April 2, 1513
Recent scholarship puts the precise date in question, but on or around April 2, 1513, explorer Juan Ponce de Leon first stepped foot on the Florida coast near present-day St. Augustine and claimed the land for Spain. Ponce de Leon gave the state its name, which means “full of flowers.” Over the next three centuries, portions of Spanish Florida – which originally stretched as far west as the Mississippi River, including much of the lower half of Alabama – was passed among the Spanish, French and British. Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, U.S. officials asserted that the colony of Spanish West Florida belonged to them, but it wasn’t until acts of Congress in 1811 and 1812 that the nation laid unofficial claim to the area between the Pearl and Perdido rivers. U.S. troops ultimately occupied Mobile during the War of 1812, with the Spanish surrendering Fort Carlota (also known as Fort Conde) without a shot on April 13, 1813.
Read more at the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.