Most everyone knows the heroes of the American Revolution and what they accomplished. Just by hearing their names, you could probably guess who each one was. First there was the great George Washington, the commander; then Thomas Paine, the writer; Paul Revere, the watchman; Patrick Henry, the speaker; Benjamin Franklin, the representative; and…Bernardo de Gálvez? It’s true, Bernardo de Gálvez, was a Spanish general and governor, who fought in the west of the main war during the U.S. War of Independence that now is in the long list of the forgotten heroes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Greatest Achievement- Battle of Pensacola, 1781

One of Gálvez’s most important accomplishments to the American Revolution was the capture of Pensacola, the capital of West Florida in 1781. During the revolution, Great Britain occupied Canada and Florida, where they could get munitions and soldiers to fight back the Americans. The Battle of Pensacola marked the end of Spain's conquest of Florida (after Spain traded Florida for Cuba after the end of The French and Indian War) during the American War of Independence.

During this conflict Field Marshal, and Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez entered in action with a positive attitude and mind, by commanding an international army made up of French, Spanish, Native Americans, African Americans, Cubans, Mexicans, and more to capture and recover the land British, and Native American soldiers plus German mercenaries fiercely defended. Before the battle, Gálvez led successful campaigns against British settlements that attacked Spanish and American goods. He then decided that to stop the British conflict once and for all he had to attack them at their heart, the city of Pensacola.

He sailed to Cuba to ask for more soldiers and munitions to invade Pensacola and the same day his troops left the port, a hurricane destroyed his ships and killed some of his men, so they were forced to return to the port. He had to wait months to reorganize his troops, and in February 1781, he recruited 1,315 men onboard 20 ships, a fraction of his lost 4,000 men on 64 ships. In addition, he had another army at Mobile waiting for orders after they stopped a British invasion by General John Campbell.

The campaign started on March 9, where Gálvez landed and occupied the west part of Santa Rosa Island. The British discovered their invaders when Gálvez attacked them and Gálvez personally led the ship Galveztown. The British defenses were just north of the town of Pensacola, and consisted of three forts: Fort George (the strongest and important one), the Prince of Wales (or Central) Redoubt, and the Queen’s (or Advanced) Redoubt, from south to north.

After some skirmishes, both armies received reinforcements, first the British from the Royal Navy and then Gálvez from New Orleans and Mobile. In most of the skirmishes, the Spanish fought fierce Native Americans using trenches and Gálvez had to make a fort defended by large trenches to attack the Queen’s redoubt. On April 19, a mixed Franco-Spanish fleet arrived from Havana with more reinforcements, bringing Gálvez’s army up to almost 7,500 compared to Campbell’s 1900 soldiers.

The main objective was located at Fort George where the Spanish, in their new positions attacked the British Queen’s Redoubt, where they could attack the other forts. After a brief assault, the Spanish returned to work on their fort, and on May 7, Gálvez decided that it was time to launch a fatal assault on the Queen’s Redoubt from that location. On the eighth, Gálvez’s men were in position to attack while their artillery cleaned the target’s house.

At first, the British commander John Campbell fought with hope and courage inside the powerful defenses of Fort George until Spanish artillery luckily set fire to the British powder on May 8 at 9:30 am to the Queen’s redoubt. The Spanish were quick to take advantage and quickly occupied the fort. As this was the highest ground in the neighborhood, and it dominated the other two British positions, General Campbell knew there that the end ended. With no more hope, before 3:00 pm, British General John Campbell surrendered West Florida to Gálvez and Spain.

On mid-afternoon on May 10, 1781, the British army formally surrendered. The battle casualties for the Spanish resulted in 100 killed and about 200 wounded. The British lost just over 200 killed, wounded, and deserted soldiers, with just over 1,100 prisoners. The Spaniards also took possession of the war material the British had left and all of the British were allowed full military honors, and then were evacuated from Havana to New York.
This battle was very significant in history because it freed the Gulf of Mexico and the west of the Appalachian Mountains form British influence.

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Monument to Galvez in New Orleans

Legacy- How he changed history

Imagine an alternate ending of US Independence, Britain accepts the colonies independent, but are restricted to go beyond the Appalachian Mts. Why, because the British live there. This is just a possibility of what would have happened if Bernardo de Gálvez hadn’t exist, or may be the U.S.’s cause would banish and be a colony for the British empire. Gálvez is just one of those great heroes who were forgotten in story by history books, and us. Few people know who he is and that he helped free the U.S. in the west. He stopped British troops from focusing on the colonists, from resting or attacking them. In his short life he became a colonel, general, governor and even viceroy, so much for a short time. I choose him not only because he was half Mexican (Mexican=Native American + Spanish=Creoles), but because of what he accomplished. He had goals, dreams, worth fighting for, he led multinational armies and navies, and he had friendship with his people. He is a legend. (Most true legends are unknown). The city of Galveston is named after him.