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The Galvez Expedition

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Surnames/tags: 1776 American_Revolution
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The Importance of the Galvez Expedition to the American Revolution If the British had been allowed to take control of New Orleans they would be in control of the mouth of the Mississippi River in addition to the Port of New Orleans. Most trade and reinforcements were received at this port and the lack of these would most likely have led to the British taken hold of Louisiana including the eastern side of the river. If this had occurred Britain would have opened a back door into the colonies and been able to attack the colonies from the west. The outcome of the war could have changed if the British could surround the colonies from the south or if their vital conduit for supplies (the Mississippi) was compromised.

George Washington and Congress recognized this. Washington had Galvez to his right during the July 4th parade & the American Congress cited him for his aid to the Revolution.

The Galvez Expedition The Louisiana Territory was under Spanish Control. The governor was Bernard de Galvez, who had spent some time in France and was fluent in the language. This helped him a great deal. As governor, he practiced an anti-British, pro-France policy. Prior to Spain declaring war on Great Britain in 1779, he had smuggled supplies to the American forces and allowed the Americans passage through New Orleans. In May or June 1779 (sources vary), Spain declared war on the British.

Galvez intercepted communication that told of a British plan to take New Orleans. Galvez mobilized his troops, but then mother nature struck. His fleet was destroyed by a hurricane.

With word of the destruction of Galvez’s fleet, militias from throughout the area headed to meet up with Galvez. The militias included those from Opelousas, Attakapas, Point Coupee and German Coast Militia, as well as Indians and free men of color willing to fight in the conflict. The approximate 500 militia men joined Galvez’s army of 600. By the time the militia met up with Galvez, Galvez had lost nearly one third of his men.

The Galvez Expedition partook of the following battles:

7 Sep 1779 Capture of Fort Bute. This older fort at Bayou Manchac (south of Baton Rouge) was captured from the British rather quickly. The British considered the fort indefensible so the majority fled, leaving about 20 behind.

21 Sep 1779 Battle of Baton Rouge: Galvez and his men were unable to directly advance their artillery so Galvez ordered a feint to the north into the woods. The detachment sent into the woods created disturbances and the British responded strongly, but those in the woods were easily able to avoid being shot. Meanwhile, Galvez dug siege trenches and established secure gun pits within musket range of the fort. He placed his artillery forces there and opened fire on this day.

After three hours of fighting the British commander offered surrender, however Galvez demanded more than Baton Rouge’s Fort New Richmond. He demanded and was granted that Fort Panmure of Natchez also be handed over.

This battle freed the lower Mississippi Valley of British forces and relieved the threat to New Orleans, Louisiana’s capitol.

1 Mar 1780 The Battle of Fort Charlotte: Galvez arrived with forces of about 2000 to attack via both land and sea. This led to a 2-week siege during which both Galvez and the British commander exchanged polite letters regarding surrender and vantage points. Meanwhile Galvez continued to dig trenches and bombard the fort and succeeded in breaching the fort on the 13th. The British surrendered the next day. The British had been delaying in hopes that their reinforcements from Pensacola would arrive. But they had been delayed.

9 May 1781 Capture of Fort George and Fort Crescent in Pensacola: Galvez’s troops attacked the British from both land and sea in this important battle for Fort George and its nearest redoubt, Fort Crescent. The siege had been 2 months long and Galvez led 7000 men until, he himself was injured. During the siege the Spaniards and militias endured attacks from the Choctaw and Creeks in support of the British. On May 8 Fort Crescent was hit and taken. The British general surrendered Fort George and the Prince of Wales Redoubt two days later. The loss of Mobile and Pensacola left the British without bases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sources


A History of Louisiana Soldiers in the American Revolution” Genealogy.com

GALVEZ, BERNARDO DE....Handbook of Texas Online” By Robert H. Thonhoff Texas State Historical Association

“Bernardo de Galvez” at Wikipedia.com

“Bernard de Galvez” National Park Service: Fort Matanzas National Monument

“Siege of Pensacola” at Wikipedia.com

“Battle of Fort Charlotte” World History Project

“Battle of Baton Rouge (1779)” at Wikipedia.com

“Capture of Fort Bute at Wikipedia.com

“Siege of Pensacola” The Patriot Resource

"Bernardo de Galvez: Services to the American Revolution" SAR publication listing members of the expedition





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