The Loyal Colonies
In 1776, Britain had fifteen American colonies. On July 4th of that year thirteen declared independence and began the Revolutionary War. One colony that remained loyal to Britain was East Florida and its capitol St. Augustine. The other colony was West Florida with its capitol Pensacola. It remained a British stronghold and a haven for Tories fleeing the rebellious colonies until 1781 when Spain invaded Pensacola. Florida was then ceded back to Spain by the British.
West and East Florida were invited to send delegates to the still forming Continental Congress. Both colonies being
strong loyalists declined the offer and remained with Britain. When the war started, for most in the southern colonies including Florida, the Revolutionary War wasn’t a war for independence but a Civil War against King and Country. According to the National Park Service, East Florida was protected by the local militias which were made up of Loyalists that fled from Georgia and the Carolinas. Their was a professional regiment of British regulars but they were ineffectual due to their small number mixed with the large territory they were assigned to protect. Even here much like most of the rest of the Revolutionary War the battles were mostly won by local militias and not the professional armies.
The Battle of Thomas Creek
While there were numerous incursions and raids made by the American rebels into East Florida all mostly repelled by the joint of militia and the British Army there was only one actual battle. That was the Battle of Thomas Creek.
According to the Historical Florida’s Marker Program the Battle of Thomas Creek took place in what is now the county of Nassau just south of the city of Callahan on U.S. 1 highway and Thomas Creek. On May 17, 1777, Lt. Col. Samuel Elbert led a mix of troops from the Continental Army and Georgia militias on a mission to capture and occupy St. Augustine. They were stopped by Maj. J.M. Prevost of the British Regular Army and Col. Thomas Brown of the East Florida Rangers, a militia calvary. These groups were aided by Indian allies. The American forces were throughly routed and fled in retreat due to a lack of supplies, morale, the oppressive heat and superior numbers of the enemy troops. Some Americans in their rush abandoned their horses and fled into the swamp. According to the National Park Service American losses were eight killed, nine wounded and thirty-one captured. Of the thirty-one captured fifteen were killed by Indians before the British were able to stop them. Only forty-two American soldiers escaped to the safety of Georgia.
After the War
When the Revolutionary War ended with the British defeat. Most of the loyalists left the country of America for either Britain or the West Indies because Florida ceased to be a British colony and was ceded back to Spain after they captured and occupied St. Augustine in 1783. This was a sad day for Loyalists because just like the American Patriots they were born in America and thought of it as home.