Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Searle's 2012

The 2012 reenactment of Searle's Raid on Saint Augusting was held March 2-3. This is an expanding event. The organizers said that they had ten more participants than last year.

Searle's isn't quite a pirate event. Searle was a privateer and one of Henry Morgan's lieutenants. This event predates the skull and crossbones and most other symbols of the Golden Age or Piracy.

Saint Augustine in the 1660s was hardly a rich city. Florida had no gold or silver so there was little of value passing through. On the other hand, it was isolated since it was Spain's most northern outpost. At the time it was only guarded by a wooden stockade.

Searle's men spent two days taking the town and besieging the fort. By that time they had a number of the town's women held hostage. Eventually the town paid Searle in cattle and flour to leave.

The reenactment started Friday evening with a parade through St. George Street, the oldest street in the city. There was some exercise of arms as the Spanish showed that they were ready for the English invaders (actually, on Friday everyone was Spanish). Afterward we had dinner in the 18th century taverna (home to the best sangria in St. Augustine).

The troops were camped on the grounds of the Fountain of Youth which was the site of the original colony for its first year or so. During Saturday the troops drilled with pikes and practiced firing.

Around 4:30 a trolly took the combatants to the town. The English retired a couple of blocks away until the appointed time (our permit was for 5-6 pm). The initial battle took place in Cathedral Square. The Spanish broke and retired in good order through St. George Street, pursued by the English. There was a final battle at the fort (in a small field beside the old cemetery). The whole thing took most of an hour with designated firing positions along the way.

There were 60+ participants including musketeers, pikemen, skirmishers with swords, officers, drummers, ensigns, and crew for a couple of small cannon. This may not be large by the standard of other periods but it is the biggest 17th century battle that I know of.

The weather was good with highs in the 80s. It was windy on Saturday ahead of a major storm front. Several people had to chaise their hats because of the wind. The front came through quickly overnight and the weather was clear for people to break camp on Sunday.

Last year was my first year. This time I brought my wife. She was properly impressed and will be returning. Maybe we can bring some more people next year.

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