Things heated up on the coast in 1739 with the so-called War of Jenkins’ Ear, which despite its seemingly trivial beginnings over the humiliation of a British captain by Spanish privateers was actually a proxy struggle emblematic of changes in the European balance of power. A year later Oglethorpe had cobbled together a force of settlers, Indian allies, and Carolinians to reduce the Spanish fortress at St. Augustine, Florida.
The siege failed, and Oglethorpe retreated to St. Simons Island to await the inevitable counterattack. In 1742, a massive Spanish force invaded the island but was eventually turned back for good with heavy casualties at the Battle of Bloody Marsh. That clash marked the end of Spanish overtures on England’s colonies in America.
Though Oglethorpe returned to England a national hero, things fell apart in Savannah. The settlers became envious of the success of Charleston’s slave-based rice economy and began wondering aloud why they couldn’t also make use of free labor.
With Oglethorpe otherwise occupied in England, the Trustees of Georgia—distant in more ways than just geographically from the new colony—bowed to public pressure and relaxed the restrictions on slavery and rum. By 1753 the Trustees voted to return their charter to the crown, officially making Georgia the 13th and final colony of England in America.
With first the French and then the Spanish effectively shut off from the American East Coast, the stage was set for an internal battle between England and its burgeoning colonies across the Atlantic.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition