British Florida, 1763-1783
Britain gained control of Florida in 1763 in exchange
for Havana, Cuba, which the British had captured from Spain
during the Seven Years' War (1756-63). Spain evacuated
Florida after the exchange, leaving the province virtually
empty. At that time, St. Augustine was still a garrison
community with fewer than five hundred houses, and Pensacola
also was a small military town.
The British had ambitious plans for Florida. First, it
was split into two parts: East Florida, with its capital
at St. Augustine; and West Florida, with its seat at Pensacola.
The Apalachicola River became the boundary between them.
British surveyors mapped much of the landscape and coastline
and tried to develop relations with a group of Indian people
who were moving into the area from the North. The British
called these people of Creek Indian descent Seminolies,
or Seminoles, after the Creek word for "wild ones" or "separatists".
Britain attempted to attract white settlers by offering
land on which to settle and help for those who produced
products for export. Given enough time, this plan might
have converted Florida into a flourishing colony, but British
rule lasted only twenty years.
The two Floridas remained loyal to Great Britain throughout
the War for American Independence (1776-83). Spain entered
the war on the patriot side and as an ally of France in
June 1779. The seizure of Pensacola from the British in
May 1781 came at the end of the largest battle ever fought
in Florida. In 1783, Spain regained control of the rest
of Florida as part of the peace treaty that ended the American
Text from: A Short History of Florida
Used with the permission of Florida's Division of Historical