Spain Sunday: Spain and America’s War for Independence

The 4th of July has come and gone, and this post is a bit late. But since it’s still July, and you might still have that patriotic fervor, here is a little history that not many Americans know.

Now, we like to think of the Revolutionary war consisting of a gritty, yet well dressed American men valiantly fighting off the British completely on their own. Possibly shouting “and stay out!” as the British turned tail and sailed away.

Thinking this is completely wrong, a country that wasn’t even a country – yet – had allies.

France did a whole lot for the USA during the Revolutionary War. They supplied soldiers, weapons, ships, advisers, and materials to the struggling colonists. Even though it’s not exactly a secret, America often forgets about this.

Britain surrendering to the US and France at Yorktown.

But America seems to have completely forgotten about the help the Spanish gave during the War for Independence. 

To be clear, nobody, neither the French nor the Spanish, gave half a damn about American independence. Both countries initially stayed out because they didn’t want their own colonial subjects getting any funny ideas about revolution.

But both France and Spain had good reasons to want to stick it to the British.

France had recently lost all of it’s North American territory to the British. They then said, “well if we can’t have it, neither can the British.” Meanwhile, The Spanish had recently lost Florida to the British, and were constantly butting heads with them in the Caribbean. They wanted Florida back, and to weaken the British presence in the New World.

Initially, Spain tried to help the American colonists as covertly as possible. They still didn’t want to promote rebellion in their own colonies. They helped by shipping in tons of gunpowder and refusing to hand over American revolutionaries hiding in Spanish territory.  Bilbao – a smallish Spanish town was doing blanket-drives to try to help out freezing colonists. At the time this was the best they could do.

Then for reasons (trade, shipping, just felt like it), the British attacked New Orleans (which was then a Spanish town). They were defeated by a Spanish general named Bernardo de Gálvez.

The Spanish decided to set Gálvez loose on the British. Instead of helping the colonists descreetly they went for it and did it openly. Gálvez attacked Pensacola, and eventually took back most of Florida. The war ended before he could invade Jamaica, the location of a major British naval base. When the war ended, the new American government recognized the significance of Gálvez’s actions. He had prevented the British from invading via the South, and had tied up tons of British ships and soldiers with his battles.


George Washington considered Gálvez’s actions a “deciding factor in the outcome of the Revolutionary War.” Galveston, Texas was eventually named for him, to show America’s appreciation for his actions. And then, in 2014, congress granted Gálvez honorary American Citizenship. He is one of only eight people to ever receive this honor. This puts Gálvez in the same league as Lafayette, Winston Churchill, and Mother Teresa.

From the end of the revolutionary war to the end of the 1800s Spain and the US were mostly friendly. At some point Spain decided to sell Florida to the US, which was nice of them. And even though the two countries competed for resources in the Caribbean, all in all they generally got along just fine.


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