|Battle of the Black River|
|Part of the American Revolutionary War|
Portrait of Spanish viceroy Matías de Gálvez
|Commanders and leaders|
| Matías de Gálvez |
Don Tomás Julia
| Edward Despard |
|1,400 regulars, marines and sailors|| 1,180+ regulars, militia & Miskitos |
|Casualties and losses|
| 60 killed|
400 due to disease,
1 ship captured
| Approx. 50 casualties|
unknown losses due to disease
The Battle of the Black River was a series of conflicts between April and August 1782 during the American War of Independence. They were fought between British and Spanish forces for control of the Black River settlement, located on the Caribbean coast of present-day Honduras. Spanish forces forced out a small British garrison and most of the settlers in April 1782. The British responded in August, regrouping the settlers and reinforcing them with troops from Jamaica. They successfully recaptured the settlement from the disease-depleted Spanish force.
Matías de Gálvez, the Captain General of Spanish Guatemala, was ordered[ when? ] by King Charles to "dislocate the English from their hidden settlements on the Gulf of Honduras." In 1782 he embarked on a series of actions to wipe out British settlements, which held long-established logging rights on the southern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula (present-day Belize), and also settlements on the Mosquito Coast (present-day Honduras and Nicaragua).
In March 1782 more than 800 Spanish troops led by Gálvez had captured Roatán, overwhelming the British garrison that then numbered just eighty men. With reinforcements of another 600 men, he went on to capture the Black River settlement the next month, which was defended by fewer than twenty men. James Lawrie, a major in the 49th Regiment of Foot who commanded the small British force, resisted as best he could, but abandoned the fortifications and fled with his men through the jungle to Cape Gracias a Dios.
The British governor of Jamaica, General Sir Archibald Campbell, was preoccupied by a planned Franco-Spanish attack on the island, and was unable to immediately send relief. However, the invasion of Jamaica was called off after the decisive British victory at the Battle of the Saintes where Admiral Rodney defeated the French fleet before it joined the Spanish.By the end of April the balance of power in the Caribbean had shifted to the British Royal Navy. With this in effect, Governor Campbell gave Edward Marcus Despard permission to retake the Black River settlements after learning that Lawrie had a force waiting to strike back.
Lawrie was able to regroup a force of about 800 locals (known as the Rattan (Roatan) and Black River Volunteers) and Miskito Indians in the Cape Gracias a Dios area.These men harassed the Spaniards in guerilla-style warfare. Despard, coming from Jamaica, landed at Cape Gracias a Dios and reached the mouth of the Plantain River with men of the Loyalist company known as the Loyal American Rangers; these eventually met up with Lawrie and his force. Combined with the supporting force that now consisted of 80 Loyalist Americans, 500 settlers (shoremen and freed slaves) and 600 Miskito Indians, there were 1,200 men in total. A squadron of Royal Navy and armed merchant ships stood by in support. Despard wasted no time in attacking the Spanish to gain the element of surprise.
Meanwhile, the Spanish garrison on Black River had been reduced by disease since its capture in early April.At Quipriva where Fort Dalling was located, a small Spanish contingent of 75 Spaniards was surprised, and all but one were either killed or taken prisoner: a survivor by the name of Manuel Rivas escaped to warn the other soldiers at Caribe.
Finally on 22 August, Despard surrounded Caribe at Black River Bluff opposite the Eastern blockhouse, overwhelming the 140 Spanish soldiers, who surrendered after a short fight.A day after the surrender, a Spanish 16-gun polacre from Trujillo carrying reinforcements of 100 troops and provisions for the Spanish was captured by the small British squadron of ships just off the coast. What was left of the Spanish force from Gálvez's April expedition surrendered by the end of August. Articles of capitulation were proposed by Don Tomás Julia to Despard who accepted.
Lawrie and Despard had thus regained control of Black River, taking more than 27 Spanish officers and 715 rank-and-file as prisoners. Also captured were three colours (which were presented to King George III in November) and 33 cannon.Most of the prisoners in agreements of the terms of surrender were told not to fight under arms again until the end of the war and were promptly sent to Omoa. Lawrie and Despard however decided to stay and defend their territory, fearing a Spanish counterattack.
Juan de Cagigal, Governor of Havana, had learned of the defeat, had fallen into disfavour with Gálvez, and was about to remove him from command altogether. Nevertheless, Gálvez requested reinforcements but none were coming from the governor. However, this time the Spanish with their French allies were on the defensive, their strategy having changed somewhat after the Battle of the Saintes. Paranoia swept through the Spanish command and set back their task of defending Havana and San Juan, Puerto Rico, which took priority over any offensive operations. Further military operations by the Bourbon allies in the Americas were also placed on hold due to the concentration of military operations in Europe (particularly at Gibraltar), and peace talks in Europe were taking place.British forces were able to take advantage of this inaction by recapturing the Bahamas in 1783. Lawrie and Despard held the British settlements in the Mosquito Coast until the end of the war.
For his efforts, Despard was rewarded with the honour of Superintendent of the Bay of Honduras, and for a number of years ruled the territory that became Belize.
The Mosquito Coast, also known as the Mosquitia, Mosquito Shore and the Mosquito Kingdom, historically included the area along the eastern coast of present-day Nicaragua and Honduras. It formed part of the Western Caribbean Zone. It was named after the local Miskitu Nation and was long dominated by British interests. The Mosquito Coast was militarily incorporated into Nicaragua in November 1894; however, in 1960, the northern part was granted to Honduras by the International Court of Justice.
Zambo is a racial term historically used in the Spanish to refer to people of mixed Indigenous and African ancestry. Occasionally in the 21st century, the term is used in the Americas to refer to persons who are of mixed African and Indigenous American ancestry. Historically, the racial cross between enslaved Africans and Amerindians was referred to as a zambayga, then zambo, then sambo.
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The Bay Islands is a group of islands off the coast of Honduras. Collectively, the islands form one of the 18 departments of Honduras. The departmental capital is Coxen Hole, on the island of Roatán.
Roatán is an island in the Caribbean, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) off the northern coast of Honduras. It is located between the islands of Utila and Guanaja, and is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras. The island was formerly known in English as Ruatan and Rattan.
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The Battle of St. George's Caye was a military engagement that lasted from 3 to 10 September 1798, off the coast of British Honduras. However, the name is typically reserved for the final battle that occurred on 10 September.
Belize, on the east coast of Central America, southeast of Mexico, was inhabited by the indigenous peoples who fought belize off the Spaniards in an attempt to preserve their heritage and to avoid the fate of their neighbors who were conquered and under Spanish rule. While this was going on, British pirates would rob Spanish merchant ships and navigate through the shallow waters and small islands even going up river later to hide their bounty. The indigenous people of Belize did not resist the British like they did the Spanish. In the 17th century, however, the British settlement became a formal British crown colony from 1862 through 1964, where they first achieved self government and later in 1981 became an independent country recognized globally with all its territory intact. The British brought along with them slaves taken from Congo and Angola during the eighteenth century.
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The Convention of London, also known as the Anglo-Spanish Convention, was an agreement negotiated between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Spain concerning the status of British settlements on the Mosquito Coast of Central America. It was signed on 14 July 1786.
The Black River settlement was a British settlement on the Mosquito Coast of present-day Honduras. It was established in 1732 by a British colonist named William Pitt. The settlement, made on territory claimed but never really controlled by Spain, was evacuated in 1787 pursuant to terms of the Anglo-Spanish Convention of 1786. The Spanish then attempted to colonize the area, but the local Miskitos massacred most of its inhabitants on September 4, 1800. The settlement was abandoned, and its remains can still be seen near the village of Palacios in the Honduran department of Gracias a Diós.
The western Caribbean zone is a region consisting of the Caribbean coasts of Central America and Colombia, from the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico to the Caribbean region in northern Colombia, and the islands west of Jamaica are also included. The zone emerged in the late sixteenth century as the Spanish failed to completely conquer many sections of the coast, and northern European powers supported opposition to Spain, sometimes through alliances with local powers.
The Miskito Sambu, also known simply as the Miskito, are an ethnic group of mixed cultural ancestry occupying a portion of the Caribbean coast of Central America known as the Mosquito Coast region. Although older records, beginning with Spanish documents of the early 18th century, refer to the group as "Mosquitos Zambos", modern ethnographic terminology uses the term Miskito.
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Afro-Hondurans or Black Hondurans are Hondurans of Sub-Saharan African descent. The CIA world factbook regards their population to be around 2% of the country's population, while other sources estimate the percentage of Afro-Hondurans as being 10%; the latter number including Garifunas. Estimates vary with concervative estimates ranging as low as 1% and higher estimates ranging to 30%. They descended from: enslaved Africans by the Spanish, as well as those who were enslaved from the West Indies and identify as Creole peoples, and the Garifuna who descend from exiled zambo Maroons from Saint Vincent. The Creole people were originally from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, while the Garifuna people were originally from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Garifunas arrived in the late seventeen hundreds and the Creole peoples arrived during the eighteen hundreds. About 600,000 Hondurans are from Garífuna descent that are a mix of African and indigenous as of Afro Latin Americans. Honduras has one of the largest African community in Latin America. The total of Garifuna, Creole, and African population estimation is about 3,000,000 with about 30% estimation of Honduras, Which makes Honduras have the highest population of blacks in Central America. In total it is about 884,000 Hondurans of African descent which is an estimate of Garifunas and Africans all together.
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