Insurgent Privateer

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The insurgent privateers (Spanish: corsarios insurgentes) were private armed vessels recruited by the insurgent governments during the Spanish American wars of independence to destroy Spanish trade and capture Spanish merchant vessels.

Privateering started early in the war, in 1812. But large scale deployment of warships started between 1816 and 1821, most notably under the flag of Buenos Aires and flag of Artigas. After 1821 and up to 1829, the privateers sailed under the flags of Mexico and Colombia. (Frequently privateers coming from Cartagena, Colombia, were referred to as "Carthaginians".) The main motivation of the insurgent privateers was to gain money and was not political in nature. They captured merchant vessels and slave ships to seize loot but they refused to fight against Spanish warships.

After the War of 1812, the privately armed vessels were mostly coming from North America, Baltimore in particular. There were shipowners of other nationalities involved as well, such as French and British. These vessels were fast sailers. They could be schooners or brigs, typically armed with 12-16 guns, usually of 12 or 24 lb caliber.

Cádiz was the principal port attacked, but there were other targets in the Iberian Peninsula and the Canary Islands. The second most important port was La Habana, in Cuba, and other ports of the Caribbean. Spanish trade with the Americas suffered considerable damage, but the most important factor for the diminution of the Spanish commerce was not the privateer attacks as much as the loss of ports and new territories gained by republican countries.

The UK merchant fleet arriving from the Americas amounted to the 15 percent of the total of their global commerce. British trade with Latin America was not totally legal. But it was tolerated as they were an allied power in the Napoleonic Wars and later, with the mediation of the UK, in the colonial Americas conflict. The Royal Navy tried to protect their trade without interfering in the local conflicts of independence. The US Government turned blind eyes to North American privateers, trying to force Spain to accelerate the cession of Florida (Adams–Onís Treaty). But they took firm measures to terminate privateering after the end of the war, in 1829.

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Bibliography[edit]

Monographs:

  • Edgardo Pérez Morales, El gran diablo hecho barco, Corsarios, esclavos y revolución en Cartagena y el Gran Caribe, 1791-1817, Bucaramanga: Universidad Industrial de Santander, 2012, 292 pp.
  • Nicolas Terrien, "Des patriotes sans patrie", Histoire des corsaires insurgés de l'Amérique espagnole (1810-1825), Rennes: Les Perséides, May 2015, 384 pp.
  • David Head, Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic, Athens: University of Georgia Press, August 2015, 224 pp.

Ph.D. Dissertations: