Oglethorpe's Barracks & Tombs
Harper's Weekly Vol. III No. 114
5 March 1859
WE engrave herewith, from sketches furnished us by an attentive correspondent in
the South, the ruins of General Oglethorpe’s barracks at Frederica, St.
Simon’s Island, Glynn County, Georgia; also “Oglethorpe’s Tombs,” in
which lie the mortal remains of many of his officers and soldiers, the first
settlers of Georgia.
The events which give historic importance to Frederica occurred in the year 1742. In that year the Spaniards entered the spacious and beautiful harbor of Brunswick, with a fleet of thirty sail of Spanish armed ships, brigs, etc., and landed some four or five thousand “veteran troops” of Spain to conquer Georgia, and, if successful, to carry the war into the then colony of South Carolina, and annex that noble province to the aspiring diadem of Spain.
To resist this overwhelming force General Oglethorpe had but seven hundred effective men and about forty Chickasaw and Choctaw warriors. The enemy effected an unopposed landing at a place then called Gascoin’s Bluff, near the south end of the island, on the east bank of the south branch of the Altamaha River, where it disembogues into Oglethorpe’s Sound, or Brunswick harbor. The event, by-the-way, demonstrates most conclusively the importance of fortifying this accessible port on the southern sea-coast of Georgia, and establishing, with the least possible delay, the commanding position of a naval depot at Blyth’s Island, recently purchased by government, opposite the beautiful site of Brunswick.
The enemy were commanded by Don Arrodondo and Don Antonio, and took up the line of march for Oglethorpe’s spacious intrenchments and tabby fortifications at Frederica, situated on the east bank of the south branch of the Altamaha, near the middle of St. Simon’s Island. At an early hour in the morning, just as a bright Southern sun rose above the outer islands to illuminate the scene of their utter defeat, the Dons, somewhat fatigued, it is presumed, by their hasty and early march through a tangling chaparral, bivouacked for a hot cup of coffee and breakfast as they entered on a spacious marsh. Here Oglethorpe’s van of forty Chickasaw and Choctaw warriors and a small detachment of vedettes opened a deadly fire on them as they sat on the ground devouring their meager ration. Many left their arms on the spot, while others fled for the path they had left, and were rejoiced to find themselves once more safe at Gascoin’s Bluff. In the mean while two brigs of twenty guns each had been sent up the river to attack Oglethorpe by water at Frederica. Their heavy cannonade compelled our gallant commander to hasten back from the pursuit of the Spaniards to defend his works at Frederica. He soon compelled the bombarding brigs to slip their cables and make all sail for Gascoin’s Bluff.
Meanwhile the Spanish leaders, chagrined by their rapid retreat from Bloody Marsh (the name it has ever since received, and still retains), rallied their troops, which the war-whoops of the furious Chickasaws and Choctaws had nearly rendered frantic, and urged them on to attack Oglethorpe in his strong-hold at Frederica. They were crossing an extensive savanna, or prairie, in advance of Frederica, when Oglethorpe, who lay in ambush in a thick wood (where our church now stands), poured into their compact columns a most deadly fire. Here tradition relates that Tomo Chichi, the brave and dauntless chief of the Chickasaws and Choctaws, became personally engaged with Captain Sanches of the Spanish army. The latter drew a pistol and shot the chief in the arm. The Indian had just discharged his rifle, and seizing his tomahawk, cleaved Sanches’s skull in twain. The enemy were again most thoroughly defeated; but our cautious General, unwilling to expose his feeble force, allowed them to retreat to Gascoin’s Bluff and re-embark on board their shipping. They spread all sail for St. Augustine, when the Spanish chimera of conquering Georgia was forever abandoned.
In the tombs herewith depicted rest some of the brave men whose efforts saved Georgia from becoming a Spanish province, as the Floridas were at that time. Their memories, like their names, have been forgotten by history. In a field to the rear of these barracks bomb-shells and hollow shots have been plowed up, and a boxful of them sent to the Historical Society of Savannah, where they remain unnoticed. These tombs are called Oglethorpe’s Tombs, although he died in England. Their tenants were his officers, soldiers, or citizens, the first settlers of the country.
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