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From Contemporary Narratives and Letters
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sketch: view of town and Castle of St. Augustine


Florida finally went to Great Britain in 1763. The British had captured Havana, Cuba, and for the return of Havana, Spain was obliged to relinquish Florida.

St. Augustine became a regimental headquarters for British armed forces, and the courtyard of the erstwhile Spanish castle resounded to the tread of red-coated troops. But though the English repaired and strengthened the fort, it served as little more than a prison for men who were considered too dangerous for the common gaols downtown.

During the American Revolution, the Florida provinces remained loyal to King George III and were active against the rebellious southern colonies. As the war progressed toward the Yorktown climax, the British captured Charleston, S. C., and a number of political and military prisoners were sent from Charleston to St. Augustine (1780). Here most of them accepted new paroles, which allowed them freedom of the town, but Gen. Christopher Gadsden, Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, maintained that the parole he had previously given in Charleston had been violated by the English when he was brought to St. Augustine, and as a matter of principle, he refused to give a second parole. The result was imprisonment in the castle, an experience that Gadsden describes in the following letter to General Washington. There was a general exchange of prisoners in 1781, and the Charleston gentlemen, Gadsden among them, were shipped to Philadelphia, whence they returned to their homes.

Philadelphia 10 August 1781.

Dr Sir

The Bearer Mr John Loveday informf me that he hath had the Honour to be Reccomended to an Office in your Excellency's Family by some of your Friends here. I cannot in justice deny him my Testimony of his Character—

He has been Mefsenger of the Privy Council of our State four or five Years during which Time he always behaved with the greatest diligence, Attention, & Secrecy & is, your Excellency may be afsured a strictly honest Man. He was taken by the Enemy a few Days before Chas. Town capitulated, trusted with some important Mefsages from Mr Rutledge, was immediately closely confin'd, & when We were shipt off to Augustine sent with us—He is a sober, prudent discrete man, very firm & steady to the Cause — — —.

Sixty One of us with our Servants arriv'd in two small Vefsels from Augustine, part about ten or twelve & the Remainder about five or six Days since, thanks to Heaven all in good Health & Spirits—We were in Augustine from the 15th Septr to the 17th> last month, forty two Weeks of which I was confin'd in the Castle, & none of my Friends permitted to see me, because I wou'd not give another Parole, I told them I had kept the first as a Gentleman, defy'd (& do still defy) them to prove the Contrary & was determined never to take a second wch wou'd imply a Breach of the first Their Treatment of me when taken up the 27th of August last, was much more severe & pointed than against any of my Friends, which appears to me more owing to the Station I was In, than as Mr Gadsden, (tho I believe no Favourite as such,) & my not being mention'd in the Capitulation gave them an Opportunity to affect treating me with Rigour & Contempt. I thought it a Duty I owed to the General Cause to Refuse to the last giving a Second Parole, that I might be as a Standing protest against such outrageous Tyranical Conduct—

When in the Castle the Officers were order'd frequently nor to converse with me, however, many of them often did, & all of them behaved with Decency, I never had the least Insult offer'd me there, Once indeed there was an Order against my lighting a Candle In Consequence of which I went without for two or three Nights, but the Pitifulnefs of this they were soon asham'd of themselves. Mr Ferguson & I are waiting for our Families expected in a few Days as soon as we see them a little fix'd, we shall set off for our State as will most of the Carolina Gentlemen here, We hope to be gone by the middle of next month at farthest—I beg your Excellys & the Publick pardon for taking up so much of your precious Time & am with the greatest Esteeme

Yr Excellency's
    Most Obedt hble Svt


Letter of Christopher Gadsden to Gen. George Washington, August 10, 1781.

sketch: Brig. Gen. Christopher Gadsden
Indomitable Brig. Gen. Christopher Gadsden was a leader of the American Revolution in South Carolina. As a matter of principle, he endured an imprisonment of 42 weeks at the Castillo. From a photograph of the likeness in the Independence Hall Collection, Philadelphia, Pa.


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