Spanish capture of Providencia

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Spanish capture of Providencia
Part of the Piracy in the Caribbean
2006 01 04 4.JPG
View of Providencia Island.
Date 17 May 1641
Location Providencia Island, San Andrés y Providencia (present-day Colombia)
Result Spanish victory[1]
Spain Spain Kingdom of England Providence Island colony
Commanders and leaders
Francisco Díaz Pimienta Unknown  (POW)
1,400 soldiers
600 sailors[2]
10 ships
600 men
Casualties and losses
Minimum 770 prisoners
380 slaves
40 guns[3]

The Spanish conquest of Providencia took place on 17 May 1641 and was an amphibious expedition launched by Spain against the Piracy in the Caribbean in order to seize the island from its English settlers' control. The Spanish fleet carrying 2,000 men captured the island and demolished the forts taking so much gold that the value of the plunder was estimated at above half a million ducats.[4]


Determined to expel the English, the Spanish crown ordered veteran Admiral Don Francisco Díaz Pimienta to take his battle fleet to expunge the intruder settlement. Díaz Pimienta appeared off Providencia Island with his 400- ton flagship San Juan; the 800-ton, foreign-built viceflag Sansón under Jerónimo de Ojeda; the 400-ton galleons Jesús María del Castillo and San Marcos; the 300-ton ships Santa Ana, Teatina, and Comboy; the auxiliary San Pedro; and three lesser craft of 70–80 tons apiece.[2] The expedition bears a total of 600 sailors and 1,400 soldiers.[2]


The attackers were again stymied by Providencia’s reefs, spending several days searching for a safe landing place. On 19 May San Marcos struck an outcropping and was severely damaged; retiring toward Cartagena, taking 270 troops and one-third of the Spanish siege train.[2] Díaz eventually decided to make a thrust directly into the main English harbor at dawn on 24 May with 1,200 men, hoping to catch his enemy offguard.[2]

The gamble paid off: Spanish troops waded through the surf and stormed the intricate system of English trenches and parapets with cold steel. The defenders were driven back within their keep, and the Spaniards manhandled English artillery pieces into new emplacements to open up a close-range bombardment.[2]

At this point, Providencia’s residents sent out two flags of truce, requesting terms.[2] The next day (25 May), Díaz accepted the surrender of the fort along with 40 guns, 380 slaves, and all English goods on the island.[3] The 770 inhabitants surrendered on the understanding they would be repatriated to Europe; the Spanish commander-in-chief installed a new garrison under Vice Admiral de Ojeda.[3] Díaz’s fleet then prepared to weigh, except for the Portuguese Ajuda, which attempted to desert its Spanish consorts but was wrecked on Providencia’s reefs. Furious, Díaz ordered two of its officers shot and their bodies displayed on the twisted wreckage as a warning to other wouldbe runaways.[3]


The victorious Spanish admiral was accorded a hero’s welcome at Cartagena de Indias, later being awarded with a knighthood in the Order of Santiago. The vast majority of the English prisoners were forced to work clearing the Magdalena River.[3]


  1. ^ Parry p. 203
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Marley p.140
  3. ^ a b c d e Marley p.141
  4. ^ Scott p.335


Coordinates: 12°33′N 81°43′W / 12.550°N 81.717°W / 12.550; -81.717