Bill Potter’s 2017 Florida Tour Recap

What a great adventure with like-minded families! We learned so much about Florida’s history and appreciated the free time between sessions to explore the area. Mr. Potter is terrific at bringing history to life through a distinctly Christian filter.” —Tim A.

Florida has not always been a welcoming tourist attraction. The history of the state is fraught with war, massacres, pirate raids, invasions, and deportation—providential hardships that eventually faded to the past in favor of beaches, football, retirement villas, Walt Disney, and space rockets, not to mention citrus groves and golf courses. We learned about the hard times.

St. Augustine, Florida, founded 1565

St. Augustine is the oldest European-founded city in North America. The governor of Puerto Rico was the first to claim the area for Spain—a stalwart explorer named Ponce de León, who called the area La Florida in 1513. We examined the story of the fabled fountain of youth which has given its name to a lovely historical park along the bay. Historian Bill Potter mused about mankind’s quest to find alternatives to mortality and salvation apart from the Bible, whether Ponce sought such a course or not. We witnessed a re-enactor explain and fire a matchlock gun and a Spanish artillery crew set off a cannon like the ones that defended the city in less peaceful times. We visited a re-creation of the first Christian chapel erected in Florida by Franciscan missionaries in the 16th Century. As an entertaining touch, pea-fowl preened along walls next to signs that forbade sitting on them, and they strutted between two heavy guns that once blasted the British from aboard the fabled USS Constitution (now in Boston Harbor).

Addressing the Florida tour group on the ground of the First Landing

The reconstructed Fort Caroline near Jacksonville provided a picturesque setting for our next stop. Originally constructed by French Huguenots, the site, or one close by, became the first attempted permanent colony along the eastern coast of Florida. Several hundred settlers of Protestant conviction were sent there by the Admiral of France, Gaspard de Coligny in 1564 to establish a base of operation for trade with and evangelization of, the native tribes, and to harvest whatever wealth and resources were available. Led by René de Loudonnière, the infant colony suffered lack of food and proper discipline, almost collapsing on its own. A relief expedition came to aid the failing colonists and secure the place from possible Spanish depredations. The Catholic King of Spain also sent an expedition, under a hard and uncompromising soldier, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, to deal with what he considered enemy intruders on Spanish-claimed land. The ruthless Menendez wiped out the French colony and established St. Augustine as the new base of Spanish operations in that part of Florida. We fought a brief re-enactment, with the French running away, though Mr. Potter actually escaped to the woods to teach another day. Providence is often a great mystery.

On the ramparts of the reconstructed Huguenot Fort Caroline near Jacksonville

Our final destination of the day found our expedition among the distaff pirates of the Pirate Museum of St. Augustine. A mixture of humor, entertainment, and solid information, we viewed and learned about the singular pirate artifacts of the museum. They include such interesting items as one of the two known authentic pirate flags in existence, the Bible of Captain Kidd, and the talking head of Blackbeard. We learned about the differences between privateering and piracy, often a very blurred line, and details of the lives of some of the more prominent pirates of history. Most died violently, having spent their lives violating the law of God in all of its aspects, and being tracked down by the British, French, and Spanish navies. The final room displayed the prominent role pirate stories have played in Hollywood movies—a charming bunch of rogues defined more by the stereotypes created by Long John Silver and Walt Disney, than by careful historical and biblical analysis. We were reminded not to call evil good or good evil.

The nation’s premier Pirate Museum in St. Augustine

Our evening gathering, where we killed the fatted pizza, and schmoozed with our new friends, ended with a talk by Mr. Potter on the role of Andrew Jackson and the Seminoles of Florida, both subjects of controversy, intrigue, violence, and mystery.

Saturday morning we adjourned at the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. After witnessing the burning by pirates and English soldiers of nine previous wooden forts, trying to protect the city, the Queen of Spain authorized the building of the state of the art bastion, which has become the symbol of the City of St. Augustine. It withstood two sieges by British Americans and housed many prisoners over the centuries. Famous chiefs, signers of the Declaration of Independence and common criminals have stared at the four walls of the dungeon. It changed national possession six times in its history, almost always by treaty. Four centuries of people have come and gone in St. Augustine but the Castillo still proudly stands there, flying the colors of Burgundy, the royal house of Spain.

Hello from atop the walls of the magnificent Castillo de San Marcos!

We concluded our tour at the excellent reenactment of the Battle of Olustee. Though it rained at the beginning of the day, the weather totally cleared in time for the battle and we were treated to a spectacular demonstration of artillery bombardment, infantry tactics, and cavalry who couldn’t shoot straight. A premier reenactment and the first of the season, it is never disappointing and they outdid themselves once again. The sutlers were actively relieving tourists of Yankee greenbacks, the churches were selling good hot food, and the Re-enactors Missions were handing out Gospel tracts and earplugs. Bill gave a brief summary of the battle at the monument commemorating the men who fought there.

Mustering the troops and commemorating the Battle of Olustee

This tour marked the beginning of the fourth year of Landmark Events and we appreciate all who took the time to attend and hear of the Providence of God in Florida. We trust that the teaching has given you a fuller measure of the Grace of God and his control of our past as he forged the nation in which we live. Whether you joined us in spirit or in person, we look forward to seeing you on a future Landmark Events Tour where we walk the ground where the mighty hand of God directed the affairs of men.

More Images from the Tour!

2017-08-11T23:30:04+00:00 February 28, 2017|Tour Recaps|

The Martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton, 1528

The Martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton, 1528

“He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake, will find it.” —Matthew 10:38,39

The Reformation in Scotland did not begin with John Knox. We know that Lollards were preaching the Gospel and sharing the Scriptures centuries before. Nonetheless, there are few extant records that indicate true biblical faith in the centuries immediately before the Protestant Reformation. When the manuscripts of Martin Luther’s sermons, debates, and trials went to press, the Word spread to parts of Europe, especially among Renaissance scholars, typically monks and university professors. In Scotland a young professor at the University of St. Andrews, Patrick Hamilton, came into contact with Lutheran teaching while studying in France.

Patrick Hamilton (c. 1504-1528)

Archbishop Beaton (c. 1494–1546)

Superstition and corruption characterized the Catholic Church of medieval Scotland. Veneration of relics and images, corrupt priests, and a wealthy and venal hierarchy made the church rife for reform. With the Protestant allegiance to and study of the Holy Scriptures came doctrinal challenges to the religion of the papacy. The scholars of the Universities of Scotland maintained ties with continental humanist scholars like Erasmus of Rotterdam and Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, and read the Bible in new and more accurate translations, especially vernacular English.

View of St. Andrews from the Cathedral

Patrick Hamilton, related to Scottish royalty through both parents, studied in Paris where he read Erasmus and Luther and fell under the sway of Reformation thinking and doctrine. In 1523 he joined the faculty of arts and sciences at St. Andrews and, by all accounts, became a popular lecturer. A number of students who studied under Hamilton later became leaders of the Reformation in Scotland. He “attacked moral abuses and abusive ecclesiastical practices.” His continued attacks on the moral turpitude of the clergy and the superstitious sacerdotalism of the church resulted in accusations of having embraced Lutheran heresy. Hamilton came to the attention of Archbishop Beaton at the Cathedral who determined to arrest Hamilton for heresy. Upon the advice of friends, Patrick escaped to the continent where he travelled immediately to Wittenberg to hear Luther in person.

Tour group at the site of Hamilton’s Martyrdom

Ground marker where Hamilton was burned at the stake

Hamilton returned to St. Andrews and the prelates allowed him great latitude to preach, probably setting him up for charges that would really stick against a man with royal blood and the backing of the powerful Hamilton family. He preached salvation by faith alone, exerting great influence among the students, monks, priests, and professors of St. Andrews. Although warned by his friends, Patrick refused to flee and was summarily arrested and hauled before a council of monks, priests, and other clerics under the thumb of Beaton. Patrick stood solidly on the Solas of the Reformation and refused to back down on seven major charges that were central tenets of Protestant theology. He also denied the existence of Purgatory but affirmed the pope as an antichrist. He denounced relics as having any merit, in a town with a cathedral that boasted relics of great merit for pilgrims to pay to see, under the altar.

Before his murder, Hamilton was imprisoned at St. Andrews Castle

When offered his life for a recantation Patrick Hamilton replied:

“As to my confession, I will not deny it for the fear of your fire, for my confession and belief is in Christ Jesus. Therefore I will not deny it. I will rather be content that my body burn in this fire for the confession of my faith in Christ, than my soul should burn in the fire of hell for denying the same.”

On the 29th of February, the twenty-four-year-old college professor was burned at the stake at the portico to the University while his students stood in shock, and the Franciscan friar teased him to call on the Virgin Mary to help him out. Upon his death, many others took up the cause of the martyr and spread the Gospel across Scotland. The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.

Note: The best book to read on Hamilton is Luther’s Scottish Connection, by James Edward McGoldrick

For More History Highlights, View the Archives ››


Join us in July for Landmark Events’ one-of-a-kind tour of the ancient land of the Scots where we will visit the very site of Patrick Hamilton’s martyrdom in St. Andrews. Follow in the footsteps of such giants as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, be inspired by the unwavering faith of the Scottish Covenanters and stroll along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, visiting the home of John Knox and the cathedral where he preached. Attend the Lowlands Leg, the Highlands Leg, or go for the “Whole Haggis” and attend both!

Image Credits: 1 Patrick Hamilton (; 2 Archbishop Beaton (; 3 St. Andrews Castle (

2017-08-04T16:57:19+00:00 February 27, 2017|HH 2017|

The Battle of the Alamo, 1836

The Battle of the Alamo, 1836

At the age of four I received my first little 45 rpm record — Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Ballad of Davy Crockett.” I played it a thousand times (I’m not good with numbers — it was probably more). The story of the Alamo became as ingrained in my head as the grooves in the record. Sixty years later I am still remembering the heroic last stand of Travis, Bowie and Crockett.

200 vs. 2,000 at the Alamo

The 23rd of February, 1836, marked the beginning of a thirteen-day siege in San Antonio de Bexar, of the abandoned Spanish mission known as the Alamo. An army of some 2,000 Mexican soldiers, mostly conscripts and inexperienced recruits, led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, surrounded the two hundred or so Texans — American and Mexican defenders — who had assembled behind the mission walls. The events of the following two weeks have faded to legend and iconic tales that are central to Texas and American history.

The Fall of the Alamo, or Davy Crockett’s Last Stand

Stephen Austin Colonizes Texas

The American colonizers who established their homes in Texas under the leadership of Stephen F. Austin promised their obeisance to the federal republic of Mexico under the 1824 Constitution. After the overthrow of the government by Santa Anna and the abolition of the Constitution, several Mexican states rebelled, including Texas. A five-hundred-man army under General Cos was sent to quell any unrest. Those troops were faced down by Texans at Gonzales and captured at the Alamo in Bexar. Santa Anna, in retaliation, came north from Mexico to impose his will, flying the red flag of no quarter.

The Alamo Mission, Constructed in 1744

The Alamo as Sketched in 1854

General Sam Houston Defeats Santa Anna at San Jacinto

The famous siege of the Alamo resulted, with hundreds of Mexican casualties and the annihilation of the garrison commanded by William Barrett Travis and James Bowie. The story of the predawn assault on the Alamo with confusion, desperation, and death on every hand retains its evocative power and celebration of heroism. At the end of the Texas Revolt lay the definitive defeat of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto by General Samuel Houston and the establishment of the independent Republic of Texas. The Alamo has been celebrated in books and film throughout history and has been at the nub of political controversy as Texans seek to celebrate the sacrifice and heroism of their past against the revisions and emotional tirades of those who wish to vilify or banish that history.

Sam Houston (1793-1837)

Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794-1876)

Davy Crockett Defines “Republic”

No, John Wayne did not throw a burning torch into the powder magazine and blow everything up, including himself, as he played David Crockett in the 1960 movie The Alamo. While the historical accuracy of the film — directed by Wayne and financed in part by his own money — lacks much in the way of verifiable detail (after all, none of the Texan fighters survived to tell their account), and dialogue is always invented by the script-writers en toto, some of the sentiments expressed in the film reflect the beliefs of those who established the Republic of Texas. Consider this soliloquy from Crockett; not the textbook definition of the term, but certainly the sentiment of the times on the frontier:

“Republic. I like the sound of the word. Means that people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat.

Davy Crockett (1786-1836)

2017-08-04T16:58:29+00:00 February 20, 2017|HH 2017|

The Birth of Charles Darwin, 1809

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth… And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it… and it was so.” —Genesis 1:1,26-28,30

The Birth of Charles Darwin — February 12, 1809

Everyone recognizes the face—long white beard, intense look in his eyes, almost the prototype of a Hollywood wizard. He adorns the cover of books and stares down at you from museums. His name is evoked in debates, academic papers, and the pulpits of churches in our land. He is the high priest of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, whose birthday on February 12 marks the beginning of a life that would change the world.

Earths from each sun with quick explosions burst,
And second planets issued from the first.
Then, whilst the sea at their coeval birth,
Surge over surge, involv’d the shoreless earth;
Nurs’d by warm sun-beams in primeval caves
Organic Life began beneath the waves.
(From The Temple of Nature, by Erasmus Darwin)

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)

‘On the Origin of the Species’

He did not suddenly appear on the scene like some hirsute scientific Venus emerging from a sea-shell. Darwin came from a distinguished family, already well-known because of his corpulent physician-grandfather Erasmus’s naturalistic theories, poetry, and enlightenment intellectualism, as well as his mother’s father Josiah Wedgewood, founder of the famous pottery art, inventor of modern marketing and a religious skeptic. Charles inherited a name, intellectual curiosity, and money to travel the world. After joining a five-year expedition to the Pacific Ocean aboard the HMS Beagle to the Galápagos Islands, Charles found his métier as a naturalist writer and theorist, eventually publishing On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, a book purporting to explain a general theory of how all species evolved from simpler forms over long periods of time via natural selection.

The HMS Beagle

The Galápagos Islands

“Enlightenment Rationalism”

His “theory of evolution” provided for many in the scientific community, an apparent explanation of the origins of all things, by which they could finally discard the biblical explanations of how the world came into existence. Darwin’s theories provided secularists with an intellectual home, having already abandoned the possibility of divine revelation and embraced “enlightenment rationalism.” His theories took years to develop as he travelled in “scientific” circles and was lionized for his observations, and all the books he wrote became best-sellers. Upon his death in 1882, Charles Darwin was buried at Westminster among the greatest men of all Britain’s history.

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Published in 1859

Darwin’s Genie Reaches Full Power

Having cut the anchor of biblical truth regarding origins, social scientists applied Darwin’s evolutionary theories to business, social order and various plots to re-engineer society. Eugenicists believed they could now rid the human race of unwanted imperfections of race and deformity. Industrialists used evolutionary theory to explain the elimination of competition in a survival of the fittest, pragmatic world where nature is “red in tooth and claw”* and the weaker are killed off. In Nazi Germany, political and cultural hegemony became the natural goal of a superior civilization. Darwin’s genie reached full powers in the two world wars of the 20th Century and still holds sway among most scientists, school teachers, politicians, historians and churchmen today. Little could Darwin have envisioned the results of abandoning the Christian revelation and centuries of biblical truth for his half-baked observation of obscure birds from islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
Addressing the men of the Reichstag, declaring war on the United States

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
Proponent of the eugenics movement and founder of Planned Parenthood

2017-08-04T16:59:43+00:00 February 13, 2017|HH 2017|

The Escape of Athanasius, 356

The Escape of Athanasius, February 8, AD 356

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” —Psalm 18:2-3

How would you respond if five thousand armed, sweaty Byzantine Arians surrounded your church on Sunday morning baying for your pastor’s blood, and maybe yours while they’re at it? For the third time since the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius, the pastor of the Church in Alexandria Egypt, was under siege.

A Great Defender of the Faith

In the post-apostolic era of the early Church, no one entered the lists against heresy more than the bishop of Alexandria. In Athanasius’s forty-five year pastorate, he spent seventeen years in exile, ordered by four different Roman Emperors. Defending Trinitarian theology in the fourth century had a price. As a defender of the faith and one who did not shy away from controversy, Athanasius debated New Testament canonicity, politics, arts, monasticism, and judicial reform. He also found time to write biographies, commentaries, systematic theology, and devotionals. His work entitled On the Incarnation is still held up as a classic theological work.

Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 296-373)

Arius (AD 256-336)

Athanasius Contra Mundum

At the great Church Council held at Nicaea, his eloquence in defense of Christ’s deity helped carry the day, and he helped write the Nicaean Creed. Arius declared that Christ was not God, and his pernicious doctrine captured thousands of Churches. The followers of Arian beliefs formed armies who set out to force the Christian Church to adopt their views or face persecution, sometimes unto death. A price was put on the head of Athanasius. The piety and faith of Alexandrian bishop never wavered through the deadly strife — Athanasius contra mundum (Athanasius against the world) became a byword in his age.

The First Council of Nicea Convened by Roman Emperor Constantine, AD 325

The Arians overran his church on February 8, AD 356 but in the chaos that followed, church folk secretly spirited the pastor away and the bounty went unclaimed once again.

Image credits:
1 Athanasius (; 2 Arius (; 3 First Council of Nicea (

2017-08-04T17:01:42+00:00 February 6, 2017|HH 2017|