Every year on September
celebrate the Battle of St. George's Caye, as a day of honor. On this
occasion, everyone and everything in this country is dressed in patriotic
colors: blue, white, and red. The San Pedro
Sun will attempt to take you back in time, to relive
this historic event.
Belize evolved from an intrusive
settlement of buccaneers on the Spanish mainland of Central America.
Early in the 17th
century, and during the subsequent century, Belize suffered a
series of Spanish invasions, one of which resulted in the sacking of St.
George's Caye. The captured settlers were marched to Merida, Yucatan and
from there, they were shipped to prison in Havana, Cuba.
Those settlers who had avoided capture, re-occupied
St. George's Caye. Several years later, reports were received about
another planned Spanish invasion. This caused much concern among the
"Baymen," as the settlers were called, which resulted in a public meeting
to decide whether to evacuate the settlement, or stand and fight. By the
narrowest of margins, (65 to stay/51 to evacuate – this number rose to 53
just three days before the battle) the decision was made to stand and
fight. The settlement was put on alert and preparations were made to
defend the settlement.
In the meantime, the Spanish had mustered a fleet of
32 vessels manned by 500 seamen, together with some 2,000 soldiers, to
effect the invasion. The settlement, for its part, had gathered together
the following: 700 troops of all colors and descriptions; two sloops of
war, the Towser and
Tickler, with one 18-pound gun/cannon
with 25 men on each vessel; another sloop, the
Mermaid with one short, 9-pound
gun/cannon and 16 men; plus the HMS
Merlin under the command of Captain
The action began on September
3rd, 1798 when the
Spanish tried to force a passage over the shoals, but were repelled. The
battle culminated on September
10th, when 14 of the
largest vessels of the Spanish fleet came within a mile and a half of the
Baymen's fleet. Nine of the Spanish vessels moved to attack and the
engagement started around 2:30 p.m. as the Baymen's flotilla opened fire.
The battle lasted about two and a half hours, until the Spanish began to
fall into confusion. Soon after, they cut their cables and made off,
pursued by the Baymen's flotilla. As darkness approached, the pursuit was
called off due to navigational hazards.
Over the next few days, the Spanish retreated to
Yucatan and never again did the settlement of Belize suffer military
invasion by the Spanish. The Baymen later acknowledged, in writing, that
the outcome showed the settlement could not have been successfully
defended without the aid of 1,200 or so adult male slaves. Their
collective battle cry was "Shoulder to Shoulder." It has been proven that
the battle was only won by valor and brains – the valiant men who stood
against overwhelming odds with the brains to prepare an impenetrable
defense. In 1898, the
10th of September was
declared a public holiday, in celebration of the Baymen, who defended
their country's honor at the Battle of St. George's Caye.