Bernardo de Gálvez: Spanish Hero of the American Revolution

Bernardo de Gálvez: Spanish Hero of the American Revolution

Bernardo de Gálvez: Spanish Hero of the American Revolution

Bernardo de Gálvez: Spanish Hero of the American Revolution

Synopsis

Although Spain was never a formal ally of the United States during the American Revolution, its entry into the war definitively tipped the balance against Britain. Led by Bernardo de Galvez, supreme commander of the Spanish forces in North America, their military campaigns against British settlements on the Mississippi River--and later against Mobile and Pensacola--were crucial in preventing Britain from concentrating all its North American military and naval forces on the fight against George Washington's Continental army. In this first comprehensive biography of Galvez (1746-86), Gonzalo M. Quintero Saravia assesses the commander's considerable historical impact and expands our understanding of Spain's contribution to the war.
A man of both empire and the Enlightenment, as viceroy of New Spain (1785-86), Galvez was also pivotal in the design and implementation of Spanish colonial reforms, which included the reorganization of Spain's Northern Frontier that brought peace to the region for the duration of the Spanish presence in North America. Extensively researched through Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. archives, Quintero Saravia's portrait of Galvez reveals him as central to the histories of the Revolution and late eighteenth-century America and offers a reinterpretation of the international factors involved in the American War for Independence.

Excerpt

Since early spring 1781, a Spanish army had been laying siege to Pensacola in British West Florida. By May, after having repelled a fierce British counterattack against the Spanish advanced positions, General Bernardo de Gálvez confided to his good friend Francisco de Saavedra his worries about the slow progress of His Catholic Majesty’s arms against the British stronghold. Saavedra had been Gálvez’s classmate in the Royal Military Academy of Avila and was in Pensacola as the personal representative of the powerful minister of the Indies, José de Gálvez, Bernardo’s uncle.

More than two months after the arrival of the first Spanish forces at Pensacola Bay, the exhausting work of the engineers in excavating trenches and building artillery batteries and the exasperating routine of the exchange of artillery fire were beginning to undercut the morale of the troops. Gálvez was worried. the supplies brought from Havana were running out. Largecaliber cannonballs were so scarce that he was paying his soldiers two reales for each British cannonball retrieved so they could be retired against Pensacola. According to Saavedra, Gálvez “was determined to make a frontal assault on the enemy’s Half-Moon Fort [Spanish name for the Queen’s Redoubt], the conquest of which would soon force the surrender of the other two [positions], … and in this way he would shorten the siege, which was taking too long.”

Plans for what would have been a desperate, almost suicidal frontal assault had to be canceled since the Spanish forces arrived in front of the British fort when the sun was already up, and all surprise was lost. the following day, after the work on the Spanish battery closest to the Queen’s Redoubt was finished, Gálvez ordered the Spanish cannons to open fire and reluctantly prepared himself and his troops for what everyone believed would be another routine day at the siege of Pensacola. But at half past nine on the morning of May 8, everything changed. a big explosion was heard. Gálvez rushed to the battery. Seeing the destruction at the Queen’s Redoubt, he immediately ordered an attack. the Spanish troops quickly seized the fort. With . . .

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