By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
David Shaul, president of the Missouri Sons of the American Revolution, presented a plaque commemorating the role the Ste. Genevieve militia played in the Battle of Fort San Carlos, May 26.
Morning and afternoon ceremonies were held and the names of participating militia members were read.
Spain declared war on Great Britain in July 1779, technically making Ste. Genevieve residents enemies of England.
Fernando DeLeyba, lieutenant governor of Upper Louisiana, received word from a scout on May 5 that a force of some 900 British and Indians [mainly Sauk, Fox and Sioux] were heading toward St. Louis from current-day Illinois.
The ailing DeLeyba dictated two crucial letters that may have helped change the course of the war in the western theatre.
He wrote to Francisco de Cartabona, military commandant of Ste. Genevieve, and to Francois Valle, captain of the local malice or militia. The letters requested six regular Spanish soldiers [stationed in Ste. Genevieve] and 60 militia members embark immediately with supplies to last 24 days to defend St. Louis from the invasion.
The militia was made up of all able-bodied men between 15 and 50, usually drilling on Sundays, following Mass.
Valle and Cartabona acted with impressive speed. Word was received on May 10 and three days later, on May 13, the 66 requested reinforcements arrived in St. Louis. The elderly Valle [who died three years later] was not up to the trip, but sent two of his sons, Charles and Francois II as the top two officers under Cartabona.
For two weeks work was done preparing Fort San Carlos as it was known, for the attack. A stone tower had been hastily built on one side, with five cannons installed. Earthen works, possibly with some palisades, helped to wall off the interior of the fort, which included the lieutenant governor’s mansion [Pierre Leclede’s former trading house].
On May 23 the opposing force was seen about 60 or 70 miles away by scouts. The enemy finally arrived, with between 900 and 1,000 Englishmen and Indian allies. The militia had boosted the defensive force to about 310 men with questionable fortification protection. [The total included 29 regular Spanish soldiers.]
The defenders held off the Anglo-English assaults throughout the day on May 26, though, causing the invaders to retreat.
Louisiana remained safely in Spanish hands.
Ten were killed in the attack, seven wounded and 24 captured — primarily those caught outside of the fortification at the time of the first attack.
Ste. Genevieve lost a militia member, a St. Jean, either to capture or to death. There was also a St. Jean in the St. Louis contingent. One was captured and one was killed; historical records no not specify which was which.