How Hispanics helped win the American Revolution

In celebrating the Fourth of July, Latinos can take pride that a pair of Hispanic noblemen were instrumental in helping the colonial army win independence…

This painting depicts the scene on December 23, 1783, in the Maryland State House in Annapolis when George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. No doubt Washington had help to win the American Revolution, and two Hispanics played an important role. (Architect of the Capital/Flickr)

In celebrating the Fourth of July, Latinos can take pride that a pair of Hispanic noblemen were instrumental in helping the colonial army win independence from Britain in the American Revolution.

They were Spaniards Juan de Miralles Trailhon and General Bernardo de Galvez, and their contributions were magnanimously noted by George Washington.

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Those contributions ranged from arranging millions of dollars in loans, providing arms and supplies and gathering intelligence on the British army and strategies for Washington and his generals.

Don Juan de Miralles Trailhon

Don Juan de Miralles Trailhon

While Spain publicly did not acknowledge that these men were working with the government’s support, there has been strong documentation that they had its blessing.

By the defeat of Britain in the American revolt, Spain hoped to recover territories lost to the English, particularly Florida, and to remove the longstanding threat that the British posed.

Of the Hispanics involved in aiding the colonial revolt, Miralles became the closest to Washington and leaders of the emerging new nation.

According to one history book, Miralles was King Carlos III’s envoy to the interim colonial government. Another history described him as a merchant, a smuggler and possibly a pirate who delivered arms and supplies to Washington’s ragtag army.

Born in Alicante Valenciana, Spain, on July 23, 1713, Miralles reportedly led Spain from neutrality into open support of the colonial revolt, in exchange for control of Florida.

According to several accounts, Miralles fell ill with a deadly fever while on a visit to Washington’s camp in Morristown, New Jersey, where he passed away on April 28, 1780. He was given Roman Catholic burial rites by a Spanish priest and mourned by Washington, other officers, and members of the Continental Congress.

In his memoirs and letters, Washington was more explicit about Miralles’s role, specifically that he was acting undercover so as to conceal Spain’s participation and support.

According to Washington, an elaborate ruse had created the impression at the time that Miralles had been shipwrecked near the American coast and sought assistance, though he carried letters from the governor of Havana.

“The truth is, however, that Miralles was an unofficial agent of the Spanish government, and was introduced in this way, that he might obtain a knowledge of the affairs of the United States, and communicate it to the ministers of the Spanish court,” Washington wrote.

“It was uncertain how far he acted under the immediate authority of the Spanish government… Congress showed every mark of respect to this agent, which was due to his personal character, but carefully avoided treating with him in any public capacity, except through the intervention of the French minister.”

Galvez was a Spanish military leader and colonial administrator who served as colonial governor of Louisiana and Cuba, and later as Viceroy of New Spain.

He was significant in leading a campaign that denied the British the chance of encircling the American colonial army from the south, while also keeping open a vital conduit for supplies.

Galvez also aided the American revolutionaries with supplies and soldiers.

With Miralles having died, Galvez was among those who drafted the terms of the Peace of Paris in 1783 that officially ended the war.

By that treaty, Spain officially regained East and West Florida from the British.

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