Unappreciated Allies: Choctaws, Creeks, and the Defense of British West Florida, 1781

The War Years (1775-1783)

May 16, 2017
by Jim Piecuch Also by this Author


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Two months after Spain entered the American Revolutionary War on June 21, 1779, the governor of Spanish Louisiana, Don Bernardo de Galvez, launched an invasion of the British province of West Florida on August 27. The defenders, consisting of two British infantry regiments, a detachment of the Royal Artillery, two understrength provincial battalions, a regiment of hired German troops from Waldeck, and local loyalists, were heavily outnumbered by Galvez’s forces. The disparity in numbers increased as Galvez quickly overwhelmed several British posts along the Mississippi River and captured their garrisons.[1] In these circumstances, the British commander in West Florida, General John Campbell, was forced to rely upon the assistance of Britain’s Indian allies, the Choctaws and Creeks in particular, to defend the province. Although Campbell badly bungled relations with both Indian nations, the Choctaws and Creeks contributed greatly to the defense of West Florida until the Spanish capture of Pensacola in May 1781. Unfortunately for the Indians, Campbell failed to acknowledge the full extent and effectiveness of their support. While neither a larger number of Indians nor a more capable deployment of them could likely have prevented the loss of West Florida to Spain, given Campbell’s mediocre leadership and the lack of assistance to his garrison from British naval and land forces in the West Indies theater, the Choctaws and Creeks delayed the progress of the Spanish siege of Pensacola and inflicted considerable casualties on the attackers. The information provided in Spanish accounts and from British sources other than Campbell’s biased reports testifies to the Indians’ valuable support during operations in 1781.

Campbell had been assigned to command the British forces of West Florida in the fall of 1778. During his long service, he should have acquired an understanding of Indian culture and military practices that might have enabled him to interact more appropriately with the Native allies whose cooperation he needed to succeed in his new assignment. From 1764 to 1766 he had commanded Fort Detroit in the wake of Pontiac’s Rebellion, and had received orders to negotiate a peace agreement with Pontiac. The extent and nature of his dealings with Pontiac and the Indians of the Great Lakes region remain unknown; however, based on the policies he adopted in dealing with the Natives during his time in West Florida, it would be reasonable to say that his interactions with the northern Indians were not positive. Campbell was the lieutenant colonel of the 57th Regiment of Foot, which joined General Howe’s army in New York after participating in the abortive southern expedition in early 1776. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1777 and took command of a brigade that was part of the British garrison of New York City.[2]

When Campbell arrived in Pensacola early in February 1779, he found affairs in the Indian department in disarray. John Stuart, superintendent of Indian affairs for the region south of the Ohio River, was, Campbell reported, “in the last stage of consumption,” and Stuart died the following month. Campbell worried that Stuart’s death would cause “great confusion” in Indian affairs.[3] While waiting for the government in London to appoint a replacement for Stuart, Governor Peter Chester, in consultation with Campbell, decided to appoint a five-member commission to manage Indian relations. Lord George Germain, Secretary of State for the American Department, subsequently decided to divide responsibilities for the southern region between Alexander Cameron, Stuart’s deputy at Pensacola, and provincial lieutenant colonel Thomas Brown, who commanded the garrison at Augusta, Georgia. Cameron was to manage the Choctaws and Chickasaws, and Brown the Creeks and Cherokees. Both men were made subordinate to the British military command.[4] This new arrangement created a cumbersome situation for West Florida, in that Cameron now lacked authority to deal directly with the Creeks, who were considered crucial to the province’s defense.

Further complicating the employment of Indians to protect West Florida were Spanish efforts to win the support of the Choctaws. One faction among the Choctaws had long been partial toward Spain, and Galvez hoped to capitalize on this by sending agents among the Choctaws in November to distribute coats, medals, and other gifts. Cameron responded by lavishing gifts of his own upon the Choctaws, and by October 31, 1780, he was able to report to Germain that “the Choctaw partisans, whom Governor Galveze gained over to the Spanish interest by virtue of great bribes and fear together, have entirely deserted him, came down to Pensacola, and delivered up their Spanish medals, commissions, and colours to me.” He added that he believed the Choctaws’ pledges of loyalty to Britain “to be genuine.”[5]

As proof of the Choctaws’ allegiance, Cameron noted that “small parties” of their warriors had been hovering near Mobile, which the Spanish had captured in March, “and not a Spaniard can venture out of sight of the fort but they knock him up and carry off his scalp. … The Spaniards are in the greatest distress being cooped up by the Indians, and it’s my own opinion as well as that of many others, that if the Indians were encouraged and proper white leaders who could speak their language kept in pay with them, that they would have routed the Spaniards from Mobile in a short space.”[6]

The chief obstacle to employing the Indians effectively, Cameron complained, was Campbell. The general refused to provide either provisions or presents to the Indians who came to Pensacola, insisting instead that Cameron pay such expenses from Indian Department funds. Cameron declared that Campbell “does not understand anything of Indians or their affairs he thinks they are to be used like slaves or a people void of natural sense. He will not be prevailed upon that presents are necessary, or that Indians have a right to demand any unless he calls them upon actual service.”[7] This lack of harmony between the Indian superintendent and the general commanding in the province did not bode well for future cooperation between the two men, or between the Indians and the military garrison at Pensacola.

Campbell had already made his own views clear on the only method he saw as suitable for converting the Indians into effective allies. After complaining to Germain about the “extravagance and unbounded waste” that in his opinion plagued the Indian Department, Campbell had offered his version of a plan that Americans had been attempting to impose on the Indians since shortly after the founding of New England in the seventeenth century. Campbell’s plan had five points, the first of which reflected his opinion of the Crown’s Native allies in its key phrase, “civilizing these barbarians.” The general then went on to urge that the Indians be taught European concepts of property ownership, forced to settle along navigable waterways, and compelled to live in European-style towns. He also urged intermarriage between Indians and white settlers to speed up the civilization process.[8] Such plans had never received a warm reception among the Natives anywhere in North America, and had the Choctaws and Creeks learned of Campbell’s real opinions, the British-Indian alliance might have been damaged beyond repair.

Not everyone in Pensacola shared Campbell’s view. Philipp Waldeck, a chaplain in the Waldeck regiment assigned to the town’s garrison, recorded his observations on the parties of Choctaws and Creeks that visited Pensacola. He described the Creeks as “most wonderfully developed, large and strong,” and the Choctaws as “braver in war” than the Creeks but physically less impressive. “What a wonderful regiment could be made of them,” Waldeck marveled. “But would they accept discipline? Discipline is something about which they know nothing. Even the chief does not control them.” He also recognized the need to be generous with the Indians, as in his opinion the failure to do so might cause them “to take up arms against us.”[9]

Another individual who recognized the Indians’ value to the defense of West Florida was Campbell’s adversary, Bernardo de Galvez. On April 9, 1780, Galvez had tried to deprive the British of their Native allies with a proposal that neither side employ Indians in future campaigns. “The Indians who are in the English Interest believe that it is their Duty to Pillage and destroy all the Inhabitants which are of another Nation,” the Spaniard wrote in a letter to Campbell. “Those who have taken part with Spain, think that by right of retaliation they may commit like hostilities against the English. … In order that a War … might not be rendered still more bloody I hope your excellency will join me in a reciprocal agreement which may shelter us from the horrid imputation of inhumanity,” Galvez proposed. Despite his dislike of Indians, Campbell recognized that Galvez was trying to manipulate the situation to Spain’s advantage. The British general replied with a denunciation of the proposal as “insulting and injurious to reason and common sense,” and went so far as to admit, albeit in all likelihood grudgingly, that it was the Indians’ presence that had thus far prevented Galvez from undertaking an attack on Pensacola.[10]

Nevertheless, Campbell’s relations with the Choctaws remained strained. When a Choctaw party arrived in Pensacola on August 26 and reported that they had met with Galvez and “received presents … but were dissatisfied with them,” Campbell concluded that the Choctaws intended to auction their support to the highest bidder. He therefore refused to give them presents, whereupon they apologized. To prove their allegiance to the British, the Choctaws then proceeded toward Mobile, and en route encountered a Spanish truce party and killed and scalped three soldiers. Returning to Pensacola with their trophies, they “received no reward, and for their cruelty … were treated with contempt.”[11] When Campbell later received a letter from Galvez protesting the incident, Campbell reprimanded the Choctaw leader Mingo Pouscouche. Angered, the chief replied that in the future he and his followers would kill any Spaniard they encountered, and the Choctaws departed. In the autumn they attacked the Spanish near Mobile, and arrived in Pensacola with three scalps and a captured family. Apparently aware that he could not risk further alienating the Choctaws, Campbell did not reproach them and gave them presents to obtain the family’s release.[12]

As it became increasingly apparent that Galvez was planning a major operation against Pensacola, Campbell became skittish and began demanding that the Creeks and Choctaws come to the aid of the Pensacola garrison. In mid-November 1780 Campbell urgently requested that Thomas Brown dispatch the Creeks and Cameron the Choctaws to defend the town against the expected attack. The Indians “have it still in their power, by frequent attacks & constant alarms, in short by continually harassing & hanging on the enemy’s rear, in case of siege, greatly to impede the operations, if not totally defeat & disconcert the designs of any force they can send against us,” Campbell told Brown. The imminent threat had clearly caused Campbell to reassess the Indians’ value.[13] However, when a hurricane dispersed the Spanish invasion fleet, Campbell ordered the agents to send the Indians home. Rumors of another impending Spanish attack led Campbell to call for Creek aid a second time in January 1781, only to again order the one thousand warriors who had assembled to return home when he learned that British officials had promised to send reinforcements from Jamaica. The repeated calls for help and sudden dismissals angered the Creeks, whose hunting had been disrupted by Campbell’s summons.[14]

Campbell decided to disrupt Galvez’s plans by recapturing Mobile. In January 1781 he dispatched a force of 160 British and German regulars, 200 provincials, and over 400 Choctaws to attack the town. The attack was made on the morning of June 7, and broke the Spanish line, but the Waldeck officer commanding the force was killed and the provincial officer who succeeded to command called off the assault. In the confusion, no one signaled the Indians to join the attack. However, two of Cameron’s deputies who accompanied the Choctaws directed the Indians to open fire from their concealed positions, allowing the regulars and provincials to withdraw without molestation. The Indians’ fire was so effective that some of the Spanish defenders fled and tried to escape by boat; the Choctaws pursued and cut them down, taking between forty and fifty scalps. Although Choctaw leaders urged the regulars and provincials to renew the attack, the officers refused and instead ordered a retreat to Pensacola. Cameron praised the “great resolution and coolness” that the Choctaws displayed, yet some British officers later blamed the Indians for the failure of the assault, despite the complete lack of evidence to support such an accusation.[15]

If Campbell shared this opinion of the Choctaws’ culpability for the failure of his plan, he kept it to himself. He did appear to have altered his opinion of the Indians’ importance from what he had previously expressed to Thomas Brown, if he had been truthful in that letter; Cameron wrote that “General Campbell will give himself no trouble in humouring or cultivating [the Indians’] friendship and I have it not in my power to use them as I am sensible they deserve.” The Indian agent noted that some of the “principal gentlemen” of Pensacola had offered “to pay all the expense” of supporting the Indians properly, but added that he “could not with propriety accept of their offer while General Campbell was here and I was to be regulated alone by him.”[16]

In early March the long-awaited Spanish attack on Pensacola began when Galvez appeared offshore with a powerful fleet and four thousand troops; he would later be reinforced by an additional three thousand Spanish and French soldiers. Against this army Campbell could muster some fifteen hundred British, German, and provincial troops along with some armed blacks, loyalist militia, and the crews of a few Royal Navy warships.[17] In addition, there were some four hundred Choctaws and about forty Creeks in Pensacola when Galvez arrived. A further eighty Creeks, led by Alexander McGillivray, joined the defenders during the second week of April, and 54 Chickasaws reached the town on April 27.[18]

Campbell was prompt to criticize the Indians for perceived failures. He remarked in a report to Germain that Spanish troops from Mobile had joined Galvez outside Pensacola on March 22, stating that the Spaniards had “marched by land unopposed by the Indians (although they had been stationed at the Cliffs expressly for that purpose and reinforced by near one hundred troops from Fort George to support and encourage them).” The British general failed to impart any blame to his own troops, even if they were equally culpable for allowing the Spanish force to pass unopposed. The next Indian activity reported by Campbell took place on the evening of March 28, when he described a skirmish between the Indians and Spanish that ended “without any advantage, only that of the savages showing themselves.” On March 30, he wrote, the Indians fought “without the savages intending it, themselves led on by the countenance of some troops … without making any perceptible impression” on the enemy. Finally, he stated that a planned attack on the Spanish during the night of May 2 miscarried because “the regulars and Indians having separated and lost one another on their march,” he was forced to cancel the assault. Again, the implication was that the Indians required the presence and example of regular troops to fight, even though the regulars shared the responsibility for the two forces becoming separated.[19]

Other sources provide a very different account of the Indians’ contributions to the British defense. Robert Farmar, a former British army officer turned planter who had been driven from Mobile when the Spanish captured that town, was in Pensacola during the siege and recorded important events in his journal. He wrote that on March 19, “a party of Indians … fell in with an enemy boat & crew consisting of eleven men ten of which were killed and one brought in prisoner.”[20] Galvez recorded in his diary of the siege that on March 22, one column of his troops had repeatedly halted “with the object of waiting for a band of Indians that had harassed the rearguard with continual sniping. These followers, [though] pursued by our cazadores, remained very active.” That evening, Galvez continued, “some Indians came to fire on the troops that were around the [camp] fires, killing three and wounding four of our soldiers, not leaving us at peace until morning.”[21]

These attacks were only the beginning of the Indians’ harassment of the besiegers. On March 25, the Indians brought into Pensacola twenty-three horses they had captured from the Spaniards and two Spanish scalps. Two days later, they repelled an attempted landing by five boats carrying Spanish troops, while on March 29 Indians battled with the Spanish near the shore of Sutton’s Lagoon “and drove in the picket three times upon which their grenadiers turned out and fired twice at them and retired. 4 of the Indians were wounded. … The Indians report that they killed and wounded a number of the enemy.”[22] The next day a larger battle occurred. In the morning a detachment of regular troops sallied over a mile from Pensacola’s fortifications, and when joined in the afternoon by the Indians they attacked Galvez’s soldiers. Despite being forced to retreat due to heavy Spanish fire, the Indians returned with four captured drums, the head of a Spaniard, and several scalps. One Indian was killed and two wounded. According to Galvez, the Indians initiated the action, were driven off by artillery fire, and then shifted position and resumed firing on the Spanish soldiers. Only then did the British troops join the fight. Galvez reported that the engagement lasted four hours and cost him three killed and twenty-eight wounded.[23]

Galvez further recounted that on April 3 his men began building entrenchments that were “necessary for all camps because of the Indians.” He also noted that a skirmish between his advance guard and a party of Indians took place that morning. On April 5 the Spanish commander reported that during the night “the Indians have fired on the camp wounding two in their tents and disturbing the whole army.”[24] Farmar confirmed the account, noting that “the Indians at night attacked both wings of the enemy’s camp & kept them under arms the whole night.” Farmar recorded another skirmish between the Indians and the besiegers on April 12, after which the Indians “brought in a couple of Spanish muskets.”[25]

While Campbell generally kept his troops within the defensive works, the Indians continued to shoulder the burden of delaying the Spanish siege operations. Some Creeks captured a Spanish boat on April 17, killing three members of the crew and capturing a fourth. A more significant engagement was fought two days later; Farmar observed that “a party of Indians went and laid close to the enemys camp and this morning they had a skirmish with the Spaniards. The Indians brought in with them a scalp. One of the Indians got wounded.”[26] The Indians inflicted additional casualties as well: Spanish officer Francisco de Miranda reported that Galvez had been “slightly wounded in one finger … and in the abdomen by a musket shot by savages.” Another Indian marksman killed Col. Rey Rebollo.[27]

When the French and Spanish reinforcements disembarked on April 23, they immediately set to work, in accordance with Galvez’s orders, to build fortifications around their camp. It was “indispensable that the site be “immediately protected by bulwarks,” Miranda explained, because the camp was situated “in the midst of woods and surrounded by savages who hid in the forest and insulted us at all hours.”[28] Galvez noted the next day that the Indians continued to fire on his men, requiring him to send out “four detachments to drive them off.” The troops “killed some Indians,” but had one officer and nine enlisted men wounded. Miranda stated that some parties of regular troops had been operating with the Indians. On April 25 Galvez recorded yet another engagement with the Indians, during which six Spaniards were wounded. Miranda reported a further skirmish with the British and Indians on April 26 in which Spanish artillery drove off the attackers.[29]

On April 27 Farmar noted the arrival of the Chickasaw reinforcements in Pensacola, observing that they brought with them “a great number of scalps, firelocks, and bayonets” taken from the besieging Spaniards. He also noted that other Indians had fired on the rear of a Spanish field artillery battery.[30] Further fighting took place on April 30. “Some parties of savages came through the nearby woods toward our camp and … they fired on our advanced positions,” wrote Miranda. The Spaniards “answered them immediately with field pieces and rifles, and they retreated after having mortally wounded a soldier in our camp.” The Indians then moved to the shore of the bay and surprised a group of Spanish sailors, killing or capturing six.[31] Farmar reported that the Indians brought one prisoner into Pensacola who had been captured “close to the enemy work,” making it likely that this was a different individual and that all the sailors had been killed.[32] The Indians made another sortie against Galvez’s army on May 7, and returned with ten scalps in the attack that Campbell claimed to have canceled. Miranda confirmed the Indians’ attack, asserting that Spanish casualties were one dead, one wounded, and another captured, while two Indians were killed and four wounded. Galvez likewise recorded that an engagement had taken place, and listed his casualties as two men of the New Orleans militia killed and scalped and three wounded, and an officer and four men wounded in a regular regiment. He stated that the total number of Spanish troops wounded in the skirmish with the Indians was sixteen.[33]

The next day, a Spanish shell struck the magazine of Fort George and destroyed that position, forcing Campbell to open surrender negotiations. The final terms of the capitulation were signed on May 10. Galvez reported taking 1700 prisoners from the British army and navy. The Indians, he wrote, looted the warehouses and other places where supplies were stored in Pensacola before leaving the town; they did not stay to be taken prisoner. Spanish casualties, according to Galvez, totaled 8 officers and 111 enlisted men killed, and 15 officers and 116 enlisted men wounded.[34] While many of these men were the victims of British artillery fire and a smaller number were lost in skirmishes with troops from the Pensacola garrison, a significant percentage, and doubtless a majority of those not killed in the artillery exchanges, were suffered at the hands of the Choctaws, Creeks, and Chickasaws. Indian losses, on the other hand, were comparatively light. Miranda remarked with frustration that “our people brought a dead savage whom they found on the battlefield with a shot in the head, and he has been the only one dead or alive that we have been able to take during the siege.”[35]

Despite all of their efforts, the Indians received no credit from Campbell. In his official report to Germain on May 12, the British general praised the conduct of his officers and men but said not a word about the Indians.[36] Alexander Cameron naturally was of a different opinion; he informed Germain that the Indians had “behaved with great spirit and attachment; and had we but as many more of them, particularly on the 30th March, we would have driven the whole Spanish army into the sea. No men could behave better than they did that day.” Cameron added that the Choctaws’ leader, Franchimastabe, “seemed in a passion for not being supported with some of the [regular] troops.” In a jibe at Campbell, who had alienated the Creeks by repeatedly summoning them to Pensacola and then ordering them to return home, Cameron declared that “had my advice been regarded by General Campbell … instead of having 500, I should have had 2000 Indians to oppose the Spanish at the siege of Pensacola.”[37] It is possible that Cameron exaggerated both in terms of the number of Indians he could bring into action and in their capability to defeat the Spaniards, yet he did not understate the Indians’ contribution to Pensacola’s defense. While the garrison fought artillery duels with Galvez’s gunners and made only a few sorties, the Indians harassed the Spanish throughout the siege, forced them to expend time and labor entrenching their camps, and inflicted a significant number of casualties. In repeatedly engaging a far superior and better armed enemy and doing so with great effectiveness, the Indians’ role in the two-month campaign was important and deserving of recognition. If Campbell refused to commend the Indians’ efforts, the accounts of their Spanish opponents provide ample testimony to the Natives’ military skill.


[1] George C. Osborn, “Major-General John Campbell in British West Florida,” Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 4 (April 1949), 319, 325, 326.

[2] Osborn, “Major-General John Campbell,” 317; Virginia Parks, “Scotsman in Retreat: Major General John Campbell,” in Virginia Parks, ed., Siege! Spain and Britain: Battle of Pensacola, March 9-May 8, 1781 (Pensacola, FL: Pensacola Historical Society, 1981), 33-34.

[3] John Campbell to Sir Henry Clinton, February 10, 1779, in K. G. Davies, ed., Documents of the American Revolution, 1770-1783 (Colonial Office Series), Vol. 17 (Dublin: Irish University Press,1977), 62.

[4] Lord George Germain to Clinton, June 25, 1779, Lord George Germain Papers, Vol. 9, William L. Clements Library, Ann Arbor, MI; Osborn, “Major-General John Campbell,” 322.

[5] Thomas Brown to Germain, March 10, 1780, and Alexander Cameron to Germain, Oct. 31, 1780, in Davies, Documents, Vol. 18 (1978), 55, 219.

[6] Cameron to Germain, October 31, 1780, in Davies, Documents, 18:219-220.

[7] Cameron to Germain, October 31, 1780, in ibid., 220, 221-222.

[8] Osborn, “Major-General John Campbell,” 334.

[9] Philipp Waldeck, Eighteenth Century America: A Hessian Report on the People, the Land, the War as Noted in the Diary of Chaplain Philipp Waldeck (1776-1780), Bruce E. Burgoyne, trans. (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1995), 129, 134, 154-156.

[10] Bernardo de Galvez to John Campbell, April 9, 1780, and Campbell to Galvez, April 20, 1780, Sir Guy Carleton Papers, Vol. 22, Nos. 2681 and 2692, microfilm, David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, PA.

[11] Waldeck, Eighteenth Century America, 168.

[12] Waldeck, Eighteenth Century America, 169-171; Greg O’Brien, Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age, 1750-1830 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), 45-46.

[13] Campbell to Brown, November 15, 1780, Carleton Papers, 26:3149.

[14] J. Barton Starr, Tories, Dons, and Rebels: The American Revolution in British West Florida (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1996), 178-179; James H. O’Donnell III, Southern Indians in the American Revolution (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1973), 105.

[15] Albert W. Haarmann, “The Spanish Conquest of British West Florida, 1779-1781,” Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 2 (October 1960), 120-121; Starr, 183; O’Donnell, Southern Indians, 112; Cameron to Germain, February 10, 1781, in Davies, Documents, Vol. 20 (1979), 59.

[16] Cameron to Germain, February 10, 1781, in Davies, Documents, 20:59.

[17] O’Donnell, Southern Indians, 113; O’Brien, Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age, 10; Francisco de Miranda, “Miranda’s Diary of the Siege of Pensacola,” Donald E. Worcester, trans., Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jan. 1951), 176.

[18] Michael D. Green, “The Creek Confederacy in the American Revolution: Cautious Participants,” in William S. Coker and Robert R. Rea, eds., Anglo-Spanish Confrontation on the Gulf Coast during the American Revolution (Pensacola, FL: Gulf Coast History and Humanities Conference, 1982), 71; Robert Farmar, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Siege of Pensacola in 1781 (As Related in Robert Farmar’s Journal),” James A. Padgett, ed., Louisiana Historical Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 2 (April 1943),

[19] Campbell to Germain, May 7, 1781, in Davies, Documents, 22:136-138.

[20] Farmar, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Siege of Pensacola,” 316.

[21] Bernardo de Galvez, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Combat Diary for the Battle of Pensacola, 1781,” Maury Baker and Margaret Bissler Haas, eds., Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 2 (Oct. 1977), 181.

[22] Farmar, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Siege of Pensacola,” 317-318.

[23] Ibid., 318; Galvez, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Combat Diary,” 182-183.

[24] Galvez, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Combat Diary,” 184-185.

[25] Farmar, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Siege of Pensacola,” 319-320.

[26] Ibid, 320, 321.

[27] Miranda, “Miranda’s Diary,” 174, 193-194. Galvez in his diary (187) wrote that he had been wounded on April 16, but neither Miranda nor Farmar reported any significant occurrences that day.

[28] Ibid, 177.

[29] Galvez, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Combat Diary,” 189, 190; Miranda, “Miranda’s Diary,” 177, 180.

[30] Farmar, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Siege of Pensacola,” 323.

[31] Miranda, “Miranda’s Diary,” 183-184.

[32] Farmar, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Siege of Pensacola,” 323-324.

[33] Ibid,. 326; Miranda, “Miranda’s Diary,” 190; Galvez, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Combat Diary,” 193, 196-197.

[34] Galvez, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Combat Diary,” 194-195; Farmar, “Bernardo de Galvez’s Siege of Pensacola,” 326-327; Miranda, “Miranda’s Diary,” 194.

[35] Miranda, “Miranda’s Diary,” 194.

[36] See Campbell to Germain, May 12, 1781, in Davies, Documents, 22:138-142.

[37] Cameron to Germain, May 27, 1781, in Davies, Documents, 22:150.


  • It is more than general ungraciousness towards the Indigenous that underlined the British failure to defend Pensacola; the Spanish advance -apart from being well coordinated- disclosed a philosophical difference between each power’s ability to reconnoiter and appreciate the war’s surroundings in order to gain advantage.

    A small example: that letter from Gálvez to Campbell was not a ruse nor manipulation. Bernardo (and his uncle José, the Minister of Indies) had genuine concerns about the involvement of the Indigenous in this war- it was a matter between European powers, not confederacies; alliances had already been established since 1776 with the Uchiz, Talapuz and Lower Creek bands anywhow as they were regular neighbors in East Florida and traveled habitually to Habana for trade. Spain could have used that advantage but instead stuck to their policy of reducing Indian assistance to non-involvement and have that spread about (another reason Spain marched easily over Mobile, the Uchiz influence over the Creeks and Choctaws… OK, they took advantage of that but only after Campbell rejected the request!).

    More importantly, Spain had concerns about the community in general where the war would be conducted. Gálvez was already receiving reports from Mobile and Fort Panmure by early June 1780 that the Indians tended to get disillusioned about the dynamics of the war and would take it out on everyone, sacking, killing and looting for the sake of it. This in turn would affect the relationships between the citizens that lived between Penzacola and the Mississippi including the British citizens settled on the east side of the river. It would also spell regional suicide for the Southeast if the destruction of food supplies, cultivation fields, etc. Were allowed.

    That is what Gálvez attempted to convey to Campbell (and Gov. Chester for that matter) but without success, understandably so.

  • The powder magazine that exploded as the result of a hit from a Spanish howitzer on May 8th was not at Fort George. It was the magazine at the Queen’s Redoubt, one of the two outer works of Fort George. Forty-five members of the First Battalion of Pennsylvania Loyalists drawing ammunition were killed by the explosion. This was the largest single-day loss of life suffered by a Provincial Corps unit during the American War for Independence.

  • The Creeks and Choctaws could be good allies when properly motivated and fighting in their traditional style. Campbell believed he could raise 2,000 of them for an attack on New Orleans in 1779 and had collected enough Indian presents to hand out once he landed near New Orleans. Only 500 regulars were to be part of the attack. Of course, Galvez’s lightening attacks along the Mississippi required the planned attack to be cancelled, but it is another example of the potential value of the Indians. And yes, as Mr. Gueits points out, the Indians could not be controlled if they became frustrated or without sufficient regulars to keep them in check- look at the results of Ruddle’s Station and Martin’s Fort. The same could have happened at St. Louis and Cahokia had not the attacks been beaten off.

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