Dana Williams, the son of colonial history and antique weapons expert, Jack Williams, reminds Historic City News readers that today marks the 200th anniversary of the burning of Fort Mose in St Augustine during the Patriot War of 1812.
Williams’ father once owned land where today’s state park is located and was credited for discovering the lost site of Fort Mose; the first free-black settlement in what was to become the United States. He was honored for his discovery with the de Aviles Award in 2003.
Beginning in January of 1811 there was a clandestine attempt by the United States to take control of Florida from Spain. A secret act was passed by Congress “to enable the President of the United States, under certain contingencies, to take possession of the country lying east of the river Perdido, and south of the State of Georgia and the Mississippi territory”
United States citizens from Georgia were recruited to provoke an outwardly appearing rebellion in Spanish settlements. This was done to provide a pretext for federal troops to come in and “restore order”.
On April 12, 1812, the First Regiment of United States Riflemen under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas A. Smith occupied Fort Mose.
The Spanish attacked the fort and Smith was forced to pull back to an encampment further from St Augustine. A month later, on May 16, 1812, the Spanish set fire to Fort Mose to prevent it from being re-occupied by the Americans.
In the early 1960’s, Jack Williams opened the Gun Shop and Museum of Weapons in Saint Augustine. After his death in 2011, Dana Williams assumed the collection of antique firearms, edged weapons and rare artifacts that were his fathers. The Jack Williams Collection contains examples of both the elaborately decorated weapons of the rich as well as everyday weapons of the Spanish, English and French Colonial periods.
Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News contributed photograph by Dana Williams