appear’d on the North of the Town. On the 9th Genl. Oglethorpe came by Sea with 300 Soldiers and 300 Indians from Georgia. On the 10th they were carried a Shore in the Men of Wars boats under the cover of the small Ships Guns. They Landed on the Island Eustatia without Opposition and took the Look-out at G.

The 13th Capt. Warren in a Schooner and other Armed Sloops and Pettyaugers anchored in their Harbor just out of Cannon shot till the 26th when the Sailors were employed in landing Ordnance and other Stores within Reach of the Enemys Cannon. On which Occasion they discover’d a surprising Spirit and Intrepidity. The same night two Batteries were rais’d, but too far off.

The 27th the General Summon’d the Governor to Surrender, who sent word he should be glad to shake hands with him in his Castle. This haughty answer was occasioned by a dear bought Victory, which 500 Spaniards had obtained over 80 Highlanders 50 of whom were slain, but died like Heroes killing thrice their number.

The 29th bad Weather obliged the men of War to put to sea out of [?] but one man had be kill’d. Hereupon the Siege was raised.”

Start Date: June 13, 1740

End Date: July 20, 1740

Unsuccessful British siege of Spanish-controlled St. Augustine, Florida, that took place during June-July 1740 and the Anglo- Spanish War (1739-1744). In 1733, James Oglethorpe founded the colony of Georgia at Savannah, near the mouth of the Savannah River. He established Georgia on land already claimed by Spain.

From the start, Oglethorpe made preparations for an eventual confrontation with Spain, biding his time until he could muster sufficient strength to attack St. Augustine, then Spain’s most valuable stronghold in Florida. Meanwhile, London, wary of starting a war with Spain in the New World, restrained Oglethorpe from any effort to realize his military ambitions.

Assaulting St. Augustine would not be easy. Barrier islands protected the Spanish post, and the harbor was too shallow for large warships to approach. Occasional breaks between the islands did provide inlets through which smaller ships could approach St. Augustine and its principal defensive bastion, the Castillo de San Marcos.

The beginning of the Anglo-Spanish War in 1739 (the War of Jenkins’ Ear) led London to encourage Oglethorpe to launch raids against the Spanish to his south, and in late winter 1739, Oglethorpe began making preparations for an attack on St. Augustine by both land and sea. Oglethorpe’s land force of some 180 colonists and Native Americans easily took the small satellite forts to the north and west of St. Augustine: Mosé, Picolata, and Pupo. His primary forces arrived by sea off St. Augustine in eight ships on June 13, 1740, providing Oglethorpe with an additional 1,000 colonial troops and 200 Native American warriors, most of the latter being Cherokees.

Almost immediately the English secured control of Anastasia, the barrier island directly across from the Castillo. Seven hundred fifty Spanish troops defending the fort now faced Oglethorpe’s 1,400 men.

The Spanish governor of St. Augustine, Manuel de Montiano, dispatched an immediate appeal to Cuba for reinforcements and supplies. As with their assault on St. Augustine in 1702, it soon became apparent to the English that their only hope of victory was to starve out the fort’s defenders. Montiano estimated that he had rations for less than a month. Unlike Gov. Joseph de Zuñiga y Cerda, who had defended the fortress in 1702, Montiano was unwilling to wage a purely defensive battle.

Taking advantage of the fact that English land and naval forces were scattered because of the geography of the harbor and could thus not effectively coordinate defensive measures, Montiano mounted a sortie that reclaimed Fort Mosé on June 26.

Oglethorpe then initiated a bombardment of the Castillo de San Marcos that lasted 27 days. The fort was spared the full impact of the cannon fire, however, because of the shallow water and the resultant distance of Oglethorpe’s ships from the stronghold. Further adding to Oglethorpe’s troubles was the unique character of the fort’s walls. It was constructed of coquina, a soft lime-stone formed by compressed shell fragments. Rather than shatter on impact, the walls absorbed the shock of cannon balls with surprising ease.

The greatest danger to the defenders was starvation, and in early July, Montiano ordered half rations. At the same time he received the welcome news that Spanish relief ships had been spotted off the coast approximately 70 miles to the south. Unfortunately for Montiano, these ships were unable to gain the harbor because Ogle – thorpe’s ships were guarding most of the navigable inlets that allowed access past the barrier islands to the inland passage. Montiano then dispatched five shallow-draft boats to retrieve the supplies. Waiting until an English warship was out of sight of the Matanzas Inlet, these boats were able to slip into the inland passage and reach the fort on July 3. By mid-July, Oglethorpe’s men were badly demoralized. Suffering from the heat and mosquitoes, they were close to mutiny. With hope of a quick victory evaporating and with hurricane season about to begin, on July 20 Oglethorpe lifted the siege and sailed for Savannah.

References Arnade, Charles W. “Raids, Sieges, and International Wars.” In The New History of Florida, edited by Michael Gannon, 100-116. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996. Baine, Rodney E. “General James Oglethorpe and the Expedition Against St. Augustine.” Georgia Historical Quarterly 84 (2000): 197-229. Waterbury, Jean Parker, ed. The Oldest City: St. Augustine, Saga of Survival. St. Augustine, FL: St. Augustine Historical Society, 1983.

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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