All posts by Daniel Lee

Summer Camp: If the Lighthouse Could Talk!

Registration open for 2019 summer camp at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Oh the stories that St. Augustine Lighthouse would tell if only it could talk! Registration is open for 2019 summer camps held at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. See details below …

Register online at staugustinelighthouse.org/education/Summer_Camp

Completed K-4th grades

Oh the stories the St. Augustine Lighthouse would tell if only it could talk! From the first watch towers to today, weekly camp themes explore different episodes of St. Augustine and northeast Florida’s maritime past. Take a journey through time this summer at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum! See registration for details on weekly themes.

Completed 5th– 7th grades

Discover how people have lived and interacted with the marine  environment from the early 1500s to the present. Practice boatbuilding skills, fish from shore and on the water, row locally made wooden watercraft, visit modern shrimping and boating operations in St. Augustine, go on an eco-tour by kayak, and more!    *All activities weather permitting.*

 IF THE LIGHTHOUSE COULD TALK! 

Completed K-4th grades

Week 1:   1st Explorers      May 28-31

Learn how the first explorers navigated here, their life aboard ship, and how they fared when they arrived.  Make coquina, build a watchtower, try a ship’s biscuit, and take a look at the native plant resources that would have been available.  Campers can practice some of what they’ve learned on the water with a trip on the Schooner Freedom!

Week 2:   My How My Island has Grown!     June 3-7

Who was working the Lighthouse and developing our area? St. Augustine has a history diverse in its population, including the Lighthouse keepers.  Delve into some of those cultures through food, art, maps, and traditions.  Try your hand at net casting at Anastasia State Park or line fishing! Weather permitting

Week 3:   Pharology…what?     June 10-14

Discover the masterful engineering that makes me a Lighthouse.  Participate in activities related to technology changes in how the Lighthouse is lit.  Take a look at lighthouses all over the world and learn more about pharology.  Campers will visit the Lightner and complete a unique architectural scavenger hunt in down town St Augustine!

Week 4:   Keeping Watch     June 17-21

From the Spanish period to WWII, someone has always been looking out from our coastline to keep our maritime community safe.  Campers will take a deeper look into our coastal history through stories from the past, maps, and documents.  Take the tower challenge, design a modern sentinel, and create your own submarine. Finish the week with a trip to the fort to see the canons fire!

Week 5:   I’m Still Shining!     June 24-28

I’m still looking out at the maritime community of artists, tourists, archaeologists, sailors, and other folks. I’ve witnessed many changes in my 145 years (birthday this October).  Learn how Flagler’s train kick-starts St. Augustine’s growth to become the town she is today and experience some of the art and food that makes her unique. See how our archaeologists piece together the past and spend some time at the Fountain of Youth.

COASTAL COMMUNITY CAMP 

Completed 5th– 7th grades

July 8-12

This camp is designed to show students how St. Augustine’s people have been tied to the ocean for over 450 years. This will be accomplished by doing activities on and near the water and traveling to locations in the area to participate in varied maritime experiences. Campers will discover how people have lived and interacted with the marine environment from the early 1500s to the present. They will practice boatbuilding skills, fish from shore and on the water, visit an underwater archaeological investigation, see modern shrimping and boating operations in St. Augustine, go on an eco-tour by kayak, and more!  Daily activities are outlined below. All activities are weather permitting.

For additional information, visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org

Dredge Florida Video Library

The following underwater video clips were all recorded on the wreck of the Florida since 2006:

Massive jewfish or Goliath Grouper on the wreck of the dredge Florida. (00:08)
Jewfish in the Dark (00:13)
LAMP diver Chuck Meide watches a jewfish (barely visible, can you spot it?)
on the wreck of the Florida. (00:41)
Schools of small fish and diver on the wreck of the dredge Florida. (00:29)
Diver exploring the broken wreckage of the dredge vessel Florida. (00:45)
Schools of baitfish and diver on the wreck of the Florida. (00:18)
Diver explores the wreck of the Florida. (00:28)
Swimming along the side of the sunken wreck Florida. (00:31)
Cruising along the wreckage of the Florida. (00:21)
Looking up at LAMP diver Sam Turner. (00:07)

Historical Background: St. Augustine, the American Revolution, and the Loyalist Influx

“After the surrender of Charleston in 1782, within two days no less than 16 vessels, bearing refugiés and their effects, went to pieces here and many persons lost their lives.”

 – Johann David Schoepf, 1788

While the identity and exact date of the Storm Wreck remains unknown, the evidence uncovered to date suggests that this vessel was shipwrecked at the mouth of the St. Augustine Inlet in the late 18th century, possibly in the years immediately after 1780 when the American Revolution was coming to a close. This period was one of dramatic demographic and sociocultural change in St. Augustine, as the capital and primary port of East Florida would switch hands from British to Spanish control as a result of the war. Perhaps the most striking of these changes was a population explosion in St. Augustine due primarily to the influx of British Loyalists seeking refuge from the thirteen rebelling colonies. Archaeologists believe there is a distinct possibility that the Storm Wreck may indeed represent one of many ships full of Loyalist refugees that ran aground and came to pieces while trying to enter St. Augustine.

The surrender of Cornwallis’ army to General Washington’s forces on
October 19, 1781 prompted the British government to begin negotiations
which lead to the end of the Revolutionary War. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

After the fall of Yorktown in 1781, decisive battles gave way to backcountry skirmishes as peace negotiations influenced the remainder of the war years. The lives of British Loyalists were dominated by the question of evacuation. The British army still occupied New York City when the Treaty of Paris was initially signed in November 1782, but Savannah and Charleston were either fully evacuated or in the process. North American port cities formerly under British control emptied their inhabitants into the waters of the Atlantic, while the inland Loyalists clogged the back roads and trails near the borders of Canada and East Florida. Nova Scotia, Quebec, England, the Bahamas, the British West Indies, and Central America became ports of call for countless loyal emigrants. But many southern Loyalists looked closer to home.

St. Augustine street layout and waterfront as it appeared in 1763.
Courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History.

In St. Augustine an unparalleled event took place during the post-Yorktown evacuation procedures. For most southern Loyalists the Canadian climate was presumed utterly unsuitable for planter society and the slave ownership that made them prosperous. Southern Tories saw East Florida as a sanctuary where they could rebuild their lives without leaving the warmer regions of the continent to which they were accustomed. In spite of this, a general pattern of evacuation after the war quickly developed as slave owning Loyalists sought the warmer climates of the Caribbean while those with few or no slaves went to Europe or Nova Scotia (Troxler 1981:21).

However, this was not the first time that Charleston and Savannah changed hands during the war. Even after Yorktown, most American Loyalists firmly believed that it was simply a matter of time before the United States became crippled economically and/or militarily. For a nation to successfully erect itself from colonial status was unprecedented in 1782. Therefore, southern Loyalists chose to remain close to their former land holdings in order to reclaim their property as quickly as possible, just as they had after previous evacuations during the war (Wright 1971:377). Most of these people had already experienced one forced evacuation—two, for those from Savannah who went first to Charleston in July 1782. The injustice that the war wreaked upon their lives took a heavy toll.

View of the British Governor’s house in St. Augustine, 1764. This building still stands and is known as Government House. Courtesy of University of Florida.

The increased flow of refugees from southern back-country fighting swelled the white civilian population of the colony to approximately 4,500 by late June 1782. The majority of this group came first to St. Augustine to register their presence with Governor Tonyn and receive their 500 acre homesteads. The Menorcans now living in St. Augustine (presuming no natural increase from 1777 to June 1782, for the purpose of erring on the side of caution) tallied at approximately 600. The majority of the black population of East Florida—approximately 4,000 total—were on the plantations, but many free blacks were living in St. Augustine (del Campo 1783). These numbers, though relatively small in appearance, were the measure for overcrowding mentioned up to this point. The dam was about to burst.

1778 map of the port and coastline of St. Augustine, depicting the approach to the harbor with its infamous shoals. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project. 
Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

From July 12–25, a deluge of over 7,000 Loyalists from Savannah and Charleston sailed into St. Augustine (Siebert 1929:7). Another 3,826 Loyalists came from Charleston by sea in late December (Siebert 1929:7). The overwhelming crush of humanity that befell the tiny capital of St. Augustine in short bursts is staggering, and yet the numbers listed here consist only of those refugees who arrived by ship. There is no means of knowing the number of refugees who drifted into the province on foot after June 1782, or the number of black refugees who sought shelter with the Seminoles and were never counted. This does not include the military or Indians who frequented the town.

With the entrance to St. Augustine impeded by a notorious sandbar, which gave the port its reputation as the most dangerous of all Britain’s Atlantic colonies, it is no surprise that a significant number of these incoming refugee vessels were wrecked. Indeed, in one incident in December 1782, sixteen ships loaded with Loyalists from Charleston came to grief while trying to enter St. Augustine (Schoepf 1911[1788]: 227-228). In another example that same month, Rattlesnake, the military escort for a fleet of at least 8 ships bringing Loyalists to St. Augustine, also ran aground and wrecked with four lives lost (Singer 1992:169). It seems quite likely that the Storm Wreck, which appears to date to this period, could represent one of the many refugee ships lost in conjunction with St. Augustine’s Loyalist influx at the end of the Revolution.

References Cited:

del Campo, Bernardo

1783  Observations on East Florida. Inclosure No. 1 in letter to Conde de Floridablanca, 8 June. Archivo Historico Nacional, Madrid. Estado, leg. 4246 Ap 1. In East Florida, 1783-1785, A File of Documents Assembled and Many of Them Translated, Joseph Byrne Lockey and John Walton Caughy, editors, 1949, pp. 117-127. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Schoepf, Johann David

  1911 [1788]   Travels in the Confederation (1783-1784). William J. Campbell, Philadelphia.

Siebert, Wilbur H. (editor)

1929  Loyalists in East Florida: The Narrative, vol. 1. Publications of the Florida State Historical Society No. 9, Deland, Florida.

Smith, Roger C.

2011  The Fourteenth Colony: Florida and the American Revolution in the South. Doctoral dissertation, Department of History, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Singer, Steven D.

1992  Shipwrecks of Florida: A Comprehensive Listing. 1st ed. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida.

Troxler, Carolyn

1981  Loyalist Refugees and the British Evacuation of East Florida, 1783-1785. Florida Historical Quarterly 60(1):1-28.

Wright, J. Leitch

1971  Lord Dunmore’s Loyalist Asylum in the Floridas. Florida Historical Quarterly 49(4):370-379.

This essay was written by Dr. Roger Clark Smith and Chuck Meide in 2012. Other than the introductory and closing paragraphs, written by Meide, it is largely based on Dr. Smith’s doctoral dissertation (2011:271-280). Dr. Smith is a professional historian and LAMP Research Associate, whose research interest focuses on the history of East Florida during and immediately after the Revolutionary period.

All text and images, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, Inc. We extend permission to scholars, students, and other interested members of the public to use images and to quote from text for non-commercial educational or research purposes, provided LAMP is acknowledged and credited. If there are any questions regarding the use of LAMP’s work, please inquire at LAMP@staugustinelighthouse.org. 

Storm Wreck Videos


A brief introduction to the history and excavation of the Storm Wreck. This video includes underwater footage from August 2013, when we have had the best visibility on the shipwreck since its discovery in 2009.

The formal unveiling of the Storm Wreck cannons at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, narrated by LAMP Director Chuck Meide, 18 November 2011

Cleaning the iron cannons from the Storm Wreck, narrated by LAMP Archaeological Conservator Starr Cox, October 2011

Raising an iron cannon from the Storm Wreck, 28 June 2011

The cleaning and formal unveiling of the ship’s bell at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, January 2011

Underwater video of the ship’s bell and iron cannons, recorded on the day of their discovery, 17 December 2010 

Raising the large iron cauldron from the Storm Wreck, 14 July 2010. Video courtesy of our colleagues at the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

Underwater footage of the large iron cauldron rigged for lifting, July 2010. While this video shows very poor visibility, this was the best we had encountered on the wreck at that point and this was the first time we actually saw, instead of feeling by touch, the cauldron. This cauldron was the first recognizable artifact discovered on the wreck site.