Raid on Santiago de Cuba (1603)

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Capture of Santiago De Cuba
Part of the Anglo–Spanish War
Map of Santiago Bay WDL10079.png
Map of the Bay of Santiago de Cuba
Date12 May 1603
Santiago de Cuba (Present day Cuba)
Result English victory[1]
 Spain England England
Commanders and leaders
Pedro de Valdés Christopher Cleeve
Militia & fortification 2 ships
Casualties and losses
4 vessels burned unknown

The Capture of Santigao De Cuba was a minor military event that took place towards the end of the Anglo–Spanish War in May 1603. Santiago de Cuba was attacked and sacked by English privateers led by Christopher Cleeve.[3]



In late February 1603 Christopher Cleeve, in the large armed merchant galleon Elizabeth and Cleeve along with a pinnace left England on a privateering expedition to raid the Spanish Main; funded largely by a number of London Merchants.[3]

Cleeve arrived in the Caribbean in April; Cleeve's main target was Santiago de Cuba which had escaped attacks by the English since the advent of the Anglo-Spanish war. Santiago de Cuba was the second largest town in Cuba having been founded in 1515. The town had been targeted by pirates before, notably in 1553.[4]


On 12 May 1603 the English landed in a bay near Santiago de Cuba and met no resistance.[2] They then took the small but unfinished fort; a ravelin and battery on the south-western beach of the promontory which covered the bay from the land side. Soon after Cleeve's men then marched towards the town and then launched an attack. They surprised the militia who attempted some resistance before being overwhelmed and the English then entered the city and went on the rampage.[5] Many of the buildings were plundered including the cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, and in all a considerable amount of booty was acquired.[2]

The city was the occupied for a few days before a ransom was then attempted but having no response with this Cleeve ordered his men to set fire to many buildings including the cathedral.[5] In addition all the fortifications were dismantled or destroyed and four vessels were also plundered and burnt.[2] Most of Santiago de Cuba was destroyed and the English pirates left with their booty unmolested after having been in the city for just under a week.[1]


Cleeve then made a descent on Spanish Jamaica but left finding supplies and booty too few.[2] Cleeve on his way back home past Cuba however intercepted and captured two small galleons in the Old Bahama Channel 28 August that conveyed the new Spanish governor of Florida Pedro de Ibarra who was captured.[3]

The raid on Santiago was to be the last major attack on the Spanish Main by the English after nearly thirty years. Soon after James I ordered all privateers to cease while peace negotiations with the Spanish were being held in London which resulted in the Treaty of London.[3]

The English returned in 1662 for another strike led by Christopher Myngs at the city; this led to the destruction of the city as well as the destruction to the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca.[6]


  1. ^ a b Bradley p 131
  2. ^ a b c d e Marely pg 77-78
  3. ^ a b c d Andrews pp 253-54
  4. ^ Latimer p 46
  5. ^ a b Syemour p 49
  6. ^ Latimer p 246


  • Andrews, Kenneth R (1964). Elizabethan Privateering 1583-1603. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521040327.
  • Bradley, Peter T (2010). British Maritime Enterprise in the New World: From the Late Fifteenth to the Mid-eighteenth Century. Edwin Mellen Press Ltd. ISBN 978-0773478664.
  • Latimer, Jon (2009). The Buccaneers of the Caribbean: How Piracy Forged an Empire, 1607-1697. Hachette UK. ISBN 9780297857648.
  • Marley, David (2008). Wars of the Americas: A Chronology of Armed Conflict in the Western Hemisphere. ABC CLLO. ISBN 978-1598841008.
  • Seymour, Jean-Jacques (2010). Les chemins des proies: une histoire de la flibuste. Ibis rouge. ISBN 9782844503657. (French)