Battle of San Juan (1797)

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Battle of San Juan (1797)
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
San Jeronimo aerial.jpg
The Fortín de San Gerónimo was key to the defense of San Juan.
Date17 April – 2 May 1797
Result Spanish-Puerto Rican victory
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg  Great Britain Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
  • 7,000
  • 68 warships with 600 guns
Casualties and losses
  • 37 killed
  • 70 wounded
  • 124 captured or missing
  • 400 surrendered [1]
  • Total: 631
  • 47 killed
  • 28 wounded
  • 56 captured or missing
  • 18 surrendered
  • Total: 149

The Battle of San Juan was a 1797 ill-fated British assault on the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan in Puerto Rico during the 1796–1808 Anglo-Spanish War. The attack was carried out facing the historic town of Miramar.

Kingdom of Great Britain Constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707 and 1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 1 January 1801. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". Since its inception the kingdom was in legislative and personal union with Ireland and after the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

Port maritime commercial facility

A port is a maritime facility which may comprise one or more wharves where ships may dock to load and discharge passengers and cargo. Although usually situated on a sea coast or estuary, some ports, such as Hamburg, Manchester and Duluth, are many miles inland, with access to the sea via river or canal.

San Juan, Puerto Rico Capital and municipality of Puerto Rico (U.S.)

San Juan is the capital and most populous municipality in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2010 census, it is the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of the United States, with a population of 395,326. San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's capital is the third oldest European-established capital city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, founded in 1496 and Panama City, in Panama, founded in 1519. Several historical buildings are located in San Juan; among the most notable are the city's former defensive forts, Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal, and La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Americas.



Spain aligned herself with France by signing the Second Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1796. Britain then targeted both countries' Caribbean colonies. Admiral Sir Henry Harvey's fleet picked up Sir Ralph Abercromby's army in Barbados. Together, they captured Trinidad from the Spanish, before heading for San Juan. [2] [3]

The Second Treaty of San Ildefonso was signed on 19 August 1796 between Spain and the First French Republic. Based on the terms of the agreement, France and Spain would become allies and combine their forces against the British Empire.

Invasion of Trinidad (1797)

On February 18, 1797, a fleet of 18 warships under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby invaded and took the Island of Trinidad. Within a few days the last Spanish Governor, Don José María Chacón surrendered the island to Abercromby.


On 17 April 1797, Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby's fleet of 68 vessels appeared offshore Puerto Rico with a force of 7,000, which included German auxiliaries and French émigrés. Two frigates then blocked San Juan harbor. [2] [3]

Ralph Abercromby 18th-century Scottish soldier and politician

Sir Ralph Abercromby was a Scottish soldier and politician. He twice served as MP for Clackmannanshire, rose to the rank of lieutenant-general in the British Army, was appointed Governor of Trinidad, served as Commander-in-Chief, Ireland, and was noted for his services during the French Revolutionary Wars.

The governor, Field Marshal Don Ramón de Castro y Gutiérrez, had already mobilized his 4000 militia and 200 Spanish garrison troops, which combined with 300 French privateers, 2000 armed peasantry, and paroled prisoners, brought his troop strength almost equal to the British. He also had 376 cannon, 35 mortars, 4 howitzers and 3 swivel guns amongst the island's defenses. [2] [3]

Privateer private person or ship authorized by a government to attack foreign shipping

A privateer is a private person or ship that engages in maritime warfare under a commission of war. The commission, also known as a letter of marque, empowers the person to carry on all forms of hostility permissible at sea by the usages of war, including attacking foreign vessels during wartime and taking them as prizes. Historically, captured ships were subject to condemnation and sale under prize law, with the proceeds divided between the privateer sponsors, shipowners, captains and crew. A percentage share usually went to the issuer of the commission. Since robbery under arms was once common to seaborne trade, all merchant ships were already armed. During war, naval resources were auxiliary to operations on land so privateering was a way of subsidizing state power by mobilizing armed ships and sailors.

Mortar (weapon) Artillery weapon that launches explosive projectiles at high angles

A mortar is usually a simple, lightweight, man portable, muzzle-loaded weapon, consisting of a smooth-bore metal tube fixed to a base plate with a lightweight bipod mount and a sight. They launch explosive shells in high-arcing ballistic trajectories. Mortars are typically used as indirect fire weapons for close fire support with a variety of ammunition.

Howitzer Type of artillery piece

A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles over relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent.

Abercromby landed 3000 troops on 18 April and took control of Cangrejos. Castro moved his forces to Escambrón and the Spanish First Line of Defense. [2] [3]

Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico Barrio of Puerto Rico (U.S.)

Santurce is a barrio in the municipality of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Its population in 2010 was 81,251. It is also the biggest and most populated of all the districts in the capital with a bigger population than most municipalities of Puerto Rico and one of the most densely populated areas of the island.

On 21 April, the British started a 7-day artillery duel with Spanish forts of San Gerónimo and San Antonio, located at the Boquerón Inlet. At the same time, the puertorriqueños put pressure on the British positions, the Spanish recaptured Martín Peña Bridge, while militia Sergeant Francisco Díaz raided behind British lines, bringing back prisoners. Then, on the 29th and 30th, the Spanish crossed the Boquerón Inlet, and forced the British to pull back. [2] [3]

Martín Peña Bridge United States historic place

Martín Peña Bridge, in Spanish properly known as Puente Martín Peña, is an Art Deco style bridge from 1939, designed by Cecilio Delgado and others. It is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

José "Pepe" Díaz and Francisco Díaz were two cousins who served as Sergeants in the Toa Alta Militia. Both cousins helped defeat Sir Ralph Abercromby and defend Puerto Rico from a British invasion in 1797.


On 1 May, the Spanish learned the British were gone, leaving behind arms, stores and ammunition. [2] [3]

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  1. Marley, p. 362
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Van Middeldyk, R.A. (1903). Brumbaugh, Martin (ed.). The History of Puerto Rico: From the Spanish Discovery to the American Occupation. D. Appleton and Company. pp. 139–141. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 The Forts of Old San Juan. Washington, D.C.: Division of Publications, National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior. 2018. pp. 68–71. ISBN   9780912627625.

Additional reading