THE HISTORY OF U.S. LATINOS
1776-83 in the Hispanic-American History Timeline
Hispanics in the American Revolution
Spain deems the American army a viable ally after troops led by General George Washington capture the Hessian (German) Garrison, in the Battle of Trenton, New Jersey. Spain’s agreement to work in support of the Continental Army – although covertly – formally establishes the Hispanic participation in the most important war in American history: The American Revolution.
The Hessians are German mercenaries hired to fight for the British. This small victory, in an array of losses for General Washington, encourages more American colonists to enlist and prompts Spain’s King Carlos III to covertly begin supporting Washington and his troops.
Spain secretly sends supplies to American ports, aiding the colonists by smuggling material from Cuba and other Caribbean islands. King Carlos III encourages his American subjects to donate pesos to fund the cost of the war. Yet, Spain’s support of a colonial rebellion against a monarchy remains mostly undercover, to prevent a riotous rebellion in their own nation.
But that’s until – with King Carlos III’s blessing – Don Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, enters Spain into the fight of the 13 colonies, blatantly declaring Hispanic participation in the American army.
Galvez leads an army of more than 1,000 Hispanic soldiers – mostly from Mexico and the Caribbean Spanish colonies – across the Gulf of Mexico, defeating the British in Natchez, Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. The success of his military operations, in effect, cover Washington’s rear (southwest) flank, allowing the Continental Army to concentrate on fighting the British along the eastern front.
Galvez’s successful military operation along the Gulf of Mexico opens up a supply channel along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers by which Spain can send weapons, gunpowder, military uniforms, and even cattle to Washington’s troops – while avoiding British interference.
Spain’s aid, and Galvez’s heroic success, were a surprise to the British, and huge factors that affected the outcome of the American Revolution.
Galvez’ conduct during that pivotal time in American and Hispanic history has not gone unnoticed. In 2014, a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, signed by President Barack Obama, made Galvez an Honorary Citizen of the United States, the seventh person to receive this high honor!
By Deseree Velasquez, Lehman College