The Gulf Coast

The Spanish began exploiting the Americas in the late 15th century. By the mid-18th century their empire stretched from California to the southern tip of South America, including the three largest cities in the hemisphere: Mexico City, Mexico, and Lima, Peru each likely had over 100,000 inhabitants, and Havana, Cuba had roughly 50,000 residents. By the time of the American Revolution, Spain was the largest colonial power in the Americas.

At the start of the American Revolution, Spain controlled Louisiana and its important capital port city, New Orleans, while Britain controlled East and West Florida, which Spain had traded for Havana after the Seven Years’ War. British colonization of these territories was limited by the climate and the powerful native communities in the area, including the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, who resented settlers encroaching on their lands.

The Spanish declared war on Great Britain in 1779 in part to recover lost territory, although Spain never formally allied with the United States. Shortly after, the enterprising governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, launched an aggressive campaign along the Mississippi and the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, attacking the British at Baton Rouge and Mobile.

Some of the most diverse campaigns of the American Revolution unfolded along the Gulf Coast. At the 1781 Siege of Pensacola, the capital of British East Florida, Gálvez led Spanish and French regulars, Creek and Choctaw warriors, and colonial troops, including a battalion of free Black men from Havana. Inside the city, the British regulars joined German auxiliaries, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw warriors, as well as American loyalists from Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Spanish success in the Gulf, especially Pensacola, was tempered by other failures. A joint Franco-Spanish army spent almost three years besieging Gibraltar without success. Nevertheless, their North American campaigns provided leverage at the end of the war, and the Floridas were returned to Spain. Similar to the American experience, Spain’s more active governance of its colonies in the late 18th century generated colonial opposition that ultimately resulted in wars of independence across Latin America in the 1810s and 1820s.

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The Spanish began exploiting the Americas in the late 15th century. By the mid-18th century their empire stretched from California to the southern tip of South America, including the three largest cities in the hemisphere: Mexico City, Mexico, and Lima, Peru each likely had over 100,000 inhabitants, and Havana, Cuba had roughly 50,000 residents. By the time of the American Revolution, Spain was the largest colonial power in the Americas.

At the start of the American Revolution, Spain controlled Louisiana and its important capital port city, New Orleans, while Britain controlled East and West Florida, which Spain had traded for Havana after the Seven Years’ War. British colonization of these territories was limited by the climate and the powerful native communities in the area, including the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, who resented settlers encroaching on their lands.
The Spanish declared war on Great Britain in 1779 in part to recover lost territory, although Spain never formally allied with the United States. Shortly after, the enterprising governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, launched an aggressive campaign along the Mississippi and the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, attacking the British at Baton Rouge and Mobile.

Some of the most diverse campaigns of the American Revolution unfolded along the Gulf Coast. At the 1781 Siege of Pensacola, the capital of British East Florida, Gálvez led Spanish and French regulars, Creek and Choctaw warriors, and colonial troops, including a battalion of free Black men from Havana. Inside the city, the British regulars joined German auxiliaries, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw warriors, as well as American loyalists from Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Spanish success in the Gulf, especially Pensacola, was tempered by other failures. A joint Franco-Spanish army spent almost three years besieging Gibraltar without success. Nevertheless, their North American campaigns provided leverage at the end of the war, and the Floridas were returned to Spain. Similar to the American experience, Spain’s more active governance of its colonies in the late 18th century generated colonial opposition that ultimately resulted in wars of independence across Latin America in the 1810s and 1820s.

Objects in the Gulf Coast case

Spanish Reales and Peso Coins

Spain’s vast empire was built on the wealth of the Americas. Most famous are the silver mines of Potosí in modern Bolivia, which is the largest silver deposit in the world. Exploiting enslaved and forced labor by indigenous workers as well as Africans across their colonies, Spain processed this enormous wealth, minting the coins that became the currency of the New World. Spanish silver coinage was abundant across the Americas, especially as mints were established in New Spain in the 16th century and in Peru in the 17th century. The Spanish silver Peso, divisible into eight Reales, was known to the English-speaking world as the Spanish dollar, a corruption of the name of the similarly sized German Thaler. Spanish silver coins were used to pay Continental soldiers just before the Yorktown campaign, providing a very real incentive for their service. As the United States established its own currency, the new nation adapted the familiar name of the Spanish “dollar.”

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Spain’s vast empire was built on the wealth of the Americas. Most famous are the silver mines of Potosí in modern Bolivia, which is the largest silver deposit in the world. Exploiting enslaved and forced labor by indigenous workers as well as Africans across their colonies, Spain processed this enormous wealth, minting the coins that became the currency of the New World. Spanish silver coinage was abundant across the Americas, especially as mints were established in New Spain in the 16th century and in Peru in the 17th century. The Spanish silver Peso, divisible into eight Reales, was known to the English-speaking world as the Spanish dollar, a corruption of the name of the similarly sized German Thaler. Spanish silver coins were used to pay Continental soldiers just before the Yorktown campaign, providing a very real incentive for their service. As the United States established its own currency, the new nation adapted the familiar name of the Spanish “dollar.”

Espada ancha (Broadsword)

This espada ancha, or broadsword, is a distinctive pattern of slashing sword developed in New Spain. Arms in the Spanish colonial world reflected the unique conditions of the Americas. In some areas archaic weapons such as swords, lances, shields, and even light armor were retained because they were useful against certain indigenous American enemies, even well into the period in which firearms dominated.

Now making up much of modern-day Mexico, New Spain was a massive colony, containing the Western Hemisphere’s largest urban population. Spanish defeats during the Seven Years’ War sent a shock wave through the relatively lightly-defended colony. In the wake of the loss of Havana, increasing Spanish imperial attention was trained on the American provinces, and new military forces were mobilized locally and from Spain. The military preparations provided new avenues for New Spain’s diverse population to assert itself as companies of Black and mixed-race soldiers mustered in the colonial forces and thus claimed a share of the benefits of military service.

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This espada ancha, or broadsword, is a distinctive pattern of slashing sword developed in New Spain. Arms in the Spanish colonial world reflected the unique conditions of the Americas. In some areas archaic weapons such as swords, lances, shields, and even light armor were retained because they were useful against certain indigenous American enemies, even well into the period in which firearms dominated.

Now making up much of modern-day Mexico, New Spain was a massive colony, containing the Western Hemisphere’s largest urban population. Spanish defeats during the Seven Years’ War sent a shock wave through the relatively lightly-defended colony. In the wake of the loss of Havana, increasing Spanish imperial attention was trained on the American provinces, and new military forces were mobilized locally and from Spain. The military preparations provided new avenues for New Spain’s diverse population to assert itself as companies of Black and mixed-race soldiers mustered in the colonial forces and thus claimed a share of the benefits of military service.

Escopeta (Firelock)

Spain exported the unique weaponry of the Iberian peninsula across its colonial empire. Although this weapon was made in Spain and is not known to have seen service in America, it represents a uniquely Spanish firearm. This gun, in Spanish escopeta, bears a number of distinctive features which continued to be used in North and South America. The immediately identifiable stock is sometimes called a “Catalan” stock. The other distinctive feature is the lock, known as a miquelet. This lock developed on a parallel path with the more familiar flintlock over the late 17th and 18th century. Unlike the true flintlock, the miquelet’s large mainspring to drive the flint forward is placed on the exterior of the lock. Such locks were used well into the 19th century in New Spain and later Mexico.

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Spain exported the unique weaponry of the Iberian peninsula across its colonial empire. Although this weapon was made in Spain and is not known to have seen service in America, it represents a uniquely Spanish firearm. This gun, in Spanish escopeta, bears a number of distinctive features which continued to be used in North and South America. The immediately identifiable stock is sometimes called a “Catalan” stock. The other distinctive feature is the lock, known as a miquelet. This lock developed on a parallel path with the more familiar flintlock over the late 17th and 18th century. Unlike the true flintlock, the miquelet’s large mainspring to drive the flint forward is placed on the exterior of the lock. Such locks were used well into the 19th century in New Spain and later Mexico.

Spanish Model 1757 Musket and Socket Bayonet

Spanish military arms generally followed contemporary European trends. Infantrymen carried a smoothbore musket and a socket bayonet like those seen here. The arms carried by Spanish troops in the Gulf Coast, including the Regimiento Fijo de la Luisiana, were probably of this pattern introduced in 1757. Spanish arms used brass barrel bands to hold the barrel to the stock and iron ramrods like this replaced wooden rammers in Spanish service after 1755.

Production of Spanish military arms was concentrated in Guipúzcoa in the Basque Country, particularly around the town of Placencia, where a royal manufactory was maintained. This pattern was introduced just before Spain’s entry into the Seven Years’ War and was used throughout the American Revolution in Europe and America.

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Spanish military arms generally followed contemporary European trends. Infantrymen carried a smoothbore musket and a socket bayonet like those seen here. The arms carried by Spanish troops in the Gulf Coast, including the Regimiento Fijo de la Luisiana, were probably of this pattern introduced in 1757. Spanish arms used brass barrel bands to hold the barrel to the stock and iron ramrods like this replaced wooden rammers in Spanish service after 1755.

Production of Spanish military arms was concentrated in Guipúzcoa in the Basque Country, particularly around the town of Placencia, where a royal manufactory was maintained. This pattern was introduced just before Spain’s entry into the Seven Years’ War and was used throughout the American Revolution in Europe and America.

Sword

In addition to direct military action against the British, Spain supported the Americans through other means. While they never formally allied with the United States, Spain provided money, arms, clothing, and equipment to American forces both directly and indirectly. This included goods entering New England ports from Spain, as well as equipment sent through the colony of Louisiana up the Mississippi to American forces in the far western theater of the war.

This sword’s blade, heavily worn and repaired, bears the motto “Viva Carlos III Rey de las Españas” or “Long Live Carlos III, King of the Spains.” King Carlos III ruled from 1759 to 1788, during which he oversaw two wars against Britain. While it is unclear when, this blade was re-hilted at some point in its long life.

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In addition to direct military action against the British, Spain supported the Americans through other means. While they never formally allied with the United States, Spain provided money, arms, clothing, and equipment to American forces both directly and indirectly. This included goods entering New England ports from Spain, as well as equipment sent through the colony of Louisiana up the Mississippi to American forces in the far western theater of the war.

This sword’s blade, heavily worn and repaired, bears the motto “Viva Carlos III Rey de las Españas” or “Long Live Carlos III, King of the Spains.” King Carlos III ruled from 1759 to 1788, during which he oversaw two wars against Britain. While it is unclear when, this blade was re-hilted at some point in its long life.

Plaque de Giberne (Cartridge Pouch Badge), Régiment de Poitou

This brass badge once adorned the cartridge pouch, or giberne, of a French soldier of the Poitou Regiment. French troops were stationed both in their Caribbean colonial possessions, such as Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Guadeloupe, and Martinique, and aboard naval vessels as shipboard garrisons. In either case, the French Royal Navy could easily transport troops to operate on land and did so in conjunction with American forces in Rhode Island, Savannah, and Yorktown, as well as with the Spanish at the Siege of Pensacola, Florida in 1781.

French ships and troops, including the Poitou Regiment, arrived to reinforce the troops besieging British Pensacola in mid-April of 1781. The arrival of substantial reinforcements of men and ships and the destruction of the British powder magazine on May 8 forced the British to surrender and gave Spain her greatest victory of the war.

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This brass badge once adorned the cartridge pouch, or giberne, of a French soldier of the Poitou Regiment. French troops were stationed both in their Caribbean colonial possessions, such as Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Guadeloupe, and Martinique, and aboard naval vessels as shipboard garrisons. In either case, the French Royal Navy could easily transport troops to operate on land and did so in conjunction with American forces in Rhode Island, Savannah, and Yorktown, as well as with the Spanish at the Siege of Pensacola, Florida in 1781.

French ships and troops, including the Poitou Regiment, arrived to reinforce the troops besieging British Pensacola in mid-April of 1781. The arrival of substantial reinforcements of men and ships and the destruction of the British powder magazine on May 8 forced the British to surrender and gave Spain her greatest victory of the war.

Short Land Service Musket, 2nd Battalion, 60th Regiment of Foot

The Short Land Service musket, with a shorter barrel, was introduced before the American Revolution began. This version was made as production ramped up to meet wartime needs and features a redesigned lock and improved ramrod pipes.

The top of the barrel is marked to the 2nd Battalion of the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. Originally raised during the French and Indian War and intended to be a regiment where Americans could serve, in fact, it effectively became Britain’s foreign corps. Hundreds of Swiss and Germans in particular found the 60th to be a path to military service in Britain, and it was the only regiment in the British Army in which foreigners could receive an officer’s commission.

During the Revolutionary War, the four battalions of the 60th served mostly in the Caribbean and the southern American colonies. The 2nd Battalion, which this musket is marked to, was stationed in East Florida (whose capital was St. Augustine) and served in Georgia. Elements of the 3rd Battalion fought with the British allied force at the Siege of Pensacola. This musket may have been a replacement for those lost in the Americas.

Click to Toggle Transcript

The Short Land Service musket, with a shorter barrel, was introduced before the American Revolution began. This version was made as production ramped up to meet wartime needs and features a redesigned lock and improved ramrod pipes.

The top of the barrel is marked to the 2nd Battalion of the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. Originally raised during the French and Indian War and intended to be a regiment where Americans could serve, in fact, it effectively became Britain’s foreign corps. Hundreds of Swiss and Germans in particular found the 60th to be a path to military service in Britain, and it was the only regiment in the British Army in which foreigners could receive an officer’s commission.

During the Revolutionary War, the four battalions of the 60th served mostly in the Caribbean and the southern American colonies. The 2nd Battalion, which this musket is marked to, was stationed in East Florida (whose capital was St. Augustine) and served in Georgia. Elements of the 3rd Battalion fought with the British allied force at the Siege of Pensacola. This musket may have been a replacement for those lost in the Americas.

Royal Artillery Carbine and Bayonet

The Royal Regiment of Artillery consisted of four battalions that could be deployed in whole or in part across the broad areas where the British Army operated. The markings on this carbine indicate it was carried by the 7th Company of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. This unit saw service in the British reconquest of Georgia, a push into South Carolina, and ultimately the Siege of Pensacola.

Although cannon were their primary weapon, artillerymen began to carry small arms in the 1740s to use when performing guard duty or to defend themselves and their guns on the battlefield. Artillery carbines were generally smaller and lighter than standard infantry weapons and were worn slung over the gunner’s shoulder when tending the artillery.

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The Royal Regiment of Artillery consisted of four battalions that could be deployed in whole or in part across the broad areas where the British Army operated. The markings on this carbine indicate it was carried by the 7th Company of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. This unit saw service in the British reconquest of Georgia, a push into South Carolina, and ultimately the Siege of Pensacola.

Although cannon were their primary weapon, artillerymen began to carry small arms in the 1740s to use when performing guard duty or to defend themselves and their guns on the battlefield. Artillery carbines were generally smaller and lighter than standard infantry weapons and were worn slung over the gunner’s shoulder when tending the artillery.

To view more information about the objects in this exhibit, visit the Ticonderoga Online Collections Database!