Battle of Alligator Bridge Kept Florida in British Hands; on June 30, 1778, Americans Clashed with the British and Loyalists in Nassau

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Byline: KEVIN TURNER

CALLAHAN - A 1936 marker on U.S. 1 is one of the few reminders of the Battle of Alligator Bridge, one of only two Revolutionary War battles fought in Nassau County.

It marks the spot where 229 years ago - June 30, 1778 -1,500 rebel American troops clashed with more than 900 British soldiers and Loyalists.

Florida technically wasn't part of the American Revolution. Georgia was the southernmost of the original 13 colonies. But British-controlled Florida was an excellent platform from which the British could harass American troops and militia in Georgia.

According to the Florida National Guard Heritage Center - www.floridaguard.army.mil/history - and the National Park Service -www.nps.gov/revwar/ - the Battle of Alligator Creek came as Continental Army Gen. Robert Howe was attempting to seize Florida to deprive the British of that platform.

On June 28, 1778, about 2,000 American troops took the abandoned British Fort Tonyn near St. Marys, Ga. Two days later, as Howe waited for more troops, Col. Elijah Clarke took command of 600 American militia, followed closely by 900 militiamen and Continental infantry, and crossed the St. Marys River to chase a group of British beaten in a skirmish just west of Fort Tonyn.

It may have been part of a British trap. The British took the threat of invasion seriously because Americans had tried unsuccessfully to invade Florida before, most recently in a May 1777 invasion that led to the Battle at Thomas Creek in present-day Duval County.

Maj. Marc Prevost had brought a force of British regulars, Loyalists, and militia from East Florida to a post at the Georgia-Florida border, where they saw the rebel army crossing the St. Marys River into Florida on the Old Kings Road.

Seeking to surprise them, the British withdrew to a hastily-fortified position guarding the bridge at Alligator Creek, in the heart of today's Callahan. …