Siege of Santo Domingo (1655)

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Siege of Santo Domingo
Part of the Anglo-Spanish War (1654–60)
DateApril 23–30, 1655
Result Spanish victory[1]
English forces fail to capture Hispaniola[1]
Spain Spanish Empire  Commonwealth of England
Commanders and leaders
Spain Bernardino de Meneses Commonwealth of England William Penn
Commonwealth of England Robert Venables

2,400 soldiers:

  • 1,300 lancers
  • 700 regular soldiers
  • 200 marines
  • 200 militias

13,120 soldiers:

  • 7,000 marines
  • 6,000 infantry
  • 120 cavalry
34 ships
Casualties and losses
30 dead[2] ~600 dead[2]

The Siege of Santo Domingo was fought between April 23, 1655 and April 30, 1655, at the Spanish Colony of Santo Domingo. A force of 2,400 Spanish troops led by Governor Don Bernardino Meneses y Bracamonte, Count of Peñalba successfully resisted a force of 13,120 soldiers led by General Robert Venables and 34 ships under Admiral Sir William Penn of the English Commonwealth.


In 1655 the Commonwealth of England, under Oliver Cromwell, decided to declare war on Spain. Religious fanaticism played a role in this, as the puritans running the Commonwealth loathed the Catholicism of Spain. More practically, England had a large standing army with ambitious commanders and Cromwell wished to occupy them with a successful campaign, preferably far from home. In addition it was believed that war with Spain would be both easy and profitable.[3]

Command of an expedition to the Caribbean to capture Spanish colonies named the "Western Design" was given to General Robert Venables, with Admiral Sir William Penn commanding the naval contingent of 34 ships. Their authority was constrained by two Civil Commissioners whom Cromwell has tasked with ensuring the loyalty of both Venables and Penn. The 13,000 troops sent to the Caribbean were selected for the mission based on which would be least missed due to perceived practical or political weakness. Administrative and financial problems meant that the expedition sailed short of equipment and supplies. It was hoped that the English might take possession of Santo Domingo, Cuba and Puerto Rico.[4]


High winds and surf made it difficult for the English to land near their first objective, the city of Santo Domingo. They eventually landed on April 13, 1655. However, the 13,000 Englishmen were put ashore at the mouth of the Nizao River, some thirty miles from the city.[5] It took them four days, short of water, food and military supplies, to make their way to within sight of the city. They were then ambushed and routed by 2–300 local militia. Spanish records assert that some 1,500 British soldiers were killed, wounded and or taken prisoner. The English fleet carried out an ineffectual attempt to bombard the city into submission, then sailed off to re-embark the army's survivors.[1]


La Puerta del Conde

The British naval historian N.A.M. Rodger notes that "in one afternoon the invincible reputation of the New Model Army had been thrown away".[1] The English left Santo Domingo and sailed for Jamaica, which they successfully conquered in a six-day campaign.[6]

Venables and Penn were disgraced and imprisoned in the Tower of London.[7] Historian C.H. Firth opined that the main cause of the failure at Hispaniola was the lack of co-operation on the part of Venables and Penn. Venables never obtained the confidence either of his officers or his soldiers.[8] Samuel Pepys, Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board, considered Admiral Penn a "false knave".[9] Historian John Morrill wrote "[Venables] was over-promoted and under-supported in a high-profile fiasco in the Caribbean that cost him his reputation." His army was composed of inferior and undisciplined troops hastily assembled and badly equipped.[10]

Due to the valor of the governor, Don Bernardino de Meneses y Bracamonte, Count of Peñalva, the site of the battle was named in his honor: Puerta del Conde, the Count's Gate. One anecdote of the invasion is that the English were terrified by the nocturnal noise of the crabs on the beach of Haina; in honour of the victory the Spaniards created a commemorative gold crab, which they paraded down the streets of Santo Domingo in triumph. The gold crab has not survived; it was stolen by General Joseph de Barquier, the last French governor on the island.[11]

British Fleet[edit]

Admiral William Penn's fleet at the 1655 Siege of Santo Domingo[12]
Ship Name Ship Type Guns Crew Captain
Swiftsure (flag) Warship 60 380 Jonas Poole
Paragon (vice-flag) Warship 54 330 William Goodson
Torrington (rear-admiral) Warship 54 330 George Dakins
Gloucester Warship 54 330 Benjamin Blake
Marston Moor Warship 54 330 Edward Blagg
Indian Warship 44 210 Captain Terry
Lion Warship 44 260 John Lumbert
Mathias Warship 44 230 John White
Dover Warship 40 190 Robert Saunders
Laurel Warship 40 190 William Crispin
Portland Warship 40 190 Richard Newberry
Bear Warship 36 180 Francis Kirby
Great Charity Warship 36 150 Leonard Harris
Selby Warship 24 ? John Clark
Grantham Warship 24 ? John Lightfoot
Martin Warship (galley) 12 60 Willam Vessey
Convertine Transport 30 ? John Hayward
Heart's Ease Transport 30 ? Thomas Wright
Katherine Transport 30 ? Willoughby Hannam
Half-Moon Transport 28 ? Bartholomew Ketcher
Rosebush Transport 28 ? Richard Hodges
Golden Cock Transport 25 ? William Garrat
Gillyflower Transport 24 ? Henry Fenn
Adam & Eve Transport 20 ? William Coppin
Arms of Holland Transport 20 ? Robert Story
Crow Transport 20 ? Thomas Thompson
Marigold Transport 20 ? Humphrey Felsted
Sampson Transport 20 ? John Hubbard
Westergate Transport 20 ? Samuel Hawkes
Cardiff Transport 18 ? John Grove
Tulip Transport 18 ? Jeffrey Dane
Falcon Flyboat 24 ? Thomas Fleet
Falcon Fireship 12 ? William Tickell
Hound Transport ? ? Richard Rooth
Falmouth Transport ? ? Robert Mills
Adventure Dogger ? ? ?
Unknown two ketches, one hoy ? ? ?

British Army[edit]

General Robert Venables Army at the 1655 Siege of Santo Domingo[citation needed]
Regimental Commander Senior Officers No. of Officers No. of Private Soldiers
General Robert Venables Major John Ferguson†
Captain Henry Disney†
Captain Thomas Hancock†
Captain George Butler†
Captain Obadiah Hinde†
Captain Parsons
Captain Cooke
Captain Pawlet
Captain Paris
10 Staff officers
Major General James Heane Lt.-Colonel Clarke†
Major Samuel Barry
Captain Walters
Captain Gregory Tom
Captain Richard Young
Captain Smith
Captain Richard Bamford
Captain Henry Archibold
10 Staff officers
Colonel Richard Fortescue Lt.-Colonel William Hill
Captain Henry Bartlett
Captain Samuel Leverington†
Captain Thomas White
Captain Bartholomew Davis
Captain Richard Wells
Captain Keene
Captain Edwards
10 Staff officers
Colonel Anthony Buller Lt.-Colonel Francis Barrington
Major Michael Bland
Captain Barnard
Captain Minne
Captain Boulton
Captain Thomas Throckmorton
Captain Bingham
Captain Cooper
Captain Corbet
Lieutenant Francis Price
10 Staff officers
Colonel Andrew Carter Lt.-Colonel Bushell

Captain Nicholas Holford
Captain Nathaniel Bowers
Captain Blunt
Captain How
Captain Salkield
Captain Abraham Fincher
Captain Filkins
10 Staff officers
Colonel Edward D'Oyley Lt.-Colonel Francis Mercer
Major John Reade
Captain Thomas Thornhill
Captain Noell
Captain Smith
Captain Richard Stevens
Captain Vavaster
Captain Augustine Thornhill
Captain Downes
10 Staff officers
Total . 732 5602
Scoutmaster General's Company Isaac Berkenhead 60
Artillery Train Captain Hughes . 60
Firelocks? Captain Johnson 12 120
Horse Captain Carpenter 10 56
Reformados (unassigned forces) Captain Jennings† 2 100
Horse Captain John Heane 12 65
Total . 36 445
Grand Total . 768 6,047 6,815


  1. ^ a b c d Rodger 2004, p. 23.
  2. ^ a b Marley 1998, p. 149.
  3. ^ Rodger 2004, p. 22.
  4. ^ Rodger 2004, pp. 22–3.
  5. ^ Plant 2010.
  6. ^ Lajara Sola 2016.
  7. ^ Rodger 2004, p. 24.
  8. ^ Venables & Firth 1900, p. 205.
  9. ^ "Thursday 31 December 1663".
  10. ^ Morrill 2004.
  11. ^ "El Baluarte del Conde". 2010. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  12. ^ Marley 1998, p. 148.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Kris E. Lane, Pillaging the Empire: Piracy in the Americas, 1500-1750.