Fort Mose Historical State Park certainly lives up to its name. It is indeed, very historical and an important part of history that should never be forgotten. While Britain was busy dominating and ruling the northern United States in the early 1700’s, Spain was settling Florida. The very first American city, St. Augustine was already a thriving port. Sympathy for runaway slaves by the Spanish Army was well known among North Carolina slaves, that St. Augustine was a safe haven.
In 1693, Spanish proclamation declared all runaway slaves emancipation on three conditions. One, accept the Catholic faith, two, swear allegiance to the Spanish king and three, serve in the Spanish militia.
By 1738, there were at least 100 or more black runaway slaves in St. Augustine. Francisco Menendez-an African-born Mandingo-led over 100 now former slaves, north of the town to build a log fortress to protect the town from potential British invasion.
The inevitable happened and one year later, war was declared between Britain and Spain. In 1740, British soldiers from nearby Georgia marched to the Fort Mose for an assault on the defenses. What they found when they got there was an abandoned fort. All of the families living at the fort safely evacuated to St. Augustine.
British troops thinking the Spaniards had retreated set up camp and began to celebrate an easy victory. But on the morning of June 26, 1740 the British woke up to the battle cries of over 300 Spanish soldiers and the black militia men. They killed 68 British soldiers, captured 34 and the rest fled back to Georgia.
The fort was demolished and the black free families lived in St. Augustine until 1752, when a new fort was built further north. Many of the residents worked as sailors and fishermen in St. Augustine. By 1763, Florida was ceded back into British hands and slavery’s ugly head would rear itself on Florida once again. The free blacks packed up and fled to Northeast Cuba, where there descendants still live to this day.
While there are no remains of the fort today, a visitors center houses displays, dioramas and other historical information and artifacts on the fort. In September of 2010, the visitor’s center will be undergoing an expansion and new exhibits will be on display. The visitor’s center may be closed. You can contact the park office at (904)823-2232 or visit the Fort Mose Historic State Park website here..