HOW OGLETHORPE SAVED GEORGIA FROM SPAIN
 ON the 5th day of July, in the year 1742, unwonted signs of activity might have been seen in
the usually deserted St. Simon's harbor, on the coast of Georgia. Into that sequestered
bay there sailed a powerful squadron of fifty-six well-armed war-vessels, one of them
carrying twenty-four guns and two of them twenty guns each, while there was a large
following of smaller vessels. A host of men in uniform crowded the decks of these vessels,
and the gleam of arms gave lustre to the scene. It was a strong Spanish fleet, sent to
wrest the province of Georgia from English hands, and mayhap to punish these intruders in
the murderous way that the Spaniards had punished the French Huguenots two centuries
In all the time that had elapsed since the discovery of America, Spain had made only one
settlement on the Atlantic coast of the United States, that of St. Augustine in Florida.
But slow as they were in taking possession, they were not slow in making claims, for they
looked, on Florida as extending to the Arctic zone. More than once had they tried to'
drive the English out of Charleston, and now they were about to make a similar effort in
Georgia. That colony had been settled, only ten years before,
 on land which Spain claimed as her own, and the English were not there long before
hostilities began. In 1739 General Oglethorpe, the proprietor of Georgia, invaded Florida
and laid siege to St. Augustine. He failed in this undertaking, and in 1742 the Spaniards
prepared to take revenge, sending the strong fleet mentioned against their foes. It looked
as if Georgia would be lost to England, for on these vessels were five thousand men, a
force greater than all Georgia could raise.
Oglethorpe knew that the Spaniards were coming, and made hasty preparations to meet them.
Troops of rangers were raised, the planters were armed, fortifications built, and a ship
of twenty-two guns equipped. But with all his efforts his force was pitifully small as
compared with the great Spanish equipment. Besides the ship named, there were some small
armed vessels and a shore battery, with which the English for four hours kept up a weak
contest with their foes. Then the fleet sailed past the defences and up the river before a
strong breeze, and Oglethorpe was obliged to spike the guns and destroy the war-material
at Fort St. Simon's and withdraw to the stronger post of Frederica, where he proposed to
make his stand. Not long afterward the Spaniards landed their five thousand men four miles
below Frederica. These marched down the island and occupied the deserted fort.
There may not seem to our readers much of interest in all this, but when it is learned
that against the fifty-six ships and more than five
thou-  sand men of the Spaniards the utmost force that General Oglethorpe could muster consisted
of two ships and six hundred and fifty-two men, including militia and Indians, and that
with this handful of men he completely baffled his assailants, the case grows more
interesting. It was largely an example of tactics against numbers, as will be seen on
reading the story of how the Spaniards were put to the right about and forced to flee in
On the 7th of July some of the Georgia rangers discovered a small body of Spanish troops
within a mile of Frederica. On learning of their approach, Oglethorpe did not wait for
them to attack him in his not very powerful stronghold, but at once advanced with a party
of Indians and rangers, and a company of Highlanders who were on parade. Ordering the
regiment to follow, he hurried forward with this small detachment, proposing to attack the
invaders while in the forest defiles and before they could deploy in the open plain near
So furious was his charge and so utter the surprise of the Spaniards that nearly their
entire party, consisting of one hundred and twenty-five of their best woodsmen and
forty-five Indians, were either killed, wounded, or made prisoners. The few fugitives were
pursued for several miles through the forest to an open meadow or savannah. Here the
general posted three platoons of the regiment and a company of Highland foot under cover
of the wood, so that any Spaniards advancing through the meadow would have to pass under
their fire. Then
 he hastened back to Frederica and mustered the remainder of his force.
Just as they were ready to march, severe firing was heard in the direction of the ambushed
troops. Oglethorpe made all haste towards them and met two of the platoons in full
retreat. They had been driven from their post by Don Antonia Barba at the head of three
hundred grenadiers and infantry, who had pushed through the meadow under a drifting rain
and charged into the wood with wild huzzas and rolling drums.
OLD SPANISH FORT, ST. AUGUSTINE.
The affair looked very bad for the English. Forced back by a small advance-guard of the
invaders, what would be their fate when the total Spanish army came upon them? Oglethorpe
was told that the whole force had been routed, but on looking over the men before him he
saw that one platoon and a company of rangers were missing. At the same time the sound of
firing came from the woods at a distance, and he ordered the officers to rally their men
and follow him.
Let us trace the doings of the missing men. Instead of following their retreating
comrades, they had, under their officers, Lieutenants Sutherland and MacKay, made a
skilful detour in the woods to the rear of the enemy, reaching a point where t(e road
passed from the forest to the open marsh across a small semicircular cove. Here they
formed an ambuscade in a thick grove of palmettos which nearly surrounded the narrow pass.
They had not been there long when the Spaniards
 returned in high glee from their pursuit. Reaching this open spot, well protected from
assault as it appeared by the open morass on one side and the crescent-shaped hedge of
palmettos and underwood on the other, they deemed themselves perfectly secure, stacking
their arms and throwing themselves on the ground to rest after their late exertions.
The ambushed force had keenly watched their movements from their hiding-place, preserving
utter silence as the foe entered the trap. At length Sutherland and MacKay raised the
signal of attack, a Highland cap upon a sword, and in an instant a deadly fire was poured
upon the unsuspecting enemy. Volley after volley succeeded, strewing the ground with the
dead and dying. The Spaniards sprang to their feet in confusion and panic. Some of their
officers attempted to reform their broken ranks, but in vain; all discipline was gone,
orders were unheard, safety alone was sought. In a minute more, with a Highland shout, the
platoon burst upon them with levelled bayonet and gleaming claymore, and they fled like
panic-stricken deer; some to the marsh, where they mired and were captured; some along the
defile, where they were cut down; some to the thicket, where they became entangled and
lost. Their defeat was complete, only a few of them escaping to their camp. Barba, their
leader, was mortally wounded; other officers and one hundred and sixty privates were
killed; the prisoners numbered twenty. The feat of arms was as brilliant as it was
successful, and Oglethorpe, who did
 not reach the scene of action till the victory was gained, promoted the two young officers
on the spot as a reward for their valor and military skill. The scene of the action has
ever since been known as the Bloody Marsh."
The enterprise of the Spaniards had so far been attended by misfortune, a fact which
caused dissention among their leaders. Learning of this, Oglethorpe resolved to surprise
them by a night attack. On the 12th he marched with five hundred men until within a mile
of the Spanish quarters, and after nightfall went forward with a small party to
reconnoitre. His purpose was to attack them, if all appeared favorable, but he was foiled
by the treachery of a Frenchman in his ranks, who fired his musket and deserted to the
enemy under cover of the darkness. Disconcerted by this unlucky circumstance, the general
withdrew his reconnoitering party; reaching his men, he distributed the drummers about the
wood to represent a large force, and ordered them to beat the grenadier's march. This they
did for half an hour; then, all being still, they retreated to Frederica.
The defection of the Frenchman threw the general into a state of alarm. The fellow would
undoubtedly tell the Spaniards how small a force opposed them, and advise them that, with
their superior land and naval forces, they could easily surround and destroy the English.
In this dilemma it occurred to him to try the effect of stratagem, and seek to discredit
the traitor's story.
 He wrote a letter in French, as if from a friend of the deserter, telling him that he had
received the money, and advising him to make every effort to convince the Spanish
commander that the English were very weak. He suggested to him to offer to pilot up their
boats and galleys, and to bring them under the woods where he knew the hidden batteries
were. If he succeeded in this, his pay would be doubled. If he could not do this, he was
to use all his influence to keep them three days more at Fort St. Simon's. By that time
the English would be reinforced by two thousand infantry and six men-of-war which had
already sailed from Charleston. In a postscript he was cautioned on no account to mention
that Admiral Vernon was about to make an attack on St. Augustine.
This letter was given to a Spanish prisoner, who was paid a sum of money on his promise
that he would carry the letter privately and deliver it to the French deserter. The
prisoner was then secretly set free, and made his way back to the Spanish camp. After
being detained and questioned at the outposts he was taken before the general, Don Manuel
de Mantiano. So far all had gone as Oglethorpe hoped. The fugitive was asked how he
escaped and if he had any letters. When he denied having any he was searched and the decoy
letter found on his person. It was not addressed to any one, but on promise of pardon he
confessed that he had received money to deliver it to the Frenchman.
As it proved, the deserter had joined the English
 as a spy for the Spaniards. He earnestly protested that he was not false to his agreement;
that he knew nothing of any hidden battery or of the other contents of the letter, and
that he had received no money or had any correspondence with Oglethorpe. Some of the
general's council believed him, and looked on the letter as an English trick. But the most
of them believed him to be a double spy, and advised an immediate retreat. While the
council was warmly debating on this subject word was brought them that three vessels had
been seen off the bar. This settled the question in their minds. The fleet from Charleston
was at hand; if they stayed longer they might be hemmed in by sea and land; they resolved
to fly while the path to safety was still open. Their resolution was hastened by an
advance of Oglethorpe's small naval force down the stream, and a successful attack on
their fleet. Setting fire to the fort, they embarked so hastily that a part of their
military stores were abandoned, and fled as if from an overwhelming force, Oglethorpe
hastening their flight by pursuit with his few vessels.
Thus ended this affair, one of the most remarkable in its outcome of any in the military
history of the United States. For fifteen days General Oglethorpe, with little over six
hundred men and two armed vessels, had baffled the Spanish general with fifty-six ships
and five thousand men, defeating him in every encounter in the field, and at length, by an
ingenious stratagem, compelling him to retreat
 with the loss of several ships and much of his provisions, munitions, and artillery. In
all our colonial history there is nothing to match this repulse of such a formidable force
by a mere handful of men. It had the effect of saving Georgia, and perhaps Carolina, from
falling into the hands of the Spanish. From that time forward Spain made no effort to
invade the English colonies. The sole hostile action of the Spaniards of Florida was to
inspire the Indians of that peninsula to make raids in Georgia, and this annoyance led in
the end to the loss of Florida by Spain.