The Anglo-Spanish War of 1655-1660 was triggered by Cromwell’s desire to use the powerful army that had won the British civil wars to intervene in the long running Franco-Spanish rivalry. After a period of diplomatic activity in which both sides attempted to win English support, Cromwell decided to side with the French, and sent an apparently powerful army to the West Indies, to try and attack the Spanish empire in America. An impressively large army, supported by a sizable fleet, was dispatched with great confidence, but the attempt to invade Hispaniola was a disastrous failure, and the rather easier conquest of Jamaica was nearly bodged.
This book covers the first part of the war, starting with the background to Cromwell’s decision to attack the Spanish in the New World (rather bizarrely in the belief that the Spanish wouldn’t respond by declaring war in Europe) and covering the formation of the army and fleet, the disaster on Hispaniola and the rather inept conquest of Jamaica. We leave the remnants of the army grimly hanging on to Jamaica, while the senior commanders of both the Army and Navy returned to England without permission, taking a large part of the fleet with them.
This part of the war seems to be dominated by a mix of over-confidence and wishful thinking on the part of the English. The expedition seems to be have been planned in the belief that the Spanish in the New World were corrupt and decadent, and wouldn’t be able to stand up to Cromwell’s experienced army. Unfortunately for the men involved, it soon became clear that the Spanish on Hispaniola were more than capable of defending themselves, while the better parts of Cromwell’s army was still needed in England, Scotland and Ireland, leaving the expedition rather short of experienced officers. Sutton isn’t at all impressed by General Venables, the army commander, and his performance does appear to have been poor, making a series of mistakes on Hispaniola and again when negotiating with the Spanish on Jamaica.
This is a well researched account of this almost disastrous campaign, which saw a powerful English army suffer very heavy losses to the Spanish and more to disease, and only very narrowly managed to hold on to Jamaica. I’m looking forward to the planned sequel looking at the rest of the war.
1 – The Road to War
2 – The Preparations
3 – The English Army in the West Indies 1654-1655
4 – The English Navy in the West Indies 1654-1655
5 – The Expedition Departs
6 – Barbados
7 – The Landing
8 – The Advance
9 – The Disaster
10 – The Consequences
11 – Jamaica May 1655
12 – Jamaica June-July 1655
Author: Paul Sutton