George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Juan de Miralles, 18 February 1780

From Juan de Miralles

Philadelphia Febry 18th 1780.


By the way of Charles Town in South Carolina I have received Letter from the Govor of Havannah dated 23rd Novr Inclosing an Extract of the Operations and Lucky Success, which have acquired the Arms of the King my Master under the Command of the Brigadier Genl Dn Bernardo de Galvez of the Province of Luisiana,1 against the King of England and his Subjects establish’d on the River Mississippy making them all Prisoners of War, and leaving under the Dominion of his Majesty all that Vast and fertil Territory. as it will more circumstantiously instruct your Excy the Copy of Said Extract, which I take the Liberty to inclose translated in the English Lenguage, for your Excys most Liberal inteligency, persuaded your Excy will receive great pleasure for what concerns the Common Cause, which your Excy defend & the most Augustus House of Borbon Protects.2

As there is no News from the Enemys which in great Number of Vessels Saild from Sandy Hook, the 26th of December, nor tidings of having appear’d off the Coast of Georgia or South Carolina, it gives the greatest reason to think they have directed their course to another place of much consequence, and even its whispered is to the Havannah Joined with the Sea and Land forces which they have in the West Indies and notwithstanding that this does not offer the greatest probability, in matters of this important Subject ought not to be despised even the least Suspicion. I have ready a Vessel which I have Chartered to Send to the Said Govor the Cited News for his Inteligency. She is to Sail the 21st of this Inst. Month; I shall endeavour to have them transmitted with all possible Speed and Anticipation, to the rest of the Governors in the Spanish Possetions on these Parts.

As your Excy is nearer at hand than any other Person to know the movements of the Enemies, and other News which may be of consequence to frustrate their agrecive Ideas in America and that it will be of importance that the Spanish Governors be acquainted with them; I beg your Excy will be pleased to comunicate me as many as can acquire and penetrate your Excy notorious Capacity and perspicacy, to enable me to comply with that extensive Object, and inform to His Majesty of all from which Royal order I am very Strongly encharged to influence in your Excy to make the greatest diversion with the Troops of the United States against them of the Enemies in Georgia, to the efect of atracting their atention, to disable them to Send Succors to Punsacola and Mobila, which the Govor of Luisiana is to attack Auxiliated with Sea and Land forces, which were prepared at Havannah with all the needfull, and ready to Sail when the Station woud permit.3 Respectfully I remain Your Excys most Obedt and Most Hble Servt.

Translation, DLC:GW; ALS (in Spanish), DLC:GW.

1Bernardo de Galvez (1746–1786) had served in Portugal during the Seven Years War and, later, in New Spain against the Apache Indians. After this service, Galvez was stationed in Algiers and then attended the military school in Ávila, Spain. Before his appointment in September 1776 as governor and intendant of the Spanish province of Louisiana, Galvez had served as colonel of the Spanish army regiment stationed there. He assumed his duties as governor in January 1777. After his successful campaign up the Mississippi River in August and September of 1779, Galvez captured Mobile in 1780 and took Pensacola, Fla., in May 1781. After the war, Galvez was promoted to major general and appointed captain-general of Louisiana and the Floridas. He also became captain-general of Cuba. The year before his death, he succeeded his father as viceroy of New Spain.

2The enclosed undated document reads: “Extract of the Operations and Advantages acquired by His Catholic Majesty’s Arms, under the Command of the Brigadier Genl Dn Bernardo de Galvez, Governor of the Province of Luisiana, against the English Situated on the River Mississippy, taking possesion of all their Establishments, of three Forts they had at Manchak & Nantshes [Natchez], defended by 550 Privates, Sundry Inhabitants and Blacks who took the Arms, that were made Prisoners of War, and under the Dominion of the King of Spain about fifteen hundred Miles of the very best fertil and prime Ground; which News have been Sent to this Town by the Governor of Havannah under date of the 23rd Novr Ulto as follows.

“Said Govor Set out from the Town of New Orleans the 27th August, towards the Establishments which the Germans & Acadians dependents of that Governmt posses there, to the eféct of joining their Militia, having left orders that that very afternoon the Troops Should Set out which he had destined for the enterprize, leaving with Competent Garrison that Place for its Custody and preservation.

“All the People encorporated amounted to 1427 Men, comprehended in Said Number 600 of all kinds and Colours. Seven American Volunters and 160 Indians undertook the March, directing it to Mantshac [Manchac], 105 Miles distant which they perform’d in Six days with great pains Occasion’d by the Aceleration with which they executed it and the great heats of the Weather which they experienced having fell Sick many of them, by which reason the Number of the Army was reduced to two thirds.

“The morning of the 7th Septr took the Fort of Mantshak by Storm without loosing the Spaniards a Single Man, making Prisoners, one Captain one Lew Tent [Lieutenant] and 18 Privates, having escap’d at the time of the Storm, a Lew Tent and five Privates, because the English having had advice two days before of the March of the Spaniards, they had retired the rest of the Garrison Artillery Amunicion and Provisions to the Fort called Baton Rouge.

“The Spanish General ordered an Inventory to be made out, of what was found in Said Fort; and gave Six days of respite to his Army, which after this time was expired, went on against Said Baton Rouge Fort, making five Prisoners on his way.

“Having reconoitred Said Fort, was found to be Competently and regularly fortified, with a Ditch of 18 Feet Wide & Nine deep with Palisades and 13 Gun⟨s⟩ defended by 400 Men of regular Troops and 100 Armed Inhabitants, these were Sufficient motives to Obstruct the Storming of it which Occationed General Galvez to determine a regular Siege, approaching gradually to the Fort, forming a false attack, to hide from the Enemy the true one, of which they had no knowledge, untill the last night when the entrenchments and Bateries, were perfectly placed, beginning the fire the 21st of Said Month at day break with So much Success that three hours & a half after Said Fort was so much Shattered that oblig’d the English to beat a Call, and Sent two officers with the propositions of Capitulation to the Spanish General, who would not admi⟨t⟩ them, demanding the Condition that all the Garrison shou’d remain prisioner⟨s⟩ of War, and deliver with equal Condition the Fort of Pain mure [Panmure] of Nantshes Garrisoned with 80 Granadiers, The English forced to Submit to Said Conditions the Garrison Set out of Baton Rouge with Military Honors, marching 500 Ste⟨ps⟩ delivering to the Spanish Troop, which expected them form’d, in Number to 375 Men, Arms and Colours, remaing Prisoners of War.

“To the Same fate were Subject 500 Inhabitants and Blacks, who were found Arm’d in Manshak, Baton Rouge, and other Places, but the Spanish General did them the favour of leaving them free in honor to His Catholic Majesty, to whose Royal Dominions remain’d Subjects all the Establishments, and Grounds which the English had on the Said River Mississippy whose Inhabitants are chiefly employed in the Skin and Furr Trade.

“It’s not known the loss the English have Sustain’d by the great care they have had in hiding it, that of the Spaniards only was one killed and two wounded.

“The Prisoners taken amount to 550 Regular Troops, comprehended in Said Number 28 Officers Vizt one Lew Tent Colo. five Captains, Ten Lew Tents five Sub Lew Tents a Quarter Master, two Commissaries a Store keeper, three chief Surgeons, and Eight vessels with Sundry Provisions and different Boats with above 50 Sailors.

“General Galvez make the greatest praize of the bravery Intrepidity, and Constancy of the Troops under his command, and of the Love, Zeal and extraordinary good will, with which they have beheav’d, in assisting to the good Issue of Said enterprize, the Inhabitants of Luisiana” (translation, DLC:GW; the Spanish language copy of the extract, which Miralles signed, is also in DLC:GW). For British major general John Campbell’s report of the capture of these British outposts on the Mississippi River, see his letter to George Germain of 15 Dec. 1779, in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution, description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends 17:260–67.

3GW replied on 27 February.

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