USS St Simon - History

USS St Simon - History

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St. Simon

A sound on the coast of Georgia.

(CVE-51: dp. 9,800; 1. 492' b. 23'3", ew. 69'6", s. 17 k.; a. 2 4", 8 40mm. 15 20mm., 18 act; cl. Casablanca; T. C3-S-A1)

St. Simon (CVE-51) was laid down on 26 April 1943 by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co., under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 262); launched on 9 September 1943; sponsored by Mrs. R. H. Lewis; and transferred to the United Kingdom on 31 December 1943; and renamed Arbiter. HMS Arbiter performed escort duty on the western approaches to the British Isles and later served as an aircraft ferry for the British Pacific Fleet. She was decommissioned on 3 March 1946 and returned to the custody of the United States at Norfolk, Va., that same day. She was sold in 1948 for mercantile service to the Compania Argentina de Navegacion Dodero and was renamed Coracero.

"On St. Simon's Island - 1862"

Susie King Taylor was born into slavery in Georgia and was secretly taught to read and write by various teachers. In 1862, she and many other slaves escaped to freedom on St. Simon's Island off the southern Georgia coast, then occupied by Union troops. There she began to serve as an army nurse and worked with the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, a black regiment that was later reorganized into the 33rd U.S. Colored Regiment. Because of her education, she wrote a memoir of her experiences after the war ended.

NEXT morning we arrived at St. Simon's, and the captain told Commodore Goldsborough about this affair, and his reply was, "Captain Whitmore, you should not have allowed them to return you should have kept them." After I had been on St. Simon's about three days, Commodore Goldsborough heard of me, and came to Gaston Bluff to see me. I found him very cordial. He said Captain Whitmore had spoken to him of me, and that he was pleased to hear of my being so capable, etc., and wished me to take charge of a school for the children on the island. I told him I would gladly do so, if I could have some books. He said I should have them, and in a week or two I received two large boxes of books and testaments from the North. I had about forty children to teach, beside a number of adults who came to me nights, all of them so eager to learn to read, to read above anything else. Chaplain French, of Boston, would come to the school, sometimes, and lecture to the pupils on Boston and the North.

About the first of June we were told that there was going to be a settlement of the war. Those who were on the Union side would remain free, and those in bondage were to work three days for their masters and three for themselves. It was a gloomy time for us all, and we were to be sent to Liberia. Chaplain French asked me would I rather go back to Savannah or go to Liberia. I told him the latter place by all means. We did not know when this would be, but we were prepared in case this settlement should be reached. However, the Confederates would not agree to the arrangement, or else it was one of the many rumors flying about at the time, as we heard nothing further of the matter. There were a number of settlements on this island of St. Simon's, just like little villages, and we would go from one to the other on business, to call, or only for a walk.

One Sunday, two men, Adam Miller and Daniel Spaulding, were chased by some rebels as they were coming from Hope Place (which was between the Beach and Gaston Bluff), but the latter were unable to catch them. When they reached the Beach and told this, all the men on the place, about ninety, armed themselves, and next day (Monday), with Charles O'Neal as their leader, skirmished the island for the "rebs." In a short while they discovered them in the woods, hidden behind a large log, among the thick underbrush. Charles O'Neal was the first to see them, and he was killed also John Brown, and their bodies were never found. Charles O'Neal was an uncle of Edward King, who later was my husband and a sergeant in Co. E., U. S. I. Another man was shot, but not found for three days. On Tuesday, the second day, Captain Trowbridge and some soldiers landed, and assisted the skirmishers. Word having been sent by the mail-boat Uncas to Hilton Head, later in the day Commodore Goldsborough, who was in command of the naval station, landed about three hundred marines, and joined the others to oust the rebels. On Wednesday, John Baker, the man shot on Monday, was found in a terrible condition by Henry Batchlott, who carried him to the Beach, where he was attended by the surgeon. He told us how, after being shot, he lay quiet for a day. On the second day he managed to reach some wild grapes growing near him. These he ate, to satisfy his hunger and intense thirst, then he crawled slowly, every movement causing agony, until he got to the side of the road. He lived only three months after they found him.

On the second day of the skirmish the troops captured a boat which they knew the Confederates had used to land in, and having this in their possession, the "rebs" could not return so pickets were stationed all around the island. There was an old man, Henry Capers, who had been left on one of the places by his old master, Mr. Hazzard, as he was too old to carry away. These rebels went to his house in the night, and he hid them up in the loft. On Tuesday all hands went to this man's house with a determination to burn it down, but Henry Batchlott pleaded with the men to spare it. The rebels were in hiding, still, waiting a chance to get off the island. They searched his house, but neglected to go up into the loft, and in so doing missed the rebels concealed there. Late in the night Henry Capers gave them his boat to escape in, and they got off all right. This old man was allowed by the men in charge of the island to cut grass for his horse, and to have a boat to carry this grass to his home, and so they were not detected, our men thinking it was Capers using the boat. After Commodore Goldsborough left the island, Commodore Judon sent the old man over to the mainland and would not allow him to remain on the island.

There were about six hundred men, women, and children on St. Simon's, the women and children being in the majority, and we were afraid to go very far from our own quarters in the daytime, and at night even to go out of the house for a long time, although the men were on the watch all the time for there were not any soldiers on the island, only the marines who were on the gunboats along the coast. The rebels, knowing this, could steal by them under cover of the night, and getting on the island would capture any persons venturing out alone and carry them to the mainland. Several of the men disappeared, and as they were never heard from we came to the conclusion they had been carried off in this way.

The latter part of August, 1862, Captain C. T. Trowbridge, with his brother John and Lieutenant Walker, came to St. Simon's Island from Hilton Head, by order of General Hunter, to get all the men possible to finish filling his regiment which he had organized in March, 1862. He had heard of the skirmish on this island, and was very much pleased at the bravery shown by these men. He found me at Gaston Bluff teaching my little school, and was much interested in it. When I knew him better I found him to be a thorough gentleman and a staunch friend to my race.

Captain Trowbridge remained with us until October, when the order was received to evacuate, and so we boarded the Ben-De-Ford, a transport, for Beaufort, S. C. When we arrived in Beaufort, Captain Trowbridge and the men he had enlisted went to camp at Old Fort, which they named "Camp Saxton." I was enrolled as laundress.

The first suits worn by the boys were red coats and pants, which they disliked very much, for, they said, "The rebels see us, miles away."

The first colored troops did not receive any pay for eighteen months, and the men had to depend wholly on what they received from the commissary, established by General Saxton. A great many of these men had large families, and as they had no money to give them, their wives were obliged to support themselves and children by washing for the officers of the gunboats and the soldiers, and making cakes and pies which they sold to the boys in camp. Finally, in 1863, the government decided to give them half pay, but the men would not accept this. They wanted "full pay" or nothing. They preferred rather to give their services to the state, which they did until 1864, when the government granted them full pay, with all the back pay due.

I remember hearing Captain Heasley telling his company, one day, "Boys, stand up for your full pay! I am with you, and so are all the officers." This captain was from Pennsylvania, and was a very good man all the men liked him. N. G. Parker, our first lieutenant, was from Massachusetts. H. A. Beach was from New York. He was very delicate, and had to resign in 1864 on account of ill health.

I had a number of relatives in this regiment, --several uncles, some cousins, and a husband in Company E, and a number of cousins in other companies. Major Strong, of this regiment, started home on a furlough, but the vessel he was aboard was lost, and he never reached his home. He was one of the best officers we had. After his death, Captain C. T. Trowbridge was promoted major, August, 1863, and filled Major Strong's place until December, 1864, when he was promoted lieutenant-colonel, which he remained until he was mustered out, February 6, 1866.

In February, 1863, several cases of varioloid broke out among the boys, which caused some anxiety in camp. Edward Davis, of Company E (the company I was with), had it very badly. He was put into a tent apart from the rest of the men, and only the doctor and camp steward, James Cummings, were allowed to see or attend him but I went to see this man every day and nursed him. The last thing at night, I always went in to see that he was comfortable, but in spite of the good care and attention he received, he succumbed to the disease.

I was not in the least afraid of the small-pox. I had been vaccinated, and I drank sassafras tea constantly, which kept my blood purged and prevented me from contracting this dread scourge, and no one need fear getting it if they will only keep their blood in good condition with this sassafras tea, and take it before going where the patient is.

Saint Simons Inn by the Lighthouse

Just north of the village on St. Simons Island is a park of stately live oaks. On the southern edge of the oaks, along a narrow lane, is a low earthen mound. Growing upon it are three majestic oak trees these serve as a natural monument for the more than 30 Indians buried in the mound. The men, women and children interred there lived in a settlement that flourished on this site two centuries before the first European touched shore.

The first inhabitants of St. Simons lived there during fishing season about 2,000 BCE (Before the Common Era). No one knows what they first called themselves. The much later historic tribe, which encountered the Europeans, became known as the Timucuan. The tribe and people persist. Arising from the prehistoric Mississippian culture that flourished over much of the Southeast, the eastern Timucuan ranged along the coastal plain of southeast Georgia and northern Florida. Their complex and loose confederacy was made up of seven distinct tribal groups that spoke at least five dialects of the Timucuan language.

[edit] The Marsh

St. Simons Island was the northern boundary of the tribal and Spanish mission province known as Mocama, which extended southward to the St. Johns River in present-day Florida. Its name was taken from that of the dialect of the people. The town of Guadalquini was located on the south end of the island at the site of the present-day lighthouse. The Spanish applied the town's name to the island as well.

Just north of Mocama was the territory of the Guale, who occupied the lowland coastal area between the Altamaha and Ogeechee rivers. The Guale spoke a different language from the Timucuan but their cultures were closely related.

The coastal Indians were a healthy and robust people. They adorned their bodies with strings of shell beads four to six fingers in breadth. These were worn around the neck, arms, wrists, and under the knees and ankles. They painted their breasts, biceps and thighs with bright red body paint, soot and charcoal. Both men and women wore their hair long. They let both their fingernails and toenails grow. The men would sharpen their fingernails on one side, to use in warfare. The Timucuan engaged in periodic warfare with their coastal neighbors as much for sport as for spoils violent ball games sometimes substituted for war. The men wore deerskin breechcloths in all but the coldest weather the women wore skirts made of moss.

The Indians' main source of food was the sea they fished for sheepshead, sea catfish, drum, shellfish and the great Atlantic sturgeon, mostly in and near the coastal marshes. Their diet was supplemented by small game, such as raccoons, opossum and the white-tailed deer. They also grew varieties of pumpkins (a kind of squash), beans and corn the latter was ground into meal for use. They also gathered a wide array of nuts, grapes and berries from the rich land.

During spring and summer, the Indians gathered in villages and planted crops, hunted, and fished until harvest. The villages included granaries, a large communal structure, and shelters for extended families made of saplings and boughs covered with palmetto fronds. The chief usually had a dwelling larger than other tribesmen. They used a wide range of bone tools conch shells were formed into hoes for agriculture, as well as hammers.

They harvested corn in the fall, storing the surplus in the large village granaries. Several times a year they distributed the food held in common in ritualized festivals after the fall redistribution ceremony, the Indians dispersed into small groups and abandoned the larger village pattern until the following spring. They ranged along the coast, from inland pine and river valley forest on the mainland to the high hammock forests, tidal flats, beach and dunes of the barrier islands. The group lodged in temporary shelters of large, oval-shaped pavilions, moving on when game and fish were no longer plentiful. When food was scarce, a hunter could hunt or fish in territory belonging to the village of his wife.

The Indians were governed by territorial and local chieftains known as "caciques" (Mocama) and "micos" (Guale) and by lesser-ranking functionaries within each of the coastal villages. Like nearly all Native Americans, they developed a matrilineal society, with hereditary power passed through the mother. The chiefs were required to marry a commoner, therefore a sister or nephew inherited the title. Governing power was based on the storage of corn - hence control of the food supply in lean times - cultivated by labor tribute from the subordinate villages. Along with their political power, the caciques and micos enjoyed the right to have more than one wife monogamy seemed to be the norm for the rest of the population.

Little was recorded about the Timucuan religion before changes of European encounters. The accounts of the Guale were recorded by a Dominican missionary priest who heard it third hand. Guale mythology seems to have embraced the origin and destiny of the soul, and the communal atonement for sin. Their major deities were Mateczunga, god of the north, and Quexuga, god of the south. The Guales believed that all souls originated in the north, lingered briefly on earth, then departed to the realm of Quexuga.

The Spanish were fascinated by their ceremony with clearly religious connotations: the drinking of the "black drink" brewed from the berries of the cassina tree. After drinking this potent beverage, "their bellies swelled and vomiting followed", which allowed the participants to be cleansed. [citation needed]

Knowledge of the Timucuan and Guale way of life prior to European contact is limited by the archeological record and the subjective observations of the early explorers and missionaries. From all indications, they were becoming more settled at the time of European contact.

[edit] Spanish Florida

During the 17th century, St. Simons Island was one of the most important settlements of the Mocama missionary province of Spanish Florida. After the founding of South Carolina in 1680, conflict between the English and Spanish wreaked havoc on the Sea Islands. James Moore of South Carolina led a combined land and sea invasion of Florida in 1702 which essentially destroyed the Spanish mission system on the islands. Surviving Indians were subjected to slave raids leaving the islands depopulated by the time the colony of Georgia was founded. By the mid-16th century, Spain had come into her own as the most powerful nation on earth and had thoroughly staked out her claim in the New World.

Ponce de Leon claimed the southern region for Spain in 1513, and Hernando de Soto probed western Georgia in 1540.

After the Protestant Reformation, Protestants of France, known as the "Huguenots", were rebelling against the Catholics when persecution was revived after revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Determined to end the bloodshed, the French queen decided a colony in the New World could serve as a haven for the persecuted Huguenots, as well as a base for raiding the treasure fleets of Spain.

She selected Jean Ribault to head an exploratory expedition. It landed in 1562 at the mouth of the St. Johns River near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. He called it the "River May," and sailed northward as far as Parris Island, South Carolina. He named St. Simons Island the Ile de Loire Rene Laudonnière led a second expedition of three ships and three hundred colonists in 1564. They, too, landed at the St. Johns River, and immediately began work on Fort Caroline. Two ships were sent back for more supplies and additional colonists.

Philip II of Spain learned of the French efforts and picked the ablest of his naval commanders, Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, giving him full power to destroy the French settlements. With a small fleet, Menéndez landed 40 miles south of Fort Caroline in August 1565. From this new base, which he named St. Augustine, Menéndez attacked and destroyed the fledgling French colony. He captured and executed Ribault and most of the survivors of a French relief expedition that was shipwrecked just south of St. Augustine. With them died France's last hope for a colony on the Atlantic coast.

Although the French threat was neutralized, Menéndez decided to cultivate stronger alliances with the Native Americans to prevent future incursions. He traveled northward from St. Augustine in 1566 to meet with the most powerful chief in the area, the mico of Guale, on present-day St. Catherines Island. The mico was called Guale as well, and soon the Spanish adapted the name to the mico, his people and their territory.

During the meeting with the Guales, Menéndez erected a cross on St. Catherines Island, and soon after, a drought-ending rainstorm arrived. What seemed like a display of supernatural power by the Spanish leader made the Guale more receptive to the Jesuit missionaries who arrived next. The land of the Guale became one of the Spanish mission provinces of La Florida.

The Spanish Jesuits, respected throughout Europe for their piety as well as their scholastic achievement, were selected to convert the Indians of Guale. After an unsuccessful attempt to establish a mission in the province of La Florida, Father Sedaño and Father Báez were assigned to the district of Guale. Father Báez rapidly learned the Guale language and reportedly wrote a grammar, the first book written in an indigenous language in the New World, which was published in the early 17th century. The Guale were reluctant to convert to Catholicism. After spending fourteen months in Guale along with three priests of less tenure, Father Sedaño could claim only seven Indian baptisms: four children and three dying adults.

Indians and missionaries found the process frustrating. The Jesuits were dedicated and capable men, totally committed to their task, but the most zealous were discouraged in those early days. Father Rogel shared the frustrations when writing about the neighboring district of Orista just to the north:

The Indians were so reluctant to receive the Catholic religion that no admonitions would curb their barbarity - a barbarity based on liberty unrestrained by the yoke of reason and made worse because they had not been taught to live in villages. They were scattered about the country nine of the twelve months of the year, so that to influence them at all one missionary was needed for each Indian.

The Jesuits had to accommodate to the nomadic habits of the Guale and Orista. Father Rogel followed one group for twenty leagues (roughly sixty miles), offering presents, gifts and adornments to entice them to return to their newly built village and cornfields, but to no avail. By 1570 the colonial government judged the missions a failure. They sent several of the Guale missionary contingent to Virginia, where they were massacred by Indians there. The remaining Guale missionaries were re-assigned to Mexico City the following year. Their sacrifices paved the way for the Franciscans who followed.

A few Franciscan priests arrived in 1573. Most were killed and the survivors were recalled. During the next 10 years, there were sporadic and bloody conflicts between Spanish soldiers and the Mocama and Guale. The Spanish government had to be alert to its national competitors, especially after Sir Francis Drake destroyed St. Augustine in 1586. The English leader's raid was a timely reminder to the Spanish that their grip upon Florida was fragile more Franciscans were soon sent to the fledgling province. The first permanent Franciscan mission, to establish the Mocama missionary province, was in place by 1587 under Father Baltasár Lopéz.

[edit] Spanish Missions circa 1655

In 1593, a dozen friars arrived in Cuba, six of whom were sent to Guale. One missionary each was assigned to the mainland villages of Tolomato, Tupiqui, Santo Domingo de Talaje/Asajo, and Talapo, while two were sent to Guale (St. Catherines Island).

The priests worked to learn the Timucuan and Guale languages, and in return demanded that the Indians learn the Catholic ceremonies in Latin. They memorized the Ave Maria, the Credo and the Pater Noster. The frequent Spanish religious and national holidays were confusing to the Indians, as they were encouraged to work one day and prevented from working the next. The priests abolished polygamy, enjoyed by the chiefs, prompting the complaint that "they take away our women, leaving us only the one perpetual [sic], forbidding us to exchange her." [citation needed]

As the priests made more intrusions into the Indians' lives, resentment built up against them. Juanillo, the son of a mico, became incensed when the Franciscans interfered with his succession after his father's death. The priests picked the older and milder-mannered Don Francisco over the quarrelsome Juanillo. The infuriated Juanillo responded by leading the Indians in revolt. Juanillo and a small group of his father's followers killed Father Corpa at Tolomato on September 13, 1597. They killed Father Rodrigues of Tupiqui three days later. The following day, the two priests of the Guale mission on St. Catherines Island, Father Miguel de Auñon and Father Antonio de Badajoz, were clubbed to death after ignoring warnings by friendly Indians of the insurrection.

At Asajo, Father Francisco de Velascola was absent, away on a visit to St. Augustine. Afraid of his physical strength and huge stature, the Indians agreed that he must be killed. They ambushed him on his return. They wounded and captured Father Francisco Dávila of the Talapo mission. He escaped, but was recaptured and sent to the Guale interior as a slave.

Four hundred Indians in forty canoes attacked San Pedro, the Mocama mission on Cumberland Island. A loyal chief, Don Juan, rallied the mission Indians and killed many of the attackers. Meanwhile, a messenger had reached Governor Canzo in St. Augustine, who sent a relief force of 150 infantry. They retaliated on Guale, razing the villages and storehouses, burning the corn in the fields and destroying all canoes which they found. Canzo was unable to catch the rebels and returned to St. Augustine with Chief Don Juan, his people and the surviving friars.

Almost a year after this upheaval, a Spanish scouting party near St. Elena heard rumors that Father Dávila was still alive. Under threats, the Indians released Dávila. The friar had been starved, beaten, and threatened. The Spanish captured seven young boys, four of whom were the sons of micos, and took them to St. Augustine. The oldest of the boys, a seventeen-year old named Lucas, was found guilty of being present at Father Rodrigues' murder, but the others were released because of their age. Lucas was tortured and hung, the only legal response carried out by the courts for the Juanillo revolt.

But the rebels were still at large, and Governor Canzo was determined to exterminate them. The Indian tribes north of Guale were urged to make war on the rebels, and Canzo issued orders that all Guale Indians captured would be enslaved. This decree, however, was judged to harsh by his superiors and was revoked. The Spanish scorched-earth policy was ultimately successful. Severe drought compounded the Spanish destruction. By 1600 some of the important micos, their people facing imminent starvation, were ready to come to terms. The town of Tolomato refused to yield, and Asajo became the main village of Spanish influence. With his new power, the mico of Asajo led a successful expedition against Tolomato, after which more villages returned to the Spanish flock.

Juanillo still held out, aided oddly enough by his former rival Don Francisco. The two rebel chiefs and their remaining followers retreated to the interior stockaded village of Yfusinique. The mico of Asajo, Don Domingo, led an attack upon the town. After a fierce fight, the scalps of Juanillo and Don Francisco were sent back to St. Augustine. Don Domingo was made head mico of all Guale after his victory.

Thus the Juanillo rebellion was crushed, and the Spanish were once again masters of the land. But the ferocity of the revolt and the three years it took to extinguish the Indian spirit caused many in the colonial government to question the wisdom of maintaining a missionary presence in Mocama and Guale. The winning of heathen souls was proving to be a costly endeavor. To justify the expense, the crown ordered an investigation by the governor of Cuba, which quieted the missionaries' detractors, and future Spanish presence was insured.

Governor Canzo, determined to make the province an anchor of the Spanish empire, threw himself into improving the coastal missions. In 1603, he made an inspection tour of the Guale district, rebuilding the missions and cementing Indian loyalty. He was transferred soon after the tour, but his replacement, Governor Pedro de Iberra, was just as eager to develop both Mocama and Guale. Iberra toured the districts in 1604, and promised the Indians that more friars would be forthcoming. With the consolidation of Indian fealty, the way was paved for the first visit of a bishop on Mocama and Guale soil. Bishop Altimoreno arrived in St. Augustine in mid-March, 1606. He traveled for two months throughout the two districts and confirmed over one thousand souls.

The attentions of two governors and a bishop assured more friars for Mocama and Guale. From 1606 to 1655 the Spanish missionary effort reached its zenith as the Franciscan missions reflected a steady growth. San Buenaventura de Guadalquini was established on St. Simons, San Jose de Zapala on Sapelo Island, and Santiago de Ocone near the Okefenokee Swamp. Now Spain had a total of ten Mocama and Guale missions. Apparently conversions had increased dramatically, too. By 1617 Governor Iberra could report that although half the Christian Indians had died of pestilence, some eight thousand were still alive.

Despite the growth of the numbers of missionaries and converts, the conditions in which the Franciscans carried out their duties remained harsh. The main source of funds to support the mission effort was intestate properties of the colonies and deceased traders' estates unclaimed in Seville, the Spanish seaport link to the New World. Often ill clothed and hungry, friars rarely reached old age. Few ever saw their native Spain again most succumbed to the hardships of their calling.

Primary emphasis was placed on spiritual conversion rather than colonizing for material gain accordingly, there was no trade, no guns permitted, and very few skills taught. Horses had been introduced to La Florida, and some had been given to caciques and micos. But cattle were not made available for fear that crops would be eaten by them and the temptation for thievery would be too great. The most discernible changes resulting from Spanish contact were reflected only in pot manufacturing and the replacing of conch shell hoes with those made of iron. Spain's failure to supply attractive and practical trade goods (such as flints, mirrors, silver or brass ornaments) gave the English the advantage in the final conflict for Mocama and Guale that loomed ahead.

Apart from the Indians' decimation from disease - their numbers were reduced by 95% within a century of European contact - the death knell was sounded for the Spanish missions in 1661 when the "Chichimeco" Indians destroyed the mainland Guale town of Asajo. These fierce slave raiders, armed by the English in Virginia to ensure a steady supply of Indian slaves, migrated southward in the 1650s, preying on weaker tribes.

The disruptions of the Spanish missions did not abate. In the next few tumultuous years the Guales reestablished Asajo on the northern end of St. Simons Island (Cannons Point site). The "Yamassees" of coastal South Carolina, also fleeing the Chichimecos, established the refugee towns of San Simón (Fort Frederica site) and Octonico, 2-1/2 miles below, on the inland side of the island.

Charles II of England granted to eight Lords Proprietors all the land between Virginia and La Florida (31° -36° N) in 1663. This threat was sharpened in 1670 when Charles Town was settled. By 1675, only four Guale mission towns remained. The two Mocama missions left were widely separated and the intervening coast settled by unconverted Yamassees. The probability of attack from the English and the Indians loyal to them was now a constant fear to the Spanish. That fear was realized at its worst when the Chichimecos returned in 1680 to attack the towns of Santa Catalina and San Simón. The confusion and helplessness of the missionary and refugee Indians mounted as English pirates terrorized the Mocama and Guale coast in 1683. The following year, San Buenaventura de Guadalquini was ransacked and burned by pirates, and St. Simons Island was abandoned forever by the Timucuans who, for untold centuries, had called it their own.

In 1686, the English settled Port Royal, South Carolina - the old Spanish outpost of St. Elena. The Spanish responded by destroying the settlement, burning the English governor's mansion, and threatening Charles Town itself. It was a final, futile gesture. Most of the remaining Mocama and Guale Indians had already abandoned the missions and retreated southward to the St. Augustine area, to be eventually absorbed by the Yamassees. After almost a century and a quarter under the cross and sword of Spain, the Mocama and Guale Indians were no more - their land soon to be known as Georgia

[edit] Fort Frederica

Fort Frederica, now Fort Frederica National Monument, was the military headquarters of the Province of Georgia during the early colonial period, and served as a buffer against Spanish incursion from Florida. Nearby is the site of the Battle of Gully Hole Creek and Battle of Bloody Marsh, where on July 7, 1742, the British ambushed Spanish troops marching single file through the marsh and routed them from the island, which marked the end of the Spanish efforts to invade Georgia during the War of Jenkins' Ear. [ 4 ]

[edit] American Revolution

An important naval battle in the American Revolution (the Frederica Naval Action) was won by the American Colonists near St. Simons on April 19, 1778. Colonel Samuel Elbert was in command of Georgia's Continental Army and Navy. On April 15, 1778 he learned that four ships (including the Hinchinbrook, the Rebecca, and the Galatea) from British East Florida were sailing in St. Simons Sound. Elbert commanded about 360 troops from the Georgia Continental Battalions at Fort Howe to march to Darien, Georgia. There they boarded three Georgia Navy galleys: the Washington, commanded by Captain John Hardy  the Lee, commanded by Captain John Cutler Braddock and the Bulloch, commanded by Captain Archibald Hatcher. On April 18 they entered Frederica River and anchored about 1.5 miles (2 kilometers) from Fort Frederica. On April 19 the colonial ships attacked the British ships. The Colonial ships were armed with heavier cannons than the British ships. The galleys also had a shallow draft and could be rowed. The wind died down and the British ships had difficulty maneuvering in the restricted waters of the river and sound. Two of the British ships ran aground and the British escaped to their other ship. The battle showed how effective the galleys could be in restricted waters over ships designed for the open sea. The Frederica Naval Action was a big boost to the morale of the Colonists in Georgia.

[edit] Lumber for ships

Saint Simons' next military contribution was due to the Naval Act of 1794, when timber harvested from two thousand Southern live oak trees from Gascoigne Bluff was used to build the USS Constitution and five other frigates (see Six original United States frigates). The USS Constitution is known as "Old Ironsides" for the way the cannonballs bounced off the hard live oak planking.

[edit] Wesley brothers

During the 18th century, St. Simons served as a sometime home to John Wesley, the minister of the colony. He later returned to England, where he founded the Methodist Church. Wesley performed missionary work at St. Simons while he was still in the Anglican Church, but he was despondent about failing to bring about conversions. (He wrote that the local inhabitants had more tortures from their environment than he could describe for Hell). In the 1730s John Wesley's brother Charles Wesley also did missionary work on St. Simons. [ 5 ]

On April 5, 1987 fifty-five members from St. Simons United Methodist Church were commissioned, with Bishop Frank Robertson as first pastor, to begin a new church on the north end of St. Simons Island. This was where John and Charles Wesley had preached and ministered to the people at Fort Frederica. The new church was named Wesley United Methodist Church at Frederica.

[edit] Christ Church

In 1808 the State of Georgia gave 100 acres (0.4 km sq.) of land on St. Simons to be used for a church and its support. Called Christ Church, Frederica, the structure was finished in 1820. During the Civil War, invading Union troops commandeered the small building to stable horses and nearly destroyed it. The church was restored in 1889. This historic building is still in use as of 2010. [ 6 ]

[edit] Cotton production

During the plantation era, Saint Simons became a center of cotton production known for its long fiber Sea Island Cotton. Nearly the entire island was cleared of trees to make way for several cotton plantations. One of the last slave ships to bring slaves from Africa docked at St. Simons Island, but the slaves marched off the boat into the water, dragged down by their chains, and drowned themselves rather than becoming slaves. An original slave cabin still stands at the intersection of Demere Rd. and Frederica Rd. at the roundabout. Recently, the White House announced its intention to abolish subsidies to cotton growers and sent a draft to Congress. Previously, the illegality of subsidies claimed the World Trade Organization (WTO). [ 7 ]

[edit] St. Simons Island lighthouse

St. Simons Island Light is a lighthouse near the entrance to St. Simons Sound in United States Coast Guard District Number 7. It is 104 feet (32 m) tall and uses a third-order fresnel lens which rotates to flash a beam of light every 60 seconds. The light keeper's residence is a two-story Victorian brick structure.

The original octagonal lighthouse was built in 1811. Confederate forces destroyed it in 1861 during the Civil War to prevent its use by dominant Union forces. A replacement was completed in 1872, during the Reconstruction era. Electrified in 1934 and automated in 1954, it is still operational.

The current structure is both an active lighthouse for navigational purposes and a museum. On lease from the United States Coast Guard to the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, it is open to the public.

In 2010, the St. Simons Island lighthouse underwent a major renovation. It was closed to the public for several months while all interior and exterior paint was sandblasted off, and then repainted. Eight iron handrail posts at the top of the tower were replaced, recast from one of the originals. All ironwork was sandblasted and repaired as needed. Great lengths were taken to protect the valuable Fresnel lens during the restoration. It was bubble wrapped, shrink wrapped, and then finally enclosed in a plywood box. A temporary spotlight attached to top railing of the lighthouse continued to guide ships into the Sound while the main light was out of operation.

[edit] Coast Guard Station and World War II

The historic Coast Guard station is one of circa 45 such stations of the same design built in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). They were part of the numerous public works projects sponsored by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration during the Great Depression. The station was commissioned in 1937 and operated until 1995. One of only three remaining stations built at the time, the station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses the Maritime Center, a small museum run by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. The Coast Guard uses a new station built to replace the one from the 1930s.

On the night of April 8, 1942 off the coast of St. Simons, the German submarine U-123 chased and torpedoed two tankers, the S.S. Oklahoma and the Esso Baton Rouge. Both ships sank and 22 of their crew members were killed. Survivors were rescued and brought to the Coast Guard station on St. Simons for care and debriefing. Five of the sailors killed in the 1942 incident were buried as "Unknown Seamen" in Brunswick, Georgia's Palmetto Cemetery. In 1998 they were positively identified. [ 8 ]

Both ships were raised and towed to the port at nearby Brunswick for repairs. Although they both reentered service, the two ships were sunk during warfare in the Atlantic Ocean before the end of World War II. [ 9 ]

World War II Home Front Museum

Did you know the US used blimps during WWII to track German U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean? We learned this and many other facts during our visit to this museum. After watching a 10-minute film that explained the situation in the Atlantic during the early part of WWII, we walked through the exhibits.

A map showed us where the Esso Baton Rouge and the USS Oklahoma were torpedoed in 1943 just 14 miles away. The museum highlights the contributions of Glynn County during WWII, including the JA Jones Shipyard in nearby Brunswick that built Liberty ships and the Naval Air Station at Glynco that produced and serviced blimps.

As a local resident I want to encourage everyone to visit this amazing museum. Many tourists visit the museum at the lighthouse but skip the Home Front Museum since it is not in the village area. Most people leave stunned when they learn of all the WWII activity on St. Simons and Brunswick. For example, the current Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick was once a WWII blimp base. The blimps were used to look for German subs near the coast and were housed in the largest wooden buildings in the world.

Put this museum on your must do list for a day with less than perfect weather. Even children will love this place and will leave with an understanding of what locals in the area went through during the war.

USS St Simon - History

War of 1812 on St. Simons Island
The St. Simons Lighthouse stands on part of the
grounds of the Couper Plantation, where British
troops caused great destruction in 1815.

In February of 1815, British troops raided St.
Simon's Island, Georgia . The incident was
one of the final actions of the War of 1812.

One of the beautiful Golden Isles of Georgia ,
St. Simons Island is 84 miles south of
Savannah, 75 miles north of Jacksonville and
just across the F.J. Torres Causeway from
historic Brunswick.

The Raid on St. Simons Island was part of
the last campaign of the War of 1812. British
Rear Admiral George Cockburn had burned
Washington, D.C., but failed in his attempt to
take Fort McHenry and Baltimore, Maryland.
Turning his eyes southward to Georgia, he
decided to take Cumberland Island on the
Georgia Coast.

The plan was for Cumberland to serve as a
springboard for a major invasion of Georgia.
Forces from there would drive north up the
coast to Savannah while a second column
marched from Nicolls' Outpost at the forks of
the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers to finish
the conquest of the then southernmost state.

Cumberland Island fell to Cockburn's Royal
and Colonial Marines on January 11, 1815.
St. Mary's was taken two days later after a
brief but sharp battle with the U.S. troops
holding the fort at Point Petre (Point Peter) on
the St. Mary's River.

When Cockburn's marines completed their
looting of St. Mary's and the surrounding
area, they were withdrawn to Cumberland
Island on January 24th. Once they had
refitted, the admiral ordered them north to St.
Simons and Jekyll Islands .

The British forces came ashore at St.
Simons Island at the end of January 1815.
Their orders were clear: 1) To collect African-
American slaves as recruits for the Colonial
Marines, and 2) To confiscate cotton and
other valuables.

St. Simons and to some degree neighboring
Jekyll Island were then the centers of a
prosperous plantation district. Hundreds of
slaves ready flocked to the British standard
and even though it was mid-winter, there was
plenty of worth to attract the eyes of the

Moving up the Frederica River on the back of
the island, the British set up their command
post at the ruins of Fort Frederica . From there
they sent out detachments to scour St.
Simons and its plantations. In a little known
but significant facet of its history, Frederica
became the center for one of the largest
military emancipations of slaves in Georgia

As hundreds of liberated African-Americans
gathered at Fort Frederica, British troops
spread across St. Simons and neighboring
Jekyll to carry out their orders. They even put
the cotton gins into operation to gin out raw
cotton to increase its value before hauling it

One eyewitness described the scene in a
letter to a friend on February 13, 1815:

In truth it is impossible to state
circumstancially the loss which the
unfortunate inhabitants have sustained
Cattle slaughtered in every direction property
of every description held in requisition or
destroyed. My feelings prevent my adding to
this hateful catalogue of woe.
- Resident of St.
Simon's Island, February 13, 1815.

On the plantation of John Couper, which lay
at the southern point of the island, the British
took 80 slaves - some of them skilled at
various trades - and ten bales of cotton. In
1804 Couper had provided four acres of his
land for the building of the first St. Simons
Lighthouse and the current landmark still
stands at the same site.

At the plantation of Dr. R. Grant, British
marines liberated one enslaved woman and
took four bales of cotton, destroyed all of his
furniture and spoiled his cotton gins while
trying to gin more cotton.

Grant's plantation was for sale at the time
and according to the listing in a Charleston
newspaper included "a large Barn and
Machinery for the preparing of Cotton, and
with little expence may be turned into a Sugar
Mill a small Dwelling-House, with other
convenient out Houses and Negro Houses,
with 4 or 5000 Orange Trees on the place."

At Gascoigne Bluff , where the causeway from
the mainland reaches the island today, the
raiders struck the Hamilton Plantation. There
they liberated 182 slaves and confiscated 25
bales of cotton, along with "all his plantation
stores, medicines, tools, paint pots, old iron
and gin boxes." From the home of James
Hamilton they took carpet, the books of his
library, pistols and other weapons.

The story was much the same across the
island. American officials later complained
that the British continued their looting even
after news arrived that the war had ended
with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. That
news reached Admiral Cockburn on February
6, 1815, but the raid on St. Simons Island
continued for another seven days.

The British withdrew from the island on
January 13, 1815. U.S. troops were quickly
posted there to prevent a second raid, but the
damage had been done. Every plantation
had been looted and hundreds of slaves
liberated. They eventually were resettled in

Sites associated with the War of 1812 raid
can be seen at points across St. Simons

Lands of the Couper Plantation are marked
by the St. Simons Lighthouse and Neptune
Park. The British headquarters site is
preserved at Fort Frederica National
Monument, which focuses primarily on the
early history of the fort.

Two well-preserved slave cabins from the
1830s mark the site of the Hamilton
Plantation on Arthur J. Moore Drive near the
entrance to Epworth By The Sea. The site is
on Gascoigne Bluffs where magnificent oak
trees grow. Timber for the famed frigate USS
Constitution - "Old Ironsides - was cut here.

USS Simon Lake (AS 33)

USS SIMON LAKE was the lead ship of the SIMON LAKE - class of submarine tenders and the first ship in the Navy named after Simon Lake who was a mechanical engineer and naval architect. He was the inventor of even-keel type submarines and built ARGONUT, in 1897, which was the first submarine to operate successfully in the open sea. He also invented submarine apparatus for locating and recovering sunken vessels and their cargoes, and a heavy-oil internal combustion engine for marine use. He died on 23 June 1945.

The USS SIMON LAKE served the Navy for 34 years until decommissioned on July 31, 1999. She was stricken from the Navy list on April 25, 2006. Initially laid up at Philadelphia, Penn., the SIMON LAKE was towed to Portsmouth, Va., for lay-up near the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in 2008. There she was decontaminated between 2011 and 2015. On December 3, 2015, the ship was towed to the James River Reserve Fleet site to await final disposal. Later sold for scrapping, the SIMON LAKE left Virginia under tow for Brownsville, Tx., on February 5, 2019, arriving there on February 27.

General Characteristics: Awarded: August 8, 1962
Keel laid: January 7, 1963
Launched: February 8, 1964
Commissioned: November 7, 1964
Decommissioned: July 31, 1999
Builder: Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash.
Propulsion System: two boilers, steam turbines, one shaft
Propellers: one
Length: 643.7 feet (196.2 meters)
Beam: 85 feet (25.9 meters)
Draft: 30 feet (9.1 meters)
Displacement: approx. 20,000 tons
Speed: 18 knots
Armament: four 20mm guns
Crew: approx. 1,200

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS SIMON LAKE. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.

USS SIMON LAKE Cruise Books:

Accidents aboard USS SIMON LAKE:

Simon Lake, born 4 September 1866, son of John Christopher Lake, an inventor and foundry owner, attended public schools in Philadelphia and Toms River, New Jersey and was graduated from the Clinton Liveral Institute at Fort Poain, New York. After a course in mechanical drawing he became a partner in his father's business.

Lake's main ambition since his childhood had been to build submarines for the United States Navy. His first submarine, ARGONAUT, was built in 1894. He was not a wealthy man and had a difficult time financing the building of this boat. Since the submarine was still considered experimental, the United States Government held trials to see if the Lake submarine or that of his rival inventor Holland was to be adopted. Neither was considered satisfactory at that time and Lake's much improved submarine PROTECTOR was built in 1901. PROTECTOR was the first successfully tested even-keeled submarine.

American naval authorities were slow in considering PROTECTOR and she was sold to Russia. Lake spent the next seven years in Europe where he advised on submarine construction as well as designing and building. On return to the United States he founded the Lake Torpedo Boat Company which built submarines for both the Austrian and American Governments. His first submarine for the United States Navy was USS G-1 constructed at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company under a subcontract from the Lake Torpedo Boat Company. Commissioned on 28 October 1912, the G-1 set a record by submerging to the depth to 256 feet. Soon the United States Government adopted the Lake type of submarine to be built in its Navy yards under royalty to the Lake company. There was universal recognition of the efficiency of his underseas craft and his influence on designs of the United States Navy submarines has endured over the years to reach the era of atomic and hydrodynamic design.

Simon Lake's interest was not in the military uses of underwater craft, but rather, throughout his life he attempted to convince the world of the commercial and peaceful uses of the submarine. Although his boyhood dream never came true he went on to make many significant salvage and marine inventions and served in an advisory capacity during World War II. As the inventor of the first even-keeled submarine, Simon Lake was one of the greatest factors in the development of the submarine and, before his death, 23 June 1945, he had seen many of his early visions become reality.

USS SIMON LAKE Image Gallery:

The photos below were taken by me and show the SIMON LAKE laid up at Norfolk, Va. The photos were taken on February 3, 2009. The SIMON LAKE is laid-up between the L. Y. SPEAR (AS 36) and the McKEE (AS 41).

The photos below were taken by me and show the SIMON LAKE still laid up at Norfolk, Va. She has been moved a bit closer to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard compared to the photos above. The photos were taken on October 27, 2010.

The photos below were taken by me and show the SIMON LAKE still laid up at Norfolk, Va., on May 6, 2012.

The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the SIMON LAKE still laid up at Norfolk, Va., on April 29, 2015.

St. Simons Island

The largest barrier island in the Golden Isles, St. Simons Island lies across the immortalized Marshes of Glynn, made famous by poet Sidney Lanier. Moss-draped oaks line the winding island streets, creating a picture-perfect image worthy of a Faulkner tale.

The island’s villages offer a charming and unique selection of shops,਋reathtaking beaches, fascinating museums,ਊnd਌hallenging golf courses. St. Simons Island also hosts unforgettable events and is home to a variety of arenas for outdoor adventure, with plenty of things to do like kayaking, fishing, biking, and tours.

You&aposll also find਎xceptional restaurants throughout the island that will give you a true taste of St. Simons. A variety of accommodations𠅏romਏriendly inns to luxurious resorts—round out the island’s warm welcome, giving it the claims to fame that have attracted vacationers and groups for generations.

St. Simons Island History

St. Simons Island is dotted with exceptional historic sites and attractions, from the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum𠅊 working lighthouse built in 1872—to the਋loody Marsh Battle Site, where, in July 1742, British and Scottish soldiers protecting colonial Georgia defeated a larger Spanish force in a battle that helped end Spanish incursions outside Florida.

On the island&aposs north end, Cannon&aposs Point Preserve is not to be missed. This visitor favorite contains middens dating back to 2500 BCE.ਏort Frederica National Monument, which preserves archeological remnants of the local British colony and its defense against Spain, and historic਌hrist Church, Frederica—one of the oldest churches in Georgia, with worship held continuously since 1736𠅊re also located on the island’s north end. History buff or not, you won&apost want to miss Christ Church&aposs picturesque and somewhat haunting grounds.

Where to Eat in St. Simons Island

St. Simons Island offersਊ variety of dining optionsਏrom fine dining to casual outdoor fare. Some of our favorite things to eat on the island? Fresh oysters, handmade pizza, award-winning barbecue, and locally-caught seafood—just to name a few. Stop by Barbara Jean&aposs for signature crab cakes, grab a glass of vinoਊt Georgia Sea Grill&aposs wine bar, or bring the kids to enjoy some live music and casual fare at Porch.  

No matter what type of food you are looking for, St. Simons Island has a restaurant for it!ਏind your favorite restaurant on St. Simons Island.

Dog-Friendly Beaches and Parks

Bring your four-legged friends along on your trip to St. Simons Island. The area is home to a variety of pet-friendly activities. Fido will love to play frisbee at Frederica Park&aposs dog park or jump in the gentle waves at East Beach. Other outdoor attractions, like Gould&aposs Inlet, are also dog-friendly. 

USS St Simon - History

USS Admiral E. W. Eberle , a 9,676-ton (light displacement) Admiral W. S. Benson -class transport built by the Maritime Commission to its P2-SE2-R1 design, was commissioned in January 1945 with a largely Coast Guard crew. She departed San Francisco in March with troops and supplies for the Southwest Pacific, then moved to the Philippines where she embarked over 2,000 formerly interned civilians for repatriation to the United States. After arriving at San Pedro, California, in early May Admiral E. W. Eberle went to the Atlantic, where in June and early July she made a crossing carrying troops from Naples, Italy to Trinidad and another returning servicemen to the United States from Le Havre, France. In July and August the transport carried troops from Marseilles, France to the Philippines. After upkeep at Seattle, she made three voyages from the West Coast to Japan and Korea between October 1945 and March 1946. Admiral E. W. Eberle was decommissioned in May 1946 and transferred via the Maritime Commission to the Army.

The Army soon renamed the ship General Simon B. Buckner and operated her with a civilian crew as part of its water transportation service. She returned to the Navy in March 1950 when most of the larger Army ships became part of the newly-created Military Sea Transportation Service. Still civilian-manned and retaining her "General" name, the ship made numerous crossings of the Pacific in support of the Korean War. In February 1955 she departed San Francisco for New York, and during the next ten years completed over 130 Atlantic voyages between New York and Bremerhaven, West Germany, with some stops at Southampton, England, and trips to the Mediterranean. Between August and December 1965 the Buckner twice steamed from California to Vietnam, then returned to the East Coast and made ten more trips from New York to Bremerhaven and Southampton. She moved definitively to the West Coast in August 1966, supporting U.S. operations in Southeast Asia until March 1970, when she was placed out of service and returned to the Maritime Administration. Laid up during the following two decades, USNS General Simon B. Buckner was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in August 1990 and sold by the Maritime Administration in June 1997 for scrapping.

This page features, and provides links to, selected views concerning USS Admiral E. W. Eberle (AP-123), USAT General Simon B. Buckner and USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123).

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the digital images presented here, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

USS Admiral E. W. Eberle (AP-123)

Photographed circa late 1945 or early 1946, possibly at San Francisco.
Note that the ship's four 5"/38 guns have been removed. This probably occurred during an upkeep period at Seattle in September 1945.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 78KB 740 x 545 pixels

USS Admiral E.W. Eberle (AP-123)

Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken in 1945 by her builder, the Bethlehem-Alameda Shipyard, Inc., of Alameda, California.
Transferred to the U.S. Army in 1946 and renamed General Simon B. Buckner , this ship became USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123) in 1950.

Copied from the book "Troopships of World War II", by Roland W. Charles.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 50KB 740 x 405 pixels

USAT General Simon B. Buckner (U.S. Army Transport)

Photographed circa 1946-1950.
The original image is printed on postcard stock.
Originally built as USS Admiral E.W. Eberle (AP-123), in 1950 this ship became USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123).

Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2007.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image size: 62KB 740 x 495 pixels

USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123)

Photographed in August 1951.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Military Sealift Command collection at the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 61KB 740 x 605 pixels

USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123)

Photographed from an aircraft based at Naval Air Station, Seattle, Washington, 5 September 1952.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Military Sealift Command collection at the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 54KB 740 x 505 pixels

USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123)

Photographed in March 1955 off Fort Mason, San Francisco, California.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Military Sealift Command collection at the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 69KB 740 x 605 pixels

USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123)

Underway during the 1950s.
Photographed by Boersig.
The original image is printed on a postcard published by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) for sale in its ships' stores.
See Photo # NH 105100-A for a reproduction of the reverse side of this postcard.

Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2007.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image size: 82KB 740 x 475 pixels

USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123)

Photographed during the 1950s or 1960s.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Military Sealift Command collection at the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 67KB 740 x 605 pixels

USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123)

Letterpress reproduction of a photograph taken during the 1950s or 1960s.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Military Sealift Command collection at the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 85KB 740 x 605 pixels

USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123)

Approaching her berth at Columbus Quay, Bremerhaven, West Germany. The tug Sirius is assisting. Buckner served on the New York to Bremerhaven route between 1955 and 1966.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Military Sealift Command collection at the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 74KB 740 x 510 pixels

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the digital images presented here, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Page made 6 March 2006
New images added and page divided 12 December 2007

USS St Simon - History

Pardon Our Progress. Please report broken links to [email protected] We will fix them.

St. Simons History


In 1732 King George II of England signed a charter authorizing the establishing of a colony in America between South Carolina and the Spanish territory of Florida "for the settling of the poor persons of London". Although this altruistic motive was real, and helped in raising funds for the venture, there was also adequate military reason for the new settlement. Spanish ships were harassing trade with the colonies. The firm entrenchment of the Spanish in Florida, with hostile Indians under their control, was evidence that the Spanish would push on north as rapidly as possible, thereby threatening English colonies one by one. Ignoring an old treaty giving them colonization rights only as far south as Charleston, they emphasized that just because the Spanish had a few missions along the Georgia coast a century before was no firm claim on this land now.

So a colony was authorized in 1732, and just the right man volunteered to lead the party which would pioneer the settling of Georgia-James Edward Oglethorpe.

The young Oglethorpe, now only age 35, had already distinguished himself, first as a soldier and then as a member of Parliament. He was known for his honesty, truthfulness, and as a moderate and wise legislator. This fine reputation had been enhanced by his service on a committee to investigate England's debtors' prisons. He had found that most of the prisoners were not criminals. A great depression, following years of war and government waste, had caused many to overextend their credit. Thus, many otherwise respected citizens were confined in prison for debt. They were confined there for an indefinite period of time, unless somehow they could bribe their way to freedom. Wardens often arranged good meals and clean quarters for a price, but if a debtor could not pay, he might receive very inhuman treatment. Most debtors were in filth, in damp cells, and often starving and ill. There were stories of prisoners being tortured to death so the warden could confiscate their personal belongings. Oglethorpe's distress at conditions became more personal when he found a friend of his living in such conditions. This young architect, now completely out of money to buy favors, suffered under fear of being sent to a prison building into an epidemic of smallpox. Oglethorpe could hardly believe such a thing could happen, but alas, even his pleas to the warden were without avail.

These investigations by Oglethorpe and his committee brought out even worse horrors, which were made in a detailed report to Parliament. This resulted in a reform of prison conditions and management, and led to the enactment of the Debtors Act, where for the first time in English history the rights of a debtor were protected. This law was a great achievement, and helped establish the reputation of James Oglethorpe all over England.

Thus, when a leader was needed for a new colony across the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe was just the person. Here was the opportunity for a new experiment. Could the issues for which he had fought in Parliament be proven practical and worthy in a new setting, in a new society unspoiled by inherited prejudice and debasing competition?

The Trustees of the colony saw this as an opportunity to give people-poor and unemployed because there was no work-a fresh start. Once they became established and self-aufficient, their industry and success would bring much needed trade and wealth to the Crown.

So with the reputation of Oglethorpe and the altruistic purposes of the project, the colony of Georgia became a household word. Financial backers were easily secured. The trustees carefully selected the first settlers to go. Only the most responsible and ambitious of the applicants were given preference. All of them had permission of their creditors to go none were deserting wives and families. Even on the day of sailing, each family was called before the trustees, asked if they were satisfied with the arrangements, and given a chance to back out and remain in London.

It was November, 1732. On the 200 ton frigate Anne there were 114 emigrants, along with General Oglethorpe, a doctor, an engineer, and a druggist. The Volant was loaded with freight and also carried an additional four immigrants.

Although lashed by the Atlantic winter gales, the ships made anchor in Charles Town harbor safely. Two infants had died during the voyage, but the rest of the immigrants revived quickly once on Carolina soil. They were welcomed warmly by the Charleston governor and people, who gave them ample provisions, and would provide boats and guides for the rest of the journey. Oglethorpe lost no time in inspecting the lands to the south, and selected a bluff on the Savannah river for his new colony. Wisely, he made contact with the Indians and worked out permission with them for a settlement here. It was his good fortune to find a half-Indian woman who had gone to school in the Carolinas and spoke English. This Mary Musgrove was the daughter-in-law of Colonel John Musgrove, who had been sent into this area several years before to negotiate trade with the natives. Mrs. Musgrove's large influence with the Indians made her service invaluable. She and her husband were immediately hired as interpreters and gobetweens with her tribe.

Boats were rented in Charleston, and the settlers moved to the new site of the colony, arriving at Savannah on February 12, 1733. Working with great energy, they cleared the land and built the town, and such good progress had been made by early 1734 that Oglethorpe felt free to explore the rest of the territory to the south, which he also claimed for the English crown.

He spotted a point of high land along the western shore of St. Simons Island, about halfway up the island where the river curved somewhat concealing it. Just the place for a fort! A fort was needed for defense against the Spanish who still thought this territory was theirs. Of course, Oglethorpe had to go back to England to convince the Trustees of the need to build a fort, since he had quite arbitrarily extended the Georgia boundary southward.

Arriving back in England, he was welcomed home with great enthusiasm. The Red Men he took with him, in native costumes, with strange sounding names, caused a sensation. Poems were written in their honor, a medal was struck to commemorate the visit and celebrations were held by nobility and common folk alike.

Oglethorpe did have several fences to mend. There had been criticism of his prohibition of rum, brandy, and other distilled spirits and to his objection to the introduction of negro slavery into the colony. After all, these were of much profit to business and to the Crown! Yet, with eloquent presentation to Parliament of the problems brought by drink and slavery, and with the further consideration that in a military outpost everyone should bear arms (prohibited to slaves), an agreement was rat)fied to continue these prohibitions. Some dissatisfaction of the Trustees with the accounting of their funds was allayed when they found that Oglethorpe had expended his own fortune for the colony, proof enough of his honesty. They did deem it wise to send along a secretary to keep better records and to provide them with more complete information than they had been receiving.

King George shared Oglethorpe's vision of Georgia's potential. The Trustees renewed their support now that they had heard first hand of the success of the colony. So now James Oglethorpe could again leave for America. This time the task ahead was a military one if he was to challenge the Spanish. Settlers for this new, exposed, frontier location need be trustworthy and industrious. They need have a variety of useful crafts and talents such as carpenter, blacksmith, farmer, doctor, shoemaker. The trustees seemed to prefer Salzburgers (persecuted Protestants from Germany) and Scottish Highlanders. So it was, that a carefully selected group of forty families-about 230 persons, only a few more than one-third of them men-arrived off Peeper Island (later known as Cockspur Island) in the mouth of the Savannah river in February, 1736.

A problem arose when some of the Salzburgers displayed a reluctance to move on to the new settlement, pleading that warfare was against their religion and fighting in a military settlement might be unavoidable. They really preferred to join the community of their own people at Ebenezer. Other settlers were reluctant to continue when they discovered the remainder of the voyage must be in very small boats.

Believing it unwise to take anyone to his new military outpost who did not want to go, Oglethorpe again recruited from among them, holding out no false promises, for the hardships would be greater and the location more dangerous.

Finding the affairs in Savannah going well, Oglethorpe lost little time in getting down to St. Simons Island, his site for a new town and fort.

So it was, under great moss-draped live oaks, overlooking the river and acre after acre of marshes, Oglethorpe named the town Frederica in honor of the Prince of Wales, Frederick Louis. With plans for a typically English village and fort, he immediately began construction of the fort. Twenty men were assigned to construction, ten to digging the ditch that must surround the fort. The dirt was to be thrown up as a rampart, and being sandy, must be tufted to prevent erosion. Each person had a job to do and a deadline for its completion.

By March, 1736, forty-four men and seventy-two women and children had begun life in the new town. Each freeholder had a lot for house and garden along the main street. There was also a large public garden inland from the town, a meadow for cattle, and two wells. Since the Trustees had chosen the colonists for their skill, Frederica was to be a self-sustaining community. There was a doctor, a constable, a carpenter, a baker, a shoemaker, a boatman, a bricklayer, a locksmith. Before long the fort was completed as soon as possible the thatched houses were replaced by brick and wood homes. Within a very short time Frederica was an industrious, mostly selfcontained society.

To give further military strength, an outpost, Fort St. Simons, was built on the south end of the island, and for communications was connected to Frederica by a military road. By this road following the east shore of the island, it was concealed from the Frederica river on the west.

Among the immigrants which Mr. Oglethorpe brought from England were two young ministers who afterwards became very famous. John Wesley, fresh from Oxford University, came as a missionary to the Indians and a pastor to the colonists. His brother, Charles Wesley, was to serve as a private secretary to Oglethorpe. John took up his work in Savannah, making only an occasional trip to Frederica, while Charles came immediately with Oglethorpe to Frederica. His assigned task was to keep records and make reports to the Trustees, a previous failing of Mr. Oglethorpe. He soon discovered that pastoral responsibilities were his as well, so he conducted religious services and organized the settlers into a congregation which still today exists as the continuing congregation of Christ Church.

The Wesley brothers remained only a few months in the colony, however, as they really were not suited for the task. The Indians were no more interested in converting to the Church of England as Christians than they had been interested in accepting Spanish Catholic Christianity a century before. The colonists did not care for the "high church" ritual of their services, and especially did not like arbitrary and unbending moral authority. So, being discouraged by lack of success and disheartened by conflict with too many of the colonists, they were glad to return to the more familiar and settled life in England.

There were two things though which made the Georgia experience of the Wesleys of great significance: 1) On shipboard and in the colony they had been greatly impressed by the Moravian immigrants. Their trusting faith and deep piety made a deep impression on them, and the future "warm hearted" religious experience and the Methodist movement were greatly influenced by this Moravian contact. 2) The first Sunday School in the world was established in Savannah by John Wesley. He brought children together on Sunday for religious instruction. This is not to take away from Robert Raikes, who is given credit for the beginning of the Sunday School movement many years later. Robert Raikes developed an important system of teaching poor children on Sunday. These children had been working in the factories or mines for long hours six days a week, so on Sunday he got them together to teach them reading, writing, and arithmetic, for this was their only opportunity to learn. But the first known instance of getting children together on Sunday for religious instruction was by John Wesley in Savannah, Georgia.

So, although the Wesley brothers were in the colony for only a few months, it was a learning, growing, maturing experience which became part of the foundation upon which the Methodist movement was to be built.

With the colony firmly established and prospering, General Oglethorpe could then turn to asserting the English claim to the territory. England's claim rested upon the discoveries of Sebastian Cabot, who had sailed along this coast long before Spain claimed it as a part of Florida and colonized it with missions over a century before. However, England and Spain were quarreling not only over territory, but over trade, free shipping, and many other grievances. Oglethorpe, seeing war as inevitable, recruited six hundred fifty soldiers in England, carefully selecting them from respectable classes and permitting wives to come along in order to induce them to become permanent settlers. He also made special effort to make friends with the Indians in order to have them as allies.

England did declare war on Spain in 1739, and the next year Oglethorpe was ordered to secure the help of South Carolina and make an invasion of Florida. So he made an expedition against St. Augustine. However, he found it more heavily fort)fied than he had expected as he laid sedge to it. After several weeks without success, some Spanish galleys succeeded in running the gauntlet and carrying fresh supplies to the fort. This, together with his troops being enfeebled by sickness, made him decide it wise to raise the sedge and retire.

For the next two years the Spanish acted only on the defensive however, Oglethorpe knew they were really gathering forces to retaliate. When the Spanish came to attack, they did have a formidable force of fifty-two vessels and about three thousand men, under the command of Dan Manuel de Montiano, Governor of St. Augustine.

This was a time of great peril for Georgia as this great fleet appeared off St. Simons bar with the intention of taking Frederica. The governor of South Carolina would render no assistance, so General Oglethorpe was put upon his own resources. He had only one small ship, two guard schooners, and some small trading vessels, plus two land batteries at Fort St. Simons on the south end of the island. He had about 650 men.

Seeing it hopeless to hold Fort St. Simons, he withdrew before an attack in order to concentrate all his forces at Frederica. Thus, the Spanish immediately occupied Fort St. Simons. It didn't then take them long to find the military road which led up the island to Frederica, and a detachment made it to within a few miles of the town before the alarm was given. Quickly moving into action, a few rangers and Highlander troops attacked the Spanish with such force that they were temporarily routed. While General Oglethorpe returned to Frederica for additional aid, the Spanish reinforcements poured in and the English company was driven back. The Highlanders, bringing up the rear of the retreat, wheeled aside and concealed themselves in a grove of palmettoes, where they laid an ambush for the pursuing Spaniards.

Reaching this bend in the road and observing the footprints in the sand showing the English in rapid retreat, they concluded that the fighting was over for the day. They stacked their guns, made cooking fires, and prepared to eat. At this opportune time, the English attacked and a large number of Spanish soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured. This became known as the Battle of Bloody Marsh because it was said the marsh was red with the blood of the dead and wounded. In vain the Spanish officers tried to rally their men, but the troops were in such panic and disorder that the commands went unheeded. So, the Spaniards retreated to their camp near Fort St. Simons, and General Oglethorpe collected his forces at Frederica.

Learning of dissension among the Spanish commanders, General Oglethorpe decided to make a night attack upon their main body, hoping that by surprise and their divided opinions, he might drive them from the island. In this, however, he was disappointed. When they were within sight of the enemy camp, one of his soldiers, a Frenchman, deserted to the enemy. Knowing that the deserter would reveal the weakness of his army, he by quick wit found an escape from the threatened danger. Perhaps the ability to devise such quick and clever strategy is the thing which set General James Oglethorpe apart from the ordinary soldier.

He decided to pretend that the deserter was not a deserter at all, but a spy. In order to deceive the Spanish commander, he liberated a prisoner and gave him a sum of money to carry a letter and give it privately to the French deserter. It was written in the French language as if from a friend of his, telling him to make it appear to the Spaniards that Frederica was in a defenseless state. It

told him to urge them to attack at once, but if he could not persuade them to attack, he was then to try to persuade them to remain three days longer where they were. By that time British ships of war with two thousand troops would have arrived from South Carolina.

Of course as Oglethorpe hoped, this letter fell into the hands of General Montiano. The Spanish were perplexed over its contents, and the Frenchman put in irons as a double spy. Fortunately, while the council of war was deliberating what course to pursue, three ships did actually come into sight off the bar. The Governor of South Carolina had sent them to survey the situation on the Georgia coast, but were not supposed to land or to fight. Yet the Spanish immediately assumed them to be the ships mentioned in the letter, and in a moment of consternation decided to burn Fort St. Simons, hastily embark, and flee.

The Spanish had no way of knowing that Governor Bull of South Carolina had only sent the ships to see if the Spanish were in control of St. Simons harbor or not, and that they had been ordered to return immediately without engaging in battle. The Spanish commander, not being willing to risk his whole army and fleet at what he thought was an impending battle, put out to sea in retreat.

The success of General Oglethorpe in this campaign was truly wonderful. With a handful of men he had defeated and baffled a well-equipped army and saved Georgia from a formidable invasion. Since the avowed object of the Spanish was to exterminate the English colonies in America, if they had succeeded against Frederica, all the other colonies would have been in danger. For a long time General Oglethorpe expected the return of the enemy, and he strengthened the defenses for this, but the enemy never returned. It was five years later that peace was restored between the contending nations, and the threat was fully eliminated.

So this relatively minor skirmish at Bloody Marsh was a decisive battle for the world as it meant that forever the territory of Georgia and northward would be English the language, the customs, the traditions English, not Spanish.

In 1743, having completed his task, General Oglethorpe returned to England. After a few years it became obvious that the troops were no longer needed, so they were withdrawn. With the troops gone the town gradually declined until finally it was totally abandoned. Some of the tabby from the walls was hauled away for other construction including the foundation blocks for the lighthouse completed by James Gould in 1811.

The period between the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the great plantation days was a rather uneventful time. Many of the soldiers who had wives and families were given tracts of land town residents gradually moved to more prosperous places. It was a time of small farms and developing prosperous towns. Only Frederica and Sunbury in Liberty County declined, while other communities prospered. When the Revolutionary War came, many in Georgia saw less reason to break with the home country than those who lived in other places. In fact, many of the more prosperous farmers and merchants remained loyal to the King and moved to the West Indies or Florida or other places to wait out the conflict.

During the Revolutionary War the colony of Georgia suffered very greatly under the Tories and the British. The colony was in a very vulnerable position with little resources. Invasion, occupation, destruction, and disruption of farming brought desperate circumstances and general despair, broken only by the good news of victories of General Nathaniel Greene as he invaded from the north.

Fortunately, things had gone better in the north and after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, the British Parliament began to listen to the voice of reason, and steps were taken for the establishment of peace. In July 1782 the British army left Savannah, and in the final peace treaty, Georgia was mentioned by name and recognized as a free and independent state.

One other event need be mentioned as of great importance to coastal Georgia. General Nathaniel Greene had been rewarded with a grant of land and a beautiful plantation fourteen miles above Savannah, named Mulberry Grove. Here, after the turmoil of war, he retired with his family to enjoy the delights of a home which he preferred to the one he owned in his native Rhode Island. He died here in 1786, from sunstroke, and was buried on the estate. His widow continued to reside here, and she hired Eli Whitney as a tutor to her children. He often heard Mrs. Greene complain of the tedious process of picking by hand the seed from cotton. Sometimes she would playfully entreat him, as he possessed some mechanical talent, to devise a quicker way to accomplish this disagreeable task. Thus, stimulated, he invented the cotton gin, a machine which immensely increased the cotton industry of the world.

Particularly it made possible the Plantation Period of St. Simons Island and vicinity.

During the great Florida land boom of the 1920s, a number of migrants from the Bahamas came to the Miami area to work in the construction industry. New roads were being built, railroad lines were being extended, and land speculators descended upon Florida creating a fantastic real estate boom. Cameron Mann, bishop of the diocese at that time, predicted it couldn’t last. When the bubble burst, as it did in 1926, many of these Bahamian workers moved up the coast and settled in the Fort Pierce/Stuart area where they worked on the farms and in the citrus groves. The religious background of a large number of these Bahamian migrants was Anglican and they were in search of a church. Their need was answered when in 1927 Dr. C. L. Eccleston, a Jamaican and a black Fort Pierce dentist, together with the Rev. J. R. Lewis, a black priest and Vicar of St. Patrick’s Church in West Palm Beach, a black congregation, organized a group of these Bahamians to form a mission in Fort Pierce. Eccleston donated the land, Lewis gave the church its name, “St. Simon the Cyrenian.” The new congregation held its first services in a school on Palm Sunday and Easter. Fundraising and much hard work made it possible to celebrate future services as early as the following February in their own new building.

The previous month they had been admitted as an Organized Mission at the 6th Annual Convention of the Diocese of South Florida. A disastrous hurricane in 1948 destroyed this first building.

Undaunted by adversity, the congregation built another. For many years they were served by a number of priests most of whom did not stay long enough to give the congregation effective leadership. But in 1955 they reaped the reward of their patience when the Rt. Rev. Wallace E. Conkling, retired Bishop of Chicago, took charge and remained with them for 13 memorable years. The congregation loved him. It was during this time that the Parish Hall was built.

Upon the bishop’s departure, St. Simon’s again fell into good hands. The Rev. Richard L. Barry served for eight years during which the church took on a whole new outlook. He instituted an annual “Homecoming” which took on the aspect of a family reunion and also helped to pay the bills. The congregation learned to reach out to the community in various ways, especially to youth. Barry, himself, was a leading spirit in the community, serving as a chaplain in the hospital, giving a series of Lenten meditations, invited to open a session of the State House of Representatives, act as examining chaplain for the diocese and a member of its planning board. His biographical sketch appears in “Men of Achievement,” a British publication, and in”Who’s Who in Community Service,” (1973).

St. Simon the Cyrenian burnt its mortgage in October, 1984 and achieved Parish status in January, 1991. It is proud to be an integral part of the Fort Pierce community and, with God’s help, plans to continue to contribute to the betterment of the men, women, and children who form their congregation and their city.

Watch the video: ST SIMONS ISLAND GA Things To Do MUST-SEE HIDDEN GEMS! Georgia Road Trip Vlog Episode #7