Battle of Tortuguero
The Battle of Tortuguero was the first naval battle of the Dominican War of Independence and was fought on April 15, 1844 at Tortuguero, Azua Province. A force of 3 Dominican schooners led by Commander Juan Bautista Cambiaso, defeated a force of 3 vessels of the Haitian Navy. Though it was a minor naval battle engagement, it determined the naval supremacy of the Dominican Republic over Haiti until the end of the war.
Prelude to Battle
On March 31, 1844 news from French Admiral De Moges from the frigate La Neréide, warned of a flotilla of Haitian vessels that had been raiding the coast of the Ocoa Bay and transporting supplies to the Haitian Army in Azua. He recommended President Tomás de Bobadilla y Briones of the Junta Central Gubernativa, to order all ships in Santo Domingo be used for war. Conscripts for the new navy gathered at Puerta de la Misericordia, among them were Juan Alejandro Acosta, José Antonio Sanabia, Joaquín Orta, Teodoro Ariza, Pedro Tomás Garrido y Fermín González.
Juan Alejandro Acosta together with some fellow merchants, armed two schooners. Acosta received the schooner Eleonore (renamed San José) from the British merchant Abraham Cohen and was followed by the Genoese merchant Juan Bautista Maggiolo who received the schooner María Chica from the Catalan merchants José and Francisco Ginebra. Both schooners set sail in early April to Aguas de la Estancia, Baní to meet there with Commander Juan Bautista Cambiaso, another Genoese merchant.
On April 13, three schooners led by Commander Juan Bautista Cambiaso set sail from Aguas de la Estancia. Cambiaso leading the schooner Separación Dominicana (flagship), the Captain Juan Bautista Maggiolo led the María Chica and Lieutenant Juan Alejandro Acosta led the San José.
Two days later, on April 15, Commander Cambiaso sighted three vessels off shore bombarding Tortuguero, Azua. The three vessels were the Pandora, La Mouche and Le Signifie. Cambiaso quickly decided to engage the fleet and after a combination of manoeuvres the enemy succumbed. All three enemy vessels were sunk. Almost all sailors died in the battle and there is no record of any survivor from the sinkings.
News from this victory travelled fast and on April 23, 1844 the Junta Central Gubernativa authorized to incorporate these three schooners in the newly created Dominican Navy, and Commander Cambiaso was appointed Admiral. Haitian presence at sea vanished after this engagement, which ensured naval supremacy for the newborn nation.
- Authors, Multiple (2013). Imperial Wars 1815–1914. Amber Books Ltd.