Presidio Santa María de Galve

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The Presidio Santa María de Galve was a Spanish settlement established in 1698 on Pensacola Bay, near the site of the failed Luna expedition almost 140 years earlier. It was the center of the first Spanish period at Pensacola, which lasted until French capture in 1719.


When Spain heard news in 1685 that the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, had established a colony on the Gulf coast, they immediately began planning to place their own settlement on the northern coast. During the Enríquez Barroto-Romero expedition of 1686, one of eleven launched to discover La Salle's colony, the explorers entered Pensacola Bay, which ensign Juan Jordán de Reina described as "the best bay that I have ever seen in my life."

When reports reached the Conde de Galve, viceroy of New Spain, he recommended that the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine be abandoned and its garrison transferred to this bay known by the natives as "Panzacola." King Charles II did not close St. Augustine, but ordered a scientific expedition to examine the Panzacola site, which was led by Captain Andrés de Pez and Dr. Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora in 1693. Sigüenza renamed the bay "Bahía Santa María de Galve," after Saint Mary and the viceroy himself. Sigüenza's detailed map and report, which strongly recommended the occupation of the bay, reached the viceroy in May 1693. A second expedition by Laureano de Torres y Ayala, governor-elect of St. Augustine, explored Pensacola Bay (which Torres called "La Gran Baya de Panzocola") and reached similar conclusions.

A Spanish royal cédula was issued on June 13, 1694, ordering the immediate occupation of the Bahía Santa María de Galve. However, the ongoing war with France and lack of funding delayed the colony. When war ended in 1697, Spain again became worried that the French would claim their prized bay. Another cédula was issued on April 19, 1698, affirming the priority of a colony at Panzacola.


Juan Jordán de Reina, then a captain in Spain, was ordered to Havana to procure an armed vessel and men with which to secure the bay until reinforcements could arrive from New Spain. The Conde de Galve appointed Andrés de Arriola governor of the expedition and Francisco Martínez sergeant major. They were given orders to attack and drive out any French forces they might find already at Panzacola, if it was deemed possible. Three ships carrying 357 men and necessary provisions left Vera Cruz on October 15, 1698.

De Reina arrived in the bay on November 17, with no sign of French forces. Arriola's ships arrived soon thereafter, on November 21.

Austrian engineer, Captain Jaime Franck, immediately began planning for the construction of a fort on the red bluffs facing Pensacola Pass that they called the Barranca de Santo Tomé. (This was likely the site where Tristán de Luna had landed in 1559 and would become the site of many later forts, including the extant Fort Barrancas.) Franck named the structure San Carlos de Austria, in honor of Charles VI, 13-year-old Habsburg cousin to King Charles II and claimant to the Spanish throne.


Capture by France[edit]

The Spanish presidio at Pensacola was captured by France in May 1719, during the War of the Quadruple Alliance. However, when a French ship under a flag of truce arrived in Havana with prisoners of war, including Governor Juan Pedro de Matamoros de Isla, it was captured by the Spanish fleet there, who returned the prisoners to Santa María de Galve and in turn captured the French garrison under Antoine Le Moyne, Sieur de Châteaugué.

Another French squadron, led by Admiral Desnos de Champmeslin, arrived at Mobile on September 1, 1719. An attack was made on the Pensacola presidio in the morning of September 17, and the Spanish again surrendered. Fort San Carlos de Austria was destroyed, and the bay remained under French rule for the next three years.


  • Judith Ann Bense, editor, and William S. Coker. Archaeology of Colonial Pensacola. University Press of Florida, 1999.

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