Gayusuta and Washington

Gayusuta and Washington

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Settlers v. Natives: the Apalachee Massacre

In 1700, the last Habsburg King of Spain died and Louis XIV of France wanted to place his grandson Philippe on the throne as the first Bourbon Monarch.  While some European powers accepted that this had been the dying King's choice as his successor, others, led by England, opposed France's claim and most of Europe rushed into war to carve up Spain's vast colonial empire.  The War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1714), known as Queen Anne's War in North America was on.  What did this have to do with the Natives of Carolina (it wasn't divided North or South then) and the Spanish province of La Florida?  Everything.

The borderlands between Charles Town (now Charleston) founded in 1670, and the two Spanish bases of Pensacola (founded in 1689) and St. Augustine (founded in 1565), was a tense place.  Georgia wouldn't exist until 1733, so slavers and raiding parties from various tribes used what should have been a buffer zone as a free range to conduct their activity.  Bands of Creek Natives, who were constantly at odds with the Apalachee and other Florida tribes, created most of the raiding and fighting back and forth.  With the War of the Spanish Succession in full swing in Europe, colonial officials in Carolina saw an opportunity to exploit this situation for their own advantage. 

Their first target was the Apalachee Province in what is now western Florida and southwestern Georgia, where Spain had established fourteen missions to convert the Native population to Roman Catholicism.  In addition to religious activities, many missions were also large farms and ranches, owing their prosperity almost entirely to Native labor.  Conditions were harsh.  Natives who refused to work the land or reverted to their traditional beliefs were harshly punished.  Needless to say, many Apalachee were unhappy with their Spanish overlords, who demanded work but did not protect them from English slavers or Creek raids.  When hostilities broke out in 1702, there were roughly 8,000 Apalachee in and around these mission farms, which provided most of the food for St. Augustine and Pensacola.

In 1702, Governor James Moore of Carolina saw his opportunity and requested funding from the Colonial legislature for raids on St. Augustine.  Other than destroying missions in Guale Province (what is now coastal Georgia), the raid was a failure and Moore was removed from office, though he still had a great deal of personal influence.  Meanwhile, the Spanish governor of Florida ordered some missions abandoned, others consolidated and fortified.  Natives from some missions were displaced and sent to others, further increasing their unhappiness.  In 1703, Creeks attacked several of the missions, taking over 500 Apalachee as slaves.

In 1703, ex-Governor Moore presented to the Carolina legislature yet another plan for raiding the Spanish missions in Florida.  He promised that the entire endeavor would be paid for by Spanish loot and Native slaves.  The Colony wouldn't have to spend any money.  The legislature gave the authorization.  Moore set out with 50 colonists and 1,000 Creek allies against the Apalachee, who were traditional enemies of the Creek.  On January 25, 1704, Moore's force moved against Ayubale, one of the larger mission towns in Apalachee Province.  The local priest at Ayubale, Father Angel Miranda, barricade himself, several other men along with women and children in the church compound of the village and held off the English for 9 hours, only surrendering when his force was out of ammunition.  He threw himself on Moore's mercy and hoped to be allowed to march out unharmed.  He and 26 men, along with several dozen women and children, were slaughtered by Moore's force. 

Word reached Captain Juan Ruiz de Mexia at the next largest town of San Luis de Apalachee.  He raised a force of 30 Spanish cavalry and 400 Apalachee warriors.  They marched to the relief of Ayubale and were defeated.  Over 200 Apalachee were killed.  Moore captured Mexia and tried to extort a ransom from Florida's governor, who refused to pay.  Moore continued his rampage through Apalachee Province.  Some Apalachee, such as those living at San Lorenzo de Ivitachuco, saw their chance to be rid of Spanish domination and threw open their gates to Moore.  Moore looted the gold from the church and sent the surviving Apalachee back to what is now Savannah to resettle.  San Luis de Apalachee also followed suit and was spared.  Other towns and villages chose to fight and the consequences were severe.  Moore took them by storm, burning crops and buildings.  He later reported that he killed more than 1100 men, women and children, removed 300 into exile (those who gave up voluntarily), and captured over 4300 people as slaves.  These were dispersed among plantations in Carolina, or shipped to New England or the Caribbean.  Five missions were destroyed and the Spanish decided that others were indefensible.  Apalachees retreated to Pensacola or as far as the French base at Mobile.  Others chose to leave their homeland with Moore's force. 

Moore returned to Carolina, but Creek forces followed up with more raids into Florida in 1704.  The result of this combined activity was the loss of two thousand Apalachee lives, and the depopulation of Spanish Florida with the exception of St. Augustine and Pensacola.  Nor were the Apalachees who settled along the Savannah River to get the peace they hoped for.  They were harassed by slavers and Creek raiders.  Throughout the duration of the War, the English tried to capture either St. Augustine or Pensacola, as well as the French base at Mobile, but were never successful, and more raids ensued, further decimating any remaining Apalachee and other Florida Native populations.  Although the Apalachee ceased to function as a tribe, a few hundred descendants still live in Louisiana today.

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