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The Spanish Take Pensacola From the British
The Spanish Take Pensacola From the British


Siege of Pensacola 1781

The Siege of Pensacola was part of the American Revolution and tends to be underreported because no American troops were involved.

Image Above

The Capture of Pensacola

This engraving illustrates the events from Tuesday, May 8, 1781, at 9:30 A.M. when a Spanish grenade hit the magazine of the half-moon shaped British outwork, called the Queen's Redoubt.

On horseback in the foreground on the right is Bernard Galvez, commander in chief of the Spanish army.

Scroll down for more about this image.

Engraving by Nicolas Ponce (1746-1831)
Bibliothèque nationale de France


Who Fought?

The Spanish and the French
(approx. 8,000 troops)

Led by Governor of Louisiana Bernardo de Gálvez


The British
Alongside, and on the British payroll, fought
Germans from Waldeck, a few Americans,
over 300 Indians, and "many negroes."
(all in all approx. 2,000 defenders of Fort George)

Led by major-general John Campbell, who commanded his Fifty-seventh Regiment of Foot

Pensacola was the capital of West Florida.
Governor of West Florida was Peter Chester (since December 1769)

When Did the Siege of Pensacola Begin? When Did It End?

The Siege of Pensacola begun on March 9, 1781, when the first Spanish ships arrived off Santa Rosa Island (see map below.)

It ended on May 10, 1781, when the British troops evacuated the fort and handed over their arms.


Location, Size, and Layout of Pensacola

Pensacola, the capital of British West Florida, had about 200 houses and was defended by Fort George.

The fort overlooked the town and had two outworks, called the Queen's Redoubt and the Prince of Wales' Redoubt.

To get into Pensacola Bay, one had to pass the Red Cliffs battery, later Fort Barrancas.

Here is the map

Map Fort George, Red Cliffs Fort, Pensacola Bay, Santa Rosa Island
Map location of Fort George, Red Cliff Fort (later Fort Barrancas)
that overlooked the entrance of Pensacola Bay, and Santa Rosa Island

On Modern Google Map


Events Preceding the Siege of Pensacola

In 1775, the map looked like this:

Map 1775: Original Thirteen Colonies, Other British Territories, Spanish Possessions
Map 1775: Original Thirteen Colonies, Other British Territories, Spanish Possessions
Click to view 14 maps illustrating U.S. territorial growth


France joined the American Revolution when it declared war on Britain in 1778. Spain followed suit in 1779.

On March 14, 1780, the Spanish defeated the British and captured Fort Charlotte (formerly French Fort Conde) in today's downtown Mobile (Movila), Alabama.

Early in 1781, a Spanish unit sailed from Havana, a second from New Orleans, and a third advanced from Mobile, all with Pensacola on their GPS.


The Siege of Pensacola - A Brief Timeline

Part of this timeline is taken from the diary of Francisco de Miranda, a Spanish officer with Venezuelan roots, who arrived at Pensacola with the expedition that sailed from Havana.

March 9, 1781

The Siege of Pensacola Begins

The first Spanish squadron arrives off Santa Rosa Island at the entrance to Pensacola Bay.

March 18, 1781

Galvez lands at Pensacola.

April 9, 1781

Another Spanish reinforcement from Havana, led by Josef Solano and Manuel de Cagigal, arrives off Pensacola. Altogether the Spanish forces number now some 7,224 officers and men.

April 12, 1781

Galvez wounded

April 19, 1781

A French squadron arrives with 725 men.

May 5, 1781

A gale had blown the Spanish fleet away from the Gulf coast, but it recovered.

Starting today, and for six days straight during all hours of daylight, the Spanish will batter the fort with 8 twenty-four pounders and several large mortars.

May 8, 1781

The British Queen's Redoubt blows up

The fire of the British batteries had continued with the same degree of activity and accuracy as the preceding days. It caused sufficient damage in the Spanish trench on which the Spanish had at last succeeded in speeding up the work.

9.30 AM: The Spanish heard from the camp a great explosion which alarmed them generally without them being able to ascertain the danger. The Spanish major-general went immediately to the section of the trench from which the noise was heard, and they saw a great column of smoke rising toward the clouds, and later the Spanish found out that the explosion had been inside the circular fort, which battery was all in flames, and was caused by a grenade from the Spanish howitzers.

The Spanish general and chief's present (leaving the camp in charge of General Cagigal), went immediately with some troops to the trench and assured themselves of the effect by sight of the damage.

The Spanish troops advanced under command of Brigadier Giron through the left branch and under cover of the same battery that was burning.

Fort George surrenders

3 PM: The British in Fort George raised the white flag and some officers advanced to confer over capitulation. General Galvez attended personally and the conference lasted until 11 at night. The Spanish later found out that 108 of the British best troops and two marines were blown up in the redoubt.

May 9, 1781

7 AM: Sergeant Major Campo came to the Spanish camp with full authority to complete the capitulation. By 2 PM everything was finished, the Spanish conceding to the guard the honors of war.

3.30 PM: General Galvez, with two companies of grenadiers, went to take possession of the city and was very well received by the people of the vicinity.

May 10, 1781

On this day the Spanish generals and their aides-de-camp remained housed in the city.

3 PM: General Galvez and 6 companies came to take possession of the fort. The guards came out, and in forming at a distance of 150 meters from the fort, gave up their flags and arms to the Spanish troops which were formed in front of them. The guards were relieved consecutively of the surrendered forts, lowering the British flag and raising that of Spain.

The British troops left the fort and handed over their arms.

The Siege of Pensacola Ends.


The Spanish and French suffered almost 300 casualties. Army: 75 killed, 198 wounded. Navy: 21 killed, 4 wounded.

British losses: 105 blown up in the crescent, 56 deserters during the siege, 300 who whilst the capitulation was being drawn up retired to Georgia

Total number of prisoners: 1,113


More About Fort George

The Spanish renamed it Fort San Miguel. Nothing's left of it today, but you can visit Fort George Park on the corner of Palafox and La Rua in Pensacola.

Find more at FortWiki


More About the Image Above

From the French National Library. The entire page looks like this:

Prise de Pensacola - Capture of Pensacola
Prise de Pensacola - Capture of Pensacola

Under the image it reads:

Prise de Pensacola

Le 9 Mai 1781, les Forts et Places de Pensacola, Capitale de la Floride Occidentale se rendent à Don Bernard Galvez Commandant l'Armée de S.M.C. [Su Majestad Cristianísima] après 12 jours de tranchée ouverte, et 61 jours après son debarquement dans l'Isle de Ste Rose.

La Garrison commandée par les Sieurs Peter Chester Vice-Amiral et Gouverneur Général de la Province, et Ionh Campbel Marechal de Camp, étoit de 1,700 hommes non compris les Negres et les Indiens; mais il n'en restoit plus que 1,400 ou environ qui furent faits prisonniers de guerre, le surplus ayant été tué, ou ayant peri lors de l'explosion de la Demi-Lune qui sauta au moment ou on alloit donner l'assaut. On y a trouvé 193 pieces d'Artillerie.

Le General Espangnol a fait beaucoup d'éloges des François qui sont venus coopérer avec lui à ce Siège, sous les ordres de Monsieur de Monteil, Chef d'Escadre des Armées Navales. Les 700 Hommes de cette Nation, que commandoit à terre Monsieur de Botderu Capitaine de Vaisseau s'y sont conduits avec beaucoup de valeur ainsi que le Chevalier de Ravenel commandant la Frégate l'Andromaque.

D. Solano com'de l'Escadre Espagnole, D. Thomaseo Chef d'Escadre, D. Miguel Alderete comm'dt les Vaisseaux avant l'arrivée de D. Solano, et D. Philippes Lopez Carrizola Capitaine de Vaisseau Comm'dt les Troupes de la Marine mises a terre, ont aussi beaucoup contribué au succès de l'entreprise.

Quoique D. Galvez ait été très satisfait de tous ses Officiers, il a fait une mention particuliere du Marechal de Camp D. Juan Manuel de Cagigal, du Brigadier d'Armée D. Géronimo Giron, du Baron de Kessel, et de D. Joseph de Expélata qui faissoit les fonctions de Major Général; ce dernier fut d'un grand secours à D. Galvez pendant le temps que sa blessure le retint dans l'inaction. Dans le nombre des tués on regrète particulierement D. Louis Rebolo et D. François Longaria.

Cette Place et les 2 Provinces de Floride ont été cédèes à l'Espagne à la Paix de 1783. Ces Possessions étient très prètieuses aux Anglois par le Commerce interlope quils y faisoient avec la Nouvelle Espagne, et auroient pu, par les productions dont elles sont susceptibles, remplacer en partie le vuide que la perte des Colonies de l'Amerique septentrionale a fait éprouver à cette Puissance.


In other words:

Capture of Pensacola

On May 9, 1781, the forts and venues of Pensacola, capital of West Florida, fell to Don Bernardo Galvez, commander of the Army of His Most Christian Majesty, 12 days after trenches were opened, and 61 days after his landing on Santa Rosa Island.

The garrison under the command of Peter Chester, vice admiral and governor of the province, and Ionh Campbel, marechal de camp, consisted of 1,700 men, not including the Negroes and Indians; but it didn't remain more than 1,400 or so which were made prisoners of war, the rest was killed or perished in the explosion of the Half Moon which blew up at the moment of our attack. We found 193 pieces of artillery.

The Spanish general gave much praise to the French who, under the command of Mr de Monteil, chef d'escadre of the navy, came and assisted him at this siege. The 700 men of this nation, ashore under the command of Captain Botderu and the Chevalier de Ravenel, captain of the frigate L'Andromaque, acted with much bravery.

Don Solano leading the Spanish wing, Don Thomaseo Chef d'Escadre, Don Miguel Alderete commanding the vessels before Don Solano's arrival, and Captain Don Philippes Lopez Carrizola commanding the navy troops on shore, also contributed considerably to the success of this enterprise.

Although Don Galvez was very pleased with all his officers, he made particular mention of the Marechal de Camp Don Juan Manuel de Cagigal, of the Brigadier d'Armée Don Geronimo Giron, of Baron de Kessel, and of Don Joseph Expélata who acted as Major Général; the latter was of great help to Don Galvez during the time when his injury kept him immobilized. Among the fallen we mourn in particular Don Louis Rebolo and Don François Longaria.

This town and the two provinces of Florida were ceded to Spain with the Peace of 1783. These possessions were very valuable to the English for their illegal trade with New Spain, and could have, with the output of which they are capable, replaced in part the void that that power suffered from the loss of the North American colonies.

More here.


More Maps


Map Illustrating the Acquisition of West Florida 1767-1819
Acquisition of West Florida 1767-1819
Click to enlarge


Map of the Floridas: East and West Florida 1765
The Floridas - East and West Florida 1765
Click to enlarge



Last Map

A different map from Florida's State Archives:

Battle of Pensacola
Battle of Pensacola
Imaginative engraving of the 1781 Battle of Pensacola
State Archives of Florida



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