Troubles in Florida
Florida was home of several Indian tribes, the Seminoles being the most important of them. There were also some missions and some military outposts, with Saint Augustine the most important of them, in the east, and with Pensacola, Mobile and Baton Rouge as the main towns in the west. In this western region were the most settlements, mostly based on small plantations run by French nobles or former commoners from New Granada, among other places.
There were also a few villages of free Negroes. Either escaped or freed from Georgia or the Spanish Antilles, Christianized by Spanish missionaries, they are recognized as free subjects of the Spanish Empire. Not all Negroes in Florida were free. The plantations had a small slave population, and some Georgians were settling in Florida, and some of them had brought their chattel with them. Georgians were required, however, to an oath of loyalty to the king of Spain and conversion to the Catholic faith to be given property rights or not being subject to expulsion.
Georgians are worried by those Negro villages. If an escaped slave managed to reach any of those villages, he or she would have protection from the Spanish authorities. And the Spanish authorities are not exactly cooperative in returning an escaped slave before they reach a Negro community. Most ofen, Georgians would just cross over the border in order to catch the escaped chattel and return without reporting to the Spanish authorities.
It was August 12, 1799. Two sons of a Georgian small plantation owner took their rifles and crossed the border to chase an escapee. A Spanish patrol saw them and shot a warning, the two young shot back and after a short volley the young Americans lay dead.
When word of this reached town back in Georgia, a mob formed of nearly one hundred angry Americans. They crossed the border, stormed the small town of Las Aguas and burned it down.
The governor in Saint Augustine sent a letter of complaint to the Georgian governor in Louisville. But as the letter traveled north, the mob just burned down another Spanish town and near two hundred angry Georgians were now heading to a third town.
This time three hundred regulars from Saint Augustine were awaiting the Georgian mob. The news of the massacre reached Louisville before the letter of complaint, but details on the location shifted a few miles north, and Georgia declared war on Spain.