The Gulf Coast and the West

The Spanish explorers were some of the first Europeans to arrive at the Gulf Coast. They were looking for gold, silver, minerals, and other types of wealth that they could claim for Spain. The areas along the Gulf Coast experienced many different invasions, including those from England that overtook the Spanish settlements. Competition among the European countries was fierce, and each one wanted to convert any Native tribes to Christianity.

Spanish explorers such as Juan Ponce de León, Hernando de Soto had troops of men that both walked and sailed up and down the coast of what is now Florida. Some of DeSoto’s soldiers eventually explored as far as Mexico.

Spain sent shipments of products, gold and silver to their settlements in Florida and along the Gulf Coast. This led to pirates attacking their fleets.

The French took an interest in the new Florida area and sent their ships and explorers. They built forts and missions to share the Catholic religion and soon had many of the Native Indians converted.

The English continued to enter Florida and much of the Gulf Coast, taking over many of the settlements that had been established by the Spanish. At the same time, they were establishing their colonies in Jamestown in the north.

  • Meanwhile, the French were moving toward the Gulf Coast down the Mississippi River.
  • The English were focused on destroying as many of the Spanish colonies and missions as possible in an attempt to take over the Florida land. In 1733 the English had established Georgia, and the troops there continued to attack the Spanish in Florida.
  • After the British took control of Havana, Cuba in 1763 from the Spanish, they set out to accomplish their complete takeover of Florida and parts of the Gulf Coast. They wanted to divide the land into East and West Florida. British surveyors began mapping the coastline and landscape while also making attempts to create alliances with the Native Indian tribes. The British rule in the area only lasted around twenty years.
  • The division of Florida didn’t change the loyalty to Great Britain during the American Revolution. However, once the war was over, the British left the Gulf Coast area. Once the evacuation happened, the Spanish colonists began to return and were given land grants. Additional people that fled to Florida were escaped, slaves. Surprisingly, instead of Florida becoming more Spanish, it was changing to become more “American.” In 1821, Spain formally ceded Florida to the United States.
  • In 1818, General Andrew Jackson had attempted to take a status of Florida and ended up in a battle with the Native Indian tribes. This battle would be called the First Seminole War.
  • The subtropical summers along the Gulf Coast presented problems to explorers from all of the European countries. They were not used to fighting the insects and snakes, especially the high numbers of mosquitos that carried the disease.
  • Unlike many areas of the New World, where European settlements were founded and pretty much maintained by specific countries, the Gulf Coast had a mixture of countries and influences. The most diverse of these can be seen today in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, which includes French, Sicilian, African, English, and Spanish.


Who were some of the first European explorers of the Gulf Coast?

How far did some of Hernando de Soto’s troops reach on the Gulf Coast?

How did the English divide Florida?
Two parts: East and West

Who did the settlements in Florida support during the American Revolution?
The British

What problem happened to the Spanish ships when they tried to send supplies to the Gulf Coast settlements?
Pirates attacked them

The French wanted to convert the Native Indians on the Gulf Coast to what religion?