After years of settlement, the Spanish ceded Florida to the British in 1763 as a result of an exchange following British victory over both France and Spain in the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years' War), and French cession of its territories in North America. The British designated Pensacola as the capital of their new colony of West Florida. From 1763, the British strengthened defenses around the mainland area of fort San Carlos de Barrancas, building the Royal Navy Redoubt. George Johnstone was appointed as the first British Governor, and in 1764 a colonial assembly was established. The structure of the colony was modeled after the existing British colonies in America, as opposed to Quebec, which was based on a different structure. West Florida was invited to send delegates to the First Continental Congress which was convened to present colonial grievances against the British Parliament to George III, but along with several other colonies, including East Florida, they declined the invitation. Once the American War of Independence had broken out, the colonists remained overwhelmingly loyal to the Crown. In 1778 the Willing Expedition proceeded with a small force down the Mississippi, ransacking estates and plantations, until they were eventually defeated by a local militia. In the wake of this, the area received a small number of British reinforcements.
Out of the total population in Pensacola, 45.9% identify with a religion, slightly lower than the national average of 48.3%. Over 48% of Pensacolians who practice a religion identify as Baptists (22.1% of all city residents). Other Christian denominations include Roman Catholics (9.2% of city residents), Pentecostal (3.8%), Methodist (3.8%), Episcopal (1.1%), Presbyterian (1.1%), and Orthodox (0.3%).
During the early years of settlement, a tri-racial creole society developed. As a fortified trading post, the Spanish had mostly men stationed here. Some married or had unions with Pensacola, Creek or African women, both slave and free, and their descendants created a mixed-race population of mestizos and mulattos. The Spanish encouraged slaves from the southern British colonies to come to Florida as a refuge, promising freedom in exchange for conversion to Catholicism. King Charles II of Spain issued a royal proclamation freeing all slaves who fled to Spanish Florida and accepted conversion and baptism. Most went to the area around St. Augustine, but escaped slaves also reached Pensacola. St. Augustine had mustered an all-black militia unit defending Spain as early as 1683.
Pensacola is a great place to live if you love the outdoors. The metro area has many public parks, as well as access to brackish bays and expansive beaches along the Gulf of Mexico – the Gulf Islands National Seashore is especially beautiful. Angling is a popular pastime, and multiple boat ramps provide launching points for deep-sea fishing excursions. Meanwhile, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy Pensacola's natural surroundings. Project GreenShores – a living shoreline – is an excellent example of ecological restoration and hosts a myriad bird species.