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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 Revolution.


Text from: A Short History of Florida
Used with the permission of Florida's Division of Historical Resources

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