Old North Front Street dressed up for the 10th, The Battle of St. George’s Caye Day, long ago
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Sunday September 10, 2017

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Old North Front Street in Belize City dressed up for the 10th, The Battle of St. George’s Caye Day, long ago

The first house was probably the Biddle Building, where the post office is now, and the third is the Turton Library.

The gentlemen and ladies were always so elegantly dressed.

The Battle of St. George’s Caye

Editorial by The Reporter

The Battle of St. George’s Caye was the climax to a series of provocative actions taken by the forces of Spain against the Baymen Settlers,who were cutting logwood for export to Britain, where it was used to make a rich purple dye.

The ups and downs of the early settlement were determined by the frequent strife between Britain and Spain. In 1779 Spanish forces destroyed St. George’s Caye, taking many of the settlers as prisoners and shipping them off to dungeones in Havana.

Spain, which was overlord of all the territory on the Atlantic side of the continent, allowed the Settlers to cut and harvest logwood and mahogany, but they were forbidden to build any permanent structures, especially fortifications or any defensive work on the mainland. They were also required to confine their logging activities to the lands north of the Sibun River.This arrangement was cemented by treaty in 1783.

But the Baymen settlers chafed under these restrictions and largely ignored them. They pushed their logging operations to lands beyond the Sibun and for their own comfort and protection, built permanent buildings on the mainland.

The Governor of Jamaica, Lord Balcarres, sent Lt. Col. Thomas Barrow to be Superintendent and Commander in Chief of the Settlement. When Barrow learned from a captured Spanish officer that war had again broken out between Britain and Spain in 1796 and that a Spanish invading force was being prepared against the Settlement, he made preparations to defend the it.

From his seat of government in Jamaica Lord Bal- carres did all in his power to assist the settlers. He sent the sloop, HMS Merlin with munitions and supplies. The Baymen settlers met at public meeting on June 1, 1797 and voted 65 to 51 not to evacuate the Settlement, but to fight against the invading force.

The size of this invading force, when it first appeared on the horizon on September 3, must have been a daunting sight: 31 vessels carrying 2,000 troops, 13 of them big vessels of war carrying from 8 to 20 cannons. But the dye was cast! For better or worse the men would fight. And fight they did, so valiantly in fact that the Spaniards, in the words of Lt. Col. Barrow “ began to fall into confusion, and soon afterwards cut their cables and sailed and rowed off, assisted by a great number of launches, which took them in tow.”

The British writer, Alger Robert Gegg, in his book, British Honduras, gives the names of the tiny defending force of sloops and schooners: Towser, Tickler, Teaser, Swinger and Mermaid.

Material for this editorial was taken from the private collection of Harry Lawrence: Brief Sketch of Britiish Honduras by Major John Burton, former Governor, Handbook of British Honduras by M.S. Metzgen and H.E.C. Cain, and British Honduras by Algar R. Gregg.

For more on the events of The Battle of St. George's Caye, click here.

Tenth September - Lord Rhaburn Combo & Calypso Rose

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