Britain’s Fourteenth American Colony

Before the American Revolution, Great Britain did not have thirteen colonies in what became the United States. Sounds kind of crazy coming from a former history teacher like me, doesn’t it? Well, it’s true. How many colonies, then? Several more, but my focus will be on what some historians call Britain’s “fourteenth colony”: Mobile.

Mobile, 1780. Taken from Alabama Department of Archives and History

Mobile is situated at the mouth of the Mobile River, which spills into a thirty-mile-long bay emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s considered New Orleans’s sister city, as both were founded by the French: the Le Moyne brothers, Iberville and Bienville, naval officers who played a significant role in Canadian settlement too. In 1711, they founded Mobile and seven years later, in 1718, New Orleans.

The thirteen American colonies we’ve all heard about were Britain’s original colonies. The other colonies— such as St. Augustine, Pensacola, and Mobile—came under British rule by the Treaty of Paris (February 20, 1763) which ended the French and Indian War. Before this treaty, St. Augustine and Pensacola had been under Spain’s rule whereas Mobile had been under French governance.

British Dominions, Treaty of Paris, 1763

The British divided her new possession on the Gulf Coast into two regions: East Florida and West Florida. St. Augustine was East Florida’s capital, and Pensacola was West Florida’s. West Florida’s boundary was set at the 31st parallel, and later, at the 32nd parallel. On October 20, 1763, the British under the command of Major Robert Farmar assumed command of Mobile.

Another consequence of the French and Indian War: France had to pay off a war debt. To help do this, it turned over New Orleans to Spain in 1763, in a separate treaty, as well as a vast tract of land called Spanish Louisiana. Later, Spain would give this land back to France.

In 1780, General Bernardo Galvez, Spain’s governor of Louisiana, captured Mobile. For several decades the city was under Spanish rule, but it easily fell to American forces on April 13,1813.

Sources

John A. Garraty. The American Nation: A History of the United States to 1877. NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1975.

Lucille Griffith, Alabama: A Documentary History to 1900, University, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1968.

Malcolm C. McMillan, The Land Called Alabama, Austin, Texas: Steck-Vaughn Company, 1968.

“Spanish Culture in New Orleans,” https://www.neworleans.com/things-to-do/multicultural/cultures/spanish/

4 thoughts on “Britain’s Fourteenth American Colony

  1. Why do I think the one-time Spanish ownership of Mobile is not the real reason for the Taco Bell over there?

    Dave

    On Wed, Apr 27, 2022 at 8:32 AM The Author’s Cove: John Jack Cunningham

    Like

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