Samuel Wilson


The Louisiana Purchase did not remove Spanish posts along the east bank of the Mississippi River. These posts could still choke off commerce at New Orleans, and American leaders immediately began pressing Spain to cede West Florida. Spain rejected U.S. demands, Napoleon refused to compel its acquiescence, and U.S officials became increasingly belligerent. The commanding general of the U.S. Army, Brigadier General James Wilkinson, repeatedly sought permission to seize West Florida, an area that included the eastern parishes of Louisiana and parts of present day Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. President Jefferson's reluctance to mobilize an adequate force precluded military action throughout his administration, while diplomatic feelers to Spanish colonial officials proved inconclusive. Meanwhile, American adventurers, criminals, and army deserters aggravated instability in West Florida, while Spanish colonial officials lost legitimacy, direction, and the prospect of reinforcement when Napoleon invaded Spain. In 1810 many settlers joined together to rebel and declare their independence. The United States intervened, the army occupied West Florida, and the region was annexed to Louisiana, but filibusters-private individuals invading another nation's territory, contrary to U.S. law-and eventually elements of the army itself, besieged the Spanish fort at Mobile during the winter of 1810 and 1811, until Brigadier General Wade Hampton ordered the army to tum from threatening Spain to repressing filibusters and bandits.