What possible connection could there be between Louisiana and the American Revolutionary War? As I probed into my ancestry I would find documents linking ancestors to the right to belong to such organizations as The Sons of the American Revolution or The Daughters of the American Revolution. These organizations require documented evidence of an ancestor participating in the American Revolutionary War. But, at the time of the American Revolution Louisiana was owned by Spain. At first I dismissed this as ancestors who sided with the colonists and crossed the border to participate. While a few may have, I eventually found that Louisiana had a significant role in the war.
Louisiana and the American Revolutionary War
Louisiana had a significant role in the American Revolution, even though it was held by Spain at the time.
The Great Upheaval
What has become known as the Great Upheaval was an event that would later have an influence in Louisiana participating in the war. In the mid-eighteenth century there was an expulsion of French speaking people from Nova Scotia.
For decades prior to the Great Upheaval the French-speaking Roman Catholics lived side by side with the British settlers in Nova Scotia. Then, in the mid eighteenth century these people were rounded up and exiled, often separating families in the process.
In 1865 Louisiana passed from French control to Spanish control. At that time some of these exiles came as a group to Louisiana. Governor Ulloa, the first Spanish governor of Louisiana, welcomed these persecuted people. They were allowed to settle in Louisiana, and over the next few years more came.
Why were these people exiled? The British settlers had problems with the French speaking people, and their Roman Catholic religion. It was a case of religious persecution. The official reason given is these people refused to sign an oath of allegiance to King George III. But, the refusal had happened long before the expulsion.
This would later have an effect on Louisiana and the American Revolutionary War.
Galvez Becomes Governor
In the mid-1770s around the time of the revolt Spain sent Galvez, a military man, to be governor of Louisiana. Spain helped the revolting colonies obtain supplies. The Mississippi River with the Port of New Orleans was an excellent place to receive supplies destined for the revolting army, even though Britain had blockaded the Atlantic ports.
Shortly after the hostilities broke out in America, Spain decided to bolster its forces in Louisiana. The plan was to recruit seven hundred troops from Spain’s southernmost province, the Canary Islands. These people are now called Islenos, or island people. The intent was to recruit families to help colonize Louisiana, so the goal was two thousand one hundred people, seven hundred of whom would be in the military.
The recruitment went well, and eight ships embarked on the trip to Louisiana. Of the eight ships, seven made it to their destination. The eighth ship encountered a British fleet, and changed course. It made port in Cuba.
The men who made it to Louisiana were stationed along the Mississippi River, downriver from New Orleans, to repel any British warships attempting to sail up the Mississippi River. Others were positioned along the Gulf of Mexico as coast watchers.
The Spanish Involvement
Spain’s role to supply the colonial forces was the condition at the beginning of the war. Eventually Spain declared war on Britain, allowing for a more active involvement.
The British controlled Baton Rouge and Natchez, both along the Mississippi River past New Orleans. In addition, the British were entrenched in locations along the Gulf of Mexico.
War Comes to Louisiana
Governor Galvez gathered some of his troops with the goal of freeing the Mississippi River of the British, and also clearing the British from the Gulf of Mexico. This came after the Canary Islanders arrival, so his forces were somewhat stronger than before.
When Galvez began his march he was joined by six hundred volunteers. These were the people who had been welcomed by Spain after the Great Upheaval. They were people who had been wronged. The religious persecution they had endured had swollen Galvez’ army into an impressive fighting force, and the garrisons against which he marched were ill equipped to resist his now expanded army.
Galvez captured the British garrisons on both the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
Did the Islenos on the French speaking people now called Cajuns, named for Acadia, have an impact? Answering what would have happened is impossible, but Galvez did prevail.
Perhaps with less religious persecution by the British the colonies would not have obtained independence.
The introduction image is our own..