In the year 1741, the Spanish were making a right nuisance of themselves in the Bahamas. No doubt they were still upset over letting so many wonderful islands fall into the hands of the British. Wherever the Spaniards could cause trouble, disrupt the commerce of British colonies or just steal whatever they could, they did.
In October 1741, being as bold as brass, the Spanish tried to steal the whole island of Andros out from under jolly old England.
To be fair though, English privateers were doing the same thing to the Spanish. And the French. And the Dutch. And the Portuguese. Back then, European countries got rich from just taking whatever they could from the other.
When British Privateers met their Spanish counterparts, on the high seas, it was always all out war. Duels were fought to the death as each sought to literally disembowel the other and take whatever valuable bounty was being carried.
In 1742, in one of many countless sea battles fought in Bahamian waters during the 18th and 18th centuries, Captain James Wimble of the English Privateer ship the Revenge was sailing out of Nassau, when he meets a Spanish Privateer ship. In the end, the British Revenge killed the Spanish Captain and 20 of its crew while wounding many others. Powerful guns and cannons would be fired from the ship. These incendiary devices exploded violently causing great damage and loss of life.
(The Pennsylvania Gazette, Sunday, 16 September 1742)
1742 – Spanish Try To Disrupt Salt Trade From Exuma
Salt was an invaluable commodity in the 18th century, as well as a symbol of status among the rich and the noble. Among the many items of contraband smuggled around the globe in the 1700s, salt was high on the list.
“The social symbolism of salt was painfully evident in the medieval equivalents of the Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette. As late as the 18th century, the rank of guests at a banquet was gauged by where they sat in relation to an often elaborate silver saltcellar on the table. The host and “distinguished” guests sat at the head of the table—”above the salt.” People who sat below the salt, farthest from the host, were of little consequence.”
It was the high value placed on this preservative and food enhancer which made salt a commodity to die for, if necessary, among thieves and smugglers.
“Private letters from South Carolina, dated July 16, advised, that his Excellency Governor Tinker, before the arrival of the Rose Man-of-War, in order to prevent the Salt Rakers at Exuma from being annoyed by the Spaniards, armed several white men and trusty Slaves to protect their Trade: Soon after they began to take their Salt, they were visited by a Spanish Barco – longa – boat with 20 men piloted by a Frenchman, who landed in order to plunder, but met with so smart a Reception, that the lieutenant and two others were killed, the Pilot had his Thigh broke, and the rest were made Prisoners, and employed in repairing Fort Montague.”
(The Derby Mercury, Thursday August 10, 1742)
16th October 1741 – The Spanish Take Andros
Underpopulation was a particularly nagging problem for the Bahama Islands. During those first hundred years or so, since Woodes Rogers, the first British appointed governor, arrived in 1718, the mission had been to get settlers in. So many islands. So few people.
In 1741, it was relatively easy for a group armed men to take a small island only sparsely populated by a handful of people, if that.
Pirates did it all the time.
But Andros, was a giant beast of land. At 104 miles (167 km) long by 40 miles (64 km) wide, at the widest point, Andros, in total, has an area greater than all the other 700 Bahamian islands combined. The Spanish, after the arrival of Columbus, named it Espiritu Santu or Holy Spirit.
On October 16, 1741, word was brought to Governor Tinker on New Providence that the island of Andros had been taken by the dreaded suavely dressed Spanish. It is not known how long the Spanish had possession or who brought the message. Presumably, the word was brought by someone who somehow managed to escape the island unnoticed and who was able to commandeer a boat to sail where it wanted it go. The open seas didn’t exactly have signs pointing the way to this and that island. Journeys between the islands took days and weeks. Longer even if you got lost.
When Tinker got the message, he immediately organised two sloops manned with 30 men each. Now a sloop was not a man-of-war ship with guns and cannons ready for battle. The Bahamas at that time didn’t have that kind of artillery or manpower to hand. Governor Tinker had to make do with a two sloops.
To Tinker’s credit he had 60 men on the sea to Andros within six hours. By midnight all preparations had been made and the two sloops set sail in the pitch black dead of night. Goodness knows how they found their way.
We don’t know how the men managed to take Andros back from the Spanish.
Maybe the Bahamians surprised the Spanish while they sleeping, running them through with sharp swords. Or maybe they threw coconuts or conch shells at them. Or maybe the Spanish got bored and sailed off before the intrepid Bahamians arrived to take their island back.
How they got Andros back isn’t really the point here. The point is, Bahamians in 1741, were brave enough to want to fight for this new land they called home.
(The Newscastle Weekly Courant Tuesday 27 February 1742)