ST. EUSTATIUS. Taken by the Dutch in 1632, this island of about nine square miles in size, located eight miles northwest of St. Kitts, became one of the leading centers of West Indies trade in the eighteenth century. It came to be called the "Golden Rock" as Dutch merchants took advantage of its neutral status to make money selling to all sides during wartime. At the beginning of the Revolution it was a center of contraband trade between Europe and America, with even British merchants being involved. On 16 November 1776, Governor Johannes de Graaf ordered Fort Oranje to fire what is regarded as the first official salute of the American flag as the Continental navy ship Andrew Doria entered the harbor. De Graaf was recalled as a result of British diplomatic pressure, but although guilty of encouraging trade with the rebels, he was exonerated and sent back to his post. When Admiral George Rodney learned that Britain had declared war on the Netherlands, he moved almost immediately against the Dutch island. He and General John Vaughan took the Dutch, who were still unaware of the declaration of war, by surprise, capturing St. Eustatius on 3 February 1781. However, because Rodney was busy plundering St. Eustatius, he failed to intercept De Grasse's fleet on its way to the Chesapeake, where it helped trap Cornwallis's army. The French captured first Rodney's prize fleet and then St. Eustatius on 26 November 1781.
SEE ALSO Rodney, George Bridges.
revised by Michael Bellesiles