Battle of San Juan (1797)

The Battle of San Juan was a 1797 ill-fated British assault on the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan in Puerto Rico during the 1796–1808 Anglo-Spanish War. The attack was carried out facing the historic town of Miramar.

Battle of San Juan (1797)
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
San Jeronimo aerial

The Fortín de San Gerónimo was key to the defense of San Juan.
Date17 April – 2 May 1797
Result Spanish-Puerto Rican victory
 Great Britain Spain Spain
Commanders and leaders
  • 7,000
  • 68 warships with 600 guns
Casualties and losses
  • 37 killed
  • 70 wounded
  • 124 captured or missing
  • 400 surrendered[1]
  • Total: 631
  • 47 killed
  • 28 wounded
  • 56 captured or missing
  • 18 surrendered
  • Total: 149


Spain aligned herself with France by signing the Second Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1796. Britain then targeted both countries' Caribbean colonies. Admiral Sir Henry Harvey's fleet picked up Sir Ralph Abercromby's army in Barbados. Together, they captured Trinidad from the Spanish, before heading for San Juan.[2][3]


On 17 April 1797, Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby's fleet of 68 vessels appeared offshore Puerto Rico with a force of 7,000, which included German auxiliaries and French émigrés. Two frigates then blocked San Juan harbor.[2][3]

The governor, Field Marshal Don Ramón de Castro y Gutiérrez, had already mobilized his 4000 militia and 200 Spanish garrison troops, which combined with 300 French privateers, 2000 armed peasantry, and paroled prisoners, brought his troop strength almost equal to the British. He also had 376 cannon, 35 mortars, 4 howitzers and 3 swivel guns amongst the island's defenses.[2][3]

Abercromby landed 3000 troops on 18 April and took control of Cangrejos. Castro moved his forces to Escambrón and the Spanish First Line of Defense.[2][3]

On 21 April, the British started a 7-day artillery duel with Spanish forts of San Gerónimo and San Antonio, located at the Boquerón Inlet. At the same time, the puertorriqueños put pressure on the British positions, the Spanish recaptured Martín Peña Bridge, while militia Sergeant Francisco Díaz raided behind British lines, bringing back prisoners. Then, on the 29th and 30th, the Spanish crossed the Boquerón Inlet, and forced the British to pull back.[2][3]


On 1 May, the Spanish learned the British were gone, leaving behind arms, stores and ammunition.[2][3]


  1. ^ Marley, p. 362
  2. ^ a b c d e f Van Middeldyk, R.A. (1903). Brumbaugh, Martin (ed.). The History of Puerto Rico: From the Spanish Discovery to the American Occupation. D. Appleton and Company. pp. 139–141. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f The Forts of Old San Juan. Washington, D.C.: Division of Publications, National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior. 2018. pp. 68–71. ISBN 9780912627625.

Additional reading

  • Alonso, Mariá M. and Milagros Flores (1997). The Eighteenth Century Caribbean and the British Attack on Puerto Rico in 1797. San Juan: National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Publicaciones Puertorriqueñas. ISBN 9781881713203
  • Marley, David (1998). Wars of the Americas: a chronology of armed conflict in the New World, 1492 to the present. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-87436-837-6

External links

Battle of San Juan

Battle of San Juan may refer to:

Battle of San Juan (1595), an English attack on San Juan, Puerto Rico

Battle of San Juan (1598), an English attack on San Juan, Puerto Rico

Battle of San Juan (1625), a Dutch attack on San Juan, Puerto Rico

Battle of San Juan (1797), a British attack on San Juan, Puerto Rico

Battle of San Juan and Chorrillos, an 1881 battle between Chile and Peru

Battle of San Juan del Monte, an 1896 attack on a Spanish magazine in San Juan del Monte, Manila, Philippines

First Battle of San Juan (1898) or Bombardment of San Juan, a naval bombardment initiated by an American fleet against the Spanish fortifications of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Second Battle of San Juan (1898), a naval engagement off San Juan, Puerto Rico

Third Battle of San Juan (1898), a Spanish sortie to rescue a blockade runner off San Juan, Puerto Rico

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro also known as Fuerte San Felipe del Morro or Castillo del Morro, is a 16th-century citadel located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

David Stewart (major-general)

Major General David Stewart CB FRSE FLS FSA(Scot) (June 1, 1772 in Garth Castle, Perthshire – 1829 in St. Lucia) was a Scottish soldier and later author and antiquarian, whose book, Sketches of the Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland published in two volumes by Archibald Constable and Co in Edinburgh in 1822, was responsible for largely creating the modern image of the Highlander, the clans and Scottish regiments and is considered the foundation for all subsequent work on highlanders, clans and Scottish regiments system.He is often referred to as Athollman.

Fortín San Antonio

Fortín de San Antonio was a fortification created by the Spanish in San Juan, Puerto Rico with the aim of fortifying the San Antonio Bridge. The bridge was of great strategic importance, given that it was the only land accessible entrance to the islet of San Juan. It was located southeast of Fort San Jeronimo.


Construction began in 1568 of the bridge which would link the islet of San Juan with the island of Puerto Rico. The bridge at this time was made of wood with a door with a permanent garrison.

In 1595, 26 ships led by the privateer Sir Francis Drake attempted to land his forces near the coast of Escambron. Coastal defenses in Boqueron and the cannon batteries of San Antonio bridge repelled his landing attempt, forcing Drake’s armada to withdraw and attempt to enter San Juan Bay. The bay defenses ultimately thwarted his attack.

In 1598, George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, attacked the islet of San Juan. The English forces managed land at El Boquerón, and overwhelm the Spanish defensive forces which had been debilitated by a recent dysentery outbreak. The English managed to lay siege to the city which subsequently surrendered. However, a disease outbreak which killed around 400 English troops forced the English to withdraw on 28 August.

In 1776, the fortified bridge of San Antonio was replaced by a new reinforced structure designed by Thomas O'Daly. The structure is later remodeled in 1783 by Juan Francisco Mestre. Further strengthening of the bridgehead was done by Ignacio Mascaro and Homar in 1796.

Both the fort of San Jeronimo as the fortified facilities San Antonio Bridge were instrumental in repelling the English attack of 1797 in which the English army, led by Sir Ralph Abercromby, sought to besiege the island of San Juan. The batteries of Fort San Antonio were heavily damaged by the impact of English cannon fire.

See Battle of San Juan (1797).

The reconstruction and renovation of Fort San Antonio was completed in 1800 in which a battery of two cannons was added. In peacetime, the fort was used a tax control point for cattle ranchers.

In 1894, Governor Antonio Dabán ordered the demolition of the entire complex to build a new metal bridge into the islet of San Juan. The only remnants of Fort San Antonio which survive today is a small portion of a rampart which is visible between the new Guillermo Esteves bridge and Dos Hermanos Bridge.

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