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The Willing Expedition was a 1778 military expedition launched on behalf of the American Continental Congress by Captain James Willing during the American War of Independence.[1]

Background[]

James Willing was a former merchant who had achieved the rank of Naval Captain in the Continental Navy.[2] He visited Baton Rouge in 1777 bringing an offer from the Continental Congress for West Florida to join the rebellion against the British monarchy and a proposal to become the fourteenth state. Although many West Floridians had sympathy with the cause of the American independence, they were content with their situation which included an elected assembly, and were far more concerned about the Spanish presence in nearby New Orleans from which they required British protection.[3]

Willing reported back to Congress that West Florida was a threat to American independence and was authorized to take a force of troops down the Mississippi River and compel the settlers to take an oath of neutrality.[4] The principle backer of the scheme was Robert Morris, whose decision to endorse Willing's plan proved controversial.[5] He advanced south along the Mississippi River into British West Florida. After occupying Natchez and plundering the nearby plantations, Willing was eventually defeated by a force of Loyalists and was later captured by the British.

British raids[]

Willing assembled a small militia and began raiding British outposts. He received tacit cooperation from Bernardo de Gálvez, the Governor of Spanish Luisiana and Commander of the troops of his Catholic Majesty. Galvez cooperated because he believed that if West Florida were captured, it would then be handed over to Spain.[6] The militia reached Fort Bute and captured a British vessel there. He then advanced southwards but many of the local settlers crossed the river and took shelter on the Spanish side.[7] Willing and his militia occupied Natchez on February 19, 1778 and announced that a 5,000 strong militia under George Rogers Clark was following him down the river. He forced a committee of local landowners to pledge they would not take up arms against the army of the United States.[8]

Aftermath[]

In response to Willing's raid the British dispatched more troops to the area,[9] part of a wider plan to redistibute troops to the Gulf of Mexico following the entry of France into the war.

References[]

  1. Navy Dept. (U.S.); Naval History & Heritage Command (U.S.). Naval Documents of the American Revolution Volume 12, American Theater, April 1, 1778-May 31, 1778; European Theater, April 1, 1778- May 31, 1778. Government Printing Office. pp. 907–. ISBN 978-0-945274-72-8. https://books.google.com/books?id=dWXGN1p3lewC&pg=PA907. 
  2. D. Clayton James (1 May 1993). Lt. Spalding in Civil War Louisiana: A Union Officer's Humor, Privilege, and Ambition. LSU Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-8071-1860-3. https://books.google.com/books?id=my5L0Ek-UxUC&pg=PA22. 
  3. Rose Meyers (1 March 1999). A History of Baton Rouge, 1699--1812. LSU Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-8071-2431-4. https://books.google.com/books?id=rvt8XrCzlwQC. 
  4. Rose Meyers (1 March 1999). A History of Baton Rouge, 1699--1812. LSU Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-8071-2431-4. https://books.google.com/books?id=rvt8XrCzlwQC. 
  5. Charles Rappleye (2 November 2010). Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution. Simon and Schuster. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-4165-7286-2. https://books.google.com/books?id=dELO9Pc3P50C. 
  6. Samuel Flagg Bemis (16 April 2013). The Diplomacy Of The American Revolution. Read Books Limited. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-4474-8515-5. https://books.google.com/books?id=sLR8CgAAQBAJ. 
  7. Rose Meyers (1 March 1999). A History of Baton Rouge, 1699--1812. LSU Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-8071-2431-4. https://books.google.com/books?id=rvt8XrCzlwQC. 
  8. Rose Meyers (1 March 1999). A History of Baton Rouge, 1699--1812. LSU Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8071-2431-4. https://books.google.com/books?id=rvt8XrCzlwQC. 
  9. Rose Meyers (1 March 1999). A History of Baton Rouge, 1699--1812. LSU Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8071-2431-4. https://books.google.com/books?id=rvt8XrCzlwQC. 

Bibliography[]

  • Meyes, Rose. A History of Baton Rouge 1699-1812.
  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution.
  • Charles, Rappleye. Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution.

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