On September 4, 1748, sailors from two Spanish ships came ashore and attacked the town of Brunswick. Terrified at the sight of Spanish ships in the Cape Fear River, the residents of the port town gathered as many of their possessions as possible and fled.
A call for help was sounded, and William Dry gathered his company of militia in an attempt to drive the Spanish out. The 67-man force surprised the Spanish sailors who were busy looting the town. Unprepared for the encounter, many were killed or captured as they scrambled back to their ships. In the ensuing battle, one of the Spanish ships exploded and sank, leading the other ship to disengage and leave the area.
Dry’s militiamen and some hired sailors salvaged as many valuables as possible from the sunken privateer, selling the ship’s contents and even some Spanish slaves. The proceeds of the sale financed in part the construction of St. Philip’s Church at Brunswick and St. James Church in Wilmington. However, the attack had exposed the vulnerability of Brunswick and likely contributed to its eventual abandonment.
Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site will commemorate the Spanish attack this weekend with a living history program.
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