October 6, 2000


Hispanic Heritage

Hispanics In The War for Independence

 

"Three Patriots were killed and ten others were

wounded in front of the Boston Town House by

British soldiers garrisoned in Boston. They had been

desirous of the freedom to determine their own way

of life free from a motherland that was

adamant, tyrannous, and oppressive."

New York, March 6, 1770

By Dan Muñoz

When the Colonist declared war on Great Britain, England was the strongest Military power in all of Europe. The Colonist, on the other hand were the weakest and most ill prepared to carry out an armed conflict against the mighty English. The Patriots were mostly unarmed aside from the few muskets and riverboats they owned. They were mostly farmers, small merchants, Innkeepers, and tradesmen. The Colonist had no Army, Navy and they were totally without financial resources.



Spanish Gen. Bernardo de Balvez leads his troops against the British at the Battle of Pensacola in 1781.

Not only were the Colonist lightly armed at the moment that they declared war on Great Britain only 1/3 of the population were for the revolution, 1/3 supported King George of England, and 1/3 chose to remain neutral. In reality one third of the Colonists laid down their plows and took on the biggest fleet in the world and the largest standing army within the 13 colonies. It was clear from the beginning that if they couldn't get help they would all be arrested and sent to a penal colony for the rest of their lives.

Joining immediately to help the Colonist in their struggle for independence was a little known expatriate from the Spanish Island of Ciudalea, Minorca, Jorge Ferragut. At the age of 17 he fled Minorca because he was unhappy with the British domination of his country. He soon became a merchant marine captain and commanded a small boat that traded between Havana, Veracruz and New Orleans.

When The American Revolution started he became a first lieutenant of a ship in the South Carolina Navy. He fought the British at Savannah and was captured in Charleston. Later he was exchanged. Ferragut then joined the Continental Army. He fought at the battles Cowpens and Wilmington. By the end of the war he had attained the rank of Major in the cavalry. Jorge Ferragut became far more famous for the son that was born to him and his wife Elizabeth Shine; His son Dave Ferragut, who would gain fame in the War of 1812.

Hispanic Participation.

Prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1778, the Spanish King Carlos III and the French King Louis XVI, nephew to the King of Spain, were bound by the Bourbon Family Pact, to support each other in hostilities with the British. They both saw the Colonist rebellion as an opportunity to punish their ancient enemy Great Britain. Before the declaration of Independence they discussed how they could assist the American colonist. Spain feared IF COLONIST WERE SUCCESSFUL their rule over Latin America would be endangered.

Their first act was to give the colonist 2 million turonise pounds (French currency). France and Spain gave 1 million each. Spain immediately sent the colonists: 216 brass cannons, 209 gun carriages, 27 mortars, 29 couplings, 12,826 shells, 51,114 bullets, 300 thousand boxes of ammunition, 30,000 guns with bayonets, 4,000 tents and 30,000 uniforms (Spanish Crown listing all items shipped). In addition Spain sent General Lafayette and Baron Von Steuben to serve under George Washington.

 

Colonel Bernárdo de Gálvez Raises to the Defense of Colonist

On July 1776, Colonel Gálvez became Governor of Louisiana. Bernardo de Gálvez immediately provided guns, gunpowder, food, medicine, to General Lee, second in command to George Washington. He then closed the Port of New Orleans to the British and opened it to the American Revolutionaries. In April 1777, he captured eleven British ships that were smuggling in goods to the Southerners. Gálvez then ordered all British subjects to leave Louisiana. Destroying all British trade in the area. He then sent to Fort Pitt 10,000 pounds of gunpowder that they desperately needed. He also sent $74,000 dollars and supplies worth $25,000 doubloons to the Army of General Washington and General Lee.
Bernardo de Galvez


Gálvez sent aid in the form of gunpowder, blankets, rifles, medicines and bullets and helped the Continental Army control the territory west of the Allegheny Mountains! He gathered a small army consisting of 170 veteran soldiers, 330 recruits from Mexico, and the Canary Islands, 20 Carabi-neros, 60 militiamen, 80 free blacks, & seven colonists. His force numbered 667 men. Enroute to attack Fort Bute he was joined by 600 soldiers and 160 Indians at the German and Acadian coast. He now had 1,427 men to wage war with. He attacked and captured Fort Bute on Sept. 7, Fort Baton Rouge, on Sept 21, and forced Fort Pammure in Natchez to surrender. His forces then captured the British Posts on Thompson Creek and the Amie. Gálvez and his fledgling navy captured eight British ships that were bringing reinforcements. In the end Gálvez & his Mestizo force captured 1,000 prisoners! Destroying in the process, British rule along the Mississippi River!

On Jan. 2, 1780 Gálvez's forces bolstered with 567 men from the regiment of Navarro, Cuba, 43 men from the Prin-cipe regiment from Spain, 50 from the fixed regiment of Havana, 141 from the fixed regiment from Louisiana, 14 artillery men, 26 caribineros, 323 white militia, 107 free blacks, 24 slaves and 26 colonists, marched on Mobile, Alabama. After a 20-day siege, Gálvez's forces captured Mobile! After this action the King of Spain promoted Bernardo de Gálvez to FIELD MARSHALL in command of all Spanish forces. He was also named Governor of Louisiana and Mobile.

 

Gálvez sets sights on Pensacola

Pensacola, capital of the British colony of West Florida and probably the most important British stronghold on the Gulf of Mexico, became Field Marshall Gálvez next target. 2,500 British soldiers protected Pensacola. Gálvez now beefed up to 7,000 troops, laid siege to the Capitol of Pensacola on Feb. 28, 1781. His armed forces consisted of troops that were Mestizo, Black, Spaniards: 4,000 soldiers came from Cuba, 2,000 from Mexico, and the rest from Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo. Haiti, Venezuela, New Orleans, and Mobile. Pensacola fell on May 8, 1781. Gálvez had driven the British out of the Mississippi Valley, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Cuban Admiral Jose Calbo from Irazabal refused to sail into Pensacola Bay and risk his men and ship. Gálvez sailed into the bay with three smaller ships and faced the great guns mounted to protect the Fort at the entrance. Seeing the bravery of Gálvez the other ships entered, firing as they entered. That is all but the ship of Admiral Calbo. It sailed off in disgrace back to Cuba.

Gálvez was wounded in the battle for Pensacola but he was promoted to Lieutenant General, and named Governor and Captain General of Louisiana and Florida. He was made a Count and given a Coat of Arms, by King Juan Carlos II of Spain showing him on a ship with the inscription "Yo Solo" or "I Alone" (In reference to his sailing alone into the Bay of Pensacola). Later he was made Governor of Cuba and upon the death of his father he became Viceroy of New Spain. Gálvez died at the age of 40.

Notes:

Historian Orwin Rush called the battle of Pensacola " a decisive factor in the outcome of the revolutionary war and one of the most brilliantly executed battles of the War."

The Spanish attacks upon the British prevented them from being able to send a strong army to the Battle of Yorktown that turned out to be the final battle of the American Revolution.

Thousands of Hispanic/Latino soldiers and sailors fought for the American war of Independence. They played a significant role on the high seas, land and on foreign British colonies. They fought to give the colonists to create a free and independent country. Unfortunately, on the 4th of July, we are missing in all the festivities surrounding the American War for Independence as we are in the American history books on that era... Without our participation in the Revolutionary War... possibly, we could all be subjects of Queen Elizabeth of England.

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