Robert R. Rea


The British acquisition of Florida and the Gulf coast from Spain and France in 1763 represented the rounding out of both continental and Caribbean boundaries, the fulfillment of Pitt’s triumphant vision of imperial expansion. But neither the Great Commoner nor the common Englishman had a very clear notion of those territories which were transformed into the provinces of East and West Florida. A misleading propaganda campaign might educate London coffeeshop habitués to the beauties and prospective riches of the new colonies, but the British army in North America needed more realistic information in order to establish that internal security upon which future prosperity must depend.1 Orders from Whitehall assigned the occupation of St. Augustine, Pensacola, and Mobile to troops departing from Havana. At New York the commander-in-chief, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, cast about for an officer upon whom he could depend for coordination of the territorial transfer, the gathering of pertinent and accurate details, and perhaps ultimate command in the southern borderlands. His choice fell upon James Robertson, lieutenant colonel of the 15th Regiment of Foot and deputy quartermaster general of the army in North America.