Bernardo de Gálvez

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Bernardo de Gálvez
Bernardo de Galvez.jpg
Born July 23, 1746
Málaga, Spain
Died November 30, 1786
Mexico City
Occupation Spanish general
Spouse Marie Felice de Saint-Maxent Estrehan
Children Miguel, Matilde and Guadalupe

Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez (Spanish: Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, vizconde de Gálveztown y conde de Gálvez) was a Spanish military leader and the general of Spanish forces in New Spain. He also served as governor of Louisiana and Cuba. He is commemorated in Pensacola history for his successful capture of the city in 1781's Battle of Pensacola.

Gálvez aided the Thirteen Colonies in their quest for independence and led the Spanish armies against Britain in the Revolutionary War, defeating the British at Pensacola and reconquering Florida for Spain.

Early life[edit]

Gálvez was born in Macharaviaya, a mountain village in the province of Málaga, Spain, on July 23, 1746. He studied military sciences at the Academia de Ávila and at the age of 16 participated in the Spanish invasion of Portugal, where he was promoted to lieutenant. He arrived in New Spain, then Mexico, in 1762. As a captain, he fought the Apache Indians, with his Opata Indian allies. He received many wounds, several of them serious. In 1770, he was promoted to commandant of arms of Nueva Vizcaya y Sonora, northern provinces of New Spain.

In 1772, he returned to Spain in the company of his uncle, José de Gálvez. Later, he was sent to Pau, France with the Cantabria regiment. There, he learned to speak French, which served him well when he became governor of Louisiana. He was transferred to Seville, Spain in 1775, and then participated in the failed expedition of Alejandro O'Reilly to Algiers. Gálvez himself was seriously wounded. After capturing the fortress that guarded the city, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He then became a professor at the military academy of Ávila.

Governance of Louisiana[edit]

In 1777, he was sent to Louisiana, as a colonel and interim governor of the province. This was the large territory that later became the Louisiana Purchase. It had been ceded by France to Spain, in 1763, in compensation for the loss of Florida to England. In 1779, he was promoted to brigadier.

He practiced an anti-British policy as governor, taking measures against British smuggling and promoting trade with France. He also established free trade with Cuba and Yucatán. He founded Galvez Town in 1778, and promoted colonization of Nueva Iberia.

Revolutionary War[edit]

Gálvez was sent to Florida by Martín de Mayorga, the Viceroy of New Spain, to lead an expedition of colonial troops to aid American colonists in their rebellion against Britain. Spain's motive was the chance to recover territories lost to the British, particularly Florida, and to remove the on-going British threat. On June 21, 1779, Spain declared war on England.

On June 25, a confidential letter was sent from London to General John Campbell, the British general at Pensacola, in which King George III and Lord George Germain instructed Campbell to organize an attack upon New Orleans. This letter was intercepted by Gálvez, allowing him to make preparations, and his forces defeated the British at Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez. In 1780, Gálvez recaptured Mobile from the British at the Battle of Fort Charlotte.

On March 9, 1781, Gálvez began an amphibious siege on Pensacola. The siege culminated on May 8, when Spanish artillery fire caused the British powder magazine to explode. Spanish forces overran the remaining British contingent at Fort George and took Pensacola.

The loss of Mobile and Pensacola left the British with no bases in the Gulf of Mexico, except for Jamaica. In 1782, he captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas.

Later life[edit]

He spent the last two years of his life as viceroy of New Spain, succeeding his father Matías de Gálvez y Gallardo, who had been viceroy before him.

He took ill and died at Mexico City on November 30, 1786.

Personal life[edit]

In 1777, he married Marie Felice de Saint-Maxent Estrehan, a young Criolla widow. They had three children, Miguel, Matilde and Guadalupe.


Bust of Galvez at Fort George

In Pensacola, Gálvez is honored with a bust at the site of Fort George.

Elsewhere, Galveston, Texas and several other places are named for him.