Siege of Pensacola

The Siege of Pensacola was a siege fought in 1781, the culmination of Spain's conquest of the British province of West Florida during the Gulf Coast campaign.


When Spain entered the War in 1779, Bernardo de Gálvez, the energetic governor of Spanish Louisiana, immediately began offensive operations to gain control of British West Florida beginning with his assault at Fort Bute. In September 1779 he gained complete control over the lower Mississippi River by capturing Fort Bute and then shortly thereafter obtaining the surrender of the remaining forces following the Battle of Baton Rouge. He followed up these successes with the capture of Mobile on March 14, 1780, after a brief siege.

Gálvez began planning an assault on Pensacola, West Florida's capital, using forces from Havana, with the recently captured Mobile as the launching point for the attack. British reinforcements arriving in Pensacola in April 1780 delayed the expedition, however, and when an invasion fleet finally sailed in October, it was dispersed by a hurricane a few days later. Gálvez spent nearly a month regrouping the fleet at Havana.[5]

British defenses

Following the outbreak of hostilities with Spain 1779, General John Campbell, concerned over the condition of the defenses, requested reinforcements, and began construction of additional defenses. By early 1781, the Pensacola garrison consisted of the 16th Regiment, a battalion from the 60th, and 7 (Johnstones) Company of the 4th Battalion Royal Artillery (Present day 20 Battery Royal Artillery, 16 Regiment Royal Artillery). These were augmented by the Third Regiment of Waldeck and The Maryland Loyalist Battalion, as well as the Pennsylvania Loyalists. These troops were provincial soldiers, rather than militia.

In addition to the Loyalist soldiers, many Native Americans supported the British. After the fall of Mobile in March 1780, between 1,500-2,000 Indians had come at various points to Pensacola to join in its defense. These included Choctaws and Creeks, with Creeks being the most numerous. Just before the Spanish attack only 800 Native American warriors remained in Pensacola, as Campbell, not realizing the attack was imminent, had sent about 300 away. During the siege and battle there were ultimately only about 500 natives left at Pensacola, due to diplomatic efforts of the Muscogee Creeks to take a more "balanced" role by offering supplies to both sides and diminishing their role on the British side. The majority of the Native Americans still present during the siege were Choctaw.[6]

Gálvez had received detailed descriptions of the state of the defenses in 1779, when he sent an aide there ostensibly to discuss the return of escaped slaves, although Campbell had made numerous changes since then. Pensacola's defensive works in early 1781 consisted of Fort George, an earthen works topped by a palisade that was rebuilt under Campbell's directions in 1780. North of the fort he had built the Prince of Wales Redoubt, and to its northwest was the Queen's Redoubt, also built in 1780.[7] Campbell erected a battery called Fort Barrancas Colorada near the mouth of the bay.

Spanish Forces

A 1763 map depicting Pensacola Bay

Gálvez embarked his flag with the Spanish fleet, under the command of Captain José Calvo de Irazabal. With about 1,300 men, the regular troops included a Majorcan regiment and Arturo O'Neill (later Governor of Spanish West and East Florida) commanding 319 men of Spain's Irish Hibernia Regiment, and including militias of biracial and free Afro-Cubans.[8] Gálvez had also ordered additional troops from New Orleans and Mobile to assist.

The Spanish expeditionary force sailed from Havana on February 13. Arriving outside Pensacola Bay on March 9, Gálvez landed some troops on Santa Rosa Island, the barrier island protecting the bay. O'Neill's Hibernians landed at the island battery, which he found undefended, and landed artillery, which he used to drive away the British ships taking shelter in the bay.

However, bringing the Spanish ships into the bay turned out to be difficult, just as it had been the previous year at the capture of Mobile. Supplies were offloaded onto Santa Rosa Island to raise the draft of some of the ships, but Calvo, the fleet commander, refused to send any more ships through the channel after the lead ship, the 64-cannon San Ramon, grounded in its attempt. Furthermore, some British guns seemed to have the range to fire on the bay's entrance.[9]

Gálvez used his authority as Governor of Louisiana to commandeer the ships that were from Louisiana. He boarded the Gálveztown, and on March 18 he sailed her through the channel and into the bay. The three other Louisiana ships followed him, under what proved to be ineffective British artillery fire. After sending Calvo a detailed description of the channel, his captains all insisted on making the crossing, which they did the next day. Calvo, claiming that his assignment to deliver Gálvez' invasion force was now complete, sailed back to Havana in the San Ramon.[9]


On March 24, the Spanish army and its accompany militia moved to the center of operations. O’Neill served as aide-decamp and commander of the scout patrols. Once the bay had been entered, O’Neill’s scouts landed on the mainland and blunted an attack by 400 mainly pro-British Choctaw Indians on the afternoon of March 28. The scouts soon joined forces with the Spanish troops arriving from Mobile.

Cuadro por españa y por el rey, Galvez en America
The Spanish forces led by Bernardo de Gálvez at the battle. Oil on canvas, Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau, 2015.

During the first weeks of April, O'Neill's Irish scouts reconnoitered the Pensacola fortifications. The redoubt farthest from the city was the Crescent. Next distant was the Sombrero, followed by Fort George. The Spanish troops established encampments and began extensive preparations for a siege. Hundreds of engineers and laborers brought supplies and armaments to the battlefield.[10] The engineers also dug trenches, and built bunkers and redoubts, besides constructing a covered road to shield the troops from the constant fire of grapeshot, grenades, and cannonballs.[11] On April 12, Gálvez himself was wounded while viewing the British fortifications. Battlefield command was formally transferred to Colonel José de Ezpeleta, a personal friend of Gálvez.[12]

A second attack by the Choctaws began on April 19, interrupting the siege preparations, and that day a large fleet was sighted heading towards the bay. Although at first thought to be bringing British reinforcements, the ships turned out to be the combined Spanish and French fleet from Havana commanded by José Solano y Bote and François Aymar, the Baron de Monteil, having on board Spanish Field Marshal Juan Manuel de Cagigal. Reports of a British squadron sighted near Cape San Antonio had reached Havana, and reinforcements had been sent to Gálvez. The Spanish ships carried a total of 1,700 sailors and 1,600 soldiers, bringing the total Spanish force at Pensacola to an unstoppable 8,000 men.[13] Solano decided to remain to assist Gálvez after the disembarkation of the troops, and the two men worked closely together.

A 1783 engraving depicting the exploding magazine

On April 24, a third Choctaw attack caught the Spanish napping. Five Spanish were wounded, including O’Neill’s cousin, Sublieutenant Felipe O’Reilly. Two days later, soldiers from the Queens Redoubt attacked Spanish positions, but were driven back by O’Neill’s scouts. On April 30, the Spanish batteries opened fire, signalling the start of the full-scale attack on Pensacola. However, the Gulf was now experiencing tempestuous storms, and a hurricane struck the Spanish ships on May 5 and 6. The Spanish fleet had to be withdrawn, for fear the seas would wreck the ships on the shore. The army remained to continue the siege, even though the trenches were flooded. Gálvez issued them a daily ration of brandy to keep up their spirits.[14]

In early May, Gálvez was surprised to receive chiefs of the Tallapoosa Creeks, who came offering to supply the Spanish army with meat. Gálvez arranged the purchase of beef cattle from them, and also requested that they appeal to the British-allied Creeks and Choctaws to cease their attacks. On May 8, a howitzer shell struck the magazine in Fort Crescent, exploding it and sending black smoke billowing. Fifty-seven British troops were killed by the devastating blast, and Ezpeleta quickly led the light infantry in a charge to take the stricken fort. The Spanish moved howitzers and cannons into what remained of it and opened fire on the next two British forts. Pensacola's defenders returned fired from Fort George, but were soon overwhelmed by the massive Spanish firepower.

Two days later, realizing his final line of fortification could not survive the barrage, General John Campbell reluctantly surrendered Fort George and Prince of Wales Redoubt. The garrison raised a white flag over Fort George at 3 in the afternoon of May 10, 1781. More than 1,100 British and colonial troops were taken prisoner, and 200 casualties were sustained. The Spanish army lost 74 dead, with another 198 wounded.[15]

Gálvez personally accepted the surrender, ending British sovereignty in West Florida. The Spanish fleet left Pensacola for Havana on June 1 to prepare assaults on the remaining British possessions in the Caribbean. Gálvez appointed O'Neill the Spanish Governor of West Florida, and his Hibernia Regiment departed with the fleet.


José Solano y Bote
José Solano y Bote in front of Santa Rosa Bay coming to the rescue of General Gálvez

The terms of capitulation included the entirety of British West Florida, the British garrison, large quantities of war material and supplies, and one British sloop of war.[16] Gálvez had the batteries and Fort Barrancas Coloradas moved nearer to the bay's entrance, and placed a battery on Santa Rosa Island against British attempts to recapture Pensacola.

The Tallapoosa Muscogee Creek mission during the siege was probably connected with or even ordered by Alexander McGillivray, a mixed-race Creek trader. Although he was a Loyalist and held a British commission as a colonel, he was a longtime opponent of American colonial intrusions on Creek land. Raised as a Creek, though well educated in South Carolina, McGillivray was viewed by many Creeks a their leader. He supplied the British in Pensacola, and had organized the British Muskogee Creek contingents who fought alongside the Choctaws. He would become principal Chief of the Upper Creeks in 1783, who lived on the Tallapoosa River at Little Tallassee (near today's Montgomery, Alabama). His support for Spain later resulted in the 1784 Treaty of Pensacola, in which Spain guaranteed to respect Creek territory. McGillivray personally negotiated the treaty and spent the rest of his life in Pensacola.

The Spanish fleet took the British prisoners to Havana, from which they were sent to New York in a prisoner exchange, which angered the rebellious Americans. However, such exchanges were routine, and Gálvez arranged the exchange to free Spanish soldiers and seamen from the brutal conditions on British prison ships.

Gálvez and his army were welcomed as heroes on their arrival in Havana on May 30. King Charles III promoted Gálvez to lieutenant general,[13] and he was made governor of both West Florida and Louisiana. The royal commendation stated that as Gálvez alone forced the entrance to the Bay, he could place on his coat of arms the words Yo Solo.[17]

José Solano y Bote was later recognized by King Charles III for coming to aid Gálvez with the title Marques del Socorro. A painting of Solano now hanging in the Museo Naval de Madrid shows him with Santa Rosa Bay in the background. A British flag captured at Pensacola is displayed at the Spanish Army Museum in Toledo.


  1. ^ Marley p 333
  2. ^ a b Mays p 250
  3. ^ Chartrand 54
  4. ^ a b Chávez, 2003: 194
  5. ^ Bense (1999), p. 36
  6. ^ O'Brien, Greg (30 April 2008). Pre-removal Choctaw history: exploring new paths. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 124–125. ISBN 978-0-8061-3916-6. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  7. ^ Kaufmann (2004), p. 131
  8. ^ Kuethe pp. 41-42
  9. ^ a b Dupuy (1977), p. 151
  10. ^ Gálvez p. 26
  11. ^ Gálvez p. 20
  12. ^ Martín-Merás p. 82
  13. ^ a b Martín-Merás, p. 85
  14. ^ Mitchell p. 104
  15. ^ Caughey pp. 209-211
  16. ^ This was the 18-gun HMS Port Royal. The 18-gun sloop HMS Mentor, the former Maryland privateer Who's Afraid, which the British had captured in 1779 off the Bahamas, had wrecked in March. Her crew had burnt her to prevent her capture.
  17. ^ Caughey p. 214


  • Bense, Judith Ann (1999). Archaeology of colonial Pensacola. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-1661-0. OCLC 40444062.
  • Caughey, John W. (1998). Bernardo de Gálvez in Louisiana 1776-1783. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company. ISBN 1-56554-517-6.
  • Chartrand, René (2006). The Spanish Main 1492–1800. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1846030055.
  • Chávez, Thomas E (2003). Spain and the Independence of the United States: An Intrinsic Gift. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 9780826327949.
  • Davis Paul K. Besieged: 100 great sieges from Jericho to Sarajevo, Oxford University Press, USA ISBN 0-19-521930-9
  • Dupuy, R. Ernest; Hammerman, Gay; Hayes, Grace P (1977). The American Revolution: A Global War. New York: David McKay. ISBN 0-679-50648-9.
  • Gálvez, Bernardo (1781). Diario de las operaciones de la expedicion contra la Plaza de Panzacola concluida por las Armas de S. M. Católica, baxo las órdenes del mariscal de campo. Mexico.
  • Kaufmann, J. E.; Idzikowski, Tomasz (2004). Fortress America: the forts that defended America, 1600 to the present. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81294-1. OCLC 56912995.
  • Kuethe, Allan J. (1986). Cuba, 1753-1815: Crown, Military, and Society. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 0-87049-487-2.
  • Marley, David F (2005). Historic Cities of the Americas: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-027-7.
  • Mays, Terry M (2009). Historical Dictionary of the American Revolution Volume 39 of Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810875036.
  • Martín-Merás, Luisa (2007). "The Capture of Pensacola through Maps, 1781" in Legacy: Spain and the United States in the Age of Independence, 1763-1848. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 978-84-95146-36-6.
  • Mississippi Valley Historical Association (1915). Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, Volume 8. Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch Press. OCLC 1644027.
  • Mitchell, Barbara (Autumn 2010). "America's Spanish Savior: Bernardo de Gálvez marches to rescue the colonies". MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History: 98–104.
  • Reparaz, Carmen (1986). Yo Solo : Bernardo de Gálvez y la toma de Panzacola en 1781. Barcelona: Ediciones del Serval S.A. ISBN 84-7628-012-2.

External links

Coordinates: 30°20′52″N 87°17′50″W / 30.34778°N 87.29722°W


1707 (MDCCVII)

was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar, the 1707th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 707th year of the 2nd millennium, the 7th year of the 18th century, and the 8th year of the 1700s decade. As of the start of 1707, the Gregorian calendar was

11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923. In the Swedish calendar it was a common year starting on Tuesday, one day ahead of the Julian and ten days behind the Gregorian calendar.

Battle of Pensacola

Battle of Pensacola may refer to:

Siege of Pensacola (1707) two separate siege attempts during Queen Anne's War by English-led Indians against a Spanish garrison

Capture of Pensacola (1719) capture of Spanish Pensacola by French forces during the War of the Quadruple Alliance

Siege of Pensacola a 1781 siege by Spanish forces against a British garrison during the American War of Independence

Battle of Pensacola (1814) American attack on a British-Spanish force during the War of 1812

Battle of Pensacola (1861) Union attack on Confederate forts in Pensacola Bay during American Civil War

Battle of Pensacola (1861)

The Battle of Pensacola was a battle between the Confederate States of America troops occupying Pensacola Bay and the Union fleet under Harvey Brown. The Confederates retained control of the city and its forts after months of siege.

Bernardo de Gálvez, 1st Viscount of Galveston

Bernardo Vicente de Gálvez y Madrid, 1st Viscount of Galveston, 1st Count of Gálvez, OCIII (23 July 1746 – 30 November 1786) was a Spanish military leader and colonial administrator who served as colonial governor of Spanish Louisiana and Cuba, and later as Viceroy of New Spain.

Gálvez aided France and the newly formed nation the United States of America in the international war against Britain, defeating the British at the Siege of Pensacola (1781) and conquering West Florida. Following Gálvez's successful campaign the whole of Florida was ceded to Spain in the Treaty of Paris. He spent the last two years of his life as Viceroy of New Spain, succeeding his father Matías de Gálvez y Gallardo. The city of Galveston, Texas, was named after him.

Gálvez is one of only eight people to have been awarded honorary United States citizenship.

Capture of the Bahamas (1782)

The Capture of the Bahamas took place in May 1782 during the Anglo-Spanish War when a Spanish force under the command of Juan Manuel Cajigal arrived on the island of New Providence near Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. The British commander at Nassau, John Maxwell decided to surrender the island without a fight when confronted by the superior force.

Fort George (Pensacola, Florida)

Fort George was a British fort built in 1778 for the protection of Pensacola, Florida. The Spanish captured it in Siege of Pensacola on May 10, 1781 (American Revolutionary War).

The fort no longer exists, though part of it was later recreated to mark its original location. This reconstruction is part of the Fort George Memorial Park, which is in the North Hill Preservation District. The park is located on La Rua and Palafox Streets.

The site was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on July 8, 1974.

François-Xavier Octavie Fontaine

François-Xavier Octavie Fontaine (7 November 1762 in Saint-Remy, Haute-Saône - 17 May 1812 in Paris) served in the French military in the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary Wars, and the Napoleonic Wars.

Gulf Coast campaign

The Gulf Coast campaign or the Spanish conquest of West Florida in the American Revolutionary War, was a series of military operations primarily directed by the governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez against the British province of West Florida. Begun with operations against British positions on the Mississippi River shortly after Britain and Spain went to war in 1779, Gálvez completed the conquest of West Florida in 1781 with the successful siege of Pensacola.

HMS Mentor

At least four ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Mentor:

HMS Mentor (1780) was an armed ship of unknown name and 24-guns that the British Royal Navy captured from the Americans in 1778, and that purchasers converted to the Liverpool privateer Who's Afraid. Sir Peter Parker purchased her at Jamaica in 1780 and renamed her HMS Mentor; she was burnt in 1781 during the Siege of Pensacola to prevent the Spanish from capturing her.

HMS Mentor (1781) was an 18-gun sloop, the former Massachusetts privateer Aurora, which HMS Royal Oak captured on 10 July 1781; Mentor foundered off Bermuda after 16 March 1783 with the loss of all hands, including the men she had rescued from HMS Cerberus.

HMS Mentor (1914) was an Hawthorn M-class destroyer launched in 1914. She served on the First Ostend Raid and the Battle of Dogger Bank (1915); she was broken up in 1922.

HMS Mentor (1981) was a tender, sold in 1992.During World War II, the Ministry of Defence took over Lews Castle as accommodation for the air and ground crew of 700 Naval Air Squadron. The squadron operated a detachment of six Supermarine Walrus aircraft from a slipway at Cuddy Point in the Grounds. The base was referred to as HMS Mentor.

Lastly, from 1794 to 1798, the Admiralty employed HM Hired armed ship Mentor. Then on 12 May 1799, Mentor, of 517 tons burthen, twenty-four 9-pounder guns, and 60 men under the command of Gilbert Curry, received a letter of marque.

HMS Port Royal (1778)

HMS Port Royal was the former French armed merchant vessel Comte de Maurepas, which the British captured in 1778. The British armed her with 18 guns and took her into the Royal Navy under her new name. The Spanish captured her at the Siege of Pensacola in 1781.

Honorary citizenship of the United States

A person of exceptional merit, generally a non-United States citizen, may be declared an honorary citizen of the United States by an Act of Congress or by a proclamation issued by the President of the United States, pursuant to authorization granted by Congress.

Eight people have been so honored, six posthumously, and two, Sir Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa, during their lifetimes.

Hugh Gordon (British Army officer)

Lieutenant General Hugh Mackay Gordon (1760 – 12 March 1823) was a British Army officer who became Lieutenant Governor of Jersey.

James Chalmers (loyalist)

James Chalmers was a Loyalist officer and pamphleteer in the American Revolution.

Born in Elgin, Moray, Scotland, Chalmers was an ambitious military strategist after the War of Independence, who immigrated to America in 1760 "with several black slaves and 10,00 British pounds in his pocket," settling in Kent County and becoming "one of the Eastern Shore's most prominent landowners."

John Campbell, of Strachur

General John Campbell, 17th Chief of MacArthur Campbells of Strachur (1727 – 28 August 1806) was a Scottish soldier and nobleman, who commanded the British forces at the Siege of Pensacola, and succeeded Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester as Commander-in-Chief in North America in 1783 following the end of the American War of Independence.

José Solano y Bote

Don José de Solano y Bote Carrasco y Díaz (March 6, 1726 – March 24, 1806), Marquess of Socorro, was a Spanish naval officer.

Maryland Loyalists Battalion

The Maryland Loyalists Battalion, referred to in Captain Caleb Jones's orderly book as the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists, was a British provincial regiment, of colonial American Loyalists, during the American Revolutionary War.

Oliver Pollock

Oliver Pollock (1737, Bready, County Tyrone, Ireland – December 17, 1823, Pinckneyville, Mississippi) was a merchant and financier of the American Revolutionary War, of which he has long been considered a historically undervalued figure. He is often attributed with the creation of the U.S. Dollar sign in 1778.

Siege of Pensacola (1707)

The Siege of Pensacola was two separate attempts in 1707 by English-supported Creek Indians to capture the town and fortress of Pensacola, one of two major settlements (the other was St. Augustine) in Spanish Florida.

The attacks, part of Queen Anne's War (the North American theater of the War of the Spanish Succession), resulted in the burning of the town, and caused most of its Indian population to flee, although the fort withstood repeated attacks.

The first siege, in August 1707, resulted in the destruction of the town, but Fort San Carlos de Austria successfully resisted the onslaught. In late November 1707, a second expedition arrived, and made unsuccessful attacks on three consecutive nights before withdrawing. Pensacola's governor, Don Sebastián de Moscoso, whose garrison was depleted by disease, recruited convicted criminals to assist in the fort's defense.


The Tallapoosas were a division of the Upper Creeks in the Muscogee Confederacy. Prior to Removal to Indian Territory, Tallapoosa lived along the Tallapoosa River in Alabama.They are also called the Cadapouches or Canapouches, which was mistakenly considered a synonym for the Catawba of the Carolina.

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