Saturday, August 22, 2015

MONDAY, MAY 1, 1769: THE NINTH ARMED AMPHIBIOUS INVASION OF DAUPHIN ISLAND

On Monday afternoon, May 1, 1769, the ninth of Dauphin Island's nineteen armed amphibious invasions occurred with the violent eviction of West Florida Lieutenant Governor Montfort Browne's 4 employees from the island by two boatloads of men consisting of six British Mobilians and a slave led by Major Robert Farmar. Nobody was shot or killed but Browne's laborer, William Kimbe, was injured in the lower back by Major Farmar's "stout stick" and Browne's overseer, Richard Hartley, cut his cheek and tore his jacket when he attempted to come to Kimbe's aid plus both of them "were thrown bodily out of the house"; then had loaded muskets stuck in their faces and were threatened with being thrown into jail. This was but one episode in a seventy five year long legal struggle waged by Major Farmar and the heirs of his estate to lay claim to Dauphin Island. It is entirely possible that an entire forest of trees was consumed to produce all the paper necessary to print the efforts made by Major Farmar and his descendents to recover their claim to the island. For that reason this writer has found it impossible to write a brief description doing justice to the complexity of Major Robert Farmar's claim to ownership of Dauphin Island. It is therefore necessary to give the reader some background information.

Speculation in West Florida land offered a lucrative opportunity at the time of the advent of the Union Jack on Dauphin Island in 1763. Not only did Major Robert Farmar evict every French government official and French soldier from his new colony of West Florida but for over a year he was the head of the government and a willing customer for any emigrating Frenchman who might not be quite ready to pledge his allegiance to King George III and maybe have a little land to sell. Farmar claimed he never mixed public funds with his private fortune(acquired as prize money for his participation in the British conquest of Havana),however, he was forced to face a court martial that accused him of misuse of the British government's money and resources including embezzlement, profiting from public service and overcharging for profit.  By the time Farmar had settled into retirement at his home near present-day Stockton in the late 1770s, he had accumulated land title to over 10,000 acres of West Florida with the location of the parcels ranging from Natchez all the way to present-day Baldwin County. Some of the acreage to which Farmar contended he possessed clear title included most of Dauphin Island and three-eighths of Horn Island but as the reader will soon find out, Major Farmar's title to Dauphin Island was doubtful even during his lifetime. Those doubts certainly did not matter to the descendants of Major Robert Farmar and when the United States finally raised its flag over Mobile Bay in the spring of 1813, the U.S. commissioners charged with resolving private land claims found that many Farmar descendants had returned to Mobile and were prepared to argue that they possessed a clear title to Dauphin Island, Horn Island as well as the remainder of the land composing Major Farmar's 10,000+ acre estate.

When Major Robert Farmar arrived on Dauphin Island in the fall of 1763 he began to mix his private business with his military service as the military head of the new British colony of West Florida which at that time included all the land south of the 31st parallel (a part of which now serves as our Alabama-Florida line fromFlomaton to the Chattahoochee River) between the east bank of the Mississippi River and the Chattahoochee/Apalachicola River. Major Farmar set his eyes on Dauphin Island because of its abundant fresh drinking water, its strategic importance at the mouth of Mobile Bay and also for its potential as a cattle pen protected from raiding Indians by the water surrounding it. Up until that time, the area around Mobile Bay had never produced any form of cash crop for export other than the furs and skins traded from the Indians. The most valuable commodities from West Florida were live cattle (salt beef, tallow, hides) and lumber (tar, pitch, turpentine). Dauphin Island produced both commodities and had a harbor where these products could be readied for transportation to other ports. Dauphin Island was also an important "lightering" port for not only Mobile but for the entire coasting trade. Prior to the dredging of the ship channel, ocean going ships could not make it to Mobile or any other port on the Mississippi Sound. Ships drawing more than 13 feet of water could not cross the Sand Island bar and only very shallow draft boats could make it all the way to the wharf in Mobile.  Cargo had to be transferred to shallow draft vessels around Dauphin Island in order for it to be delivered to the inland ports. In addition to that, Dauphin Island was the home of the harbor pilots who could safely guide ocean going ships across the bar and into the harbors of Mobile Point and Dauphin Island so that their cargoes could be transferred to the shallow draft vessels.

Very soon after his arrival in West Florida, Major Farmar showed his interest in Dauphin Island when he immediately assigned a corporal and six men to a station on the island to assist the French pilot who was the only resident. He also succeeded in obtaining bills of sale for most of the island from Frenchmen living in Mobile and also bought all the livestock on the island which included seventy-six cattle and three pigs. He had this livestock exchanged for two male slaves named Peter and Prince. At about the same time, the newly appointed Lieutenant Governor of West Florida, Montfort Browne, had selected Dauphin Island as the location of the royal grant of acreage he'd received for the settlement of English and Irish emigrants he planned to recruit to sail to West Florida. On February 5, 1765, Major Farmar went before the Governor of West Florida Johnstone's council and challenged Lieutenant Governor Browne's royal order for acreage that Browne wanted to be located on Dauphin Island. Farmar had a chance to present his proof of purchase including his bills of sale and a petition for a formal grant of the island. The council rejected Major Farmar's evidence and ordered that Browne's petition to be granted Dauphin Island be accepted but they gave no reason for making their decision.

If you look at George Gauld's 1768 Dauphin Island map, you'll see a spot marked at about the location of the Indian Mounds which is labeled "Lt.Gov. Browne". This was probably the location of the house occupied by Browne's overseer, Richard Hartley.


Lieutenant Governor Browne moved very quickly to occupy the island. He ordered a corporal's guard to the island and seized about 100 head of cattle grazing there.

Major Farmar never accepted Governor Johnstone's decision against his ownership of the island but he was too busy to do anything about it. He was tied up during most of 1766 leading a military expedition up the Mississippi River to the Illinois country. When he returned, he was facing the court martial related to his alleged financial malfeasance during his tenure as military governor of West Florida in 1763-64.

King George III removed Governor Johnstone from office in 1767 and even though Lieutenant Governor Browne took Johnstone's place at the West Florida capital of Pensacola, Farmar was finally able to direct more attention to his Dauphin Island interests after he was acquitted of all his court martial charges on April 20, 1768. Farmar was elected to represent Mobile in Pensacola's colonial assembly in January of 1769 and by the beginning of April of that year, West Florida had a new governor in John Eliot. Governor Eliot immediately ordered an investigation of Lieutenant Governor Browne's administration and that was all Farmar needed to justify his forced eviction of Browne's men from Dauphin Island. Little did Farmer know when he set sail for the island from Mobile on May 1, that his new ally, West Florida Governor John Eliot, would commit suicide the next day.

Auburn professor Robert Rea in his book, MAJOR ROBERT FARMAR OF MOBILE, includes an excellent, detailed description of the violent eviction Major Farmar led to get the "trespassers" off of "his" island.

"On Monday, May 1, 1769, having returned to Mobile from Pensacola, Farmar gathered several determined friends aboard two boats and sailed down to Dauphin Island. His own party consisted of Dougal Campbell, now a Mobile merchant but formerly commissary at Mobile and one of Farmar's witnesses in the late court martial; Henry Litto or Latto, formerly skipper of the sloop JAMES, and much indebted to Farmar for employment; William Harris; and a Negro servant. On Dauphin Island were Richard Hartley, Browne's resident manager; William Kimbe, a laborer; Hartley's servant Robert Love; and a female housekeeper. At about two o'clock these men were seated at dinner in Hartley's house when they heard distant musket fire. Hartley dispatched Love to see if the shots might indicate the presence of a band of Indians, but the servant returned to report the approach of a boat. Hartley and Kimbe went down to the shore to meet their visitors and invited them to the house. Campbell told Hartley that they had come for oysters, and both parties began to walk up the beach to Hartley's house, formerly the residence of the harbor pilot. Shortly after leaving the beach, Hartley and Kimbe saw a second party of armed men who had apparently landed elsewhere. These were James Waugh, George Martin, and Thomas Gronow, good Mobilians who were no friends of Lieutenant Governor Montfort Browne. Martin and Gronow reached the house ahead of the others, forcibly ejected Deborah Coughlin, the housekeeper, from the house and began to throw furniture out the door. Litto and Harris rushed to join their confederates and slammed the door against the confused pair of Browne's men.

"Turning to Farmar, Hartley asked if they had come to rob him, to which the major replied that the island was his. Together they entered the house, Hartley protesting and Farmar proclaiming his right to everything in sight. As kitchen furniture and utensils were rapidly disappearing out the window, Hartley ordered Kimbe to recover them, but Farmar and his friends seized Kimbe, and the major forcefully applied the end of his stout stick to the small of Kimbe's back (causing considerable pain, according to Kimbe's later account). Hartley grabbed at Farmar, but the others roughly seized him, tearing his jacket and cutting his cheek. Both of Browne's men were thrown bodily out of the house. George Martin then kept them at bay with his leveled musket. Hartley demanded to see Farmar's authority for such highhanded action, but the major refused him any satisfaction and threatened to lay Hartley by the heals and send him to jail. Nor would Farmar even allow Hartley to leave his bed and chest in the house, safe from rain, though the poor fellow was permitted to deposit them in an open shed. Hartley and Kimbe soon withdrew from the scene, though they did not leave the island until Sunday, May 28. Some of Farmar's party remained at the overseer's house throughout the month."

When Brown got the news of Farmar's actions, he contacted his attorney general and depositions were taken on June 12 with a grand jury being impaneled in Pensacola to inquire into the Dauphin Island affair on Friday, June 30. The jury heard witnesses and found "the Entry and Detainer to be forcible." On July 12, Chief Justice William Clifton ordered the restoration of Montfort Browne's property on Dauphin Island.

It appears that Major Farmar finally accepted the fact that Dauphin Island was not to be his but that did not stop his daughter from investigating the chances of recovering the island from the Spanish in 1800 and later "the heirs of Major Robert Farmar" to attempt on multiple occasions from 1813 until 1834 to attempt to secure private land claims for Dauphin Island from the land commissioners of the U.S. Congress. Finally on January 1, 1834, Commissioner William Crawford reported to Congress that the Farmar heirs had forfeited their claim to Dauphin Island and "do not appear to be entitled to confirmation under any law of the United States."

Monday, July 20, 2015

A CHRONOLOGY OF THE 19 ARMED AMPHIBIOUS INVASIONS OF DAUPHIN ISLAND

#1: On Saturday, January 31, 1699,  Pierre LeMoyne Ecuyer,Seigneur d'Iberville and his men, sailing on three ships carrying a total of 110 cannon, occupied present-day Dauphin Island on an expedition sponsored by King Louis XIV of France to fortify the mouth of the Mississippi River in order to prevent other nations from entering the river. Iberville named this place Massacre Island due to the bones from about sixty human skeletons he found heaped on the island.

#2: On Tuesday, September 9, 1710,Jamaican pirates, outfitted with a ship mounted with cannon, approached the mouth of Pelican Bay flying a French flag. The pirates fired their signal gun and the villagers welcomed what they thought to be a long awaited supply ship from overseas.

Without firing a shot, the little port, housing about 20 families and the King’s warehouses, was at the mercy of a pirate crew. For two days the crew made life miserable for the village and stole everything that wasn’t nailed down before they burned down all the buildings in town. The pirates loaded their ship with thousands of furs and hides which the French had gathered from all over the province of Louisiana and had stored in Massacre Island’s warehouses.

#3: Later, during the same month of September, 1710, the pirates decided to return to the island to rustle up a shipload of the villagers’ cattle and to collect a live specimen of a buffalo for the pirate captain but the islanders fought them off during their attempt to make a second landing. No casualties were reported to be a consequence of this attempted second invasion by the Jamaican pirates.

#4:On Saturday, May 13, 1719, a French naval attack on Pensacola embarked from Dauphin Island and approached Pensacola Bay the evening of the same day.  The French naval force consisted of a squadron of at least three large company ships from France carrying over 600 officers, soldiers and volunteers commanded by Serigny and Larcebault. Bienville commanded the rest of the naval force of 80 men on three skiffs along with some supply barges and initiated the invasion by taking over the Spanish battery located on Santa Rosa Island near present-day Ft. Pickens without firing a shot.  The company ships were then free to enter Pensacola Bay and by firing their sixty naval cannon into town for three hours, they silenced the 29 cannon in Pensacola’s Spanish Fort San Carlos.

#5: On Friday, August 4, 1719, a Spanish fleet  carrying over 1300 troops and consisting of two captured French ships, a Spanish flagship and nine two-masted coastal schooners forced the French surrender of Pensacola and the French lost their ships anchored in the harbor that were filled with John Law’s Company of the West’s supplies.The French retreat from Pensacola led the French back to Dauphin Island and required them to reinforce Dauphin Island’s defenses.

#6:  On Sunday, August 13, 1719, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis brought 50 Pascagoula Indians to Dauphin Island on . By August 20, the French had assembled between 200 to 400 Indians between Mobile and Dauphin Island and these natives represented “the backbone of the French defensive forces.”

The Spanish fleet was limited to privateers who sailed from Pensacola on 9 two-masted coastal schooners and two brigantines. The Spanish sent the French on Dauphin Island a message that demanded unconditional surrender and made some violent threats. The French on shore showed their contempt for the Spanish privateers and decided to “make a gallant defense.” 
After their bluff failed, the Spanish decided to put off a full frontal assault upon the improvised French fortress hastily constructed on the shore near an inlet the French called Trou du Major. The Spanish decided to impose a naval blockade and began to capture all ships bringing supplies to the island. For over two weeks the Spanish privateers continued their blockade on the mouth of Mobile Bay and executed raids on the warehouses and farms in the area. During a raid on a Mon Luis Island farm, the French and their Indian allies captured  18 French deserters who were fighting for the Spanish. One of the deserters was condemned to a public hanging on Dauphin Island which served as a strong lesson in civic responsibility for the islanders and the other 17 were turned over to the Indians so they could be dragged to Mobile to be tortured and killed. 
 When a large French fleet carrying 2000 troops arrived at Dauphin Island on September 1, the few Spanish vessels still maintaining the blockade retreated back to Pensacola.

#7:  On Tuesday September 5, 1719, a French squadron under the command of Commodore Desnos de Champmeslin consisting of the flagship Hercule and twelve smaller ships sailed from Dauphin Island to Pensacola while Bienville marched one hundred troops and almost 500 Indians overland. On September 16, the French fleet was anchored off Pensacola while Bienville and his Indians prepared to attack. On the morning of September 17, Bienville’s Indians and the Canadians began their attack upon Fort San Carlos as the French fleet battled the Spanish ships anchored in the bay. The Spanish commander had “had no stomach for a fight with Indians” and so he surrendered to Champmeslin. The French had lost six men; the Spaniards, a hundred. Bienville also captured  47 French deserters fighting for the Spanish.  Twelve of these men were condemned to be hanged from the yardarm of a French ship anchored in Pensacola harbor and the other 35 were sentenced to serve ten years as galley slaves for the Company of the West.
Spain’s long-awaited naval expedition to drive the French out of Louisiana was finally launched in 1720 before news of peace had arrived. It accomplished nothing because Commander Francisco Cornejo “promptly ran his ships aground on the Campeche Banks in a violent storm.”
France continued to hold Pensacola while flying Spanish flags so they could capture Spanish supply ships that took the bait. Finally, on November 26, 1722, the French “destroyed the fort and town and returned the site to the Spaniards in conformity with the peace treaty in Europe.”

#8: On Sunday, October 9, 1763, British Major Farmar , commanding a convoy of six troop transports and a warship carrying three regiments dropped anchor off Dauphin Island with orders to occupy French Louisiana east of the Mississippi River as well as Spanish Pensacola. Farmar had earlier received an official French authorization for the commander of Fort Conde' in Mobile to surrender the fort.

Dauphin Island at the time mainly served as "a sea-girt cattle pen" for Frenchmen living in Mobile while the only residents were a French sergeant's guard and a harbor pilot, both of whom would soon leave the island.

 For over a week after arriving at Mobile Bay, Farmar had his men sounding the channel and setting out buoys to guide three of the smaller troop transports over the bar. The 32 gun frigate, H.M.S. Stag, and a larger troop transport sailed over to Ship Island to find safe anchorage. Earlier in October, while Farmar had been in Pensacola, two French pilots from the mouth of Mobile Bay had arrived and warned him that they doubted whether the large British ships could clear the bar at Mobile.
      
The problems Major Farmar encountered entering Mobile Bay emphasized his dependency upon the French pilot who resided on Dauphin Island and was needed to navigate any large vessel intending to enter Mobile Bay. Only one month after taking possession of Mobile Bay, Farmar wrote ".....A corporal and six men I have sent to the Island Dauphin to be assisting the Pilot in going off to ships, as the bar is very dangerous, and there are no inhabitants upon the island."

#9: On Monday, May 1, 1769,  Major Farmar violently evicted Lieutenant Governor Montforte Brown's employees from Dauphin Island.

#10: February 10, 1780, Spanish Governor of Bernardo de Galvez led a fleet of warships and troop transports into Mobile Bay to begin the SIEGE OF FORT CHARLOTTE.


#11: In early 1781, the British launch an offensive from Pensacola to take Dauphin Island but fail.
 
#12:  In May of 1781, the Spanish under Galvez launch an invasion from Mobile Bay and take Pensacola from the British.

#13: In July of 1812,  Troops under General Ferdinand Claiborne raised the American flag on Isla Delphina(Dauphin Island) and ordered the Spanish guard on the island “to withdraw or be regarded as prisoners of war.” The pilot was ordered not to aid Spanish or British vessels. The Spanish guard remained on Dauphin Island.

#14: In April of 1813,the U.S. under the command of General James Wilkinson capture Dauphin Island.

#15: In September of 1814, the British based on Dauphin Island unsuccessfully attack Fort Bowyer on Mobile Point.

#16: In February of 1815, the entire British Expeditionary Force regroups on Dauphin Island and launched a siege upon Fort Bowyer. The U.S. troops in Fort Bowyer surrender.

#17: On January 18, 1861, the militia of the Republic of Alabama seize Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island from U.S. troops.

#18: In August of 1864,  U.S. troops forced the surrender of Confederate States of America forces which occupied Fort Gaines and Dauphin Island.

#19: In March of 1865, the 32,000 man U.S. invasion of Baldwin County began with the movement of Federal troops across the Mobile Bay from Dauphin Island.    

Friday, July 3, 2015

SCORECARD FOR DAUPHIN ISLAND'S EIGHTH ARMED AMPHIBIOUS INVASION
In 1763, at the end of the French and Indian War, Britain had defeated France and that country lost everything they had in North America which was, basically, most of the continent. The French ceded Dauphin Island to the British along with all of the province of Louisiana east of the Mississippi except New Orleans. France's ally, Spain got New Orleans and also French Louisiana west of the Mississippi but had to forfeit Florida to the Brits in order to get back Havana which they had lost to the British during the war.

The task of evicting the French from Dauphin Island and Mobile Bay fell to British Major Robert Farmar, the namesake for Dauphin Island's Major Farmar Street which connects Bienville to Cadillac.(Unfortunately, some well-meaning person has defaced the "Major Farmar Street" sign on Bienville Boulevard,  "correcting" the spelling by placing an "E" over the second "A" in Farmar)

When Major Farmar dropped anchor off Dauphin Island on October 9, 1763, the mouth of Mobile Bay was probably the last place on Earth he wanted to be. Nearly three months earlier, Farmar had embarked from Cuba and dreamed of happily sailing back to England with the troops he had commanded during Great Britain's campaign to capture Havana but after over a week  at sea, his fleet was overtaken by a schooner carrying orders authorizing Major Farmer to form a convoy of six troop transports and a warship to carry three regiments to occupy French Louisiana east of the Mississippi River as well as Spanish Pensacola. Farmar also received an official French authorization for the commander of Fort Conde' to surrender the fort.

For over a week after arriving at Mobile Bay, Farmar had his men sounding the channel and setting out buoys to guide three of the smaller troop transports over the bar. The 32 gun frigate, H.M.S. Stag, and a larger troop transport sailed over to Ship Island to find safe anchorage. Earlier in October, while Farmar had been in Pensacola, two French pilots from the mouth of Mobile Bay had arrived and warned him that they doubted whether the large British ships could clear the bar at Mobile.

At the same time that his men were marking the channel between Dauphin Island and Mobile Point,  Farmar's frustration turned to anger when he received letters from both the French commander of Ft. Conde' and the French Governor in New Orleans requesting that he delay the disembarkation of his troops at Mobile. Farmar ignored these French delays because his men had been at sea for over three months and probably hadn't slept in a bed in over a year and a half. On October 18, the three small troop transports successfully crossed the bar south of Dauphin Island but ran aground in the bay about six miles out from Mobile. Major Farmar rowed ashore at Mobile and agreed to allow the French commander 48 hours to evacuate Fort Conde'. On October 20, 1763, the Union Jack was raised over the Mobile fort, now named Fort Charlotte after the King's wife. The military occupation of this newly ceded British colony named West Florida had begun.

The problems Major Farmar encountered entering Mobile Bay emphasized his dependency upon the French pilots who resided on Dauphin Island and who were needed to navigate any large vessel intending to enter Mobile Bay. Only one month after taking possession of Mobile Bay, Farmar wrote ".....A corporal and six men I have sent to the Island Dauphin to be assisting the Pilot in going off to ships, as the bar is very dangerous, and there are no inhabitants upon the island."

For the next six years, Farmar continued to keep his eyes on Dauphin Island, a vital post for the navigation of Mobile Bay but also the first of an entire chain of islands stretching to Cat Island which formed the western limit of the Mississippi Sound. Not only did these islands offer safe anchorage for ocean-going vessels but they also supported grazing for large herds of cattle that supplied beef to New Orleans and Mobile. Over his years in West Florida, Farmar showed that his main motivation was personal gain and he began to acquire thousands of acres of property including the deeds to at least four large tracts on Dauphin Island. Farmar's desire for Dauphin Island would lead to the island's ninth armed amphibious invasion and this would not result in a change of flags but in the violent and forceful eviction of the employees of the man who contested Farmar's claim to Dauphin, West Florida Lieutenant Governor Montfort Browne.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The winner of the DAUPHIN ISLAND "JEOPARDY" CONTEST will be crowned
2016's ARMCHAIR ADMIRAL OF DAUPHIN ISLAND
(All answers to the contest questions will come from DAUPHIN ISLAND'S STREET NAMES. There will also be a JR. ARMCHAIR ADMIRAL (age 12 and under) & a SR. ARMCHAIR ADMIRAL (age 80 and over)

SCORECARDS FOR DAUPHIN ISLAND’S FOURTH, FIFTH, SIXTH AND SEVENTH ARMED AMPHIBIOUS INVASIONS

Of all the many overlooked, ignored and misrepresented episodes in Dauphin Island’s colorful and dramatic story, none challenges either the historical importance or the academic indifference produced by  Dauphin Island’s four armed amphibious invasions of the Franco-Spanish War(1719-1720) which in our part of the world amounted to “Dauphin Island versus Pensacola.”  If the Spanish had succeeded in this war, their attack upon Dauphin Island would have been the beginning of a major military effort to drive the French completely off the Gulf Coast and the cherished French creole influence of our present-day Gulf Coast heritage would have never existed.

Dauphin Island’s Fourth Armed Amphibious Invasion differs from the first three of this most difficult of the operations of war in that our island was not the target of this invasion. For the first time, Dauphin Island launched its own armed amphibious invasion to capture a foreign port: the Spanish harbor of Pensacola.

When Serigny, one of the four famous Le Moyne brothers linked to Dauphin Island, arrived off the island on a company ship from France on April 19, 1719, he brought his brother orders dated January 7, 1719, from the notorious John Law’s Company of the West commanding Bienville to immediately launch an attack upon Pensacola and to take the port for France.  Earlier in 1718, France had joined with England, Holland and Austria to form the Quadruple Alliance in order to discourage the Spanish King’s ambitions in France and Italy. Serigny brought the news that France was presently at war with Spain and that it was time for Bienville to launch a preemptive strike on Pensacola.

Regardless of how unprepared and unprotected his forces were in Mobile and on Dauphin Island, Bienville grasped the fact that he now possessed the two greatest elements which can insure the success of most amphibious invasions: the ability to exploit the element of surprise and the ability to capitalize upon the enemy’s weaknesses.  Bienville was certainly aware of Spanish weaknesses. There was no way that the Spanish could even imagine an attack coming from Mobile and Dauphin Island in 1719. Pensacola and Dauphin Island acted as mutual aid societies since both of them served as isolated, frontier colonial ports for faraway European monarchs and they were accustomed to maintaining a flourishing contraband trade as both colonies simply tried to survive the twin threats of the unforgiving nature of the Gulf Coast and the constant peril of Indian attack.

The French naval attack on Pensacola embarked from Dauphin Island on May 13 and approached Pensacola Bay the evening of the same day.  The French naval force consisted of a squadron of at least three large company ships from France carrying over 600 officers, soldiers and volunteers commanded by Serigny and Larcebault. Bienville commanded the rest of the naval force of 80 men on three skiffs along with some supply barges and initiated the invasion by taking over the Spanish battery located on Santa Rosa Island near present-day Ft. Pickens without firing a shot.  The company ships were then free to enter Pensacola Bay and by firing their sixty naval cannon into town for three hours, they silenced the 29 cannon in Pensacola’s Spanish Fort San Carlos. 

France had captured Pensacola and intended on making the town Louisiana’s capital and principal port but they could only hold it for about two months. On August  4, a Spanish fleet  carrying over 1300 troops and consisting of two captured French ships, a Spanish flagship and nine two-masted coastal schooners forced the French surrender of Pensacola and the French lost their ships anchored in the harbor that were filled with John Law’s Company of the West’s supplies.

The French retreat from Pensacola ended this fifth armed amphibious invasion and led the French to reinforce Dauphin Island’s defenses. This effort was led by the famous French explorer, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis who brought 50 Pascagoula Indians to Dauphin Island on August 13. By August 20, the French had assembled between 200 to 400 Indians between Mobile and Dauphin Island and these natives represented “the backbone of the French defensive forces.”

The Spanish fleet was limited to privateers who sailed from Pensacola on 9 two-masted coastal schooners and two brigantines. The Spanish sent the French on Dauphin Island a message that demanded unconditional surrender and made some violent threats. The French on shore showed their contempt for the Spanish privateers and decided to “make a gallant defense.” Thus began the sixth armed amphibious invasion of Dauphin Island.

After their bluff failed, the Spanish decided to put off a full frontal assault upon the improvised French fortress hastily constructed on the shore near an inlet the French called Trou du Major. The Spanish decided to impose a naval blockade and began to capture all ships bringing supplies to the island. For over two weeks the Spanish privateers continued their blockade on the mouth of Mobile Bay and executed raids on the warehouses and farms in the area. During a raid on a Mon Luis Island farm, the French and their Indian allies captured  18 French deserters who were fighting for the Spanish. One of the deserters was condemned to a public hanging on Dauphin Island which served as a strong lesson in civic responsibility for the islanders and the other 17 were turned over to the Indians so they could be dragged to Mobile to be tortured and killed. When a large French fleet carrying 2000 troops arrived at Dauphin Island on September 1, the few Spanish vessels still maintaining the blockade retreated back to Pensacola.

This French squadron under the command of Commodore Desnos de Champmeslin consisted of the flagship Hercule and four smaller ships. They would make up most of the French fleet that sailed from Dauphin Island to Pensacola.  After a brief conference with military and company leaders on September 5, Commodore Champmeslin added eight small boats to his flotilla and sailed toward Pensacola while Bienville marched one hundred troops and almost 500 Indians overland. This was the force that left Dauphin Island for what amounted to launching the island’s SEVENTH ARMED AMPHIBIOUS INVASION.

 On September 16, the French fleet was anchored off Pensacola while Bienville and his Indians prepared to attack. On the morning of September 17, Bienville’s Indians and the Canadians began their attack upon Fort San Carlos as the French fleet battled the Spanish ships anchored in the bay. The Spanish commander had “had no stomach for a fight with Indians” and so he surrendered to Champmeslin. The French had lost six men; the Spaniards, a hundred. Bienville also captured  47 French deserters fighting for the Spanish.  Twelve of these men were condemned to be hanged from the yardarm of a French ship anchored in Pensacola harbor and the other 35 were sentenced to serve ten years as galley slaves for the Company of the West.

Spain’s long-awaited naval expedition to drive the French out of Louisiana was finally launched in 1720 before news of peace had arrived. It accomplished nothing because Commander Francisco Cornejo “promptly ran his ships aground on the Campeche Banks in a violent storm.”

France continued to hold Pensacola while flying Spanish flags so they could capture Spanish supply ships that took the bait. Finally, on November 26, 1722, the French “destroyed the fort and town and returned the site to the Spaniards in conformity with the peace treaty in Europe.”

Peace had come but Spain had lost a golden opportunity to run the French off the Gulf Coast when they had a chance to do it. Years later Spain would regret once more her failure to drive the French from Dauphin Island in 1719 when Americans in 1803 demanded West Florida from Spain as part of the Louisiana Purchase.


 But it is no speculation that members of our present-day Gulf South society can easily understand the importance of the Dauphin Islanders’ resistance to the Spanish siege of 1719 when we consider how much we would have to regret if we had lost the fun-loving impact those generations of French Creoles made upon our Gulf Coast lives today.  



A Scorecard for Dauphin Island’s First Armed Amphibious Invasion

  January 31, 1699: Iberville’s men, sailing on three ships carrying a total of 110 cannon, occupied present-day Dauphin Island on an expedition sponsored by King Louis XIV of France to fortify the mouth of the Mississippi River in order to prevent other nations from entering the river. Iberville named this place Massacre Island due to the bones from about sixty human skeletons he found heaped on the island.

Five days earlier Iberville’s French fleet had anchored off Pensacola Bay and hoped to occupy this strategic site but found that the Spanish had recently colonized the site and established their second settlement in Florida there in anticipation of Iberville’s arrival. The 1686-1688 Spanish voyages along the northern Gulf searching for La Salle’s failed colony had convinced them of Pensacola’s strategic importance and after discovering Iberville’s secret preparations in France for his voyage in 1698, the Spanish moved quickly to occupy the site. The Spaniards who ruined Iberville’s plans for Pensacola Bay insured that Pensacola would forevermore be considered the dividing line between the Spanish province of Florida and that of the French province of Louisiana.

Iberville planned to base his claim to Pensacola Bay upon La Salle’s 1684 expedition that entered the Gulf but was unable to find the mouth of the Mississippi from the Gulf. La Salle also failed to establish a colony but his voyage in the Gulf became the basis for a French claim on land westward of the river to present-day Texas as well as eastward to the Perdido River.

Iberville had retreated from Pensacola and ended up occupying Dauphin Island. From the moment Iberville stepped foot on Dauphin Island, his activities in establishing the French province of Louisiana assured that Mobile Bay would be its eastern limit and King Louis XIV confirmed this on September 17, 1712, when he granted Crozat a 16 year monopoly on trade in Louisiana by describing the limits of the province in the charter as being “the territories by us possessed, and bounded by New Mexico and by those of the English in Carolina, all the establishments, ports, harbors, rivers and especially the port and harbor of Dauphin Island, formerly called Massacre Island, the River St. Louis, formerly called the Mississippi, from the sea shore to the Illinois…”
 For the next 114 years, Dauphin Island as well as all these other French claims east of the Mississippi River would become a disputed land which was considered both West Florida and Louisiana.
Dauphin Island’s first armed amphibious invasion was uncontested and there were no casualties but Iberville was still faced with the problem of convincing the local Indians that he and his countrymen were not Spanish. The Spanish had already worn out their welcome with these Gulf Coast natives.

SCORECARDS FOR DAUPHIN ISLAND’S SECOND & THIRD ARMED AMPHIBIOUS INVASIONS

Depending on which historian you want to believe, this sandy spot where the present-day  town of Dauphin Island now stands, was next invaded in either 1710 or 1711. At that time, the place was still called Massacre Island.

Jamaican pirates, outfitted with a ship mounted with cannon, approached the mouth of Pelican Bay one day in September flying a French flag. The pirates fired their signal gun and the villagers welcomed what they thought to be a long awaited supply ship from overseas.

Without firing a shot, the little port, housing about 20 families and the King’s warehouses, was at the mercy of a pirate crew. For two days the crew made life miserable for the village and stole everything that wasn’t nailed down before they burned down all the buildings in town. The pirates loaded their ship with thousands of furs and hides which the French had gathered from all over the province of Louisiana and had stored in Massacre Island’s warehouses.

According to the historian McWilliams, the final tally on this early invasion was only one dead English pirate from Jamaica who was bushwhacked by a visiting French fur trader from Canada. After leaving port, the pirates decided to return to the island to rustle up a shipload of the villagers’ cattle and to collect a live specimen of a buffalo for the pirate captain but the islanders fought them off during their attempt to make a second landing. No casualties were reported to be a consequence of this attempted second invasion by the Jamaican pirates.

The disastrous tragedy of Dauphin Island’s sole pirate raid did produced one of Dauphin Island’s most enduring legends, “THE STORY OF THE GOLD CROSS.” Immortalized in Carl Carmer’s 1934 book of folklore, STARS FELL ON ALABAMA, the version recounted by Carmer was the one that was current among folks living in the village back in the 1920’s when Carmer visited while he was working as a professor at the University in Tuscaloosa. As told to Carmer by his island host(who Carmer called “Sandinier” which may have been the author’s version of the common Dauphin Island name “Sandagger”), the local priest jumped into action when he heard that the pirates were attacking the village. He climbed to the top of the church tower , where the big gold cross stood as a landmark to local mariners. When the priest reached the top of the church tower, he janked the shining cross loose and clutching it, he dove straight down into the well that was dug beside the church. He and the cross landed in the well and both disappeared, never to be seen again. The priest and his disappearing act with his church’s big gold cross made the pirates so mad they burned down the church and then everyone on the island forgot where it had been located but that hasn’t stopped folks from looking for it ever since. http://mobilebicentennial.blogspot.com



THE TWELVE AGES (or Chapters) OF THE HISTORY OF DAUPHIN ISLAND,
America's Most Historic Gulf Island With The Most Ignored, Overlooked and Misrepresented
Story in North America.

Age Number 1 (Chapter 1): Pre-historic Dauphin Island (this includes the island's transformation into being the most prominent landmark on European maps of the Northern Gulf Near the Mouth of the Mississippi River during almost 200 years of failed attempts at colonization)

Age Number 2 (Chapter 2): Cradle of the French Colony, 1699-1729

Age Number 3 (Chapter 3): French-Indian Trade Port of Call, 1729-1763

Age Number 4 (Chapter 4): British Dauphin Island, 1763-1780

Age Number 5 (Chapter 5): Spanish Outpost and Pilot House, 1780-1813

Age Number 6 (Chapter 6): A Leading Port of The Cotton Kingdom, 1813-1865

Age Number 7 (Chapter 7): An Occupying Army's Base of Operations and Fishing Village, 1865-                                                    1898
Age Number 8 (Chapter 8): Island's Fortifications Strengthened, 1898-1918

Age Number 9 (Chapter 9): The Roaring Twenties, Great Depression & WWII, 1918-1945

Age Number 10 (Chapter 10): The Development of Dauphin Island Real Estate, 1945-1979

Age Number 11 (Chapter 11): Disaster Recovery and Natural Gas Drilling, 1979-2005

Age Number 12 (Chapter 12): Post-Katrina, BP and The Future, 2005- (until)

THE DAUPHIN ISLAND STREET FEST

The slogan “DAUPHIN ISLAND: SUNSET CAPITAL OF ALABAMA”  can easily be incorporated into the development of the Street  Fest concept because Dauphin Island, by being the most historic island on America’s Gulf Coast, has a story that in 2019 will span a series of 500 years of sunsets. In four short years, our island will mark 182,625 or 500 years of beautiful sunsets while being a part of recorded human history, more than almost any other place in the United States of America.

As we approach 2019’s 500th anniversary of Pineda’s voyage of discovery as well as the Bicentennial of Alabama Statehood in the same year, the Dauphin Island Street Fest will celebrate our incredible heritage by showcasing the colorful street names of our town that “are significant in the long, romantic and colorful history of this island which played a vital part in the settlement of North America …

The following suggestions for Street Fest themes provide a focus for upcoming celebrations but the purpose of each annual Street Fest should the promotion of all Dauphin Island’s cultural heritage. These celebrations should include all the elements of any community festival such as concerts, food, parades, athletic competitions and carnival rides but the Street Fest’s emphasis on Dauphin Island’s cultural heritage should also include various competitions  in public speaking, art, essays and knowledge of the subjects of Dauphin Island’s street names.

The first annual 2016 DAUPHIN ISLAND STREET FEST will honor our Native American heritage and focus upon the peace conference held on Dauphin Island by French Governor L’Epinet who met here for 60 days with 24 Indian tribes in 1717. Calumet Park takes its name from “this great congress of Indian Nations [which] was of far-reaching importance throughout the entire Mississippi Valley.”  Dauphin Island street names directly linked to this peace conference include Alabama Street, Apalache Avenue, Biloxi Avenue, Epinet Street, Fort Louis Street, Fort Rosalie Place, Indian Place, Iroquois Place, Louisianne Street, Mississippi Street, Nanafalya Place, Natchez Street, Pascagoula Street, Quebec Street and Tombigbee Street. Other streets with names that also apply to these formative years in Dauphin Island history include Bienville Boulevard, Cadillac Avenue, Chaumont Avenue, Chenault Avenue, Conde Avenue, Conti Street, Deluna Street, DeSoto Avenue , Fort Charlotte Avenue, Fort Conde Place, Fort Tombecbe Place, Hernando Street, Hubert Street, Huitres Place, Iberville Drive, Infanta Place, Lacoste Court, Lamothe Place, Lasalle Street, La Vente Street, Lavigne Place, Lemoyne Drive, Major Farmar Street, Maldonado Place, Marquette Place, Mauvilla Place, Monberaut Place, Narbonne Place, Narvaez Street, Notre Dame Place, Orleans Drive, Pelican Street, Penalver Street, Penicault Street, Pensacola Street, Perdido Street, Pirates Cove Street, Ponce de Leon Street, Ponchartrain Court, Saint Andrew Street, Saint Denis Court, Serigny Street and Tonty Street.

For 2017 the Second Annual Dauphin Island Street Fest will honor our Civil War heritage. Fort Gaines played an important role in keeping Mobile Bay open for Confederate blockade running up until it’s fall in 1864 and then in 1865 Dauphin Island acted as a staging area for the eventual landing of 32,000 Union troops used to invest Confederate Mobile leading to its distinction of being the last Confederate city to come under the control of Federal forces. Dauphin Island street names directly linked to the Civil War include Beauregard Street, Buchanan Street, Fort Gaines Trail, General Anderson Place, General Ledbetter Place, General Page Place, Hunley Place, Itasca Place, O’Hara Lane, Port Royal Street, Raphael Semmes Street, Ryan Court and Tennessee Street.

For the 2018 Third Annual Dauphin Island Street Fest, we will celebrate our island’s 200 years of Alabama heritage.  2017 will mark the bicentennial of the creation of the Alabama Territory and it is interesting to note that the original Congressional legislation that divided the Mississippi Territory was entitled “A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE TERRITORY OF MOBILE.”  Dauphin Island street names directly linked to our Alabama heritage include Alabama Avenue, Annandale Street, Audubon Street, Delchamps Avenue, Dewberry Street, Forney Johnston Drive, Fort Mims Place, Fort Stoddert Place, Fort Tensas Place, General Gaines Place, General Gorgas Street , General Wilkinson Place, Gordon Persons Overseas Highway, Grant Street, Hamilton Place, Hermes Place, Hitchcock Place, Houston Place, Inez Place, Ingraham Place,  Key Street, Lackland Street,  Lafayette Place, LaFitte Place, Levert Street, Lockenbie Place, Longfellow Place, McIntosh Place, Napoleon Place, Octavia Street, Olive Lane, Oleander Lane, O’Hara Lane, Omega Street, Osprey Lane, Pequeno Street, Pirates Cove Street, Portier Court, President Jefferson Court and Pushmataha Court.

2019 will mark the 500th anniversary of Pineda’s voyage of discovery and the Bicentennial of Alabama Statehood. In honor of these two important island milestones, the 4th Annual Dauphin Island Street Fest will celebrate the Ages of Dauphin Island History represented by its prehistory, its 320 years of recorded history broken into 12 approximately twenty six year “ages” and the island’s future. Dauphin Island streets showcased during this festival will be located on the west end of the island along with a focus upon the undeveloped part of the island west of Katrina Cut.

Between now and the first street fest in 2016, we propose the publication of a DAUPHIN ISLAND READER. This collection of essays should include the reprinting of THE DEVELOPMENT OF DAUPHIN ISLAND, ALABAMA (including an index, chronology of island history and annotated street directory), an annotated Dauphin Island History by Frances Young, an annotated Dauphin Island History by Richebourg Gaillard McWilliams and the DAUPHIN ISLAND chapter from Carl Carmer’s STARS FELL ON ALABAMA. Various Dauphin Island maps and other relevant material related to understanding the meaning of Dauphin Island’s street names should also be included.

The last paragraph of THE DEVELOPMENT OF DAUPHIN ISLAND, ALABAMA by S. Blake McNeely begins with these two sentences, ”The story of Dauphin Island started in 1519. It was a continuing story, now called ‘History.’ “
 McNeely ends the same paragraph with, “They [the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce] can turn over to future hands and minds a sound foundation for a great Dauphin Island ‘Gem of the Ocean’.”

This proposal for the Annual Dauphin Island Street Fest outlines an exciting way to showcase the work done by the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce 60 years ago when they gave us these historic street names which automatically focus our attention daily upon our shared heritage as we travel around our beautiful DAUPHIN ISLAND: THE SUNSET CAPITAL OF ALABAMA.



http://mobilebicentennial.blogspot.com

For the first DAUPHIN ISLAND STREET FEST dedicated to NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE, Dauphin Island's shells should be the center piece. These were the objects of trade Dauphin Island provided. We could give Dauphin Island shells away. Have shell art competition, etc. Here's a beachcombing article I wrote for the Panama City market. STAYING ZEN : THE ART OF CHILLIN’ OUT AT THE BEACH

“Mother, Mother Ocean, I’ve heard you call.
Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall.
You’ve seen it all. You’ve seen it all.

Watch the men who rode you
Switch from sail to steam
In your belly you hold the treasures
Few have ever seen.
Most of ‘em dream, most of ‘em dream”
                                  Jimmy Buffett

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”
                                                                           ~ Zen proverb

Sometimes in our hectic lives even the most ambitious among us desire to turn our backs on the daily pursuit of power and success, to leave the suburban sprawl behind and to embrace the enchanting but unprofitable art of beachcombing. Like our prehistoric hunter-gatherer ancestors who started some of the mounds around St. Andrews Bay, we may choose to begin our intertidal zone scavenger hunt for shells, driftwood or some other part of Poseidon’s treasure on one of Bay County’s many isolated Gulf front beaches [see the BAY COUNTY’S BEST GULF BEACHES box in this article] but even if we don’t get a kick out of having the chance to enjoy Neptune’s blessing by getting something for nothing, a nice stroll on a peaceful beach is a great opportunity to decompress in the salt air, to calm your soul , to “give your head some space” and in the current cultural vernacular, “to stay Zen.”

The word “beachcomber” made its first appearance in print in Herman Melville’s 1847 book OMOO. Melville used the term to describe unemployed sailors who foraged along the beaches of Pacific islands for the remains of shipwrecks. Over the course of the next 166 years, the term has been associated with deserters, free-loaders, bums, drifters and in some cases, the criminal class of wreckers who were known to set up false beacon lights to lure ships onto shoals. Wrecking became such a tradition in the Shetland Islands that Christian preachers there once included this appeal to the Almighty in their prayers, ”Lord, if it be thy holy will to send shipwrecks, do not forget our island.”

Well, times have changed and these days it’s not your Mama’s beachcombing.

Not only do we have “Dr. Beach”, “Dr. Beachcomb” and pricey expeditions that promise “full immersion” within “the beachcombing experience”, we have the annual International Beachcombing Conference, beachcombing autobiographies and self-help beachcombing books that “explore self-being” while bringing a “simplified perspective to beachcombing.” In other words, BEACHCOMBING, INC. (made up of a variety of shamans, neuroconservationists and born-again eco-environmentalists who desperately need copy for their next book or mixed media presentation) is now selling a mixed bag of beachcombing gear and amazing adventures in unadulterated nature.
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Beachcombing is really not a tough sell for the corporate beachcomber because it’s hard to argue with the joy beachcombing brings us.  A simple walk surrounded by the beautiful backdrop of shifting sand and shimmering surf, accompanied by the sounds of rolling waves and shrieking shorebirds, somehow has the magical ability to transform us, to bring us deep contentment and to return us to memories of our childhood and our families. In fact, there’s a great deal of scientific curiosity concerning exactly why the sea has this ability to suddenly bring us deep contentment. In the midst of the stress of work, smart phones and deadlines, we often find ourselves daydreaming about our beachcomber life and find ourselves revisiting our excursions in our imagination.

On just about any beach on Earth, beachcombing takes you through some really cool nature but Bay County beachcombing has an added bonus that makes it unique to all of North America. These Gulf front beaches are absolutely, astonishingly beautiful. When clear water comes in with the tide, it doesn’t take a trained eye to see the spectacular display of color produced by sunlight upon the exceeding whiteness of the sandy bottom. Any painter of landscapes who can concoct the right combination of pigment and is able to get just some of that beauty down on canvas, deserves to charge a good price for their work. 

From the intersection of Highway 98 and Florida Road 386 in Mexico Beach on the east to the Walton County line in Inlet Beach on the west, Bay County is blessed with over 40 miles of cherished Gulf-front beaches. Even though Bay County is only 100 years old, accurate maps of the area have been available for almost 250 years. During this time the sea has pounded and flattened this strand of sand many times and over the years, geographical terms like St. Andrews Island (1766), Crooked Island (1827), Sand Island (1827), Hummock Island (1827) and Hurricane Island (1855) have come and gone. This is not the place for a discussion about wave erosion and marine geology but, suffice it to say, the form and extent of the sandy barrier between the bay and the Gulf have changed over the years; in fact, there are no true barrier islands in Bay County anymore, only peninsulas. Even with all this geographical alteration, high rise condominium construction and urban beach, much of Bay County’s shoreline remains in the same natural state it was when the Spanish found it: a quartz white sandy beach with a few scrubby weeds in the dunes.

It’s hard to believe that beachcombing would become a potentially criminal activity but that’s exactly what we have in our present day. Everyone knows there’s always been rules and regulations at the beach like “no dogs”,  “no glass containers” or “walking on sand dunes or sea oats prohibited”, but now we have the threat of  “no shell collecting allowed” or barriers that keep people from walking on the beach such as closing walkways that go through the dunes to the beach. The recent events pertaining to the locked beach walkways at Bid-A-Wee are not the first time this conflict between the private and public has occurred on our beaches. Bay County has seen the horrific results that can occur when private property owners become a barrier between the public and the beach. In the summer of 1930, the owner of Long Beach Resort decided a great way to limit access to this treasured and limited public resource was to pistol whip a man the owner claimed was trespassing “on property of the beach “ when the man decided to relax in the sand just west of the resort. While his entire family stood by in shock, the “trespasser” not only was struck against the head repeatedly with a pistol by the Long Beach owner but was also kicked repeatedly in the groin. This assault resulted in permanent brain damage and impotence in the “perpetrator” and he ended up having to be institutionalized in Chattahoochee but not before May 23, 1931, when someone walked up to the owner of Long Beach Resort as he was getting out of his car on Highway 98 near St. Andrews and sent him to an early grave with a load of buckshot in the face.

The bad arrests on Shell Island during the summer of 2006 were amicably resolved but they exposed the erosion of legal principles as old as the common law itself but you know something’s happening to our right to walk on the beach in the United States when an agency like the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources issues a standing prohibition that “denies the removal of any natural artifacts from the public beaches of Hawaii.” Could this type of regulation be in some Bay County beach’s future?  For beachcombers, the hunt for shells, driftwood and artifacts is as ingrained within us as our own DNA so we bristle when we are permitted to pick up unoccupied shells but not allowed to take driftwood or sea glass. The marine resource enforcement bureaucrats who come up with all this “look but don’t touch” mumbo jumbo, are afraid we might remove an important clue from some ancient shipwreck blown to shore. So next time you find a gold coin on the beach fronting Spanish Shanty Cove, feel free to photograph it but make sure you leave it in the sand the same way as you found it. Always remember that touching anything on the beach could cause terrible erosion or destroy the natural oceanfront camouflage so important to insects and shorebirds.

Falling in love again with taking a stroll down a lonely beach may be the perfect way for each of us to take control of our cluttered lives. In May of 2013, Cruzan Rum took the “beachcomber lifestyle” as the state of mind and the way of life they want to brand onto their rum. In their television commercial, the viewer finds himself adrift within the towering waves of a stormy sea and hears the announcer say, “You are drowning. You are literally drowning in a figurative sea of busyness. When…wait! Is that?” The viewer suddenly sees an island on the screen and hears a greeting from a voice with a strange accent, ”Welcome! Welcome to the Island of Don’t Hurry where life never moves too fast and Cruzan Rum flows freely. For two hundred and fifty years our pastime has been ‘passing time.’ Join us. Come leave your hurried life behind.”

After introducing you to the National Bird, a rapping parrot who “can fly but chooses not to” and showing a domesticated tortoise hauling a cart of rum on the beach, the announcer gives you a preview of the national sports of “Zero K Runs” and “Sleep Yoga” along with advertisements for “Monkey Massages”. Then the announcer ends the ad with the words, “Slow down and enjoy the Don’t Hurry lifestyle wherever you may find it. When you hurry through life, you just get to the end faster.”

There’s is a tendency to underestimate our experiences walking the beach. How much is “pretty” worth to you? The value to the elderly or infirm of their entire life’s catalogue of beach scene memories has not been accurately calculated but a nice testable hypothesis would be whether pleasant memories at the beach are a great predictor of late-late-late life satisfaction.  Stay tuned…

Thursday, January 15, 2015

            The 200th Anniversary of the Siege of Ft. Bowyer and The End of The War of 1812 

     
Saturday, February 4, 1815: The weather improved and the larger British men-of-war and the larger troop transports received orders to sail to the lower(southern) anchorage off the Chandeleur Islands and the shallow draft vessels which included smaller men-of-war and troop transports were ordered to sail to the upper(northern) anchorage near Ship Island. This was done in anticipation of the ships of the lower anchorage taking the outer passage in the Gulf to the mouth of Mobile Bay and the ships of the upper anchorage taking the inner passage through the Mississippi Sound. Admiral Malcolm took command of the ships of the upper anchorage.

Sunday, February 5, 1815: The battering transports received orders to  move to the lower anchorage. All of the men and material aboard ships on the inner passage intended for the attack on Ft. Bowyer were identified and were ordered to disembark on Dauphin Island before being transported to Mobile Point.

Monday, February 6, 1815: The ships of both anchorages weighed anchor and sailed east toward Dauphin Island. All of the troops on board the ships on the outer passage except the ones to be used in the attack on Ft. Bowyer were ordered to land and occupy the eastern point of Dauphin Island the next morning.
Lawrence, the American commander at Ft. Bowyer, sent a messenger from Mobile Point to General Winchester in Mobile with the news of the British arrival and requested reinforcements.

Tuesday, February 7, 1815: The 85th Regiment of the British Army landed on Dauphin Island and found it so suitable that the 1st and 3rd Brigades were ordered to land and camp on the island. At daylight the ships of the lower anchorage off Petit Bois Island sailed to a new anchorage in the Gulf about three miles south of the shore of Dauphin Island. The ships designated to land troops on Mobile Point set sail at 1 P.M. and sailed for two hours and dropped anchor 4 miles south of the Gulf beach of Mobile Point. It was determined that it was too late in the day to begin landing troops.
38 of the Royal Navy's ships-of-the-line sealed off all of the sea approaches to Mobile Point,
U.S. General Winchester in Mobile received Lawrence's request from Ft. Bowyer on Mobile Point for reinforcements.

Wednesday, February 8, 1815: At 9 A.M. the 2nd Brigade of the British Army with about 1300 to 1400 men began landing on the Gulf beach on Mobile Point with no opposition. This landing occurred about two and a half to three miles east of Ft. Bowyer. The landing craft were only able to land 600 men at a time and no field artillery were landed in this first operation. Captain Robert Spencer and Colonel Alexander Dickson walked east down the beach toward the fort and found a landing place for the artillery and stores located about a mile closer to the fort. This landing place was determined when an opening in the outer sand bar was discovered which had about 4 feet of water. As the men of the 21st Regiment marched toward the fort along the beach, two of their men were killed and another injured by small arms fire coming from the fort. After determining the ideal location for artillery emplacements on the highest dunes, troops under the command of Colonel Burgoyne began digging a ditch parallel to the fort during the night of the 8th. The Americans were able to see the dark bodies of the British soldiers on the white dunes at night and fired four cannons at them at once. This killed and wounded 8 or 10 men.

Thursday, February 9, 1815: The working parties continued to dig trenches to the locations of the proposed batteries which were to be built on the highest sand dunes. Two British boats located in the water between Dauphin Island and the fort were fired upon by the Americans in the fort and one boat was shot through the sails. The Americans maintained a brisk cannon and musket fire at anyone who moved on the land side of the fort. British countered with musket fire forcing the Americans to pile sandbags around their rifle ports and embrasures.

Friday, February 10, 1815: Enough ordnance for two days firing was landed on shore by the British. The rest of the army had completed its landing on Dauphin Island. Members of the 85th Regiment were brought over to Mobile Point from Dauphin Island to relieve the 44th which had begun the siege on February 8. Captain Spencer was now in command of all 200 Seamen who had been landed on Mobile Point. In the afternoon the British captured a Mr. Drury at Little Bay John 12 miles east of Mobile Point and he informed them that the Americans had mined the ditch in front of Ft. Bowyer.

Saturday, February 11, 1815: At 9 A.M., with the artillery batteries completed and the trenches dug within 40 yards of the ditch of the fort, Major Harry Smith was sent under a flag of truce to Ft. Bowyer to offer the Americans the opportunity to let their women and children to come out of the fort before it was to be destroyed by British cannon fire which was to commence at 10 A.M. After considering the British proposal for two hours, the American commander, Colonel Lawrence, agreed to surrender but pleaded to be allowed not to deliver the fort until the next day, using as an excuse that some of his men had gotten drunk. A British detachment was allowed to occupy the gate of Ft. Bowyer and the Americans remained inside. This was a delaying ploy by the Americans who hoped that they would soon be supported by a force of 1000 American troops under the command of Major Uriah Blue who were enroute to Ft. Bowyer from Mobile.

Sunday, February 12, 1815:  The Americans at Ft. Bowyer on Mobile Point surrendered to the British.
370 Americans marched out of the fort including 20 women and 16 children.

From page 301 of Samuel Carter III's BLAZE OF GLORY:

Replying to Lambert's ultimatum, Lawrence agreed to capitulate if the terms were honorable.

The negotiations were conducted with the utmost propriety and courtesy. The written terms provided that the surrender would be handled with dignity and respect for the Americans,"the troops marching out with colors flying and drums beating...officers retaining their swords,.. all private property to be respected." The reason for these niceties, readily agreed to by the British and in fact promoted by them, became apparant later. No surrender in history has been so elaborately staged for the sake of its effect upon a truly captive audience.

It was as extravaganza timed, produced and directed with a fine flair for showmanship. While Cochrane and Lambert joined the cast on shore, Admiral Codrington, to lend dignity to the performance, arranged an elaborate dinner at sundown for the Americans in the cabin of the TONNANT (ed note: The same ship on which Frances Scott Key had composed THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER the previous September). Codrington was at the head of the table, the Americans on his right. After the dessert and vintage wines, a bugle sounded and the curtains of the main saloon were drawn.

Framed in the proscenium like an animated backdrop was Fort Bowyer in the last glow of the setting sun. At that moment the Stars and Stripes slid down the flagstaff while the Union Jack was raised to take its place. Guns thundered. The American troops marched out in full dress uniform while the British stood at attention. The band played "Yankee Doodle" and "God Save the King" as a finale.

Codrington regarded his guests with smug satisfaction. This would be something for them to report to Jackson! This was how the British did things! He turned to Livingston on his right.

"Well, colonel, you perceive now that our day has just commenced."

Livingston, deeply troubled by this spectacle, was never at a loss for words. He raised his glass to the exultant victor.

"Congratulations, Admiral!" he said. "Please be assured that we Americans do not begrudge you this small consolation." 

Monday, February 13, 1815: The HMS Brazen arrived that morning at the lower British anchorage off of Dauphin Island with news that peace had been signed at Ghent between Great Britain and America on December 24, 1814.
 from page 301-302 of Samuel Carter III's BLAZE OF GLORY:

While the Americans were detained aboard the TONNANT and the British staff debated the next move that would consolidate its gain, a swift frigate approached the anchorage. A lowered gig was rowed toward the flagship, Shepherd was standing on deck beside Admiral Malcolm when the officer approached with a message from the gig. Malcolm read it, threw his hat in the air with an un-British shout, and turning to Shepherd wrung his hand with uninhibited warmth.

"Good news, my friend," he said, "The treaty has been signed in Ghent. We are enemies no longer." then, votto voce, the Admiral added: "To tell you the truth I have hated this war from the beginning."





http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsp&fileName=004/llsp004.db&recNum=559 

A watercolor of Fort Bowyer found in the Pulteney Malcolm papers at the University of Michigan. It was reprinted in Gene Allen Smith's article, DEFEAT AT FORT BOWYER, in the Summer 2014 issue of ALABAMA HERITAGE http://www.alabamaheritage.com/issue-113-summer-2014.html