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When The Peacock Showed Its Feathers

The War of 1812 had little effect on Spanish-owned Florida, yet one of its most notable sea battles occurred right off the coast of Indian River County.

The American Peacock and the British Epervier battling off the section of Florida coast that is now occupied by Indian River County.

The American Peacock and the British Epervier battling off the section of Florida coast that is now occupied by Indian River County.

When Master Commandant Lewis Warrington awoke on the morning of April 29, 1814, the first thing he would have noted was that his ship, the U.S.S. Peacock, was riding a few miles off the shore of the Spanish colony of East Florida. No doubt he observed the low-lying land mass through his telescope and made some remark about it. “A land full of mosquitoes and Indians,” he might have said to his second-in-command, First Lieutenant John Nicolson, echoing America’s current attitude towards Florida. “The Spanish are welcome to it.”

He certainly would not have believed that, 200 years into the future, the land that lay ahead of him would be a prosperous county called Indian River in the U.S. state of Florida. Or that the precise point he was looking at would be the location of a small but thriving city named Sebastian.

This was 32-year-old Warrington’s first excursion into Florida waters. One month earlier, he had assumed command of the brand-new, 509-ton sloop of war, one of the fastest warships in the fledgling U.S. Navy’s small fleet. Thirty years after the Revolution, the United States was once again at war with Britain, and Warrington had just completed his first assignment, the transportation of munitions from New York to St. Mary’s River in Georgia.
 

Read the entire article in the March 2012 issue