Anglo-Spanish War (1654)


Anglo-Spanish War (1654)

The Anglo-Spanish War fought between the British Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell and Spain between 1654 and 1660. It was caused by commercial rivalry. During the war, Admiral Robert Blake blockaded Cádiz, and in 1655 one of his captains, Richard Stayner, destroyed most of the Spanish treasure fleet. A galleon of treasure was captured, and the overall loss to Spain was estimated at £2,000,000. In May 1655, British forces in the form of a joint expedition led by Admiral Sir William Penn (father of the founder of Pennsylvania), and General Robert Venables seized the island of Jamaica. In 1657 the Governor invited the Buccaneers to base themselves at Port Royal to deter Spanish aggression. In 1657 and 1658 the Spanish, sailing from Cuba, failed at the battles of Ocho Rios and Rio Nuevo in their attempts to retake the island, and in 1657 Blake defeated the Spanish West Indian Fleet. On April 20, 1657, Blake totally destroyed a Spanish treasure fleet of 16 ships at Santa Cruz Bay, Tenerife for the loss of one ship, despite being under fire from shore batteries and attacking and withdrawing on the tide. The major land actions took place in the Spanish Netherlands. The redcoats of the New Model Army distinguished themselves at the Battle of the Dunes in alliance with the French who were engaged in the Franco-Spanish War.

Background

After the ending of the Anglo-Dutch War, Cromwell turned his attention to England's traditional enemies, France and Spain. Although Cromwell believed it to be God's will that the Protestant religion should prevail in Europe, he pursued a foreign policy that was at once pragmatic and realistic, allying himself with Catholic France against Catholic Spain. In essence, by going to war with Spain he was seeking a return to a policy of commercial opportunism pursued in the days of Elizabeth I and subsequently abandoned by the Stuarts. Cromwell's attack on Spanish trade and treasure routes immediately recalled the exploits of Francis Drake and Walter Ralegh; and it is not by accident that printed accounts of their activities began to circulate in England at this time. There was, however, one important difference: alongside silver and gold a new treasure was becoming ever more important - sugar. This meant occupation of territory, a step beyond the casual piracy pursued in Elizabethan days.

During the first year of the Protectorate, Cromwell conducted negotiations with the French statesman Cardinal Mazarin, resulting in the drafting of an Anglo-French alliance against Spain in October 1655. The alliance had an added benefit of keeping the French from helping the Stuarts to regain the throne of England.

Caribbean theatre

Meanwhile, Cromwell had already launched the Western Design against Spanish colonies in the West Indies. The fleet sent to the West Indies in 1655 under Admiral William Penn was one of the strongest ever to sail from England, with some 3,000 marines under the command of General Robert Venables, further reinforced in Barbados, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis.

Although Cromwell had previously been interested in the possible acquisition of Hispaniola, the expedition's commanders were given the freedom to determine their own priorities in the circumstances they faced on arrival. Several options were considered, including a landing on the coast of Guatemala or on Cuba. Both were discounted, as Penn and Venables decided to attempt to repeat Drake's attack on Santo Domingo on Hispaniola. However, the assault failed because the Spanish had improved their defences in the face of Dutch attacks earlier in the century.

Weakened by fever, the English force then sailed west for Jamaica, the only place where the Spanish did not have new defensive works. They landed in May 1655 at a place called Santiago de la Vega, now Spanish Town. They came, and they stayed, in the face of prolonged local resistance, reinforced by troops sent from Spain and Mexico. For England Jamaica was to be the 'dagger pointed at the heart of the Spanish Empire.' Cromwell, despite all difficulties, was determined that the presence should remain, sending reinforcements and supplies.

European theatre

In European waters, General-at-Sea Robert Blake proceeded to blockade the Spanish port of Cadiz. Little was achieved in the war until September 1656 when one of Blake's captains, Richard Stayner, intercepted a Spanish treasure fleet and captured or sank all but two of its ships, which was a serious blow to the economy of Spain. Then in April 1657, Blake completely destroyed the Spanish West Indies battle fleet in Santa Cruz harbour, leaving the Spanish treasure fleets virtually defenceless against the English blockade of Spain.

An Anglo-French alliance against Spain was established when the Treaty of Paris was signed in March 1657. Based on the terms of the treaty, the English would join with France in her continuing war against Spain in Flanders. France would contribute an army of 20,000 men, England would contribute both 6,000 troops and the English fleet in a campaign against the Flemish coastal fortresses of Gravelines, Dunkirk and Mardyck. It was agreed that Gravelines would be ceded to France, Dunkirk and Mardyck to England.

The combined Anglo-French army for the invasion of Flanders was commanded by the great French Marshal Turenne. The Spanish Army of Flanders was commanded by Don Juan-José, an illegitimate son of the Spanish King Philip. The Spanish army of 15,000 troops was augmented by a force of 3,000 English Royalists - formed as the nucleus of potential army for the invasion of England by Charles II, with Charles's brother James, Duke of York, amongst its commanders.

The Commonwealth fleet blockaded Flemish ports but to Cromwell's annoyance the military campaign started late in the year and was subject to many delays. Marshal Turenne spent the summer of 1657 campaigning against the Spanish in Luxembourg and made no move to attack Flanders until September. Mardyck was captured on 9 September and garrisoned by Commonwealth troops. Dunkirk was besieged in May 1658. A Spanish relief force attempted to lift the siege but was defeated on 4 June at the Battle of the Dunes. The Commonwealth contingent in Turenne's army fought with distinction and impressed their French allies with a successful assault up a strongly defended sandhill 150 feet high during the battle. When Dunkirk surrendered to Turenne on 14 June, Cardinal Mazarin honoured the terms of the treaty with Cromwell and handed the port over to the Commonwealth, despite the protests of Louis XIV. The Commonwealth also honoured its obligations in respecting the rights of the Catholic populations of Mardyck and Dunkirk. A contingent of Commonwealth troops remained with Turenne's army and were instrumental in the capture of Gravelines and other Flemish towns by the French.

Aftermath

The war between France and Spain ended with the signing of the Peace of the Pyrenees on 28 October 1659. After the Restoration of Charles II in England, the Anglo-Spanish War was formally terminated in September 1660. Charles sold Dunkirk to Louis XIV of France in November 1662 - though less than £300,000 of the promised half million was ever paid. Although the Western Design failed in its principal objective of capturing the island of Hispaniola, Jamaica remained an English colony. The Spanish formally recognised England's ownership of the island in 1670. The Western Design's anti-Spanish purpose survived the Protectorate itself, later to be revived in the raids of Henry Morgan.

ee also

*History of Jamaica
*British military history
*Spanish Empire

External links

Anglo-Spanish War

* [http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/military/anglo-spanish-war.htm British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate website - The Anglo-Spanish War 1655-1660]

Treaty of Paris (1657)

* [http://www.uni-mannheim.de/mateo/camenaref/cmh/cmh421.html Mazarin - Chapter XXI]
* [http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1715862006 1657: The Rough Guide to Europe]


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