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About Amelia Island

A bit of history…


hen French sailors, lead by Jean Ribault, landed on Amelia island in May 1562, they were greeted by Native American Timucuans, descendants of the first inhabitants who had lived here since 2000 B.C. What the Timucuans called Napoyca, Ribault renamed L’isle de Mai, honoring the month he arrived. He claimed it for France and raised the first of eight flags that would fly over the island. In 1565, the Spanish, who had just established St. Augustine as America’s first town, arrived on the island under the command of Pedro Menendez. They vanquished the French, destroyed the settlement, and set up the Santa Maria Mission. They named the island for the mission and raised the Spanish flag for the first time. The island officially remained Spain’s possession until 1763. However, the island got the name “Amelia” before the English actually took possession. When James Ogelthorpe, the founder and governor of Georgia, led a scouting expedition onto the island in March 1736, he immediately renamed it in honor of King George II’s daughter, Amelia. He established a fort on the island, but abandoned it in 1742 during the war between Spain and England. The island then became an uninhabited buffer between Spanish Florida and English Georgia. In 1761, during the French and Indian War, the Spanish sided with the French, which cost them the island. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris made Florida England’s possession and the English flag was raised over the island.

In 1784, after the American Revolution, the second Treaty of Paris gave Florida back to Spain because of its support for the Americans. In January, 1811, the Spanish post on the island was named Fernandina in honor of Spanish King Ferdinand VII. However, during this period, three other flags were hoisted over Amelia Island. With the blessing of President James Madison’s government, which feared the British buildup in Florida prior to the War of 1812, a group of American “patriots” from St. Marys, Georgia, made a bloodless invasion and raised their flag in March 1812, before being driven out by the Spanish two months later. In June 1817, General Sir Gregor MacGregor drove out an aging Spanish garrison in another bloodless invasion and raised his family flag with St. George’s Green Cross on a white field. In early September, MacGregor, and those of his troops who had not already left, departed the island upon hearing that the Spaniards were readying an attack on Fernandina. Meanwhile, a Frenchman named Luis Aury, who had fought the Spanish with McGregor, was plundering Spanish ships with the permission of Mexico’s revolutionaries. He soon ran into troubles at his base on Snake Island (now Galveston, Texas), making his departure advisable. He heard that MacGregor needed help in Fernandina, so he sailed into Fernandina with three ships, but MacGregor had already left. Aury then hoisted the red-bordered, blue and white checked flag of the Mexican revolutionaries and declared himself ruler of the island. In December, five American ships sailed into Fernandina to reclaim the island “in trust for Spain” and raised the American flag.

President John Quincy Adams then pushed Spain to relinquish her possessions in Florida, which she officially did on July 10, 1821. While the American flag was now flying over Amelia Island, one more was yet to be hoisted. On January 8, 1861, two days before Florida seceded from the Union, the Third Regiment of Florida Volunteers marched into Fort Clinch and raised the Confederate flag. When word got to Fernandina in early 1862 that a Union flotilla of 28 gunboats was on its way, most of the Confederate forces fled, and the Confederate flag was replaced by the Stars and Stripes, which has flown over the island ever since