West Florida Campaign of 1779-1781:
Gálvez had planned ahead yet again and had sent ahead instructions to New Orleans
and Mobile that reserves should make for Pensacola
On March 9, Gálvez reached Santa Rosa Island outside Pensacola Bay. On March
11, he attempted to enter the bay after securing the island, but the flagship
"San Ramon" ran aground. After she quickly worked free, she returned to her
former position outside the bay.
The next few days were spent unloading more supplies onto Santa Rosa Island,
while Gálvez tried to convince Captain José Calbo of the "San Ramon" to try
again, or allow the smaller ships to go ahead first. Calbo was reluctant and
even though Gálvez was in command of the expedition, Calbo was responsible for
the safety of the fleet and was within his right to refuse. Gálvez knew he had
to enter the bay in order to be successful, so he boarded the brig "Galveztown"
on March 18 and led four ships into the bay without consulting with Calbo. The
next day Gálvez was able to convince Calbo to send in the rest of the fleet.
Calbo himself took the "San Ramon" back to Havana. Gálvez now waited for his
forces from New Orleans and Mobile and began correspondence with British General
John Campbell in Fort George in Pensacola. On March 22, the forces from New
Orleans and Mobile arrived. On March 24, Gálvez moved his men from Santa Rosa
Island to the mainland.
On March 25, Indians allied with the British attacked some stragglers. These
attacks continued daily and nightly, and even though they were rather small
and did little real damage, they raised tension and slowed down the Spanish
preparations for the siege. During April, little action took place as the Spanish
familiarized themselves with the area. On April 19, a Spanish fleet arrived
in support from Havana. On the last three days of April a tunnel was dug from
the Spanish line to a small hill where a battery would be erected to attack
the British redoubt. On May 1, a battery of six twenty-four pounders was installed.
The trenching continued and a stronger battery was installed at Pine Hill, but
the British successfully attacked this position, destroying the battery. Artillery
fire was exchanged fiercely the next few days.
On May 8, a shot struck the powder magazine of the British redoubt, destroying
the position and killing nearly a hundred men. The Spanish quickly moved forward
to take possession of the position and began heavy bombardment of Fort George
itself. The fort was so exposed to this position that a white flag was run up
by 3 o'clock that same afternoon. Formal surrender took place on May 10. Gálvez
sent the British prisoners to New York so they could eventually be repatriated.
With the capture of Pensacola, the British were expelled from West Florida,
making it a Spanish possession, while also ridding the American colonies of
a potential southern threat from the British. Gálvez remained governor of Louisiana
and West Florida until 1783. In 1783 he returned to Spain for a year. In late
1784, Gálvez returned to Havana, where he found Oliver Pollock had been imprisoned.
Gálvez freed Pollock and ordered his property returned to him, and as a further
gesture to promote good relations with the newly formed United States, Gálvez
released all American sailors who had been imprisoned as smugglers.
1. Caughey, John; Bernardo De Gálvez in Louisiana: 1776-1783
Battle of Pensacola Lithograph
Topic Last Updated: 12/6/2000
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