Eric Beerman


While Bernardo de Gálvez’s forcing the entrance of Pensacola Bay with his brigatine Galveztown during the American Revolutionary War is well known, virtually forgotten are the other Spaniards who also participated in that campaign on March 18, 1781. This is especially true of teniente de fragata (naval lieutenant) Juan Antonio de Riaño, Gálvez’s brother-in-law. For the heroism of Gálvez, King Charles III of Spain added to his coat of arms a replica of him on the deck of the Galveztown with the motto “Yo Solo” (I alone). Although Gálvez displayed his mettle on that day, he did not force the bay alone. Riaño accompanied the general aboard his own sloop Valenzuela together with two row galleys, and the crews of all four vessels. From Gálvez’s point of view, “Yo Solo” meant that he had entered Pensacola Bay without the assistance of the Spanish fleet. Nevertheless Juan Antonio de Riaño was also present, facing the British guns at Red Clifts (Barrancas Coloradas) as he raced his ship with Gálvez across the sandbar into the bay during the siege of Fort George. Perhaps Gálvez’s motto would have conformed more to historical reality if it had read, “I alone, accompanied by my brother-inlaw.”