Friday, February 17, 2012

The Battle of Baton Rouge - The American Revolution in Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Battlefield at Right)
It is a little known fact that one of the most important battles of the American Revolution took place not in New England or along the East Coast, but far to the west on the banks of the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Hoping to gain advantage over Great Britain, the King of Spain declared his support of the fledgling United States on May 8, 1779, and declared war on Spain's long-time rival. Two months later he extended the right to make war to his subjects in North America.

Spain then possessed what later became known as the Louisiana Purchase, which included the parts of present day Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, as well as the city of New Orleans. Spanish territory also extended up the great river to include present-day Arkansas, Missouri and other states.

Revolutionary War Cannon at Baton Rouge
Great Britain, in turn, held the colonies of East Florida and West Florida, which had not joined in the revolution against the King. West Florida then extended from the Apalachicola River on the east all the way to the Mississippi River on the west. The modern cities of Baton Rouge, Mobile and Pensacola were included in this domain and were garrisoned by British troops.

Learning of the King's declaration, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana immediately began to prepare a campaign against the British at Baton Rouge. His name was Bernardo de Galvez and he was one of the most successful year least known generals of the American Revolution.

The British fort stood near the Pentagon Barracks (right)
Moving north from New Orleans with an army of 580 Spanish regulars, 60 local militiamen, 80 free blacks, 10 American volunteers and an irregular force of some 600 Acadians and Indians, Galvez took Fort Bute, an English post at Bayou Manchac, on September 7, 1779.  He then moved on Baton Rouge, where 550 British soldiers manned the new and strong Fort New Richmond.

Nothing remains above ground of the fort today, but it stood adjacent to the spot where the historic Pentagon Barracks were later built overlooking the river. The earthwork fortification was armed with cannon and held 400 British regulars from the 16th and 60th regiments, some militia, a few regular artillerymen and several companies from the 3rd Waldeck Regiment (Germans).

Memorial to the 1779 Battle of Baton Rouge
Galvez laid siege to the fort on September 12, 1779, moving his troops completely around its land sides and preparing siege trenches and hidden batteries. On September 21, 1779, the Patriot army opened its bombardment of Fort New Richmond. The British fired back long enough to defend the honor of their king, but then raised the white flag.

The Battle of Baton Rouge gave the Spanish control of the western end of West Florida and ended forever Great Britain's claim to the Mississippi River. Galvez went on to take Fort Charlotte at Mobile and Fort George at Pensacola in one of the most remarkable campaigns of the American Revolution. The Spanish general with his mixed army eliminated any British claim to the Gulf Coast and opened the door for the eventual United States capture and acquisition of the territory making up the modern states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

To learn more about the Battle of Baton Rouge, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/batonrouge1779.

2 comments:

Mitch Dauzat said...

My ancestor fought in this battle. He was part of the pointe coupee malitia. His name was Antoine Dauzat

Dale Cox said...

Mitch, What a cool connection! I would love to hear more about him.

Dale