Beginning in January of 1811 there was a clandestine attempt by the United States to take
control of Florida from Spain. A secret act was passed by Congress "to enable the
President of the United States, under certain contingencies, to take possession of the
country lying east of the river Perdido, and south of the State of Georgia and the
Mississippi territory [East Florida], and for other purposes." U.S. citizens from
Georgia were recruited to foment an apparent rebellion in Spanish settlements. This was
done to provide a pretext for U.S. troops to come in and restore order.
On April 12, 1812, the First Regiment of United States Riflemen under the command of Lieutenant Colonel
Thomas A. Smith occupied Fort Moosa [Mose]. The Spanish attacked the fort and Smith was forced to pull back to an encampment further from
St. Augustine. On May 16, 1812 the Spanish set fire to Fort Moosa to prevent it from
being reoccupied by the Americans.
Some of Smith's correspondence from this period has survived. In 1930 these
letters were published in five installments by The Florida Historical Quarterly. Use
the menu at the left-hand side of this page to read the articles or click here for Part
Smith was later promoted to General and in 1817 a newly constructed fort was named in his honor. Today Fort Smith is the second largest city in Arkansas.