George’s Cake” Over the centuries, there has been a lingering debate on whether the ‘Battle’ of SST. George’s Cake actually occurred. We all know that the British conquered the Spaniards for Belize on the 10th of September 1798 because we have learnt it from childhood but there are speculations if whether there was an actual physical fight or there was non. There are two myths: One that the British defeated the Spaniards in a gruesome fight at sea and the other that the Spaniards Just rowed and towed off from the fight because they new that they were weak and would lose anyway.
Either way the only real way to know what actually did happen is to talk to someone who was actually there but since that would be impossible, we can only base ourselves to believe on what has been historically recorded and to try to put the facts together. I have gathered an array of facts that in my point of view give credit to an actual battle that occurred. There has always been conflict between the Spaniards and the British over the right of the British to cut logbook and settle in the area.
The area of Belize was always under dispute since the sass’s. Spain never occupied Belize because it considered it f very little economic significance to them but yet they still considered it part of their Central American territories including Mexico. When Spain saw that the British began to use logbook and later mahogany for trade they realized that the ‘Murky land of Belize actually had some value. The Spaniards later then established treaties to temporarily keep the British to export the log wood and mahogany only in certain territories.
The lack of any importance or official establishment on Belize from the Spaniards led the British to begin claiming it as theirs because they were the ones who would constantly come back to continue their trade. They had already self claimed Belize as theirs. In September 1779 a surprised Spaniard attack invasion captured and destroyed SST. George’s Cake and the mainland. The Spaniards demanded the British to surrender peacefully so that they would not be harmed. The British decided to surrender.
Fifty British men and 250 slaves, who were upriver managed to escape to the Honduras coast. In 1783, the Treaty of Versailles gave the right to the British settlers to cut logbook between the Hondo and the Belize Rivers in exchange for evacuating the mosquito shore in Nicaragua. They complained that he land was too small for them to cut logbook. By a further convention of 1786 Spain agreed and also allowed them to cut mahogany which had now become more important than logbook. As usual, the Spanish would go away and the British would stay and occupy the land.
The British expected an attack on 1796. The Spaniards intended to occupy the settlement once and for all. To prepare they sent Colonel Thomas Barrow from Jamaica in 1796 to plan the defense of the settlement. Captain John Moss commander of the war sloop ‘Merlin’ Joined the following year. Fortifications were illegally, military and civilian supplies from the U. S. A. Captain Moss’ lookout had spotted thirty one Spanish vessels. But on the 5th of September when heading to SST. George’s Cake they managed to chase away twelve of their heaviest vessels.
On Monday morning of September 10, 1798 according to records found of Captain John Moss, he states the details of that day “our fleet was drawn up with his Majesty ship ‘Merlin’ in the centre, and directly abreast of the channel… The enemy came down in a very handsome manner, and with a good countenance, in a line abreast, using both sails and oars… I made the signal to engage, which began and continued for two ours. ” “At one P. M, nine sail of sloops and schooners, carrying from twelve to twenty guns bore down the channel leading to them.
They had no intentions of coming any nearer and had anchored. For two hours the fleet of ships pressed the attack, all guns blazing, cannon balls finding easy targets among the high hulls crammed into the narrow channel. Look outs perched on roof tops on the mainland the atmosphere appeared in a blaze. ” According to records, the Spanish soldiers were being slaughtered without even a chance of engaging in the land battle for which they had been trained. They gave up and left because they were not prepared to fight in open waters.
The Spaniards were unfamiliar with the waters and the ships they used were not suitable for these waters. Although they outnumbered the British, they were not prepared for the attack. The two commanders of the two ships that were to confront the ‘Merlin’ abandoned the armada. They lacked firepower and had no real military leadership to coordinate the attack. The Spaniards tried fighting but they realized that they could not. This does not mean that there wasn’t a battle and that the Spaniards Just turned round and left but when the battle started the Spaniards new they were not prepared.
The British on the other hand had been preparing for a period of approximately two years. The Spaniards had the intentions of fighting because there were 3,000 men waiting to sail from Merriam as soon as the ships would land on SST. George’s cake. But although they had the intentions of fighting they lacked enthusiasm because they were not fighting for them. Spain was under the rule of France, in particular the French royal family, the bourbons. They were not extremely happy to be fighting for what they knew would still not belong to them.
Most of the ships onboard were also infected with yellow fever which made the men weak and too ill to fight as well as they would normally do. But they were already there. They had travel so far to take back what they thought was theirs and they were not going to give up without at least trying. Unfortunately, they did not do their best and gave up. Although there are many who say that there was never an actual battle, it would be absurd to say that after centuries of disputing with the British over Belize the Spaniards would have not at least tried to fight for what they wanted.
There must eave been a battle. Maybe not a huge one where thousands of men died but at least a combat or struggle between a few men. According to Captain Moss there were no deaths on the British side yet there are still speculations on whether the Spanish the died from the yellow fever. Either way the British still defeated the Spaniards and it was to our advantaged because if it was not for that first step, Belize would not be what it is today. The statement that there was an actual physical battle is not a fact but according to the evidence there is I personally think there was a battle.