Bernardo de Galvez

Bernardo de Galvez

(1746-1786)

As the colonial governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez secretly sided with the American colonists during the Revolutionary War and used his power to help them defeat the British.Galvez was born in Spain, near the city of Malaga, and he followed the paths of his father and uncle, both ofwhom had been high-rank¬ ing government officials.

At the age of sixteen, he enlisted in the army, where he distinguished himself during many years of service. He trav¬ eled the world, defending the Spanish crown in Africa, Europe, and North America.Galvez first visited New Spain (present-day Mexico) at the age of nineteen, with his uncle, Jose de Galvez, who held the powerful post of inspector general there.

The young man was not to see the colony again for twelve years.In January 1777, after Galvez had estab¬ lished a successful military career, he returned as the newly appointed governor of Spanish Louisiana. Later that year, he married Felicite Destrehan, the widowed daughter of a promi¬ nent French Creole family.

The marriage gained him the affection and loyalty of the native Creole population of New Orleans. During his early months as governor, Galvez also had his forces set up a settlement on an island off the coast ofTexas. Originally named Galvez, it later became known as Galveston.

Spain was officially neutral at the beginning of the American War of Independence. Spanish officials, however, saw the conflict as an opportunity to eliminate British influ¬ ence from the North American continent, and they secretly aided the Americans.

Galvez sent secret shipments of supplies up the Mississippi River to the Americans who were fighting in the remote, isolated territories north of Louisiana. WTen American ships docked in New Orleans, he confiscated them in plain sight of British observers. Then, he secretly allowed them to go free. At the same

time, Galvez made it difficult for the British to use the port for their shipments. He also obtained loans for the Americans from the Spanish government.In 1779, when Spain declared war on Britain, Galvez called on his military expertise.

In numerous battles, he reclaimed for Spain all of the major ports along the Gulf of Mexico, such as Baton Rouge, Mobile, and Pensacola, which the British had taken in the previous decade. If not for Galvez, the British would have launched attacks against the Americans from these ports.

After the war, Galvez returned to Louisiana with the new title of Count. He brought in food and cattle and encouraged English-speak¬ ing colonists to move there and become Spanish citizens.In 1785, Galvez was appointed viceroy of New Spain, a post held previously by his father. A year later, he became seriously ill with a fever and died.