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Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola, Florida

PENSACOLA, FLORIDA. 9 May 1781. Captured by the Spanish. The unhealthful British outpost and seat of the British government of West Florida was threatened by Louisiana Governor Bernardo de Gálvez in March 1780, when Mobile was captured. Pensacola's strong defenses convinced Gálvez that he needed a larger force for the attack, and he went to Havana to organize the expedition. However, a hurricane scattered his fleet in October, and it was not until the following February that he was able to sail for Florida. Meanwhile, Governor Sir John Dalling of Jamaica, who was responsible for Pensacola, wanted to reinforce that base with a regiment of American Loyalists but was unable to get the necessary naval escort.

The British garrison at Pensacola was commanded by General John Campbell and counted nine hundred regulars, primarily of the Sixteenth Foot and Sixtieth Regiments, the latter composed largely of Germans, and two battalions of provincial infantry from Maryland and Pennsylvania. The fortifications bristled with cannon. When the Spanish naval commanders saw these cannon in early March, they refused to enter the bay. Not so easily intimidated, Gálvez took command of the brig Galveztown and led his colonial troops aboard a flotilla of smaller craft to land near the British fort. Shamed, the rest of the Spanish navy followed, landing several thousand troops. A rather leisurely siege ensued. It was not until the end of April that the Spanish began firing in earnest upon the British positions. On 8 May one of their shells landed on the fort's principal magazine, setting off an explosion that killed or wounded nearly one hundred of Campbell's men and demolished one of redoubts in the process. The Spanish attacked and were being beaten off by the British the first time. But the Spanish then seized part of the fort's walls and set up cannon with which they could fire down into the garrison. Campbell capitulated the next day. West Florida was now in Spanish hands. Gálvez was rewarded with promotion to lieutenant general and ennobled by Carlos III.

SEE ALSO Jamaica (West Indies); Mobile.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles

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