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

Bernardo de Galvez- Biography

Bernardo de Gálvez-The Forgotten Hero

Everything started in 1761 with the “Bourbon Family Compact” between France and Spain, this agreement stated that any nation, which attacked either nation, attacked both; and that when one of the countries was at war, it could call upon the other for military or naval aid. This formed an alliance and friendship between France and Spain.

Bernardo de Gálvez was born from a poor noble family in Macharaviaya in the province of Malaga, Spain on July 23, 1746. Soon the young Gálvez joined the Spanish army and in 1764, at the age of 16 he became a captain and continued advancing. In 1776, he came as colonel to Louisiana to subdue the Apaches who preyed on Spanish settlements in the area. He was wounded twice in these battles, but later in the same year, at 29 years of age he became governor of Louisiana.

Even before Spain entered the war against Great Britain, Gálvez was secretly providing guns, clothes, food, money, supplies, and munitions to George Washington’s Continental Army and others as well. He also eliminated British influence from the Mississippi River and secured it, allowing French, Spanish and American ships to travel safely with supplies for the war. When Spain officially declared war on the British, Gálvez was ordered to attack and capture British forts and settlements in west Florida and to provide more help to the colonists.

Immediately, Gálvez led a multinational army made up of Native Americans, French, Spanish, Mexican, Hispanic, free slave soldiers and with it he drove the British out. Furthermore, Thomas Jefferson sent Gálvez letters thanking for his help and requesting more supplies. He defeated the British and conquered all of West Florida, the territory lost to England after the French and Indian War. One of his biggest achievements was the conquest of Pensacola, in Florida, in May 1781, where he fought a fortified fort with large enemy fire from Native American and British soldiers.

At the end of the war, he returned to Spain as a hero and early in 1785, Gálvez was appointed captain-general of Cuba, Louisiana and the Floridas by Spanish King Carlos 3. Upon the death of his father, Don Mathias de Gálvez, Bernardo was named Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico) where like in the war; spent his money in helping its poor people. On November 30, 1786, Gálvez resigns on his occupation because of sickness and on October 15, 1786, Gálvez sadly dies (historians think from malaria) a month later at Tacubaza, aged 38.

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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.