2016-02-05 / Travel

A Wild Senior Trip

Part 3: Fernandina, Isle of Many Flags
By Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D.


Jean Ribault built a fort named Caroline near present-day Jacksonville. Jean Ribault built a fort named Caroline near present-day Jacksonville. Fernandina, Florida ( now a city on Amelia Island and part of Greater Jacksonville) proved to be a series of tests the noble crew of the Tigner Tiger failed one after the other. But, before that sad story, here’s a bit of the rich history of Fernandina, The Isle of Many Flags. Flag # 1– France: Native American moundbuilders lived on the island from 1000 A.D. until French explorer Jean Ribault arrived in 1562 from his first settlement of Charlesfort (now Parris Island in S.C.). He named it the Isle de Mai and built a fort named Caroline near present- day Jacksonville. Sadly, he gave the natives small pox which drove them to extinction.

Flag #2 – Spain: Ribault and 350 men were slaughtered in 1565 by Spanish forces who established a Franciscan mission on the island and renamed it Isla de Santa Maria, then soon left.


George Governor Oglethorpe renamed the island “Amelia Island” in honor of King George II’s daughter in 1732. George Governor Oglethorpe renamed the island “Amelia Island” in honor of King George II’s daughter in 1732. Flag #3 – England: English raiders from Charleston moved into the abandoned Spanish mission in 1685. This allowed South Carolina’s colonial governor James Moore to occupy the island in 1702 even though it was Spanish territory.

Thirty years later, Georgia’s colonial governor, James Oglethorpe, established a small settlement on the island and negotiated with Spanish colonial officials to transfer the island to British sovereignty. The brash Oglethorpe renamed the island “Amelia Island” in honor of King George II’s daughter. The 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded Florida to Britain and nullified all Spanish land grants in Florida.

Flag # 4 – Spain again:The Second Treaty of Paris (1783) ended the Revolutionary War and returned Florida to Spain. In 1811, the town was named “Fernandina” in honor of King Ferdinand VII of Spain.


French explorer Jean Ribault named the island “Isle de Mai” in 1562. French explorer Jean Ribault named the island “Isle de Mai” in 1562. Flag #5 – USA/Mexico/ USA: In 1813, American Patriots seized the island and raised the American flag and maintained control until Spanish forces retook the island in 1816. Gregor MacGregor, a Scottishborn soldier of fortune, and 55 musketeers, seized the island in 1817. Spanish soldiers forced Mac- Gregor's withdrawal but were foiled by Americans who joined forces with the French-born pirate Luis Aury, who claimed the island on behalf of the Republic of Mexico. U.S. Navy forces drove the pirates from the island, and President James Monroe held the island “in trust for Spain.”

Flag # 6 – CSA: In 1861 the State of Florida seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. General Robert E. Lee visited Fernandina during a survey of coastal fortifications prior to the Civil War.

Flag #7 – USA again: Union gunboats commanded by Commodore Samuel Dupont restored Federal control of the island on March 3, 1862, and raised the American Flag.

Next Week: Fernandina, The First Tests

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