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Bahamas: Spaniards Aboard American Ships

In April, 1782, the commander of the Spanish Ejército de Operación, Lieutenant General Bernardo de Gálvez, decided it was time to end British rule in the Bahamas, since it posed a constant threat to the Spanish and North American ships navigating those waters. Because Gálvez and part of the naval fleet were in Santo Domingo readying for an invasion of British Jamaica, and the ships of the Armada were involved in this and other operations, the captain general of Cuba, Juan Manuel Cagigal, requested aid in transporting the convoy with the Spanish infantrymen to a small North American squadron anchored off Havana.

As a result, the only Spanish vessels to take part in the expedition against the Bahamas were gunboats, small transport ships, and the armed frigate San Antonio. The largest North American vessel, on the other hand, was the South Carolina, a frigate of French origin in the service of the navy of South Carolina, under the command of Alexander Gillon.

The joint Hispanic-American squadron was composed of some 50 vessels transporting approximately 3,000 infantry soldiers and several pieces of artillery. It was steered through the dangerous channels of the Bahamas by the North Americans who knew the area well, and it reached the waters fronting the city of Nassau, at Providence Island, on April 23. Cagigal ordered his infantry and artillery to occupy the islet of Hogh. From there, the city and its defenses were within easy firing range of the Spanish forces.

After a brief exchange of fire followed by several days of negotiation in which Francisco de Miranda, a Spanish officer, aide to Cagigal, and future leader of Venezuelan independence, played an important role, the English laid down their arms. On May 8, 1782, Governor John Maxwell surrendered Fort Montagu and all the islands to the Spanish Catholic monarch.

This campaign was one of only four military operations carried out by joint Spanish and North American forces in the United States War of Independence, the other three being the battle in Illinois in 1780, the attack along the Mississippi, and the assault on Mobile.

José Manuel Guerrero Acosta
La Habana George Washington Arthur Lee Fernando de Leyba Marblehead John Jay Bilbao Oliver Pollock El Conde de Aranda José Solano y Bote El Conde de Floridablanca México Francisco de Miranda Nueva Orleans José Antonio George Farragut Pensacola Bernardo de Gálvez Mobile Juan Miralles San Luis Bárbara de Arias Macharaviaya Diego Gardoqui Nueva York