Monday, October 8, 2018

Florida's National Guard: Since 1565 - We Went There

I know history is important to Floridians, but this one seems to be a bit of a reach. Our National Guard unit (at least on the license plate) professes that it has been established since 1565. When I saw that, I figured it was referring to some kind of Colonial National Guard in New England. Nope, it's ours, with all of its ups and downs over the years.


Our United States National Guard, according to the plate, seems to have gotten its start in Florida well before there was a United States. And well before Florida was part of the states that aligned to become the United States (Colonies). We're talking Spanish rule. That would mean that we'd have to add the massacre of the French at Matanzas in 1565 as part of our National Guard's history. Matanzas, by the way, means "killings." That's just a little messed up, that the very first acts of our Florida National Guard (militia then) included attacking French settlers at Fort Caroline and then killing a bunch of French Huguenots who would not become Catholics near St. Augustine. Maybe we should change it to, "Since 1566." Or, we could count the French soldiers who were at Fort Caroline (1565-1565) as the co-first National Guard, only for France rather than Spain or England. I dunno. 

Or, why not take it back even further, and say it's been around since the local Indians weren't called Indians by anyone? I am sure some of the indigenous tribes here fought with each other all the way back to when they first arrived. The plate could read, "Since 10,000BC." Now that's a history. I know, it's not our common history, which seems to include the Spanish rule here to some degree, even though I am not sure there are any surviving Dons in the area. And I don't think Spain itself currently brags too much about 1565.

The Florida National Guard, while still part of Spain, was attacked by South Carolina (part of Great Britain) back in 1702 as part of Queen Anne's War, and one result was the Apalachee Massacre and loss of missions in North Florida. Our National Guard would have also fought against the English in the Yamasee War and First Seminole War. Then we switched sides and were part of Great Britain for 20 years. Keep in mind that this is now post-American Revolution. So our Florida National Guard would have spent 20 years protecting it's people from the United States of America.

In 1821, the Florida National Guard became part of the United States and could now help eradicate any enemies that were probably once allies, like Brits, Spaniards (if there were any), and Indians. But then it spent the Civil War at war with the United States of America. I guess there could be some argument that the pro-Union militia also existed in Florida at this time, so we kind of had a split National Guard unit, fighting against itself for land no one really wanted.

The Florida State Troops were formed in 1888, and then the Militia Act of 1903 formed the current United States National Guard system. I guess that sums it up, in a very Wikipedia-like fashion. But when and how did we decide to say it's been around so long? The official Florida National Guard webpage, which my browser won't let me access because it's not https secure, seems to agree with the 1565 date, as do news outlets that have discussed the recent anniversaries (450 in 2016). So, is there a point in questioning this grand history?