Battle of St. George's Caye 4


The Battle of St. George’s Caye was a short military engagement that lasted from 3 to 10 September 1798, off the coast of what is now Belize. However, the name is typically reserved for the final battle that occurred on 10 September.

It was the 10th day of September
The ninety-eight Anno Domini
when our forefathers
Won the glorious battle
at Old St. Georges Caye
Hip! Hip! Hurrah!, Hip! Hip! Hurrah!
Then hail them – cheer them
Let our grateful loyal hearts not fail them,
as we march and sing and shout in merry glee
The battle of St. Georges Caye
Hip! Hip! Hurrah!, Hip! Hip! Hurrah!

Except from http://www.belizedistrict.com/history.html

But the Spanish and British weren’t friends and couldn’t agree on who needed the trees more, or who the whole place belonged to, and they weren’t asking the Maya. So they battled and they feuded until on September 10th, 1798 a small group of former pirates, now called Baymen, and one British Schooner along with a sizable contingent of slaves and fishermen took on and put down an attacking armada of 32 Spanish ships. The Spanish limped off to their hammocks on one of the nearby cayes, buried their dead, downed a couple of rum and coconut cocktails and hit the high seas for home with the bad news.

This day marks a defining point in time for Belize and it’s inhabitants.  Confronted with a massive army compared to what resources and man power was available, the British and their comrades emerged victorious.

The territory that is now Belize was under dispute from as early as the mid 1750s by Great Britain and Spain. While Spain never occupied Belize, she apparently considered it part of her Central American territories, such as Mexico and Guatemala. The British had entered the territory as of 1638 to harvest logwood and later mahogany. Spain recognized this trade in the Treaty of Paris (signed in 1763) but did not undertake to draw boundaries (which would have suggested that Spain was giving up claims of sovereignty to the area), leading to further disputes. Indeed, from 1779 to 1782 the settlement was practically non-existent, its settlers, known as the Baymen, and their African slaves having been deported to Havana, Cuba.

At 1:00 p.m. the afternoon of Sept 10th 1798 , the Spaniards and British lined up off St. George’s Caye. The Spaniards stormed through the channel, and at 1:30 engaged the British in a two-hour fight which ended in defeat for the confused Spaniards. Moss reported no one killed and the side in good spirits. Barrow was dispatched and arrived in time to see the end of the battle and prevent the slave men from boarding the enemy. The Spaniards were in full retreat by 13 September, and Barrow agreed to send vessels to further push the Spaniards back.

Pertinent Information:

When: 3–10 September 1798
Where: Off the coast of Belize
Belligerents: Spain vs United Kingdom Great Britain

Commanders and leaders:

  • Spain – Don Arturo O’Neill Tirone
  • United Kingdom – Captain John Moss & Superintendent Thomas Barrow

Strength:

  • Spain:
    • 35 vessels,
    • 2,500 soldiers & sailors.
  • United Kingdom:
    • 4 Sloops
    • 2 schooners,
    • gunboats,
    • 700 troops.
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