Saturday, October 17, 2009

Battle of Bloody Marsh - St. Simons Island, Georgia

Legend holds that on July 7, 1742, an expanse of saltwater marsh ran red with blood as English troops ambushed and drove back Spanish soldiers on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

The event has been remembered as the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the site is now preserved as a detached unit of Fort Frederica National Monument.

The real story of the fight at Bloody Marsh is a bit different, but still highly significant. English troops led by General James Oglethorpe had defeated a Spanish advance force earlier in the day at the smaller but actually bloodier Battle of Gully Hole Creek (see yesterday's post). When the Spanish forces withdrew down the island's Military Road following that encounter, Oglethorpe followed them. Recognizing that he would need additional men, the general put his company of Independent Highlanders and part of the 42nd Regiment of Foot into position along the edge of an area of woods looking out across the open marsh any Spanish advance would likely cross. He then started to the rear to speed up his reinforcements that were moving down the island from Fort Frederica.

By mid-afternoon, Spanish commander Governor Don Manuel de Montiano ordered additional troops forward to help his retreating advance make it back to his base at Fort St. Simons. Moving up the Military Road, they soon reached the open marsh covered by Oglethorpe's troops.

Although legend holds that the Spanish were caught by surprised and ambushed by the English, an eyewitness described them moving forward with shouts. This indicates they probably knew Oglethorpe's men were waiting and were launching an attack against them.

Additional support for this is provided by the fact that part of the English line collapsed in the face of the Spanish attack. At least three "squads" from the 42nd Regiment of Foot retreated in confusion, leaving the Highlanders along with some rangers and a few allied Indians. The story with the hard-fighting Highlanders was different. As they Spanish approached they fought with such fury that the battle quickly turned into a stalemate and finally an English victory when the Spanish ran out of ammunition and were forced to withdraw. While it is true that blood may have been seen running in the marsh, casualties were light.

The Battle of Bloody Marsh marked the end of the last major Spanish land campaign to retake the nation's lost lands in Georgia and South Carolina. Combined with the English victory at Gully Hole Creek earlier in the day, the engagement convinced Montiano that he could not overwhelm Oglethorpe with his land forces. He soon would withdraw back to St. Augustine leaving Georgia firmly and permanently in English possession.

To learn more, please visit

No comments: