Few bothered to write about Daniel McGirtt unless they hated him. Then, their words were many. Historians remember him as colorful, calling him a bandit, head of the banditti, a horse thief and murderer. Yet the British Governor of East Florida made him Lieutenant Colonel in the East Florida Rangers. He fought bravely and daringly under Brigadier General Augustine Prevost at Savannah, Charleston and Augusta beside the likes of Lt. Colonels William “Bloody Bill“ Cunningham and Stephen Mayfield. His reward of a two thousand acre plantation on Maxton Island in Florida became his home and refuge. Tasked with guarding Florida’s border from the opportunism of Georgia’s raiders, Daniel severely angered the brigands raiding Florida’s farms. After their raids, he pursued them all the way into Georgia, recovering the stolen goods, frequently with much bloodshed and a large interest penalty consisting of the rest of their property. After the war, when Zespedes gifted land to the former raiders, those Daniel angered became his neighbors. That uncomfortable arrangement resulted in harassment, political bullying and ultimately Daniel’s imprisonment at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine and El Castillo de Los Tres Reyes Magos Del Morro in Cuba. Dan’s fingerprints probably still mark the walls of those damp, lightless dungeons. At the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, one large compartment is labeled “The Jail.” To see the horrendous place where Daniel McGirtt was imprisoned, take a look.
This study of the life of Daniel McGirtt attempts to understand the real man instead of confirming or denying the allegations assembled to defame him. The many vague accusations leveled at McGirtt remain enigmatic but consistently appear to be written by his enemies. In the face of all that, his many friends and large family remained loyal and protective. Somewhere between the anger and the love, rests the truth.