Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dauphin Island has absolutely THE BEST American Revolution stories you've NEVER heard of. One of the many stories that goes unrecognized for its historical importance is Dauphin Island's tenth armed, amphibious invasion, the 1780 Spanish siege of British Mobile's Fort Charlotte .
We begin this Dauphin Island story of the American Revolution when the U.S.S. West Florida, commanded by Captain William Pickles, first dropped anchor near the ship channel off Dauphin Island in February of 1780. Captain Pickles and his Continental Navy ship were accompanied by a huge convoy of Spanish ships. The Spanish convoy  had sailed from New Orleans in January but had been delayed by both the action of storms and by being becalmed. This fleet carried almost 800 soldiers and sailors on board 13 ships consisting of a merchant frigate, 4 row galleys, a sloop, a packet boat, three brigantines, a frigate of war, a galliot and a royal brig.

The mission of this enormous amphibious force anchored at Dauphin Island was to secure the strategic main channel at the mouth of Mobile Bay and to take tactical advantage of this position during the capture of Ft. Charlotte in Mobile. The conquest of Mobile was part of Spanish commander Bernardo de Galvez' plan to use Mobile as a supply station during his anticipated successful attack upon Pensacola. The conquest of Pensacola, British capital of West Florida, would insure the eventual Spanish conquest of all the land on the Gulf Coast. This would mean an end to British harassment in the Gulf for American smugglers from the Atlantic Coast who were moving war materials for the Continental Army from New Orleans, Havana and other southern ports through the British blockade of American harbors on the Atlantic.

The little known story of how a Continental Navy ship, the U.S.S. West Florida, ended up in the water off Dauphin Island in 1780 as part of a larger Spanish flotilla preparing for an armed amphibious invasion of Mobile Bay is a long one that begins almost four years earlier in 1776 when the Continental Congress in Philadelphia first considered a GULF COAST CAMPAIGN. The legacy of this historic invasion comes down to every present-day property owner on Dauphin Island because the origin of all modern day legal land titles on Dauphin Island originate with a Spanish re-grant of British title to the island which was allowed by the provisions of a treaty ending THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
From Hamilton's COLONIAL MOBILE, page 263:
"This is the first instance in these records of re-granting what had been British property. The Versailles treaty of peace of September 3, 1783, was to allow eighteen months for British subjects to sell and leave, and the time was extended six months longer ; but this treaty was not yet concluded. While West Florida was Spanish in fact, the war continued elsewhere until that treaty recognized the independence of the United States, and at the same time confirmed East and West Florida to Spain.

The most prominent re-grant was that by Governor Grimarest of Dauphine Island to Joseph Moro, the origin, in fact, of the existing title to that historic spot. Moro's petition of July 31, 1781, is dated at New Orleans, and says that he is an inhabitant of that city. Galvez the next day directs Grimarest to investigate the matter, and if the land is vacant to put Moro into possession and return the proceedings made out 'in continuation' with the commission, — a substitute for the endorsements on original papers by officials in our practice. September 21 of the same year there was a report by Charles Parent, Orbano Demouy, Dubroea, and Louis Carriere, who had been called on for evidence.

For some reason the matter was held up over two years, until after peace was declared; for Grimarest's concession to Moro bears date December 5, 1783, after J. B. Lamy had made a settlement in the centre of the island. In 1785 we find the king maintaining there a pilot and four sailors at an expense of $696.00."

Before telling the story of the arrival of the U.S.S. WEST FLORIDA off Dauphin Island, we must finish the work of constructing a time line that describes the progress as well as the failure of the Continental Congress' GULF COAST STRATEGY. One of the most important architects of this strategy was ROBERT MORRIS, often called "the financier of the American Revolution." One modern day place where the memory of Robert Morris is preserved is at Washington Chapel at Valley Forge where Morris' strong box from the American Revolution stands on display at the back of the chapel. It was once used as a deposit box for the church's offerings.

Another place where the legacy of Morris stands out is in the painting that graces our Nation's Capitol dome, THE APOTHEOSIS OF WASHINGTON.
Mercury handing Morris a bag of gold. (notice old King Neptune on the right)

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