The fifth Spanish governor of New Orleans was Bernardo de Galvez.

Bernardo de Galvez, American Ally

Portrait of Bernardo Galvez, fifth Spanish governor of Louisiana. Artist Andres Molinary created this copy of an original portrait in 1917. The painting depicts Galvez as Viceroy of New Spain, in 1785. In 1777, as an army Colonel, Galvez became the governor of Louisiana. Since the French ceded what later became the “Louisiana Purchase” to Spain in 1762, the Spanish governors in New Orleans technically controlled the entire territory. Practically, that meant New Orleans and South Louisiana.

West Florida

Derby’s post about a section of a 1766 map of West Florida showing the Isle d’Orleans just below it caused a bit of confusion. Claims to Louisiana, going back to de la Salle, relate to land to the west of the Mississippi River. Various treaties not related to the Louisiana territory of New France established the boundaries to the east. The Southern boundary of the British colony of Georgia embroiled Spain and Britain in a number of disputes. The main issue was African enslavement. Indigenous tribes in Florida did not recognize the enslaved status of Africans and their descendants. The enslaved ran from plantations in Georgia and lived amongst the indigenous in Florida. This enraged the slavers of Georgia. These disputes extended west, beyond the Georgia colony. Debate over who owned the land from the Perdido River (near Pensacola) to the Mississippi River continued until well past the War of 1812.

American Revolution

Bernardo de Galvez

Galvez in 1777

Galvez immediately moved to secure the Gulf Coast for Spain as the Americans rebelled against Britain. Spain formally declared war on Britain in 1779. Galvez captured British positions from Baton Rouge to Pensacola. So, for all intents and purposes, “Florida” extended to the east bank of the Mississippi River. King Charles III appointed Galvez Viceroy of New Spain in 1783. Esteban Miro replaced him in New Orleans, becoming governor of both Louisiana and Florida. As far as Spain was concerned, they controlled the entire Gulf Coast by the end of the American Revolution.

American involvement

The new United States government desired access to the Gulf of Mexico. the Louisiana Purchase accomplished that, but West Florida remained problematic. From Wikipedia:

The the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800, Spain agreed to return Louisiana to France; however, the location of the boundary between Louisiana and West Florida was not explicitly specified. After France sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, another boundary dispute erupted. The United States laid claim to the territory from the Perdido River to the Mississippi River, which the Americans believed had been a part of the old province of Louisiana when the French agreed to cede it to Spain in 1762. The Spanish insisted that they had administered that portion as the province of West Florida and that it was not part of the territory restored to France by Charles IV in 1802,[13][14] as France had never given West Florida to Spain, among a list of other reasons.

So, West Florida remained disputed until 1821, when Spain ceded all of the Florida territory, including West Florida, to the United States. That settled the issue, and the state boundaries of Louisiana were formally adjusted to include the “Florida Parishes” north of Lake Pontchartrain.

Galvez and New Orleans

bernardo de galvez

Equestrian statue of Galvez, Spanish Plaza New Orleas. Photo by Demcy Dias.

Bernardo didn’t waste time in New Orleans with respect to forging ties with the Creole-French population. Also from Wikipedia:

In November 1777, Gálvez married Marie Félicité de Saint-Maxent d’Estrehan, the Creole daughter of the French-born Gilbert Antoine de Saint-Maxent and the Creole Elizabeth La Roche, and young widow of Jean Baptiste Honoré d’Estrehan, the son of a high ranking French colonial official. This marriage to the daughter of a Frenchman[19][20] won Gálvez the favor of the local Creole population. They had three children, Miguel, Matilde, and Guadalupe.

So, he married into the La Roche and d’Estrehan families. His victories against the British immortalized him along the Gulf Coast. New Orleans named a street for him, as well as his wife (Felicity Street). Galveston was named in his honor, and cities from there to Mobile along the Gulf Coast included him in their Spanish memorials.

Liked it? Take a second to support NOLA History Guy on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!