On the night of May 28, 1668, an English pirate named Robert Searles launched a raid on the city of St. Augustine, Florida. He stole silver and other valuable goods, held for ransom the daughters of wealthy families, and carried off black and Native American residents to sell as slaves to the labor-hungry Caribbean.1 Governor Francisco de la Guerra y de la Vega (1664-1671) managed to reach the fort with some of the soldiers and prevent the pirates from taking it, but he could not stop them from sacking the city. Before leaving, Searles measured the depth of the water in the harbor, which suggested to authorities that he planned to return with greater forces. The attack by Searles was just one of many raids on Spanish settlements in the mid-seventeenth century, but it drew the attention of the royal council that governed affairs in Spanish America, the Council of the Indies, and set in motion a renewed flow of men and money into Florida.2 The raid generated hundreds of pages of correspondence as the governor, the sergeant major, the royal officials, and the clergy all sought to place blame for the attack on their rivals.3 Most histories of Florida recognize the Searles attack as a brief, but pivotal moment in the history of St. Augustine since it led to the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos.4 The events of the raid, however, are significant in their own right. As Jane Landers notes in this issue, the English were already contesting the boundaries of Spanish Florida. The raid and its aftermath illustrate the ways in which the imperial contests between the English and the Spanish affected the daily lives of people in Spanish St. Augustine. The documentation surrounding the raid also presents an uncommon moment in the sources when members of the Spanish and English worlds conversed, and articulated openly their attitudes toward each other and toward people of non-European descent living in the Atlantic world.
"Pirate, Priest, and Slave: Spanish Florida in the 1668 Searles Raid,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 92:
3, Article 9.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol92/iss3/9