What was the Anglo-Spanish War (1762-1763)?

Introduction

The Anglo–Spanish War (Spanish: Guerra Anglo-Española) was a military conflict fought between Britain and Spain, as part of the Seven Years’ War, and lasted from January 1762 to February 1763, when the Treaty of Paris brought it to an end.

For most of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), Spain remained neutral and turned down offers from the French to join the war on their side. During the war’s latter stages, however, with mounting French losses to the British leaving the Spanish Empire vulnerable, King Charles III signalled his intention to enter the war on the side of France. This alliance became the Third Family Compact between the two Bourbon kingdoms. After Charles had signed the agreement with France and seized British shipping alongside expelling British merchants, Britain declared war on Spain.

In August 1762, a British expedition captured Havana, and a month later captured Manila as well. The loss of the colonial capitals in the Spanish West Indies and East Indies was a huge blow to Spanish prestige and its ability to defend its empire. Between May and November, three major Franco-Spanish invasions of Portugal, Britain’s long-time Iberian ally, were defeated. The invaders were forced to withdraw with significant losses inflicted by the Portuguese with significant British assistance. In South America, the Spanish succeeded in capturing a strategically-important port, but otherwise, the skirmishes with the Portuguese there had little impact on the outcome of the war.

By the Treaty of Paris, Spain handed over Florida and Menorca to Britain and returned territories in Portugal and Brazil to Portugal in exchange for the British handing back Havana and Manila. As compensation for their ally’s losses, the French ceded Louisiana to Spain at the Treaty of Fontainebleau.

Background

After war was declared between France and Great Britain in 1756, Spain remained neutral under. King Ferdinand VI. His prime minister, Ricardo Wall, effectively opposed the French party, which wanted to enter the war on the side of France. The geopolitical situation changed when Ferdinand VI died in 1759 and was succeeded by his younger half-brother Charles III of Spain, who was more ambitious than his complacent brother. One of the main objects of Charles’s foreign policy was the continued survival of Spain as a imperial power to be reckoned with in Europe. He was alarmed by French defeats in the war and suspected that it would upset the balance of power.

With evidence of growing Franco-Spanish co-operation, Pitt suggested that it was only a matter of time before Spain entered the war. The prospect of war against Spain shattered the cabinet unity, which had existed until then. Pitt strongly advocated a pre-emptive strike to allow the British to capture the annual plate fleet and deny Spain the money required to fund a continuous war. The rest of the cabinet refused, and Pitt resigned.

However, war with Spain swiftly became unavoidable. By 1761, France looked as if it was going to lose the war against Britain. Suspecting that a French defeat in the Seven Years’ War would upset the balance of power, Charles signed the Family Compact with France (both countries were ruled by branches of the Bourbon family) in August 1761. In December 1761, Spain placed an embargo on British trade, seized British goods in Spain and expelled British merchants. In response, Britain declared war on Spain on 04 January 1762.

The War

Portugal

Refer to Spanish Invasion of Portugal (1762).

For the British, the most pressing issue in the war against Spain was a threatened invasion of Portugal. Despite being a historic British ally, Portugal had remained neutral for most of the conflict. France persuaded a reluctant Spain into attacking Portugal in the hope that the new front would draw away British forces that were directed against France. Portugal’s long but rugged border with Spain was considered by the French to be vulnerable and easy to overrun, a view not shared by the Spanish, compared to the more complex effort that would be needed to besiege the British fortress of Gibraltar. Spanish forces massed on the Portuguese border and were ready to strike. The British moved swiftly to support their Portuguese allies and shipped in supplies and officers to help co-ordinate the defence.

The original Spanish plan was to take Almeida and then to advance towards the Alentejo and Lisbon, but Spajn switched its target to Porto to strike more directly at Anglo-Portuguese commerce. Under the direction of the Marquis of Sarria, Spanish troops crossed from Galicia into Northern Portugal and captured several towns. However, the thrust against Porto stalled in difficult terrain and due to the flooding of the River Esla. British troops began arriving that summer with 6,000 coming from Belle Île under Lord Loudoun and a further 2,000 from Ireland. On 09 May, Spain invested and captured the border fortress of Almeida. A British-Portuguese counterattack, led by John Burgoyne, captured the Spanish town of Valencia de Alcántara.

French forces began to arrive to support the Spaniards, but like their allies, they began to suffer high levels of attrition from disease and desertion. In November, problems with their lines of supply and communication made the Bourbon allies withdraw. They suffered 25,000 casualties and sued for peace. Despite the large numbers of forces involved, there had been no major battles.

South America

The Seven Years’ War spilled over into Portuguese-Spanish conflict in their South American colonies. In South America, the war involved small colonial forces taking and retaking remote frontier areas and ended in a stalemate. The only significant action was the First Cevallos expedition in which Spanish forces captured and then defended the strategically-important port town on the River Plate Colony of Sacramento.

Cuba

Refer to Capture of Havana (1762).

In June 1762, British forces from the West Indies landed on the island of Cuba and laid siege to Havana. Although they arrived at the height of the fever season, and previous expeditions against tropical Spanish fortresses failed largely because of tropical disease, the British government was optimistic of victory if the troops could catch the Spanish off guard before they had time to respond. The British commander, Albemarle, ordered a tunnel to be dug by his sappers so a mine could be planted under the walls of the city’s fortress. British troops began to fall ill from disease, but they were boosted by the arrival of 4,000 reinforcements from North America. On 30 July, Albemarle ordered the mine to be detonated, and his troops stormed the fortress.

With Havana now in their hands, the British lay poised to strike at other Spanish colonies in the Spanish main if the war continued for another year. However, they had many casualties in their military hospitals that had yet to recover and so set about consolidating their hold on the city. During the year of British occupation, commerce in Havana prospered, as the port was opened up to trade with the British Empire, rather than the restricted monopoly with Cadiz that had existed earlier.

Central America

In early 1762, William Lyttelton, the British governor of Jamaica, sent an expedition to Spanish Nicaragua up the San Juan River with the primary objective of capturing the town of Granada. The primary force and a large group of Miskito Sambu settlers numbering two thousand men and more than fifty boats captured cocoa plantations in the Matina Valley. That was followed by the villages of Jinotega, Acoyapa, Lovigüisca, San Pedro de Lóvago. On 26 July, the force laid siege to the Fortress of the Immaculate Conception. However, the siege was eventually abandoned, which ended military operations in Central America.

Philippines

Refer to Battle of Manila (1762) and British Occupation of Manila (1762-1764).

Almost as soon as war had been declared with Spain, orders had been despatched for a British force at Madras to proceed to the Philippines and capture Manila. A combined force of 10,700 men under William Draper set off from India in late July and arrived in Manila Bay in September 1762. It had to move swiftly before the monsoon season hit. On 06 October, the British stormed the city and captured it because of weak Spanish resistance, and the archbishop surrendered to avoid further bloodshed. Spanish forces regrouped under Simon Anda, who had escaped from Manila during the siege. Diego Silang, a local Filipino leader, led a revolt against Spanish rule, but it was sabotaged by Spanish agents and eventually crushed by the Spanish.

The British were unable to extend their authority beyond Manila and the nearby port of Cavite. Eventually, the British forces in the region started to suffer from disease and dissensions within the command, which further impaired their ability to aid Silang.

Since news of the city’s capture failed to reach Europe until after the Treaty of Paris, no provision was made regarding its status. During the siege, the Spanish lieutenant governor had agreed to pay four million silver dollars, known as the Manila Ransom, in exchange for sparing the city from any damage, but the full amount was never paid as neither side considered it necessary. The British expedition, however, was rewarded financially by the capture of the treasure ship Filipina which was carrying American silver from Acapulco, and in a battle off Cavite the Santísima Trinidad being captured by a British squadron, carrying onboard goods from China. The cargo was valued at $1.5 million and the ship at $3 million. The twenty-month occupation of Manila ended in 1764.

Aftermath and Legacy

Britain held a dominant position at the negotiations, as it had during the last seven years of the war captured Canada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Pondicherry, Senegal and Belle Île from the French and Havana and Manila from the Spanish. Only one British territory, Menorca, had fallen into French hands, and the Spanish had not captured a single inch of British soil. Despite suffering a year of defeats, Spain was prepared to continue the war, which its French allies opposed. Bute proposed France to cede its remaining North American territory of Louisiana to Spain to compensate Madrid for its losses during the war. That formula was acceptable to the Spanish government and allowed Britain and France to negotiate with more space. Both Bourbon allies considered the treaty that ended the war as being ore of a temporary armistice than a genuine final settlement, and William Pitt described it as an “armed truce”.

Britain had customarily massively reduced the size of its armed forces during peacetime, but in the 1760s, a large military establishment was maintained, which was intended as a deterrent against France and Spain.

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