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Bill Thayer

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History of West Florida

Histories and Source Documents

"West Florida" is the name traditionally given to a strip of territory along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, not very wide north and south, but extending westward from the Apalachicola River in the Florida panhandle all the way to the Mississippi; it came by its identity and name as a British province in 1763, then was a province of Spain from 1783 to 1810, when it started to be gradually annexed by the United States, a process completed by 1819.

The peculiar history of this small area, now parceled out among the States of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, is due to its strategic importance: both its capital Pensacola and the city of Mobile are superb natural harbors, and it includes the mouths of various rivers by which crops can be transported to the ocean from a large fertile area that is otherwise landlocked; and enough of the lower course of the Mississippi to allow a strangle­hold on New Orleans. No surprise then that American frontiersmen, quietly encouraged by the government of the young United States, should have taken it over and wrested it from Spain; the episode was important in itself, but also as a sort of low-key dry run for the independence and eventual annexation of the Republic of Texas.

[image ALT: A woodcut of a flag bearing a single five-pointed star in the center of an otherwise blank field. It is the flag of the Republic of West Florida and serves as the icon on my site for Stanley Clisby Arthur's book, 'The Story of the West Florida Rebellion'.]

[ 158 pages of print, 4 maps, 8 decorative engravings ]

One of the very few published books entirely devoted to the Republic of West Florida — and a rather hard book to find, too — is onsite in full: Stanley Clisby Arthur's The Story of the West Florida Rebellion. Not the best written nor proofread, and not often citing its sources, it's still a thorough account of the events of 1810, with the additional merit of some interesting and even amusing background items, but more importantly, substantial excerpts of the primary sources themselves, including the complete Ordinance of August 28th, in some ways the equivalent of a Constitution, running to 18 pages of even finer print than the rest of the book.

[image ALT: An engraving of the head of a bearded man. It is a portrait of the Louisiana historian Charles Gayarré.]

[ 3/7/10: 2 chapters, passim ]

West Florida's practical and diplomatic relation­ship with the United States in the early 19c is covered in fair detail by Charles Gayarré (seen here on the left) in his History of Louisiana, Vol. III, Chapter 9 and Vol. IV, Chapter 5.

[image ALT: A close-up of a collection of papers spread out on a table. It is the icon used on this site to represent my American History Notes subsite.]

[ 9/11/10: 123 pages of print presented in 5 webpages ]

Squirreled away in the American History Notes section of the site, other West Florida material, consisting for now of:

Bernardo de Galvez' Diary of the Operations against Pensacola (1781) (primary source)

The Pan-American Policy of Jefferson and Wilkinson

Philemon Thomas and the West Florida Revolution

St. Joseph, Florida

Civil War Operations in and around Pensacola

[image ALT: A five-pointed star in the center of a rectangular field. It is the flag of the short-lived Republic of West Florida.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is the flag of the independent Republic of West Florida.

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Site updated: 1 Jan 22