1703 – Franco-Spanish expedition against Nassau
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The campaign took place in September 1703
On 15 March 1703, Blas Moreno Mondragón received a commission authorising him to act as a corsair for the crown of Spain. He armed his brigantine, the Nuestra Señora del Rosario y las Ánimas and patrolled the north-eastern coast of Cuba.
In 1703, Blas Moreno Mondragón and Claude La Chesnaye, at the head of a detachment of 150 Spanish soldiers and a party of 100 French buccaneers, organised a raid against Nassau the main base of English privateers in the Bahamas. They wanted to eliminate the threat of these privateers against Cuba and Saint Domingue (the western third of the island of Hispaniola).
At that time, New Providence the island on which Nassau was located, counted only 250 British inhabitants.
In September, Mondragón and La Chesnaye sailed from Santiago de Cuba for Nassau aboard the Nuestra Señora del Rosario y las Ánimas and a French sloop.
On their way Mondragón and La Chesnaye captured all vessels susceptible to give alarm in the Bahamas. They also forced an English prisoner to pilot them to the Island of New Providence.
The small Franco-Spanish force totally surprised Nassau. It easily made itself master of Nassau which was sacked, plundered and burnt down. More than 100 inhabitants were slaughtered. However, the inhabitants of the rest of the Island of New Providence had time to take refuge into the woods.
The Franco-Spanish forces also captured 22 guns. Ellis Lightwood, the British governor, and the small force defending the island became prisoners of war.
Before leaving, Mondragón and La Chesnaye dismantled Fort Nassau.
The expedition then sailed back to Santiago de Cuba with 13 prizes and approx. 90 prisoners.
The inhabitants came out of the woods to discover a totally ruined island and had to move to other islands.
In 1704; when a new British governor, Sir Edward Birch, arrived at Nassau; the Island of New Providence was still so devastated that he had to sail back to England.
Even in 1706, Nassau was sparsely inhabited.
Corbett, Theodore: St. Augustine Pirates and Privateers, Charleston: The History Press, 2012
Marley, David F.: Wars of the Americas – A Chronology of Armed Conflicts in the New World 1492 to the Present, Santa Barbara, 1998, p. 226
Marley, David: Pirates of the Americas, Vol. 1, Oxford, 2010, p. 713