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Spain: The Heroes of the American Revolution

Among the European Nations, France and England were undisputedly the major players of the American Revolutionary War. While France provided major support for the fledgling US to turn the tide, the English were the enemies of the rebellious colonists. Nevertheless, one country significantly helped the French and the fledgling United States ward off England. At the time, it provided help financially to purchase weapons and militaristically with complete brigades of grenadiers and riflemen. Persuaded by the French, the Treaty of Aranjuez, and personal gain, Spain fought for the United States; Benjamin Franklin had no key role in talking the Spanish to attack. For many middle school students, Spain is not accepted key ally of the United States, but Spain was a force that should be recognized when learning about the American Revolution.

According to US History Scene, Spain was looking for revenge after the defeat in the Seven Years War (a.k.a the British and Indian War). Not only did Spain struggle in budget due to the prodigal use of cannons and armies in North America and around the world, it also lost crucial territory to Great Britain. Two of the substantial losses were three port cities: Havana, Cuba; Gibraltar, Britain; and Manila, the Philippines. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Spain saw a good opportunity to avenge the loss; however, the Spanish were not too sure; England had a massive naval fleet and armies stationed in forts. Without the French, they believed that the rag-tag rebellion fighting against the superpower, the United Kingdom, was probably not going to last long.

The tables started to switch, however, when Washington motivated his armies to attack by ambush (e.g. Washington Crossing the Delaware). Pretty soon, the Continental Army was putting up good fights all over British territories. In 1778, the French became involved fighting the British; the Spanish soon joined the fray in 1779.

From 1776 to 1778, the Spanish provided the US with money to purchase goods and weapons. This was Spain’s only way of helping the rebels; they could not fight the British because Spain was preoccupied with the Portuguese in the Spanish-Portuguese War, and France was not ready to join. When France finally entered on the side of the colonists, Spain had repelled Portugal and signed a treaty that did not allow Spain’s neighbor to enter the war. Spain finally decided to attack the British in June of 1779.

Spain’s battles against the British were fought all over the globe, from Minorca in the Philippines to Gibraltar off the coast of Spain. A plethora of these face-offs were fought on US soil. While they never fought against the German mercenaries, the Hessians, the Spanish had plenty of confrontations against the English. According to the National Park Service and the History Channel, many British forts in the Mississippi Valley surrendered to the Spanish. Spain’s first victory was the capture of Fort Bute, a small outpost on the Mississippi River, that which then was followed by the fall of the British outpost in Baton Rouge. Others, such as Mobile and Pensacola, were easily stripped from British hands. From March 9 to May 8, 1778, the Spanish and French attacked Pensacola, West Florida. They captured two sloops, forced 1,113 British men to surrender, mowed down 102 Indians and British, and wounded 105 enemy soldiers. From the 2nd to the 14th of March in 1780, 1,300 Spanish regulars and militia attacked Fort Charlotte (near Mobile, Alabama); three British were killed, eight were wounded, and the rest (293) surrendered. In short, all the outposts on the Mississippi Valley fell to the Spanish, and Spain also gained control of West Florida.

In the Midwest, the Spanish assisted George Rogers Clark, the highest ranking officer in the northwest by supplying weapons, ammunition, and provisions. According to Wikipedia, Oliver Pollock, an American merchant, had originally planned to supply the money from Virginia. Despite his plan, Pollock had to supply the money from his personal gain and loans from the Spanish government. These loans were directly sent to Pollock, who then sent the money to Clark using a personal agent. They also fought the Indians and the British in the Battle of Saint Louis in 1780. When the British tried to invade the Spanish territory, the Spanish were able to repel the British away; this was the last time the British tried to occupy a part of the Mississippi River.

Even if Spain did not have an army in Siege of Yorktown, they provided help financially that allowed the Americans to buy more weapons and ammunition. According to Wikipedia, when French General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau requested money for the prepared battle, Spanish agent Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis was able to raise over 500,000 silver pesos from Havana, Cuba (then a Spanish territory) in less than 24 hours.

France was a major player in the American Revolution by fighting alongside the American colonists; however, Spain should also be recognized by learning curriculums as a key force in the American Revolution. They were one of the focal leaders of the colonist’s coup d’état; without the Spanish, the French and the Americans wouldn’t have been able to thin the British Army over a large area of battles. Spain wasn’t the complete answer, but a rather large piece in solving the American Revolution puzzle.



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