Galvez Expedition - American Revolution
General Bernardo Galvez in the American Revolution
The following is excerpted from an article written by Lt J.D. Ortiz CHC, USNR. NTC Chaplain..
"Through the years, Hispanic American citizens have risen to the call of duty in defense of liberty and freedom. Their bravery is well known and has been demonstrated time and again, dating back to the aid rendered by General Bernardo de Galvez during the American Revolution".
-President Ronald Reagan
Few Americans are aware that Bernardo de Galvez was the Spanish governor of the Louisiana territory that encompassed 13 of our present states. They are also unaware that long before any formal declaration of war, General Galvez sent gunpowder, rifles, bullets, blankets, medicine and other supplies to the armies of General George Washington and General George Rogers Clark. Once Spain entered the war against Great Britain in 1779, this dashing young officer raised an army in New Orleans and drove the British out of the Gulf of Mexico. General Galvez captured five British forts in the Lower Mississippi Valley. They repelled a British and Indian attack in St. Louis, Missouri and captured the British fort of St. Joseph in present-day Niles, Michigan. With reinforcements from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, General Galvez captured Mobile and Pensacola, the capital of the British colony of West Florida. At Pensacola, Galvez commanded a multinational army of over 7,000 black and whitesoldiers. These men were born in Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Hispanola, and other Spanish colonies such as Venezuela. The city was defended by a British and Indian army of 2,500 soldiers and British warships.
An American historian called the siege of Pensacola "a decisive factor in the outcome of the Revolution and one of the most brilliantly executed battles of the war." Another historian stated that General Galvez' campaign broke the British will to fight. This battle ended in May 1781, just five months before the final battle of the war at Yorktown.
General Bernardo de Galvez and his contributions have been remembered even to this day with statues and even a city named in his honor, Galveston, Texas.
United States history textbooks seldom mention the important contributions by our "forgotten allies," Spain and Hispanic America, during the American Revolution. They also forget that they helped in the establishment and growth of the first democracy in the modern world. The neglect in reporting Hispanic contributions extends to all periods of American history. Textbooks also fail to mention the role of 10,000 Hispanic soldiers who fought on both sides of the Civil War.
Galvez let an American force through New Orleans before Spain joined the cause. Gálvez was sent to Florida by New Spain Viceroy Martín de Mayorga, at the head of an expedition of colonial troops to aid american colonists in their rebellion against Britain. Spain's motive was the chance to recover territories lost to the British, particularly Florida, and to remove the on-going British threat.
On June 21, 1779 Spain declared war on England. On June 25, 1779 a letter from London marked secret and confidential, went to General John Campbell of Strachur at Pensacola from King George III and Lord George Germain. General John Campbell was instructed that it was the object of greatest importance to organize an attack upon New Orleans. If General John Campbell thought it was possible to reduce the Spanish fort at New Orleans, he was ordered to proceed immediately to make preparations. These preparations included: (1) secure from Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker as many armed vessels as could be spared from Jamaica, (2) collect all forces which could be drawn together in the province, (3) take as many faithful Indians as the Superintendent could supply, (4) draw on the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury for all expenses. Spanish troops storm the British positions at Pensacola.
As an unfortunate twist of fate for General John Campbell, upon which his whole career was decided, this secret communication fell into the hands of Governor Galvez. After reading the communication from King George III and Germain, Gálvez, Governor of Louisiana swiftly and secretly organized Louisiana and New Orleans for war.
Gálvez carried out a masterful military campaign and defeated the British colonial forces at Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez in 1779. The Battle of Baton Rouge on September 21, 1779 freed the lower Mississippi Valley of British forces and relieved the threat to the capital of Louisiana, New Orleans. In 1780, he recaptured Mobile from the British at the Battle of Fort Charlotte.
His most important military victory over the British forces occurred May 9, 1781, when he attacked and took by land and by sea Pensacola, the British (and formerly, Spanish) capital of West Florida from General John Campbell of Strachur. The loss of Mobile and Pensacola left the British with no bases in the Gulf of Mexico, except for Jamaica. In 1782, he captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas.
He received many honors from Spain for his military victories against the British, including promotion to lieutenant general and field marshal, governor and captain general of Louisiana and Florida (now separated from Cuba), the command of the Spanish expeditionary army in America, and the titles of viscount of Gálveztown and count of Gálvez.
The American Revolution ended while Gálvez was preparing a new campaign to take Jamaica.
The importance of Galvez's campaign from the American perspective was that he denied the British the opportunity of encircling the American rebels from the south, and kept open a vital conduit for supplies. Galvez also assisted the American revolutionaries with supplies and soldiers, a good deal of it through intermediary and committed revolutionary, Oliver Pollock.
Gálvez, who saw it convenient for France and Spain to advance the cause of the American revolutionaries, was among those who drafted the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1783) that ended the war. By the treaty Spain officially regained East and West Florida from the British.
In recognition of his work and help to the American cause, George Washington took him to his right in the parade of July 4th and the American Congress cited Gálvez for his aid during the Revolution.
Galveston, Texas and St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana were both named after him. The Louisiana parishes of East Feliciana and West Feliciana were named after his wife Marie Felice de Saint-Maxent Estrehan.
The Cabildo, a branch of the Louisiana State Museum located on Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana in New Orleans, has a portrait of General Galvez accompanied by a display of biographical information.
In 1911 in Galveston, TX, a hotel was built and named after him.