• Si Biggs

The Battle of San Juan

Unit/ Formation: Marine Regiments


Location: San Juan


Period/ Conflict:


Year: 1797


Date/s: 17th April 1797


The Battle of San Juan was an ill-fated British assault in 1797 on the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan in Puerto Rico during the 1796–1808 Anglo-Spanish War.


The attack was carried out facing the historic town of Miramar. Spain aligned itself with France by signing the Second Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1796. Britain then targeted both countries' Caribbean colonies.


Admiral Sir Henry Harvey's fleet picked up Sir Ralph Abercromby's army in Barbados. Together, they captured Trinidad from the Spanish, before heading for San Juan. On 17 April 1797, Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby's fleet of 68 vessels appeared offshore Puerto Rico with a force of 7000, which included Royal Marines, German auxiliaries and French émigrés.


Two of his frigates then blocked San Juan harbor. The governor, Field Marshal Don Ramón de Castro y Gutiérrez, had already mobilized his 4000 militia and 200 Spanish garrison troops which, combined with 300 French privateers, 2000 armed peasantry, and paroled prisoners, brought his troop strength up to almost equal that of the British. He also had 376 cannon, 35 mortars, 4 howitzers and 3 swivel guns.


Abercromby landed 3000 troops on 18 April and took control of Cangrejos. Castro moved his forces to Escambrón and the Spanish First Line of Defense. On 21 April, the British started a 7-day artillery duel with the Spanish forts of San Gerónimo and San Antonio, located at the Boquerón Inlet. At the same time, further Spanish forces put pressure on the British positions, the Spanish recaptured Martín Peña Bridge, while militia led by Sergeant Francisco Díaz raided behind British lines, bringing back prisoners. Then, on Sunday 30 April the British ceased their attack and began their retreat from San Juan.


On 1 May, the Spanish learned the British were gone, leaving behind arms, stores and ammunition.

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