The Infamous War of Jenkins’s Ear? Never Heard of It?

WarofJenkinsEar.jpgHave you ever heard of the War of Jenkins’s Ear? If not, you are not alone. 

This particular war took place in colonial Georgia. It involved both Spain and England in a dispute over the land between South Carolina and Florida, what is now the state of Georgia in the U. S. The dispute lasted some 200 years, with formal hostilities beginning in 1739. Georgia was eventually preserved as an English colony, but for a time the colony’s success seemed a dim hope.

 250px-Guerra_de_la_oreja_de_Jenkins.png The conflict was not limited to land as shipping lanes were interrupted by acts of piracy by both the English and the Spanish. The conflict hit a high point, or perhaps a low point, when in 1731, a Spanish privateer boarded the British ship Rebecca and cut off the ear of British Captain Robert Jenkins as punishment for raiding Spanish ships. Jenkins countered by pickling the ear in a jar and presenting said ear to Parliament upon his return to England. According to Historic UK, “The House of Commons summoned Jenkins to appear before them, and told to produce the ‘ear’, which he duly did. When asked ‘What did you do?’ Jenkins replied, ‘I commended my soul to God and my cause to my country.’ Fine words indeed! Jenkins’ ‘ear’ caught the country’s imagination and the power of this shrivelled object was immense and became a symbol of English pride.”
In outrage, the English public demanded retribution. 
Although diplomatic attempts between the two countries continued throughout the 1730s, animosity continued, leading to war in late 1739. 



Robert Jenkins shows his severed ear to Prime Minister Robert Walpole.
1738 satirical cartoon depicts Prime Minister Robert Walpole swooning when confronted with the Spanish-sliced ear, which led to the War of Jenkins’ Ear in 1739. British Museum, London


Beginning in 1740, General James Oglethorpe seized the Spanish forts of Fort Picolata and Fort San Franciso de Pupo, west of what is now St. Augustine, Florida, on the St. Johns River. Confrontations continued, with both sides knowing success and failure, until the summer of 1742. Oglethorpe had retreated to Fort Frederica to await a Spanish invasion. The Spanish landed on St. Simons Island and prepared for an attack. The second of two attacks was known as the Battle of Bloody Marsh. The British were able to withstand the assault, sending the Spanish in a retreat to St. Augustine. The last battle of the War of Jenkins’s Ear came in March 1743. The two countries signed The Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle in 1748, which returned all colonial claims to previous owners. The St. Johns River became the unofficial border between Georgia and Florida. The English were able to keep the Spanish from advancing their claims in the New World. Georgia became the buffer between England’s claims in the British North America against foreign claims. Georgia remained in English possession due to Oglethorpe and the War of Jenkins’s Ear. 

“Georgians and the War of Jenkins’ Ear,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 78 (fall 1994).
Sweet, Julie A. “War of Jenkins’ Ear.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 10 March 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.
“War of Jenkins’ Ear: 1739,” History World
“War of Jenkins’s Ear,” Encyclopedia Britannica

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in Act of Parliament, American History, British history, British Navy, war and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Infamous War of Jenkins’s Ear? Never Heard of It?

  1. Greg Rogers says:

    Many New Englanders who were sent to fight the war on the coast of Spanish South America died of disease

  2. gregrog says:

    Many New Englanders who were sent to fight the war on the shore of Spanish South America died of tropical disease and poor logistics

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