This Day In History: The Spanish Take Baton Rouge (1797)

On this day during the American Revolution in 1779, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana governor Bernardo de Galvez, with the aid of American Patriots , capture the British garrison at Baton Rouge. At the time Baton Rouge was located in British West-Florida.  The Spanish had been given Louisiana after the defeat of the French in the Seven Years War. They had entered the war, with the French on the side of the Americans. They believed that the Revolution was a perfect opportunity for the Spanish to re-assert their position in North America. The Spanish marched on Baton Rouge with a large force. The landed forces from Mexico, this was composed of regular soldiers and militia. They were soon joined by Patriot forces mainly militiamen. They laid siege to Baton Rouge, which was garrisoned by a small British garrison. After a short siege and battle, the British commander offered to surrender after negotiations.

The Spanish commander adopted a very cunning strategy.  He demanded that under the terms of surrender that the British also surrender another fort, Fort Panamure, at Natchez. The British were outnumbered and cut off from their supply lines and their commander did not have any choice but to accept the harsh terms demanded by the Spanish Governor, who was an experienced soldier.  When the British did surrender it was seen as a major victory in Spain. The two forts that they had managed to take from the British strengthened their control over the Mississippi. The Mississipi River was not open to any Spanish ship or vessel. This meant that Spain could establish a safe supply line from the Gulf of Mexico to the Ohio Valley. This allowed the Spanish to greatly extend their authority in Louisiana and beyond. This was also of great assistance to the Americans in their battle with the British.

Spanish Troops during the attack on Pensacola (1779

The Spanish then went on the offensive and they advanced further into British-held Florida, which had previously been part of their Empire. They marched on the British held settlement of Pensacola, Florida, in the spring of 1781,  and they forced the British to surrender, after a few weeks.

Spain was very active in the Revolutionary War, even though it was not an official ally of the Americans. The Spanish King had qualms about entering into an agreement with subjects who had revolted against their lawful sovereign.  However, he was persuaded to adopt a practical approach and the Spanish attacked the British in North America and in the Mediterranean. The Spanish failed to secure Gibraltar during the war. However, it made significant territorial gains in the Gulf of Mexico and secured all of Florida.

However, the Spanish gains were short lived. They eventually returned Louisiana to the French and sold Florida to the Young American Republic.