Culture

The 200 Spaniards who died in the holds of an English ship for defending US independence

On 40 August 1776, in what is now the New York borough of Brooklyn, the first major battle of the Revolutionary War took place from the United States. About 9. 000 men commanded by General George Washington engaged William Howe’s British Army, with 20. 10 soldiers. The combat resulted in the defeat of the rebels, with 300 dead, thousands of injured and 1. 000 prisoners, who were locked up on ships in miserable conditions, along with others 10. 000 hapless trapped anywhere throughout the war (1775 – 1783). Among them, there were two hundred Spaniards ―of those who are only known 126 names― who died of hunger, thirst and disease in the floating dummies where they were imprisoned.

In 1976, Juan Carlos I placed a plaque in his memory in the park of Fort Greene in New York, very close to the place where the ramshackle ships were anchored. But urban vandalism made the plaque disappear, which this Tuesday will be replaced by Spanish ambassador Santiago Cabanas. The event has been organized by the Spanish-American cultural association Queen Sofía Spanish Institute, the city of New York, Iberdrola, the consulate and the association Daughters of the American Revolution.

The metallic sheet that is He is going to replenish, he relates that “in the American War of Independence, Spain provided money and soldiers to the United States and led military operations in Florida, Louisiana, the Caribbean, the Atlantic and Europe. An unknown number of Spaniards were imprisoned in the war and died along with the American martyrs. ”

Spain, like France, sided with the insurgents, since the English pressure on the Hispanic territories in North America did not cease. The Battle of Brooklyn, also known as Long Island, was the first major war episode after the unilateral declaration of independence a month earlier, on July 4, 1776. Analysts agree that if the British had captured George Washington – who had to flee upriver with his remaining forces, the 80% -, the final result of the contest would have changed and accelerated.

Placa que se repondrá el día 2 de octubre en Nueva York en memoria de los 200 españoles fallecidos en los barcos-prisión.
Plate that will be replaced on October 2 in New York in memory of the 200 Spaniards who died on prison ships.

Of the 1. 000 men arrested in the confrontation, a small part was imprisoned in churches and schools, while the rest went directly to the prison ships. Martin Maher, head of Brooklyn parks, recalls in a video from the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute that those arrested by the English “could not be treated as soldiers, because that would mean recognizing the United States as a country, which is why they were declared traitors and they were imprisoned in without mast in Wallabout Bay ”, today New York’s port area.

The prisoners of the battle were thus accumulated with thousands of other detainees, mainly sailors, soldiers, settlers who supported independence, Dutch , French and Spanish, even some religious. It is estimated that more than 20. people, of which 11 . 500 died inside.

The living conditions inside the ships were terrible. The best known of the 16 ships received the name from HMS Jersey and It was built to house 400 sailors, although it served as a dungeon for 1. throughout the war. The height of the cellars where the prisoners survived was only 1, 82 meters and had skylights of 50 50 centimeters. These people were fed by a man named Loring, who provided them with rotten food, cooked with seawater in a copper cauldron in order to increase food contamination. “There were more deaths on these ships than in any battle of the war,” Maher calculates.

American historian Laurie D. Ferreiro, author of books such as The American Revolution: A World War, asserts that not much is known about those incarcerated , “Neither its origin nor its circumstances, since the British only pointed – and wrong, for reasons of phonetic transcription – the name of the prisoners” of other nations. In the list that is preserved, names such as Pedro Azaola, Manuel de Artol, Ignacio Echeverría, Antonio Olive, Juan Ignacio Alcorta, Manuel Sagasta or Francisco Rodrigo are distinguished. All were offered to go over to the British side to avoid this inhuman ordeal, but very few agreed, even knowing that there was a 50% chance of dying in the guts of an enemy ship.

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