Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth?

Posted By: Marty

Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 08/25/11 03:50 PM

Every year around this time, we are faced with the same old questions
which lead to the same old tired arguments. Was the Battle of St.
George’s Caye real or is it just a myth? Was it a case of
‘derring-do’ or was it just documented lies agreed upon? Is it
realistic to believe that slave would have fought “shoulder to
shoulder” with master or would they have taken the opportunity to

This matter has been debated ad nauseam and at the end of the day, we
seem no closer to the truth than the day when the questions were first
asked. We do know that a hundred years after the fact, a determined
patriot by the name of Simon Lamb succeeded in convincing Belizeans
that there was enough evidence to warrant a yearly commemoration of
the event. As a child, I grew up marching every September 10th, at
first only for “lemonade and a piece of cake” but later in the belief
that our forefathers had indeed “fought a glorious fight”.

Simon Lamb himself died in 1913 but I can still remember each year,
watching a man playing Simon Lamb with a long sword that would draw a
line in the sand and dare the Spaniards to cross. I’m not sure when
the tradition stopped but each year on the Tenth of September, a
wreath used to be lain on the grave of Simon Lamb. When last I
enquired, no one was even able to find the spot where grave was. What
a shame!

Until the time of my departure from Belize in 1972, the Tenth of
September was still being celebrated with much vigor and gusto. Since
the late fifties when the political two-party system was established,
simultaneous parades were held throughout the city. Leading up to the
official day, many contests and ceremonies were staged with events
like the “Battle of the Bands”, “Queen of the Bay” and many others
being held nightly at the Memorial Park. It was time of much

By the time I returned to Belize two decades later, I discovered that
party politics and petty ideology had long since killed the “Spirit of
Simon Lamb”. Simulacrum had replaced shivaree and a once hearty and
vibrant celebration had been replaced by pompous officials and
political delegates seeming to simply be going through a motion.
Political tribalism had become the order of the day with
neo-celebrants embracing Independence and loyal pseudo patriots
clinging to the Tenth. “That deh time neva stand like a befo time”.
Each year, I observe this sad phenomenon with chimerical longing for
good old days gone by.

Of course, there is no turning back the clock and we are where we are.
While I remain convinced, after doing some research, that the events
of September 10th, 1798 was real and worthy to be commemorated, there
might be one area in which even Simon Lamb might have missed the boat.
While the circumstances surrounding the battle, skirmish or to
whatever degree the confrontation was, does proffer room for doubt,
there is one event indubitably documented that gives greater reason
for public pride and patriotic stirrings.

There is no doubt that Belizeans are as creative, athletic,
professional and proficient as the citizens of any other state or
nation on this planet. Only rarely do we break out and excel however,
and quite often that comes only from those who have been exposed to
foreign environs and influences; case in point, Marion Jones and Artie
Petters. The best we have done in international competition was in
1998 and in Mexico with our basketball teams. Even then, it took a
majority of foreign groomed or even foreign born participants to push
us up to the top. Our people lack confidence and self esteem. I have
a theory. It is my belief that the major cause of our
under-achievements is that we do not have enough to make us feel good
about ourselves. As a nation, we have no major accomplishments to our
credit; we have won no major battles or overcome any major obstacle;
or have we?

I have always felt that the Battle of St. George’s Caye was a
significant story to tell; if only to enhance and influence the ego of
our people. We needed desperately to inculcate this into the psyche
or our consciousness; even if it requires augmenting and embellishing
existing facts. Our people need heroes and victories to nudge them on
to excellence.

The event that Simon Lamb missed, (and that Assad Shoman in his
otherwise excellent and extensive narrative of our history failed to
even mention), were the proceedings of a town meeting that was held in
the then colony way back on June 1st of 1797. This saga I believe to
be epic and matching the mark of courage and resolve found in the
history annals of any country on this planet. When the meeting had
ended, a small but giant-hearted group of true patriots had decided to
defy all odds and stand to fight and defend what was to become our
homeland. We owe them much and to dismiss and discard this tale of
momentous courage is to do disservice not only to those heroes but a
grave injustice even to ourselves.

In 2009 and shortly before his death, Dr. Neil Garbutt funded and
spearheaded a tribute to the heroes of that historic vote and a
monument was erected in the village of Flower’s Bank in their honor.
The names of William Flowers, Caesar Flowers, Joseph Toney, Adam
Flowers, William Scott, William Pinder, George Grant, James Hercules,
William Crofts, David Dawson, John Dawson and Joseph Smith, freed
slaves whose timely intervention broke a 51-51 deadlock that resulted
in the decision to stay as opposed to evacuate, remains forever etched
on not only that monument that is dedicated to their memory but on the
very essentials of Belize’s existence as a nation state. This is the
type of courage that lends impetus to the achievement of great things.
What a waste Belize, what a waste!

G. Michael Reid
Citizen of the world
Posted By: collyk

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 08/25/11 04:53 PM

I've just read Emory King's account of The Battle of St. George's Caye. It was fascinating. I'd love to hear about the controversies and debates about the truth of the time, but even though the battle itself was not particularly exciting, learning about the settlers and how things were done was really interesting.
Posted By: Belizean Minds

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/29/12 05:49 PM

You may want to check out my letter to the editor where I dealt with this precise issue. It's also posted on the forum // or
Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/04/14 11:50 AM

After a few treaties in negotiating rights and opportunities to live and cut, first logwood, used for dyes at the time in Europe and then mahogany – still being used today for furniture and inside houses. Whatever happened in Europe between England and Spain directly affected the Caribbean and what is today Belize in Central America. It is only fitting to state that England and Spain did not really care for each other too much then.

One of the problems for Spain, even though they entered fair negotiations on what was their property in Central America, (British) Honduras (today Belize), was entitlement of land. The English sat on the land, then British Honduras and even though were kicked out several times between 1715-1760, they resiliently returned and grew their roots. Note that, the Spanish never once attempted to make a home in Belize. The English made it a home – away from home – as primarily, there was economic opportunity here for them and more, freedom.

Picture Credit: Ambergris Today

Between September 3rd and September 10th, 1798, things truly became very interesting in the settlement of Honduras. The Spanish made a final attempt to take British Honduras by force. The English and a rough neck crew of about sixty five Baymen decided that they would not walk away from their home anymore. They found it unacceptable and they resisted with all their souls in defense of what is today our native land Belize. They resisted successfully and perhaps the most important outcome of this final Spanish-English battle on our shores was that the Spanish never again attempted to remove anyone from this land.

We certainly bid the Baymen great people who were born and raised in then Honduras, who protected the only land they knew. On the 10th of September, we will toast to them for being courageous 216 years ago!

Picture Credit:

Here are some names of people who were involved in the last battle – the battle of St. Georges Caye.

1. Colonel Marcus Despard, Honduras first Superintendent.
2. Juan O’Sullivan, Spanish Commissioner, or “visitador”, who came to Merida during the time, who returned to Madrid, Spain to report on the unease and hostilities in this region.
3. Alexander Lindsay, Sixth Earl of Balcarres, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica who paid attention to the request of the people of Honduras and who in 1796 dispatched 120 muskets and ammunition.
4. Lieutenant Thomas Dundas, Commander of the HMS Merlin who delivered 1500 muskets and ammunition on December 5th, 1796
5. Lieutenant Colonel, Thomas Barrow the leader of the political system in Honduras at the time of the drama
6. Captain John Moss the military leader of the rough and tumble Baymen Crew who decided to fight rather than flee.
7. Thomas Paslow, Honduras slave owner who decided himself not to flee but to get in the mud with the other Baymen and fight
8. Don Arturo O’Neill Tirone, Governor of the Yucatan, the man that had strict orders from Spain to expel the Baymen Trespassers.
9. Joe Toney, the proprietor of Toney’s Turtling boat who reported the position of the Spanish fleet en route to Honduras, off Cozumel.

To end, there was certainly a tipping point in this story and certainly, that was the difference. Perhaps it was the moment when the Baymen decided to stay and fight. September 10th, 2014, 216 years later, we celebrate that tipping point. Hurray for the Baymen! Long live Belize!

NINE Eco-Tours

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/04/14 11:52 AM

After Lecture, Students Big Up The Battle

Did the battle of St. George's Caye really happen?  Many Belizeans are skeptical about the historical veracity of the event but today the history lecture at the Bliss Center entitled "St. George's Caye, the truth revealed; exploring the facts and implications" sought to eliminate that doubt and seemingly, it was a success because the students were convinced. On leaving the lecture, they told us more about what they learned today. 

Mai Wer, Belize High School

"Before this lecture I believed that it did actually happen because the facts I did learn in school sounded really realistic to me and this lecture also let me believe even more really."

Destiny Gaynair, Belize High School

"Now I know more in detail. It didn't actually take just that day to have the battle, it was actually a really long period of time, so that was something that I learned, it was really longer than what we were thought in school."

Osric Chimilio, Belize High School

"The talked about the ships that they were making to find shallow waters like the H.M.S Merlin, I did not know they actually did something like that. It's actually like details that were like erased from history and never thought in school."

Alize Flowers, Palloti High School

"We learnt a lot that we didn't know but most of the stuff our teacher thought us in class in history."

Courtney Weatherburne

"So before this presentation, did you believe the battle of St. George's Caye actually happened or you thought it was a myth like many people do."

Alize Flowers

"Miss I thought it was a myth before, but then the way the man talked and explained it I knew it was a real battle and they thought us a lot of this that we didn't know."

Marniesha Neal, Palloti High School

"I believed it actually happen because I learnt a lot when I was in primary school and we learnt something I didn't know, like what were the ships name, so I think I learnt a lot more now."

Geon Vasquez

"As an association we also want to have more lectures probably quarterly every 3 months that stimulate and talk about the history of Belize. As information begins to be published that we think the public needs to be aware of we're going to try to as best as possible and as financing and time can afford us we will bring that to the public."

The Belize history association was inaugurated in January.

Channel 7

National History Lecture discusses Battle of St. George’s Caye

The Battle of St. George’s Caye is a historical fact, despite efforts by some to suggest otherwise.

216 years after the naval engagement off Belize’s coast, however, the question two historians attempted to answer today was: is the Battle important and relevant to modern Belize, and if so, how?

Presenter and chair of the executive board of the Belize History Association, Francis Humphreys says that the Battle is the first “foundation stone” of what is now Belize.

Had the result gone differently, Belize, like its neighbors, would be largely Spanish-speaking and observe different customs, practices and traditions.

By defending the Settlement together, both black and white settlers made clear they preferred British rule.

Belize would soon after become a Crown Colony and remain the only British settlement on the Central American mainland after they gave up Bluefields in the Mosquito Coast region of Nicaragua.

Joining Humphreys was former political representative and amateur historian Fred Hunter.

The two presented their research on the Battle of St. George’s Caye to an audience of students at the Bliss Center Auditorium and via radio and television, answering questions submitted via Facebook as well.

Humphreys told us that continued research by members of the non-profit association will lead to a comprehensive and inclusive history of Belize commissioned by the Association.

The National History Lecture is planned to become an annual event.

Another lecture on Belize’s economic development and future is planned for September 17.

Patrick Jones

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/05/14 11:54 AM

Click photos for lots more pictures!

A fantastic day at the House of Culture today as we opened the Battle of St. George's Caye Exhibit. We thank the close to 500 primary school students and their teachers who visited and viewed the exhibit. We kindly invite the Corozal community to come in and learn more about this most important time in Belizean history. The exhibit will be on display through to November.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/05/14 05:01 PM

Who pays the piper …

Amandala Editorial

At the end of their lecture presentations on Wednesday morning at the Bliss glorifying the British Baymen and the Battle of St. George’s Caye, Mr. Fred Hunter concluded that “it was the Africans who won the battle,” but Mr. Francis Humphreys, the UDP Mayoral candidate in Dangriga, conceded that nothing changed in the enslaved condition of the said same Africans after September 10, 1798.

In 1798 there were some naval episodes and confrontations between September 3 and September 10, featuring an invading Spanish fleet from the Yucatán and the defending British Baymen from the settlement of Belize. There were no casualties of any kind on the Baymen side, and no battle casualties of any kind on the Spanish side. This was not much of a battle, when we consider Borodino in 1812, say, and there is no record of its being celebrated until exactly 100 years later, because of an initiative organized by a BEC employee and subsidized by the colonial government of British Honduras.

That 1898 celebration initiative, known as “Centenary,” took place just four years after serious labor uprisings in Belize Town and just five years after the 1893 Mariscal-Spenser treaty between Mexico and Great Britain finally fixed the border between Yucatán and Corozal at the Rio Hondo. From 1847 onwards, the northern part of Belize had been an area of instability, to put it mildly, because the British were selling arms, ammunition, and supplies to the rebellious Santa Cruz Maya, while the Mérida/Campeche Yucatecans became allied with the Icaiche Maya. The Caste War of Yucatán had begun in 1847, whereupon refugees form both the ladino and Maya sides began to settle in Corozal and Orange Walk.

The British are notorious tightwads, but in 1898 they began the financing of the annual Centenary celebrations. The only other celebrations held in poor Belize Town at that time were Christmas celebrations, which involved wild spending by the mahogany camp workers, who afterwards had to obtain loan advances from their contractor bosses before they went back to camp in January. Tenth of September was the only time the colonial masters spent a little money. On the face of it, the Centenary party looked free, but this was a party which, as time went along, served a propaganda purpose: it divided the Africans from the Mestizos and the Maya in Belize, because, just as Mr. Hunter was declaring on Wednesday, the British passed credit for the “big victory” in 1798 to the same Africans they had enslaved and were continuing to oppress.

September 1798 was one more clash between two imperial masters – the Catholic Spanish and the Anglican British, and these two had been fighting each other for more than two and a half centuries before 1798. In the Western Hemisphere, they were fighting for control of the riches of the New World. In this part of Central America, African slaves were running from Belize to the Yucatán in the north and to Petén in the west. There was some movement of African slaves south from the Spanish Yucatán to British Belize, but the research of the Penn State University professor, Matthew Restall, and others has proven conclusively that slaves preferred to run from Belize to the Yucatán rather than vice versa. Check the stats.

In Belize in 2014, the descendants of the Baymen’s slaves of 1798 are not carrying “pocono boy” sticks to fight Spaniards: they carry automatic pistols with which they shoot each other. The Centenary celebrations have now been largely commercialized, and, if you think about it, in 2014 it is the masses of the Belizean people who will end up paying for the celebrations – either directly or through our taxpayers’ monies.

We have to get real here. Where the masses of the Maya and the masses of the enslaved Africans were concerned then, and as far as we are concerned now, the Spanish and the British are the same thing – enslavers, oppressors, and imperialists. There’s nothing wrong with a Centenary party, except when Buckingham Palace uses it to divide us Belizeans along ethnic lines. In September of 1798, the Spanish and the British fought against each other. We black people were extras on that movie set.

The new Belize History Association made a late switch from Wednesday night to Wednesday morning on the grounds that they wanted to facilitate students. Pardon us for our cynicism, but this was a decision designed to prevent the adult crowd which would have come in the night from articulating dissenting views. Wednesday morning amounted to colonial propaganda and an exercise in Union Jack waving. Jolly good show, old chaps.

Out here in the streets where roots smoke weed instead of drinking Scotch whisky, Hunter and Humphries might as well have been talking to themselves. Down here the issues begin with hunger. To repeat, there’s nothing wrong with some Centenary partying, but let’s get the facts straight. 1798 did not liberate African people and it did not liberate Maya people. In 2014, that’s pretty much who we are in Belize – African and Maya. Talk to me.

Power to the people..

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/09/14 09:27 PM


216 years ago, days like September 8th and September 9th were absolutely stressful to say the very least. On September 10th, a volatile day in our country's history exploded. Many things have happened since the journey to Belize's Independence began then.

Credit Dr. Jaime Awe

Between September 3rd and September 10th, 1798, things truly became very interesting in the settlement of Honduras. The Spanish made a final attempt to take (British) Honduras by force. The English and a rough neck crew of about sixty five Baymen decided that they would not walk away from their home anymore. They found it unacceptable and they resisted with all their souls in defense of what is today our native land Belize. They resisted successfully and perhaps the most important outcome of this final Spanish-English battle on our shores was that the Spanish never again attempted to remove anyone from this land.

We certainly honour the Baymen as great people who were born and raised in then Honduras, who protected the only land they knew. On the 10th of September, we will toast to them for being courageous 216 years ago!

Here are some names of people you should be introduced to that were involved in the last battle – the battle of St. Georges Caye.

1. Colonel Marcus Despard, Honduras first Superintendent.

2. Juan O’Sullivan, Spanish Commissioner, or “visitador”, who came to Merida during the time, who returned to Madrid, Spain to report on the unease and hostilities in this region.

3. Alexander Lindsay, Sixth Earl of Balcarres, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica who paid attention to the request of the people of Honduras and who in 1796 dispatched 120 muskets and ammunition.

4. Lieutenant Thomas Dundas, Commander of the HMS Merlin who delivered 1500 muskets and ammunition on December 5th, 1796.

5. Lieutenant Colonel, Thomas Barrow the leader of the political system in Honduras at the time of the drama.

6. Captain John Moss the military leader of the rough and tumble Baymen Crew who decided to fight rather than flee.

7. Thomas Paslow, Honduras slave owner who decided himself not to flee but to get in the mud with the other Baymen and fight.

8. Don Arturo O’Neill Tirone, Governor of the Yucatan, the man that had strict orders from Spain to expel the Baymen Trespassers.

9. Joe Toney, the proprietor of Toney’s Turtling boat who reported the position of the Spanish fleet en route to Honduras, off Cozumel.

To end, there was certainly a tipping point in this story and certainly, that was the difference. Perhaps it was the moment when the Baymen decided to stay and fight.

September 10th, 2014 - 216 years later, we celebrate that tipping point.

Hurray for the Baymen! Long live Belize.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/10/14 11:57 AM

Prelude To The Battle Of St. George’s Caye

by Emory King

Back in 1796, almost two years before the famous battle of St. George’s Caye, Spanish ships from Mexico captured three Belize ships near Lighthouse Reef and took them back to Yucatan. It was then that the Baymen learned that Spain and Britain had gone to war again.

Almost immediately a group of men in Belize Town said the best solution was to evacuate the Settlement and go to the Mosquito Shore. Another group said the best solution was to prepare for war and defend Belize.

The debate came to a head on June 1st 1797 at the largest Public Meeting ever held in the Settlement up to that time.

Did you ever hear of William Flowers, Caesar Flowers, Joseph Toney, Adam Flowers, William Scott, William Pinder, George Grant, James Hercules, William Crofts, David Dawson, John Dawson or Joseph Smith?

Probably not, but you should have heard of them.

These twelve men were the first Black Heroes of Belize to have their names recorded in the Public Records of the Settlement. (See Public Meetings, June 1, 1797 in the Belize Archives, Belmopan.)

On that day, these dozen Black men, together with two White men, George Raybon and Thomas Robertson, voted down a resolution to Evacuate the Settlement before the Spanish Army came to invade. (They cast the last 14 votes at the Public Meeting in Belize Town.)

The vote that day against Evacuation, (65 to 51 with 11 abstentions), set the stage for the Battle of St. George’s Caye the following year. Had the vote gone the other way the Settlement would have abandoned and lost forever to Spain and then Mexico or Guatemala. (They found out, after the Battle, that the Spanish had an Occupation Army waiting in Bacalar, just across the border in Mexico, to march on Belize as soon as the invasion was successful.)

The argument over Evacuation had been going on for almost a year. One group, led by Colonel James Pitt Lawrie and others, wanted to leave Belize and move to the Mosquito Shore, as the Baymen had always done in the past when the Spanish invaded.

A second group, led by Thomas Paslow and Marshall Bennett, was determined to stay and defend Belize.

Background: While most of the territories in the Americas were originally granted to Spain by the Pope in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 (with a portion going to Portugal, Britain had other plans for the wealth coming from Spain’s colonies. By enlisting English and Scottish pirates such as Sir Francis Drake, Britain quickly got a toe hold on the Caribbean from which to plunder Spanish merchant ships.

Eventually, the British pirates made their way to what would one day be British Honduras (modern day Belize), in Central America that was protected from the large and ungainly Spanish warships by the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The Spanish saw the area as being not worth their effort, as the Maya in the area were staunchly anticolonial. It was safe for pirates such as Captain Henry Morgan and Blackbeard to seek refuge in the reefs of British Honduras before embarking on adventures to pillage and plunder from Charleston to Panama City. The Baymen of British Honduras were descendants of the British and Scottish pirates that made Belize their base.

After months of the most acrimonious debate the question came before the largest Public Meeting ever held in Belize. The issue was decided by the Free Black Men’s vote at the end of the day.

Who were these Black men? According to the Belize Archives some came from up the Belize River. We can guess that the Flowers men, William, Caesar and Adam, lived at Flowers Bank Village. Perhaps others lived there as well or at Convention Town or St. James Boom or Black Creek.

Joseph Toney, together with his partner, Joseph Lascelles, was a turtler and fisherman who probably lived in Belize Town. (A little over a year later, in 1798, Toney and Lascelles reported seeing the Spanish Fleet assembling off Cozumel to load soldiers for the invasion.)

The Dawsons probably lived up the Belize River too. The family name is still well represented in Boom, Crooked Tree and elsewhere along the river.

Of the two White Men who voted with them, Thomas Robertson ran a tavern in Belize Town. George Raybon, an American Loyalist, perhaps lived somewhere around Black Creek or the Crooked Tree Lagoon.

Apparently, the leaders of the Free Black men were the Flowers families. These people had been slaves in the Mosquito Shore and owned by William Flowers from Bristol, England. In 1756 he decided to return to England and he freed his slaves before he left.

Known as the Flowers Negroes throughout the Mosquito Shore, they worked hard and provided for themselves and their children. But, in 1786 William Flowers died in England and his heirs claimed the Flowers Negroes were still slaves and tried to sell them at the Shore.

The Flowers men became alarmed at this turn of events, broke into some homes, took items and food and took their families into the bush determined to fight, if necessary, to keep their freedom.

The Superintendent of the Shore, Colonel James Pitt Lawrie, called a meeting of the Council, declared the Flowers families free, that they had been free for the past thirty years and forgave them for their thefts.

The Flowers families returned, gave back the things stolen and agreed to come to Belize with the Mosquito Shore people in 1787. (See Mosquito Shore Records, Belize Archives, Belmopan.)

It is not surprising that they voted to stay and fight for their freedom in Belize, even if it meant defeating their friend Colonel Lawrie’s desire to evacuate the Settlement.

These twelve are the only names we know, but they were just a few of the hundreds of Black Men and Women, free and slave, who were determined to fight for Belize against the Spaniards and in spite of the cowards and fools who wanted to run away.

These Black Belizeans became the founders of families that today number in the tens of thousands of Belize Creoles.

A monument to the Belizeans who voted to stay and defend Belize was erected at Flowers Bank Village in 2009. The construction of the monument was financed by Dr. Neil Garbutt who passed away that same year.

That vote did not completely quell the movement of Evacuation, but its proponents could not get enough support to bring the question before the Public Meeting a second time, thanks in part to the spirited written objections of Thomas Paslow. In a letter to the Public Meeting he thundered, “A MAN WHO WILL NOT DEFEND HIS COUNTRY IS NOT ENTITLED TO REAP THE BENEFIT THEREOF.”

The sentence should be chiseled in stone over the doors of the National Assembly building in Belmopan, keeping in mind there are many ways for men and women to defend our Country.

Celebrating Belize History: Happy St George’s Caye Day!!

The Battle of St George’s Caye, commemorated as a national holiday in Belize on September 10, was the defining moment in the birth of the country, bringing together a disparate group of individuals willing to risk their lives to foster a unified British Honduras and paving the road to the eventual creation of today’s Belize.

The story itself, with a small ragtag group defeating a vastly superior professional Spanish military force over a week of fighting on one of the most picturesque battlefields on earth, is one of the more colourful chapters in an area and history long associated with adventure and romance. This is, after all, the setting for The Pirates of the Caribbean and countless other tales of swashbuckling and derring-do.

Racial and class divides were put aside when the settlers and African slaves went up against a well-trained and heavily armed professional military force from Spain, going into battle completely outnumbered and out gunned with the beautiful Caribbean as a backdrop, complete with sandy islands, swaying palms and sparkling waves breaking over a stunning reef.

We always said it has all the makings of an epic film.

Living far from any seat of government or authority, Belize’s early inhabitants were hearty souls who had developed a unique frontier society with their own standards and rules. Pirates may have been accommodated; supplied with game from ashore as they hid behind the barrier reef, but the predominately English speaking settlers rejected the very idea of Spanish rule.

Word of a Spanish invasion arrived, and after a referendum to decide whether to evacuate, or stand and fight, the final vote was in favour of standing to defend the settlement.

With a Spanish fleet of 32 vessels and some 500 sailors and 2000 soldiers on the way, a defence was quickly organised with Captain John Moss in command, with the HMS Merlin and a small fleet of three sloops, the Towser, Tickler and Mermaid, each with a crew of 25 men and a compliment of light cannon ranging from one eighteen pounder, a short nine pounder, four 6 pounders and a couple of 4 pounders. There were also two schooners, the Swinger and Teazer, and eight gun-flats, each carrying one 9-pounder and 16 men.

Except for the crews of Towser and Tickler, the vessels were manned by volunteers from the “Colonial Troops”. The Baymen, for their part, had 700 fighters of all colours, descriptions and stations in life.

The Spanish fleet was spotted approaching the Belize Great Barrier Reef, and the battle began on September 3rd, 1798 when the Spanish attempted to pass over the shoals near St George’s Caye, but were successfully repelled.

On September 10th after a fierce two and a half hour engagement, the Spanish were defeated and fled. The final battle began beginning with the largest Spanish vessels opening fire and attacking, and ending with their flotilla in disarray, cutting their cables and retreating with the Baymen in hot pursuit until darkness made navigation through the reef too hazardous.

The Spanish continued their retreat back up to the Yucatan and never again tried to invade Belize.

The leaders of the Baymen later wrote back to England that if it were not for the valour and fighting capabilities of the many slaves who took part in the defence, with everyone fighting together under the cry of “Shoulder to Shoulder,” victory would never have been possible.

The battle of St George’s Caye has always captivated historians with its combination of brilliant tactics, sheer courage and the solidarity of the defenders. For Belizeans, it marks the moment when the people of the settlement, of all races and creeds, decided to stand “shoulder to shoulder” to defend something they all saw as worthy of fighting for.

One hundred years later, in 1898, the 10th of September was declared a Public Holiday, and today it continues to be exuberantly celebrated.

Imagine if those early Belizeans knew that almost two hundred years later their valour would be rewarded when the former colony of British Honduras, on September 21, 1981, became a fully independent, sovereign nation, respected around the world as a model of democracy and free speech as well as for its commitment to environmental sustainability.

It’s easy to understand why even today its citizens are so passionate about Belize and continue to fight to protect what makes their country so special. That reef on which their ancestors fought with its hundreds of pristine cayes, sparkling clean water and abundant marine life remains very much the way it was back in 1798, largely due to the efforts of today’s Belizeans who recognise the same thing their ancestors did - that this is a very special country that deserves protection.

We think those early defenders at St George’s Caye would be proud.

Chaa Creek blog

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/10/14 07:59 PM

This is the tenth day of September
Twenty fourteen Anno Domini
After 216 years we celebrate today
The Battle of St George’s Caye
Whether or not cannons were fired
Or vessels were damaged
It was a day that ended well
With foreign aggressors withdrawn
They never to claim our land again
Now in twenty fourteen
A spurious claim promoted
By our neighbors to the west
Our diplomats in air conditioned comfort
Engage in condescending chatter
The ICJ to decide the claim
This claim is but a territorial fishing trip
To catch all or half of Belize
Or just some cayes and waters too
We shall not be their bait boys
Nor the ICJ their boat captain

Mike Heusner
Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/21/14 11:30 AM


There was no battle of St. George’s Caye in September, 1798. Neither was there a battle at St. George’s Caye.

It is stupid, in 2014, for the school children and the country to be told there was a battle and that the Baymen fought and won a major battle.

It is equally stupid to be saying that if it were not for the victory at St. George’s Caye, Belize would not exist.

It is a fact that 32 Spanish ships carrying sailors and over 2,500 soldiers came to Belize in the area of St. George’s Caye. It is a fact the Governor of Jamaica sent a small ship, the Marlin and about 200 soldiers from the West India Regent. It is a fact that a number of the Baymen used their small boats to go out to “defend” St. George’s Caye.

It is a fact that black persons were in the boats of the Baymen. It is not a fact that slaves fought, neither is it true they fought with puck-u-nuh boy sticks. Please remember that there was slavery in Belize up to 1834. In 1798, there were some free black people and there were some free coloured people. The Baymen used these to row the boats.

The Archives of Belize has the written reports of Captain Moss who headed the boats that went out to St. George’s Caye. There is also the written report of Superintendent Thomas Barrow. Anyone who reads these reports can figure out what happened. There was no battle.

From these reports we learn many interesting things. Always bear in mind that history is the version of events by those who have a particular bias. The history we are using is his-story, i.e. the history of our slave masters and the British. It is a different type of history from that of historians who subsequently research a matter using various reliable sources. For example we are told by historians that in 1783 there was the Treaty of Versailles. It ended war between the British and Spain. It gave the British right to cut logwood between the Hondo River and the Belize River. In the convention of London1786, Spain gave written permission for logwood to be cut as far as Sibun River. These permissions were always that the cutting of logwood recognized that the area belonged to Spain AND there were to be no permanent fortifictries. Spanish Commissioners regularly and officially visited Belize to show compliance.

These documents are in Spain and in Britain and historians verify them.

The matter of no permanent fortifictries is important. It is the reason Spain, through its officials in Mexico kept visiting Belize and specifically St. George’s Caye, because the Baymen were building permanent fortifictries, that is why the Spaniards came and destroyed it every time. That is a historical fact.

The Archives Department in Belmopan has the long list of documents and correspondence and reports of the arrival of Spaniards from Mexico who burned and destroyed buildings on St. George’s Caye. Please remember St. Geroge’s Caye was like the capital at the time.

There is a map with markings of St. George’s Caye dated 1764. It is shows all the buildings and structures on the Caye. It shows the markings of residences and gives the names of the owners. It shows the famous turtle corrals and it shows the quarters for the slaves who served the Baymen on the Caye.

It is a historic fact that the Spaniards always chased the Baymen off St. George’s Caye. On some occasions the whole settlement, including Baymen and slaves would hide up the river or go to the Mosquito Shores.

The records show that the Spaniards chased off the Baymen in 1724, 1733, 1744, 1751 and 1779.

One particularly rough experience was 15th September, 1779. Nineteen Spanish ships appeared in front of St. George’s Caye. They captured 141 white people and 250 slaves and took them to Bacalar. The population of the settlement in 1779 was 500 whites and 3,000 slaves.

On 9th August, 1798 orders were carried out and the houses and structures on St. George’s Caye were burned, water vats and barrels that could be emptied and moved were brought back to the mainland. This was done so the Spaniards would not try to remain on the Caye, which at the time was like the capital of the settlement.

On 10th September, the record written by Captain Moss and Superintendent Barrow was that smaller boats left the Spanish ships and rowed to St. George’s Caye. Presumably they checked and found no one there and the place abandoned and destroyed so they rowed back to the ships and the ships started sailing away.

It is a fact that Superintendent Barrow and hundreds of soldiers stayed by Haulover Creek.They were sent for by Captain Moss in the afternoon. By the time they reached the Caye area the Spanish ships had already sailed away to join their main fleet in the area of Long Caye and Caye Chapel.

The so-called battle was from around 1:00 p.m. or 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon and within two hours the few Spanish ships were leaving the area. No doubt the Baymen fired canons but Captain Moss himself reported that NO ONE WAS KILLED. Neither was any boat or ship sunk.

A report of what transpired on the 10th September was sent by Superintendent Barrow to his boss, the Governor of Jamaica. Remember that Barrow was never sent out at the Caye during the so-called battle. He and Captain Moss were “bigging” up themselves, claiming to have conducted a major victory against Spain. In modern language this is what is called bull—–.

Another bull—– was that slaves fought against the Spanish battleships with puck-u-no boy sticks. There is nothing anywhere in the records of this. And certainly the slave masters, i.e. the Baymen, were not so stupid as to give guns to the slaves and put them on boats so they could sail away to freedom or join the Spaniards.

The record shows that on 29th January, 1798, the Governor of Jamaica informed Superintendent Barrow that he was sending officers of the 6th West Indian (black) Regiment to Belize. The Governor wrote that he expects the settlement to provide 171 privates from the well behaved slaves who will be paid similar to the British soldiers and be liberated when peace was achieved with Spain. There is no record any such thing actually happened. In fact after 10th September slavery continued in Belize.

The Governor went on to suggest that if that was not achievable then Belize was to pay 15 pounds 15 shillings to all free men of colour and free negroes who enlist. If the settlement still failed to get sufficient free men, then the Governor suggested money may be paid to slave owners for each slave used.

On 23rd February, 1798, it was reported that the Settlement was going to use 171 negroes but the Baymen were saying they agree to sell their slaves to the Government if they get acceptable terms. Put another way, faced with war the Baymen were looking to hustle. All this while the Baymen still have their slaves in the jungle cutting mahogany logs.

One hundred years of this bogus battle, a most interesting thing happened. An editorial appeared in the Colonial Guardian newspaper (note there is a neo-colonial newspaper presently in Belize named the Guardian). This editorial said the battle of St. George’s Caye should be celebrated by the inhabitants of British Honduras with pomp and circumstances as the greatest and most glorious event which secured for the Baymen and their decendants civil and religious liberty and good government.

On 6th April, 1898, a public meeting was held at a building called Riverside Hall to consider the centenary of the battle. The meeting was addressed by Henry Charles Usher J.P., Dr. Charles R. Eyles, R.H. Logan, Sydney Woods and Carl Metzgen. The meeting passed resolutions that the 10th September be a public holiday; the battle be celebrated each year and a committee of 40 be formed to promote the celebration of the battle.

Another important matter worth considering is the statements that the Baymen defeated the Spaniards on 10th September, 1798 because the Spaniards never again tried to dislodge them after that date. The reason for this is that in that the British and Spain were at war. The war ended and a peace treaty was signed and called the Treaty of Amians 1802.

The British conducted a census in October, 1790 which shows an interesting population. There were 261 white persons in the Settlement. There were 371 “free people of colour”. There were 2,024 slaves.

Of the 261 whites, 41 were children, 40 were women and 174 were men. Of the coloured people who were not slaves, 120 were men, 132 were women and 119 were children. Of the 2,024 slaves, 1,091 were men, 515 were women and 418 were children.

Creoles in Belize came from white men having children with black women. Black men could not have sex with the few white women in the Settlement. And this would not remain not up to slavery being ended in 1838, but well beyond that.

The record kept by the British and copies are in the Archives Department in Belmopan show rebellions in the Settlement in 1765, 1768, 1773 and 1820. Please note that the 1820 rebellion was 22 years after the so-called battle of St. George’s Caye. This rebellion started from 24th April to 22 May. A reward was offered for the capture of “the Captain and Leaders of these rebels”. Their names: WILL and SHARPER. Not a statue or building is named after these two heroes who fought for freedom.

In 1862 the Settlement was officially made a Colony of the British. In 1871 we were made a Crown Colony with a Legislature Assembly and a Lieutenant Governor.

It was not until 1950 that Belizeans got tired of British controlling their lives and a political party with George Price, Phillip Goldson, Leigh Richardson, John Smith and others was formed to fight freedom.

Belize gained Self-Government in 1964 and because of the Guatemalan threat to invade and forcibly “recover their land” independence was not achieved until 21st September, 1981.

The records show that the United Democratic Party refused to take part in the discussions on drafting an Independence Constitution for Belize. They also asked the British Government to delay Independence for at least ten years.

The record also shows that in 2012 the U.D.P. Government without notifying Belizeans or getting approval signed an Agreement with Guatemala called a Compromi. This document binds our country to holding a referendum on whether or not the people wish to take the legal claim of Guatemala to the International Court of Justice. Prime Minister Barrow personally told Belizeans that his Government would not push for a yes or no position. Months thereafter he was doing the exact opposite. Including getting his U.D.P. party to agree to vote yes in the referendum.

In the next few months the British Government and Guatemala will be coming back with another attempt to get us to hold a referendum.

There is one other important matter that is on the records. It is a quotation from the U.K. newspaper of 26th January, 1978:

“The Premier of Belize, said in London last night that at one point in the secret negotiations with Guatemala, the Americans, apparently with British support, were seriously preparing a protection plan for the Colony which would cede nearly one quarter of it to the military dictatorship of President Laugerud. It would have exceeded 2,000 square miles.

“The thinking in Whitehall (British) and Washington is that there will be no solution which does not involve Belize ceding some token amount of land” – Financial Times 26th January 1978.

This is what George Price and the people of Belize were fighting against in the real battle for an independent Belize.

Guatemala is convinced that Prime Minister Barrow is going along with the plan in the Compromi. They are right.

May god bless Belize and guide her people to change the U.D.P. Government before we lose part of the Toledo District.

A happy and safe Independence to all!

The Belize Times

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 11/05/14 10:26 AM

Yucatán’s Naval War with Belize

Arturo O’Neill de Tyrone y O’Kelly, the Governor and Captain-General of the Intendencia of Yucatán, moved a substantial fleet of warships against a rabble of British woodcutters. They had been squatters too long in territory that clearly belonged to the King of Spain.

Arturo O’Neill, scion of an ancient and distinguished Irish dynasty, had gone to Spain as a young military cadet. He progressed through the ranks in the royal army, achieved promotions to general and field marshal, demonstrated abilities as an administrator and diplomat, and received important political appointments in America. He became Governor of Yucatán in 1792 while also serving as Governor of West Florida. An Irishman in the service of Spain may seem strange, but it was not unusual — let us mention only Juan de O’Donojú y O’Ryan, the last Viceroy of New Spain; Alejandro O’Reilly, Governor of Spanish Louisiana; and Bernardo O’Higgins, a leader of Chilean independence.

English and Scottish woodcutters, called Baymen, had been active on the coasts of Yucatán since around 1630. They were essentially poachers, little better than the pirates with whom they were often allied, cutting and shipping valuable hardwoods out of the tropical forests. They particularly sought a tree called, rather uninformatively, “logwood” (Haematoxylum campechianum, Spanish palo de tinte), which could be made to yield textile dyes — shades of red, blue, and black, the last color especially valued as it came to dominate European clothing styles. Honduras mahogany also became an increasingly important export.

Spain successfully evicted British woodcutters from Bay of Campeche, on the peninsula’s west coast, in 1717, but their activities from the Bay of Honduras northward continued and increased. Viewing that country as remote and of little value, the Spanish authorities made only sporadic efforts to evict them. In one successful operation, the Spanish captured essentially all the Baymen and imprisoned them in Havana, leaving the area abandoned. But the Spanish never settled there, and the British woodcutters always returned. By the 1770s, their logging camps were becoming permanent settlements.

Treaties signed by Britain and Spain in 1783 and 1786 finally granted the British, in exchange for other concessions, permission to cut hardwoods along the coast of what is now Belize, between the Hondo River (the current boundary with Mexico) and the Sibun River (six miles south of today’s Belize City). Britain agreed that Spain retained sovereignty over the territory and that the Baymen would not erect any defensive fortifications, establish any form of government, develop plantation agriculture, or use the adjacent waters and islands for anything other than subsistence fishing.

His Britannic Majesty signed the treaty without consulting the settlers on any of this. The determinedly independent Baymen ignored the restrictions, greatly increasing their permanent population, electing magistrates, and importing slaves. They established their largest settlement on an island they called St. George’s Caye, eight miles off the mouth of the Belize River. The Spanish called it Cayo Cocina, or Kitchen Key.

In October 1796, Spain declared war against Great Britain. Just the latest of many between these historic rivals, this one was part of the complex and shifting conflicts that swept Europe in the quarter-century following the French Revolution. The Governor of Yucatán received orders to aid the Spanish effort by evicting those pesky British down south of the Río Hondo.

Arturo O’Neill set out from Campeche on May 20, 1798, commanding a force of some thirty vessels. The largest were two heavily armed frigates, La Minerva and La O, obtained from Cuba. The fleet included perhaps ten other warships carrying substantial naval artillery as well as numerous lightly armed transport and supply vessels. He had five hundred sailors and two thousand troops, the largest force ever assembled in the province.

The fleet rendezvoused off Cozumel Island. There the captains of the two frigates essentially mutinied. Claiming the water was too shallow for their vessels, they deserted the fleet and sailed away to Veracruz. O’Neill pressed on and landed his troops at Bacalar to make final preparations. An epidemic of yellow fever struck. The sickened army spent months trying to recover its strength and morale before finally heading south at the end of August.

Meanwhile, the British settlers had plenty of time to prepare themselves, construct fortifications, and obtain reinforcements. The Governor of Jamaica, Alexander Lindsay, 6th Earl of Balcarres, sent muskets, ammunition, and a warship, the sloop-of-war HMS Merlin. More important, Balcarres sent a military leader, Lt. Colonel Thomas Barrow, who took command of the disorganized and panicked settlers, imposed martial law, and brought some order to the unruly Baymen. In a public meeting on June 1, Baymen voted 65 to 51 to defend the settlement instead of evacuating, although support wavered as reports on the size of the Spanish force came in. A dozen free black settlers were among those who voted to stay and fight.

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HMS Merlin (1798)
Postage Stamp, British Honduras, 1948

Lord Balcarres recommended enlisting the Baymen’s slaves, on the condition that slave volunteers be freed after the crisis. After first resisting this arrangement, the slave owners finally consented after they were paid £50 for each emancipated slave. The black volunteers provided valuable service during the crisis, although sharpened sticks seem to have been the only weapons provided them.

In addition to Merlin, under the capable Captain John Moss, the defenders assembled a small fleet of lightly armed and improbably named civilian vessels — the sloops Towzer, Tickler, and Mermaid, the schooners Swinger and Teazer — plus eight log rafts carrying small cannons. There were perhaps four hundred sailors, nearly all inexperienced civilian volunteers. Seven hundred men, including detachments from His Majesty’s West India Regiments, stood ready to repel an attempted landing. The forces were divided between Cayo Cocina and the site of a smaller settlement on the mainland called Belize Town, at the entrance to that river.

Despite credible leadership, committed local volunteers, and support by the colonial government, the defending forces were absurdly weak compared to the approaching enemy fleet.

On the Spanish side, O’Neill moved some of his troops by land under Lt. Colonel Cosme Antonio de Urquiola. They burned 240 houses and destroyed plantations around Corozal and on the New River, with little opposition. With his still formidable fleet assembled off the mouth of the Belize River, O’Neill ordered his naval lieutenant, Francisco de Fuentes de Bocanegra to begin an attack. But O’Neill’s bad luck continued — Fuentes refused to obey, apparently because of cowardice. The governor’s second choice, Pedro de Grajales, finally took action on September 3. Attempting to force a passage to the mainland through treacherous, shoal-filled waters, five Spanish ships were repulsed by the British defenders. On the 4th and 5th, after heavy but largely ineffective bombardments, they again attempted to find a passage to the enemy, without success.

On September 6th, they turned their attention to the defended island, repositioning their vessels and probing for a passage through the shoals. Finally, on the morning of Monday, September 10, fourteen of the largest vessels in the Spanish fleet, many towing launches full of troops, confronted the British ships arrayed across the approach to Cayo Cocina. Barrow reported that the enemy “came down in a very handsome Manner, and with a good Countenance, in a Line abreast, using both Sails and Oars.” Captain Moss had brought Merlin over to the island to confront them and, at 1:30, gave the signal to engage. The Spanish concentrated their fire on Merlin, while the smaller British vessels rallied to her assistance. Defenders paddled out in canoes, dories, and rafts, ready to board the enemy’s ships. Both woodcutters and slaves reportedly acquitted themselves well. The battle lasted two and a half hours, “when the Spaniards began to fall into Confusion” and sailed off. Because of the sailing hazards and approaching darkness, Moss did not pursue them.

O’Neill’s fleet remained in the area for several days, making various maneuvers without engaging the British. Then on morning of the 16th, they sailed away, defeated despite their superior numbers and firepower. History offers no convincing reason for their sudden retreat, but it likely comes down to poor leadership. The Spanish forces made their way back to Campeche and Havana with significant losses, doubtless more from disease than bullets.

Although the attack was Spain’s last attempt to evict the British settlers, the Baymen never asked for or received a formal treaty with Spain, and peace treaties ending the wars of the period made no specific mention of the area. The Bay settlers continued operating on their own without permission from either imperial power. The British government gradually achieved partial control and produced a formal constitution establishing its authority in 1854. The Bay Settlements became the Crown Colony of British Honduras in 1862, self-governing in 1964, and independent Belize in 1973.

But conflicting claims to the land persist. The independent republics that succeeded the Spanish Empire claimed they inherited Spain’s sovereign rights. Britain negotiated boundaries with Guatemala in 1859 and with Mexico in 1893, and Mexico was the first nation to recognize Belize as an independent country, but the conflicting claims have never been completely resolved. Guatemala continues to assert legal rights to Belize, and official maps show “Belice” as one of Guatemala’s 23 departments. A small British Army garrison remains in Belize as a deterrent against invasion by its neighbor.

Arturo O’Neill continued to serve as governor of Yucatán for two more years. Despite the ignominious defeat at Cayo Cocina, he was an effective governor, increasing the number of school teachers, fighting smuggling, and defending public health in the face of a serious outbreak of rabies. He returned to Spain, received appointment as Minister of War, and fought against Napoleon. He died in Madrid in 1814 at age 78.

September 10 is a public holiday in Belize — St. George’s Caye Day — and citizens regard the land theirs by right of conquest.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 08/28/15 05:10 PM

The Battle of September 10, 1798 – a first person’s account by Steven Forbes

The only detailed first-person account we have of the Battle of St. George’s Caye is the account given by Steven Forbes. It was edited by E.W. Williams and printed by The Sheldon Press in London.

Belizean novelist Stephen Fairweather, has done exhaustive research on this subject, and in his book “The Baymen of Belize” adheres closely to the information provided by Steven Forbes.

The account of the battle printed here is from the Steven Forbes book, a copy of which we received through the courtesy of Mr. Nick Sutherland, who now lives in Dangriga.

The Forbes Account

The vessels defending the northern approach were under my command, and with me were Jack McDonald and young Sampson, the American from Sittee River.

My father was in command of the northern position and Uncle James and his other two boys were stationed on the Cay.

TheSpanish commander sent six of his largest gun brigs to attack the Montego position, whilst he with three brigs and eighteen schooners ran down next the reef to attack the second position, and the Cay itself.

My orders were to reserve all fire till the signal for action was hoisted.

As I have said, the Spaniards’ weight of metal was much heavier than ours, for all their guns were either eighteen or twenty-four pounders.

The six gun brigs ran down to within long range of our position, then formed line to the southward and opened fire.

But their practice was bad and oittle damage was done as most of their shot fell short.

Meanwhile not a shot came from our little fleet. We grimly bided our time.

Finding that his fire was ineffectual at this long range, the SpanishCommander bore up for the channel behind the Montego shoal, to get to closer quarters with his insignificant looking foes.

In doing this he ran his brig, which was leading, on the Montego, and the next three vessels that followed did likewise, and there, in a few minutes they all four werehard and fast on the sand.

The remaining two brigs steered off, just in time to escape the same fate.

Our chance had come at last! Up ran the signal for action, and in a moment all the twenty-four guns were pounding away at the luckless Spaniards at short range.

All was confusion on their crowded ships and a dreadful panish ensued.

Discipline never good at any time was at an end, for whilst some shouted frantic orders to tow off the shoal, others screamed that all was lost, and that their only hope was to take to their boats.

All this time the guns of the droghers and flats, smartly handled, poured a deadly fire of canister and solid shot into the doomed Spaniards, and wrought awful havoc on their densely packed decks. .

Now I saw the moment had come to finish off our part of the battle. The signal to board ran up and in less time than it takes to tell two pitpans from each drogher and one from each flat with crews of fifteen men in them, were paddlig for their lives to get first on board the enemy.

“Two pitpans to each Spaniard, and board where you can” was the order. .

The boarders besides their muskets, carried a brace of pistol in their belts as well as their machetes, deadly weapon in a strong man’s hand.

Jack, Sampson, Peter and I having a slight start, ranged alongside the Spanish Captain with our two crafts, one on either bow.


Thirty men against more than five times their number was heavy odds against them, but little we recked of odds, for we meant to have those Spaniards if there had been ten times as many of them.

We were met with a wild musketry fire as we ranged alogside, which knocked off three of theboarders. The rest fired a volley with their muskets as the bowmen grappled the Spaniards just to clear the bulwarks, and then, machete in hand led on one side by Sampson and myself and on the other by Jack and Peter, clampered up the chains and were presentlyon deck.

The Spanards, all disordered as they were, fought desperately first and several of our men were badly wounded. . Jack, as he tumbled on deck, received a bayonet thrust through the fleshy part of his shoulder, but Peter, who was at his side, clove the Spaniard’s skull with his machete before he could even withdraw his bayonet….

The deck grew slippery with blood and still the Negroes, their fighting blood well up, and following their Spaniards foot by foot until the pressure grew so great that those in the stern began to leap overboard, whilst others sought refuge down the hatchways.

The Spanish Captain was a brave soldier, and now made a desperate effort to rally his men and save the fortunes of the day.

Sword in hand, he called on them to follow him and sprang forward, fighting like a wildcat to get to me.

His men obeyed and all, still in overwhelming numbers, rushed on the little band of borders.

For the moment things looked desparate for us and it seemed as though we would be swept overboard by the very weight of numbers.

Desperate was the fighting and in the midst of it I went down, felled by the butt end of a musket.

A yell of triumph followed and a rush was made to finish me. But the giant Peter was at my side and standing astride my body, cut down all who dared to come within reach of his machete.

Presently I was on my feet again but dazed and staggering from the blow, and still the Saiards, led by their captain , pressed on to what seemed certain victory.

Now when the crisis of the day had come and our fortunes looked black indeed, young Sampson did a deed that changed the whole aspect of affairs.

Despite his efforts the Spanish captain had as yet not reached the foe he sought.The confusion of the melee had kept us apart, but now the way was clearer and he pushed through to were I stood.

Sampson saw my peril, and machee in hand cut his way into the group round the captain, followed by a couple of negroes.

With a glancing bullet wound in his ribs and a machete cut on the side of his head, he reached his man, closed with him and down they fell together on the slippery deck.

Over and over theyrolled for a moment or two.Then Sampson sprang to his feet; but the Spanish captain lay dead on the deck.

Then Sampson, in a ded faint from loss of blood, fell back into the arms of the one black men who survived that gallant exploit and was hurried into safety.

It was now the turn of the boarders to rally and with a fierce shout of triumph we hurled ourselves at the foe.

Discomfitted by the death of their commander, they gave way before the onslaught. The fight was nearly done formany of the Spaniards threw down their arms and cried for quarter, and the rest, all but about a dozen, lept overboard.

As I led my men in the final rush to clear the deck the last shot fired broke my left arm above the elbow, and down I went.

The men swept on.The last surviving armed Spaniard was cut down, the Spanish flag lay on the deck, and the San Estevan was won. .

Of the gallant men, thirty all told who boarded the San Estevan, five were killed and eighwounded severely, including three white men.

The Spanish loss was seventy seven killed and thirdy five wounded. So desperate was the attack and so stubborn the defence on the crowded deck during the brief half hour the contest lasted.

The the other stranded Spaniards fared no better than the San Estevan for in less than an hour they all hauled down their flags… ….

As soon as the deck was cleared, I who was still in command, brought all the prisoers on board the San Estevan: thenburnt the other three vessels where they lay.

Whilst this engagement, so disastrous to part of his flotilla, was going on Captain Boco Negra led his main fleet down the narrow channel next the reef to attack the Cay, and in doing so had to run the gauntlet of fire from the three droughers and six flats defending the second position. .

The range was close and here again the Spaniards suffered severely before they came into action with the Merlin and the shore battery.

As ususl, the enemyfire was wild and did scarcely any exeution.

The narrowness of the channel compelled them to adopt the formation of double column ahead and before they could bring their broadsides to bear, Captain Moss poured into them from his port and starboard batteries in quick succession a most destructive fire – at the same time the 18 pounder battery on the Cay hammered away at each vessel as it came into range.

The raking fire of case shot from the Merlin swept them like hail from bow to stern and as each ship came under this storm of death the decks were strewn with the dead and the dying.

As the Spanish flagship, the Madre de Dios, went about, unable to face the Merlin’s fire, a lucky shot fron the shore battery, which was well served by the Jamaica gunners, struck her stern post; another brought the foremast down upon the deck a tangled ruin, and she became an unmanagable wreck.

Now the rest of the Spaniards, stormed at and pounded by the floting batteries and the 18 pounders of the cay, swept and torn by the Merlin’s fire, could not endure the punishment and one by one hauled their wind and ran back to Long Caye.

They left behind them the Madre de Dios and two disabled schooners which were quickly captured by the Merlin’s crew without further resistance.

As soon as darnkess fell, I set all my crews and many of the prisoners to lighten the San Estevan, then hauled her off the shoal, ran her down to the cay and handed the prize and prisoners over to the keeping of Captain Moss.

So ended the first day’s fight of St. George’s Caye, in triumph of the settlers, and in sore discomfiture for their enemies.

The Reporter

Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/11/20 11:01 AM

It happened....

London Gazette Story on the Battle of St. George's Caye, 1799

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Posted By: Marty

Re: Battle of St. Georges Caye: Real or myth? - 09/15/20 05:40 PM

The Battle of St George's Caye – Belizean History Untold

Enjoy this history presentation about the Battle of St. George's Caye. Join us for this history presentation about the Battle of St. George's Caye. The lecture was based on the essay by Howard F. Humphreys; "The Battle of St. Georges Caye". Presenters were our very own Sylvia Batty and April Martinez.

The essay by Howard F. Humphreys brings into perspective the immense effort that it took to defend the settlement of Belize that would eventually birth our nation. Using the archival records, the events of the 10th of September in 1798 are brought to life.

The essay by Howard F. Humphreys brings into perspective the immense effort that it took to defend the settlement of Belize that would eventually birth our nation. Using the archival records, the events of the 10th of September in 1798 are brought to life.

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