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Battle of Porto Praya 4.16.1781

Battle of Porto Praya

The connection between Cape Verde and the U.S goes back many years, but not many people know that the connection goes back to a time before what today are the United States of America existed.
One of the hundreds of battles that took place during the War for American independence, when 13 fledgling colonies were battling the mighty British empire for independence took place in the waters surrounding Cape Verde Islands.

On April 16th, 1781 a British Naval squadron under the command of Commodore George Johnstone stopped over in Porto Praya (now Praia), Cape Verde on the way to the Cape of Good hope to attack and take it away from under Dutch control came under attack by a French Naval squadron under command of the French Admiral Bailli de Suffren that was headed towards the Cape of Good Hope to assist the Dutch in the defense of the colony against the British.

The French surprised the British and they were able to come out victorious. The British had 183 casualties of which, 36 were killed and 147 wounded.

This naval encounter became known as the Battle of Porto Praya.

A Cape Verdean Slave Owner and Governor of Portuguese Guinea

Honório Pereira Barreto (1813–1859) was a governor of the Portuguese colony of Guinea (or ‘province’ as it was referred to during the time of his administration). Born in Portuguese Guinea of a Guinean mother and Cape Verdean father, he maintained Portuguese control of the area and even extended its influence. Prior to the independence of Guinea-Bissau, Barreto was sighted by the Portuguese as the most famous governor and an example of what the local population might achieve. At the age of twenty-four Barreto was appointed Governor of Bissau and Cacheu. However, Barreto also ran a family business with his mother from the settlement of Cacheu, where the principal products of their mercantile dealings were slaves.Image

Fogo’s Rebellion of 1581

On August 4, 1578, while in a battle in Morocco, King Sebastian dies in battle without an heir. His death and lack of an heir will lead to a crisis for the Portuguese monarchy, the late king’s elderly granduncle Cardinal Henry is crowned King of Portugal.

On January 31, 1580 the elder King Henry I [Cardinal Henry] also die. At this time Portugal becomes worried about be able to maintain their independence and they begin a search for a king. In the end there would be two competitors for the throne of Portugal. One was Philip II of Spain, who on his mother’s side was the grandson of King Manuel I [King of Portugal from 1495 to 1521] and on that basis claims the Portuguese crown. The other was António, Prior of Crato, the illegitimate son of one of the younger sons of Manuel I.

Manuel would be crowned King of Portugal but this would last for only 33 days, until the invasion of Portugal by Spain in 1580 thus making King Philip II of Spain the new king of Portugal. He would be known as King Philip I of Portugal. Portugal became an autonomous state under the rule of the Spanish from 1580 to 1640.

But what does this have to do with Cape Verde one might ask. The answer is an interesting one, in 1581 began a short-lived revolt against Spanish rule of Portugal on the Island of Fogo. The residents of Fogo refused to accept Philip’s authority.

During Fogo’s rebellion against King Philip II of Spain as a Portuguese king in 1580s, one of the ringleaders was Garcia Alvares Baraça. Another leading rebel in 1582 was Baraça brother, Alvaro Gonçalves. Two of the five ringleaders were positively identified as New Christians [Cristãos Novos or Jews forced to convert to Christianity], and therefore the rebellion led by this group may have been related to Philip II/I’s known patronage of the Inquisition.

In 1654, the Island of Fogo receives its reward for being loyal to the Portuguese monarchy. After Portugal regained its throne from Spain in 1640, the village of São Filipe was given the administrative status of city and would be known as Cidade de São Filipe [City of São Filipe].

By Gerson Sergio Monteiro


ImageDuring the War of the Spanish Succession [1701-1714] which was fought between the European powers, including a divided Spain, over who had the right to succeed Charles II as the King of Spain. The Portuguese had sided with the English during the War of Spanish Succession and in retaliation the French sent a Navy fleet to Cape Verde to attack and sack the islands.[1]

During this conflict, a sea voyage was taken by French Navy Captain Jacques Cassard in 1712 this would be known as the Cassard Expedition. Departing from the port of Toulon [France] with a fleet of eight ships, 3,000 seamen and 1,200 soldiers. This is the fleet that on the 4th of May of 1712 he disembarked his soldiers at Praia Negra, Vila da Praia, Santiago [located in the bay of the city of Praia]. The French arrested the Captain-General and spread throughout the island of Santiago pillaging and burning the homes and the farms of the citizens of the villages and the city of Ribeira Grande [Cidade Velha][2].

The French soldiers arrested women and children and used them as hostages to keep the male residents from retaliating, while they continued burning and pillaging the city of Ribeira Grande and stole everything from slaves, gold, silver and also church chalices and even church bells. After sacking and pillaging Praia and Ribeira Grande, the French turned their attention to Santo Antão [1712][3]; with these successful attacks the French briefly wrangled control of Cape Verde from the Portuguese.

This attack by the French Corsair Jacques Cassard on Ribeira Grande led to the decline of the city and prompted the residents to move the capital to the Praia Plateau, which was easier to defend.

In 1798, the French return and attack the island of Brava in their unsuccessful effort to dislodge the Portuguese influence there and on the coast.[4]Image

[1] Stanhope, Philip Henry, C. Walker, J. Walker, Saint James, John Murray, A. Spottiswoode, and R. Spottiswoode. History of the War of the Succession in Spain. London: John Murray …, 1832. Pg.36. Print.

[2] Carreira, António. Cabo Verde, Formaçao E Extinçao De Uma Sociedade Escravocrata. S.l.: Centro De Estudos Da Guiné Portuguesa, 1972. Pg. 337-338. Print.

[3] Carreira, António. Cabo Verde, Formaçao E Extinçao De Uma Sociedade Escravocrata. S.l.: Centro De Estudos Da Guiné Portuguesa, 1972. Pg. 338 Print.

[4] Lobban, Richard Andrew, and Marlene Lopes. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cape Verde. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1995. Pg. XXX.  Print.