Fort Frederica and Bloody Marsh

    Although the Carolinians' effort to occupy the "Debatable Land" south of the Carolinas had failed with the accidental burning of Fort King George, interest in the area continued in Britain.  The threat remained of a Spanish or French occupation of the area.  A British social reformer, James Oglethorpe, would lead another, larger attempt with several settlements, eventually including St. Simon's Island several miles south of the site of Fort King George.  Debtors and the "worthy poor" were recruited to immigrate to the colony, named "Georgia" in honor of the king, and settlers from different countries and of different religious affiliations were welcome.  Slavery and rum were prohibited.  In January 1733, Savannah was colonized.  After scouting further south, Oglethorpe decided to colonize St Simon's Island, and in 1736 over 100 people settled there, building Fort Frederica, named after the king's son Frederick.  By the 1740s around 500 people lived within the fort.Near the old burned down Fort King George would be a settlement of Scots in a town named Darien.  

     The main settlement on St. Simon's Island was Fort Frederica, a town based on a grid pattern.  The riverside fort was for the most part a conventional square fort with bastions at each corner, but there was also a spur battery to place additional firepower on the river.  

     When relations with Spain became more strained in the late 1730s, city walls were built around the town.  Now the original fort could perhaps function as a citadel - a fallback position in case the town was captured. The town walls were small by European standards, with a moat 10 feet wide, but the design was interesting in that the trace was an innovative one based on Vauban's Neuf Brisach.  The bastions had blockhouses that although they were proof only against small arms perhaps served like cavaliers in a more heavily built work.  The curtain walls between the bastions were indented to provide flanking fire along the length of the wall.  


This is the view from within the fort.  The spur battery has been eroded away by the river, but it was equipped with 6-7 guns.

The fort was built on the outer bend of the river, so it dominated water approaches from both directions, and warships could only approach directly and were therefore unable to bring much of their firepower to bear against the fort.



Several hundred soldiers, most of the garrison, lived in these barracks, now in ruins, built of tabby, a local type of concrete made with oyster shells. 

Northeast Bastion

     The northeast bastion is a good place to understand the city walls.  The blockhouse no longer exists, but its site is marked by wooden rails.  The blockhouse helped dominate the moat.

  Along the curtain, a firestep allowed infantry to load under cover then step up to fire.  In front of the rampart was a palisade, then a moat between 6 and 8 feet deep followed by another palisade about 10 feet in height.

     Although effective against infantry, a determined enemy with artillery could capture the fort, making an active defense of the island the best course of action. 


Spanish Expedition

    By the late 1730s, strained relations between Britain and Spain made a war over trade likely.  Oglethorpe journeyed to England to prepare then returned to Georgia with troops.  War with Spain broke out in 1739, and in 1740 Oglethorpe took 900 of his men with over 1,000 Indian allies to St. Augustine, but they failed to capture the fort defending it, Castillo de San Marcos.

    In 1742, a Spanish expedition sailed from St. Augustine with 2,000 troops against St. Simon's Island.  Fort St. Simon near the modern lighthouse did little damage to the Spanish fleet which passed between St. Simon's Island and Jekyll Island, and after the Spanish landed, the British abandoned the fort to the Spanish.  Around 115 Spaniards advanced to within half a mile of Fort Fredica but were routed at Gully Hole Creek.  

Bloody Marsh - July 18, 1742
    Oglethorpe had only about 1,000 men.  Pursuing the retreating Spainiards, Oglethorpe encountered a stronger Spanish force and fell back.  Returning to the rear to bring up reinforcements, Oglethorpe missed the coming fight.  Here at causeway crossing a marsh, the advance British force clashed with the Spanish.  Little is know of the fight, but the Spanish were repulsed and fell back to their landing site.

    Oglethorpe contemplated attacking the Spanish camp, but perhaps fortunately an untimely desertion convinced him that it was unwise.  The standoff ended, however, with the arrival of a few British ships.  Short on supplies, fearing the arrival of more English ships, and with strict orders to preserve his force and return with a certain time frame, the Spanish commander withdrew from the island.

    By the Seven Years War Fort Frederica was in decline, but Oglethorpe's colony, the last of the thirteen, survived.   

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