By Mike Miller August 16, 2023
The 8 flags of Amelia Island are a convenient and colorful way to track the turbulent history of this northernmost Florida barrier island.
As the location of what became Fernandina beach - one of the earliest and busiest seaports in Florida - it was coveted by many countries and privateers.
Its fortunes rose and fell with the fate of Spain, France, England, the Confederate States of America, the English American Colonies and the United States of America.
A few modern adventurers also had their flag and day in the sun with their brief control of the island.
The first recorded visitor to Amelia Island was the French admiral and explorer, Jean Ribault.
He arrived in May of 1562 and found the area populated by Timucuan Indians.
He named the island "Isle de Mai" for the month of May, and claimed it for France.
The Spanish came along in 1565 and claimed it for Spain after killing Ribault and his French colonists.
The Spaniards stuck around for almost 200 years.
In 1686 they built Fort San Fernando located in the area of Fernandina Beach now called Old Town. They called the island Santa Maria.
Then the English came along led by Georgia colonial governor James Oglethorpe and wiped out the Spanish in 1702. He renamed the island for Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II.
For a few years they called it Egmont after the Earl of Egmont's big indigo plantation.
After the Revolutionary War, the victorious Americans took the island from the English and gave it back to Spain in 1783.
In 1812 a group called "Patriots of Amelia Island" kicked the Spanish out and raised their own flag.
The next day they raised the U.S. flag, but Spain demanded the island be returned, so it became Spanish again.
In 1817 a Scottish adventurer named Sir Gregor MacGregor captured the Spanish Fort San Carlos, and he raised his own flag, the Green Cross standard.
Then a pirate named Luis Aury and 55 of his men gained control from Sir Gregor and raised the Mexican Rebel flag.
This flag was chosen because Aury had accepted a commission from the Republic of Mexico.
The United States quickly booted these guys out and held Amelia Island in trust for Spain.
Amelia Island finally became United States soil in 1821 when Florida became a territory.
During the first year of the civil war, however, the island was under the flag of the Confederate States of America.
Old Glory was raised again in 1862 during the Civil War.
The last time I checked, Amelia Island is still under the flag of The United States of America.
Not the one here circa 1862, but the modern one with 50 stars.