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Celebrating Bernardo de Gálvez

A monument honoring Bernardo de Gálvez.
City of Pensacola
A monument honoring Bernardo de Gálvez.

An unsung hero of the American Revolution is Spanish Gen. Bernardo de Gálvez, who — as an ally of Gen. George Washington — laid siege on the British along the Gulf Coast.

In 1777, when Gálvez assumed the responsibility of governor of Louisiana, Spain was officially neutral in the American Revolution. But, two years later, France and Spain signed a treaty to ally with the American rebels and Gálvez took the initiative to strike at the British swiftly.

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He first took New Orleans, then sacked Mobile, and in 1781 began his assault on Pensacola, which was the capital of British West Florida.

During the Battle of Pensacola, Gálvez and his troops laid on the city for two months. The British were forced to surrender after a mortar landed in the powder magazine of the Queen’s Redoubt, one of the forts overlooking the town.

Archaeologists have found the remains of the battle, including artifacts and earthworks. There is even a partial reconstruction of Fort George, where there’s a bust of Gálvez, with the phrase “Yo Solo.”

On May 8 of each year, the city of Pensacola pays homage to Gálvez.

In 2014, the Spanish General was granted honorary U.S. citizenship by Congress, which cited him as a “hero of the Revolutionary War.”

RELATED: Bernardo de Gálvez monument rides into Downtown Pensacola

To preserve the memory of Gálvez and his importance in aiding the colonists during the American Revolution, the Pensacola Heritage Foundation unveiled a monument honoring him in 2018. Created by sculptors Bob Rasmussen and Kathryn R. Vincze, the monument includes a bronze statue of Gálvez astride his horse and facing the site of Fort George, his hat raised in victory.

The City of Pensacola is celebrating the legacy of General Bernardo de Gálvez this week. Here's a roundup of events:

Friday, May 10, 2024

  • 9 a.m. The Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution will march from Fort George down Palafox Street to the Gálvez statue at Palafox and Wright Streets. A brief ceremony will be held with remarks from Mayor Antonio Campos of Macharaviaya, Spain (Gálvez's hometown), Mayor D.C. Reeves, and a special song and dance from the students at Episcopal Day School.
  • 10 a.m. Service at St. Michael's Basilica
  • 11 a.m. Public luncheon at the Pensacola Yacht Club, 1897 Cypress St. Reservations and pre-payment are required. For tickets: bit.ly/galvez2024.
  • 3 p.m. Wreath laying ceremony at the Minuteman statue at Veteran's Memorial Park, 200 S. 10th Ave. 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

  • 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. The UWF Historic Trust is hosting a public day to celebrate Gálvez with activities in the Historic Village, located at 205 E. Zaragoza St. This includes Spanish soldiers, colonial cooking, games, and candle dipping. The Museum of History and Historic Pensacola Village will be free to the public.

Love history? Listen to Unearthing Florida from Dr. Judy Bense.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.