In July 1817, McGregor devised a plan to capture part of Florida and sell it to the United States.
Gregor McGregor was born in Scotland in 1786. After serving in the British Army for eight years he sold out of the army in 1810, having attained the rank of major. In 1812, McGregor sailed to South America to join the colonial revolution against the Spanish. He married a relative of Simón Bolivar and campaigned against the Spanish in South America and the Caribbean for several years.
In 1817, he left South America for North America to campaign against the Spanish in Florida. McGregor devised a plan to capture part of Florida and sell it to the United States. He obtained financial backing from an American mercantile company from Charleston, South Carolina, recruited veterans of the War of 1812, and invaded Amelia Island in North Florida.
Map from the Unconfirmed Spanish Land Grant of John McClure on Amelia Island, showing the location of Fuerte San Carlos (upper left) overtaken by McGregor on July 9, 1817
Quotation below from Narrative of a Voyage to the Spanish Main in the Ship Two Friends (J. Miller: London, 1819), 87-88.
“On the 9th of July (1817), the little band of McGregor, attended by two schooners and a few row boats, passing the shores of Cumberland island, at the entrance of the river St. Mary’s, anchored in the Spanish waters of Amelia, disembarking in all about 60 muskets, under the very guns of the fort of Fernandina, and two block houses intended as a defense for the rear of the town. McGregor, assisted by Colonel Posen of the United States Army as second in command, led his little band over a swamp, which divided the point of debarkation from the town, plunged up to their knees in mud, exposed to the means possessed by the Spaniards of totally annihilating them… The garrison… did not offer a single coup de canon of resistance from the fort, and only one gun was fired from the Block house and that without the orders of the commandant.”
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The United States signed the Adams-Onís Treaty with Spain on February 22, 1819. The treaty provided for the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States, and established the southern boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.
Map of Florida (ca. 1821)
The formal transfer of Florida took place on July 17, 1821. An exchange of flags occurred first at St. Augustine on July 10, and then on July 17 at Pensacola. Andrew Jackson became governor of the newly created territory of Florida.
Drawing of the exchange of flags: St. Augustine (July 10, 1821)
As part of the treaty with Spain, the U.S. agreed to honor Spanish land grants in Florida. Spain encouraged settlement in Florida by offering land grants in order to boost economic activity in the colony. Holders of Spanish land grants could submit claims to the U.S. government for compensation, or to retain their land after 1821.
The Spanish land grants provide information on the settlement and cultivation of Florida during the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821), and the Territorial Period (1821-1845).
Map showing the confirmed claim of John McIntosh along the St. Johns River at Migert’s Point
Map showing confirmed claim of John Bolton
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