Rafael Conti

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Rafael Conti Flores
Colonel Rafael Conti.jpg
In 1790, Col.Conti captured 11 enemy ships
involved in smuggling stolen goods.
Born October 26, 1746
Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain
Died September 26, 1814
Mayagüez, Puerto Rico
Allegiance Spanish Army
Years of service 1790-1814
Rank Colonel
Commands held Puerto Rican Militia in Aguadilla
Battles/wars Defense of San Juan (1797)

Rafael Conti Flores, also spelled "Conty" (1746–1814) was a Colonel in the Spanish Army who was in charge of the Puerto Rican Militia in the town of Aguadilla. In 1790, he captured 11 enemy ships involved in smuggling stolen goods. In 1797, he helped defeat Sir Ralph Abercromby and defend Puerto Rico from a British invasion in Aguadilla. In 1809, he organized a military expedition fight with the aim of returning Hispaniola, which now comprises the nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, back to Spanish rule.

Early years[edit]

Conti (birth name: Rafael Conti Flores [note 1]) was born in the town of Cadiz, Andalucia in Spain. There he received his primary and secondary education in private schools. His parents sent him to Cadiz, Spain, where he trained for a military career in a military institution. Upon his graduation in 1766, he was commissioned a Lieutenant of War and continued to serve in Spain.[1]

Military career[edit]

Conti was placed in charge of the Puerto Rican Militia in Aguadilla and named sub delegate of the treasury of the town. In 1790, he became aware of the fact that various English vessels were involved in the illegal act of smuggling stolen goods close to the coast of his hometown. Conti then took charge of a sloop and with the help of his men in the militia, he captured and confiscated 11 vessels involved in the illegal activity.[2] He married Juana Josefa Torralbo, daughter of the Spanish appointed Governor of Puerto Rico Francisco Torralbo.[3]

Defense of San Juan (1797)[edit]

On February 17, 1797, the then appointed Governor of Puerto Rico Brigadier General Ramón de Castro, received news that Great Britain had invaded the island of Trinidad. Believing that Puerto Rico would be the next British objective he decided to put the local militia on alert and to prepare the island's forts against any military action. After the invaders disembarked practically all fighting was land based with many skirmishes, field artillery and mortar fire exchanges between the San Gerónimo and San Antonio Bridge fortress and British emplacements in Condado to the East and El Olimpo hill in Miramar to the South. The British tried to take the San Antonio, a key passage to the San Juan islet, and repeatedly bombarded the nearby San Gerónimo to the tune of nearly one thousand shells and almost demolishing it. At the Martín Peña Bridge, they were met by the likes of Sergeants Jose and Francisco Diaz and Conti who together with Lieutenant Lucas de Fuentes attacked the enemy with two cannons. After fiercely fighting by the Spanish forces and local militia, they were defeated in all attempts to advance into San Juan. The invasion failed because Puerto Rican volunteers and Spanish troops fought back and defended the island in a manner described by a British lieutenant as of “astonishing bravery". The British also attacked Aguadilla and Punta Salinas, where they were met by Conti who had been promoted to Colonel of Artillery, and his men. The British were defeated, and the British troops that had landed on the island were taken prisoner. The enemy retreated on April 30 to their ships and on May 2 set sail northward. Because of the defeat given to the British forces, governor Ramon de Castro petitioned Spanish King Charles IV for recognition for the victors; Conti and several others were promoted and given pay raises.[4][5][6]

Hispaniola expedition of 1809[edit]

Spain neglected her Caribbean holdings and in 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain ceded the island of Hispaniola to France.[7] France came to own the island in 1795, when by the Peace of Basel Spain ceded Santo Domingo as a consequence of the French Revolutionary Wars. At the time, Saint-Domingue's slaves, led by Toussaint Louverture, were in revolt against France. In 1801 they captured Santo Domingo, thus controlling the entire island; but in 1802 an army sent by Napoleon captured Toussaint Louverture and sent him to France as prisoner. However, Toussaint Louverture's lieutenants, plus the spread of yellow fever, succeeded in expelling the French again from Saint-Domingue, which in 1804 the rebels made independent as the Republic of Haiti. Eastwards, France continued to rule Spanish Santo Domingo.

In 1808, following Napoleon's invasion of Spain, the criollos of Santo Domingo revolted against French rule. Conti organized an expedition to return Hispaniola back to Spain. Col Conti together with naval Captain Ramón Power y Giralt, a fellow Puerto Rican, distinguished themselves with the defense of the Dominican Republic against an invasion from the French forces by enforcing a blockade with the aid of Great Britain (Spain's ally at the time) and Haiti,[8] returned Santo Domingo to Spanish control.[9]

Legacy[edit]

On September 26, 1814, Conti died in the City of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The town of Mayagüez honored his memory by naming a high school the "Rafael Conty Liceo Aquadillano High School" after him.[10]

Military decoration[edit]

Military decoration awarded to Conti:

Further reading[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^
    This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Conti and the second or maternal family name is Flores.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Historia de Puerto Rico" de Paul G. Miller, Rand McNally, editor, 1947, p. 237.
  2. ^ Invasion 1797
  3. ^ Una historia de la puertorriqueñidad Una Historia de la Puertorriqueñidad
  4. ^ Historias de Puerto Rico by Paul G. Miller, (1947) pgs. 221–237.
  5. ^ Municipio de San Juan. Actas del Cabildo 1792–1798., San Juan: M. Pareja, 1967, 287.
  6. ^ Brau, Salvador. Historia de Puerto Rico., San Juan: Editorial Coqui, 1966; 214.
  7. ^ "Dominican Republic – The first colony". Country Studies. Library of Congress; Federal Research Division. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  8. ^ "Dominican Republic – Haiti and Santo Domingo". Country Studies. Library of Congress; Federal Research Division. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  9. ^ "Dominican Republic". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  10. ^ Rafael Conty Liceo Aquadillano High School