Battle of Bloody Marsh on St Simons Island, Georgia 1742
Bloody Marsh Battle Site part of Fort Frederica National Monument on St Simons Island Georgia
In the 1742 Battle of Bloody Marsh on St. Simons Island, General Oglethorpe's soldiers defeated Spanish forces in what was the only Spanish invasion of Georgia during the War of Jenkins' Ear. The battle earned its name from its location rather than from the number of casualties, which were minimal. General Oglethorpe's English, Scottish Highlander, and Indian forces numbered around 650 men. Spanish Governor Montiano's invasion forces numbered 52 ships and over 2000 men.
A Clash of Cultures
The skirmish at Bloody Marsh was more than a battle. It was a clash of cultures --- each vying for control of what is now the southeastern United States.
Soldiers from Hispanic colonies in the New World fought under the Spanish banner, with the help of Indians and emancipated blacks from Florida. British defenders included English and Scottish immigrants and friendly Southeastern Indians. This British coalition fought effectively, and defeated the invading Spanish army on St. Simons Island.
This absolutely beautiful view is actually the site of a very important battle that shaped the course of American History
This is where the battle of "Bloody Marsh" was fought back in 1742.
Keep in mind that date of 1742. It was a long time ago. At that time there were established British Colonies along the northern coast of North America while Spain had colonized Florida. Coastal regions of Georgia were claimed by both the Spanish and British.
So here we are in 1742 and which country is going to claim and protect ownership of coastal Georgia is about to be decided.
The players in this action are:
Don Manuel de Montiano, a Spanish General and colonial administrator who served as Royal Governor of La Florida.
James Edward Oglethorpe, a British general , a philanthropist, and was the founder of the colony of Georgia. This colony was on St Simons Island.
View from the Battle of Bloody Marsh site on St Simons Island, Georgia
Now let's get down to what was happening that resulted in the Battle of Bloody Marsh on present day St Simons Island, Georgia.
In 1939 Oglethorpe led an invasion of Spanish controlled Florida in an attempt to drive the Spanish out of Florida. While he won considerable victories he failed to capture and hold St Augustine. Although Oglethorpe did lay siege to St Augustine for a considerable period of time.
In 1742 it was Montiano's turn to try and force Oglethorpe and the British out of Georgia.
The survival of Oglethorp's British colony in Georgia hung in the balance and it had only been in existence for six short years.
Montiano, and the Spanish organized an invasion of Georgia in mid-June 1742 with 2,000 to 5,000 soldiers.
The Spanish landed on the southern tip of St Simons Island, Georgia during the afternoon and evening of July 5. Reports state that as the Spanish fleet entered the harbor, Fort St. Simons' batteries opened fire, but the moving ships were difficult targets. Montaino's fleet landed and quickly captured Fort St. Simons which Montiano used as the Spanish headquarters during his campaign.
Oglethorpe and the British retreated to their heavily fortified defenses as Fort Frederica about 8-miles north on St Simons Island.
On the morning of Wednesday, July 7, nearly 200 Spaniards advanced northward toward Fort Frederica (the British fort) to assess the landscape and plan their attack. They met a body of English rangers at approximately nine o'clock, and the two units exchanged shots. Oglethorpe arrived on the scene, followed by reinforcements. The Spanish scattered when the additional forces arrived.
Oglethorpe posted a detachment to defend his position and returned to Fort Frederica with prisoners and to recruit more men.
This skirmish took place about a mile from Fort Frederica and seven miles from the main Spanish forces back at Fort St. Simons.
Now the scene is set for the Battle of Bloody Marsh.
Battle of Bloody Marsh location
As survivors of the early morning skirmish returned to Fort St Simons reinforcements were sent to help those routed at Fort Frederica. As the Cuban Grenadiers (Spain's best) tramped single file along the narrow causeway, the Scottish Highlanders (British) hiding in ambush, opened fire.
Trapped, the surviving Spanish retreated south to Fort St. Simons. The fight lasted only one hour. Witnesses claimed that when the shooting stopped, this marsh was red with the blood of wounded and dead. Actually, things were not as bad as they may sound (about fifty men, mostly Spanish, were killed at Bloody Marsh).
Using clever trickery, Oglethorpe paid a Spanish prisoner to deliver a misleading letter to Montiano. Upon reading it, Montiano became convinced of a strong British force with reinforcements to arrive soon.
The dual disasters proved fatal to the Spanish invasion of St. Simons Island.
Spain's last important military attempt to gain control of the Georgia territory was over. Georgia would remain a British colony.
Montiano and the Spanish left the island on July 13 and returned to St Augustine.
Spain would never again threaten England's east coast colonies.
On the surface this conflict appears to have been of minimal consequence to colonial history, but to Georgia it represented a struggle for existence. Settlers cooperated with Indian forces to repel Spanish threats and ultimately enjoyed success despite early defeats. The colony fulfilled its original purpose as a buffer for British North America against foreign attacks and solidified English claims on the continent. International wars for the empire continued, but Georgia remained in English possession due to the efforts of Oglethorpe and his troops.
The defenders of St Simons Island and the English speaking colony in Georgia consisted of:
British 42nd (Oglethorpe's) Regiment
Recruited by Georgia's founder James Edward Oglethorpe, these soldiers manned both Fort Frederica and Fort St. Simons. Spanish leaders planned to defeat these troops before moving up the coast to Savannah and other settlements in Georgia and South Carolina. They failed.
Scottish Independent Highland Company
These kilted militia men led the British ambush at Bloody Marsh. Recruited by Georgia's trustees to help settle the new colony, they were known as courageous and hard-fighting troops ---- the heroes of Bloody Marsh.
Monument at Bloody Marsh
Granite monument on St. Simons Island commemorating the victory of James Oglethorpe's forces over a Spanish invasion force at the Battle of Bloody Marsh. The monument is at the edge of the marsh where the July 1742 battle was fought.
Location. 31° 9.783' N, 81° 22.657' W.
And now you know "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say.
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