Arturo O'Neill

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Arturo O'Neill
Born January 8, 1736
Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Died December 9, 1814
Madrid, Spain
Occupation Spanish military officer
Parents Henry O'Neill & Ana O'Kelly

Don Arturo O'Neill de Tyrone (1736-1814) was an Irish-born Spanish officer who participated in the 1781 Siege of Pensacola under Bernardo de Gálvez and served as territorial governor of the subsequent period of Spanish rule until 1793.

Early life & career[edit]

Born in northern Ireland, O'Neill came to Spain at a young age and became a cadet in the Irlanda Regiment in 1752, under the command of his cousin José Camerford. He was transferred to the Hibernia regiment in 1753 and was promoted from sublieutenant to lieutenant in 1762. Following admirable combat performance during the invasion of Portugal, he was named adjutant major of Hibernia in 1764.

On July 8, 1775, O'Neill was part of a disastrous expedition to quell piracy at Algiers that left some 2,000 Spaniards dead or wounded after a single day's fighting. Bernardo de Gálvez was also among the Spanish forces that day. Unscathed, O'Neill returned to Alicante a week later, and from thence to other stations in Elda, Monovar, Malaga, and Cadiz.

After Spain and Portugal again declared war, O'Neill led an Hibernia infantry company in the capture of Santa Catarina island and helped transport troops to secure the mainland. General Pedro Ceballos named O'Neill governor of the island, where he served until returning to Cadiz in March 1778.

Capture of Pensacola[edit]

Main article: Siege of Pensacola

On June 21, 1779, Spain declared war against Great Britain. King Carlos III desired to topple all British settlements in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, and Louisiana Governor Bernardo de Gálvez led successful campaigns against the British at Fort Bute, Fort New Richmond (Baton Rouge), and Fort Panmure (Natchez). After his capture of Fort Charlotte at Mobile, Gálvez next intended to capture Pensacola and returned to Havana to make preparations.

Both battalions of O'Neill's Hibernia regiment had been dispatched to Havana in April 1780 to attend the garrison there. An invasion force led by Gálvez departed for Pensacola on October 16, 1780, but was scattered by a hurricane. When the fleet regrouped, O'Neill and 319 other men from Hibernia were with it. They departed once more on February 28, 1781, and arrived at Santa Rosa Island on March 9. At nine o'clock that evening O'Neill led a company of grenadiers to secure the battery at Sigüenza Point and discovered it was not operational. For his work, O'Neill was named aide-de-camp to Gálvez and commander of the patrol scouts.


Most of the Spanish fleet left Pensacola on June 1, 1781, and on June 4 Gálvez named O'Neill governor of Spanish West Florida.

Later career[edit]


  • Eric Beerman. "Arturo O'Neill: First Governor of West Florida During the Second Spanish Period." Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, Number 1, July 1981.