Philip M. Smith


On July 10, 1821, Private Nathaniel Sherburne stood in formation for the change of flags ceremony in St. Augustine as Spanish la Florida officially became a United States territory. The sights of that day must have been exotic for the New Hampshire farm boy who ran away from home and joined the army. Private Sherburne was part of the 4th Regiment of Light Artillery of the United States Army, which had been under the command of recently retired Major General Andrew Jackson. Jackson himself was in Pensacola for a similar ceremony the following week. During the past decade, the United States had violently entered Florida and destroyed the livelihoods of its people, and now, after two years of negotiations leading to the Adams-Onis Treaty, the United States officially asserted sovereignty over a place with more than two centuries of Spanish presence, two decades as a British colony, with unresolved Indian sovereignty claims, and a significant free Black and mixed race population. Even though legally part of the United States and no longer a colonial border region, significant elements of Florida's past persisted in ways that challenged American and Southern authority.

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