Amelia Island – The Isle of 8 Flags



The History of Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach.

Amelia Island has a long and varied history. The island has frequently changed possession and been under eight different flags – the only United States location to have done so!

French Flag

In 1562 French Huguenot explorer Jean Ribault becomes the first (recorded) European visitor to Napoyca and names it Isle de Mar.

In 1565, Spanish forces led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles drive the French from northeastern Florida, slaughtering Ribault and approximately 350 other French colonists.

Spanish Flag

In 1573, Spanish Franciscans establish the Santa Maria mission on the island, which is named Isla de Santa Maria. The mission was abandoned in 1680 after the inhabitants refuse a Spanish order to relocate.

British raids force the relocation of the Santa Catalina de Guale mission on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia, to the abandoned Santa Maria mission on the Island in 1685.

English Flag

Georgia’s founder and colonial governor, James Oglethorpe, renames the island “Amelia Island” in honor of princess Amelia (1710-1786), King George II’s daughter, although the island was still a Spanish possession.

After establishing a small settlement on the northwestern edge of the island, Oglethorpe negotiates with Spanish colonial officials for a transfer of the island to British sovereignty. Colonial officials agree to the transfer, but the King of Spain nullifies the agreement.

The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ratifies Britain’s victory in the Seven Years’ War, ceding Florida to Britain in exchange for Havana and nullifying all Spanish land grants in Florida. The Proclamation of 1763 established the St. Mary’s River as East Florida’s northeastern boundary.

Spanish Flag

In 1783, the Second Treaty of Paris ends the Revolutionary War and returns Florida to Spain. British inhabitants of Florida had to leave the province within 18 months unless they swore allegiance to Spain.

In 1811, surveyor George J. F. Clarke plats the town of Fernandina, named in honor of King Ferdinand VII of Spain.

Patriot Flag

With the approval of President James Madison and Georgia Governor George Mathews in 1812-1813, insurgents known as the “Patriots of Amelia Island” seize the island. After raising a Patriot flag, they replace it with the United States Flag.

American gunboats under the command of Commodore Hugh Campbell maintain control of the island until Spanish pressure forces their evacuation in 1813.

Green Cross of Florida Flag

Spanish forces erect Fort San Carlos on the island in 1816. Led by Gregor MacGregor in 1817, a Scottish-born soldier of fortune, 55 musketeers seize Fort San Carlos, claiming the island on behalf of the “Green Cross.”

Mexican Rebel Flag

Spanish soldiers force MacGregor’s withdrawal, but their attempt to regain complete control is foiled by American irregulars organized by Ruggles Hubbard and former Pennsylvania congressman Jared Irwin.

Hubbard and Irwin later join forces with the French-born pirate Luis Aury, who lays claim to the island on behalf of the Republic of Mexico. U. S. Navy forces drive Aury from the island, and President James Monroe vows to hold Amelia Island “in trust for Spain.”

Confederate Flag

On January 8, 1861, two days before Florida’s secession, Confederate sympathizers (the Third Regiment of Florida Volunteers) take control of Fort Clinch, already abandoned by Federal workers who had been constructing the fort.

General Robert E. Lee visits Fort Clinch in November 1861 and again in January 1862, during a survey of coastal fortifications.

United States Flag

Union forces, consisting of 28 gunboats commanded by Commodore Samuel Dupont, restore Federal control of the island on March 3, 1862 and raise the American Flag.

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