Santa Barbara - An American Revolutionary War Historical-Memorial Site

Spain Declares War on England

Spain officially declared war on England and therefore the British colonies in June 1779.  However, It had been unofficially helping the colonial patriots in their fight for independence in a variety of ways since 1777, the most important being the supply of weapons, uniforms, gun powder, and other war materials as well as providing some monetary support.  
Intermittent shipments of supplies were smuggled to the colonists from New Orleans and Havana as well as from Spain.  Indeed, many of the uniforms that one sees General Washington and his staff wearing were Spanish officers' uniforms shipped up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis and then eastward to the patriot armies.

Bernardo de Galvez

With the official outbreak of hostilities, Spain joined with France in providing troops to assist General Washington's and other generals' small patriot  armies.  Spanish forces under the command of Colonel (later General) Bernardo de Galvez y Madrid, the governor of Spanish Louisiana, opened a "second front" against the British colonies of West and East Florida and the Bahamas, which led to Spanish victories and control of these areas.  

Important battles against British

De Galvez, was the most important military leader in the Spanish part of the actual fighting during the revolution.  He won important battles against British and loyalist soldiers from 1779-1792 at Baton Rouge, Mobile, and Pensecola. Florida, and in doing so diverted British and mercenary German soldiers away from fighting against the Americans in the 13 colonies.  The Spanish navy also played an important role in diluting the presence of the English navy in the northern and middle colonies, because of the Spaniards' activities and threats  to the British colonies  in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.


The Royal Presidio at Santa Barbara

During this period of time, important officials in Spain and modern day Mexico accelerated the northern thrust of Spanish settlements, and established military bases to protect these new settlements. An example of such forts is the Royal Presidio in Santa Barbara (founded in 1782) which, among other reasons was constructed because of the threat of English privateers or piratic attacks.  In addition to being charged with the protection of these new settlements from attacks from British ships plying the waters of California, garrison soldiers - soldados, as well as citizens of the new settlements were taxed by King Carlos to support the cause of the American Revolution. 

     The pictures on this page were taken at the dedication of the Royal Presidio at Santa Barbara as a Revolutionary War Memorial site by the Sons of the American Revolution in 2007. A more complete accounting of the Spanish Contribution to the American Revolution may be found here, and was been written for this site by our esteemed compatriot, and retired Professor of History at Santa Barbara City College, Dr. George Frakes