Caribbean Tourism

Defeat of the Great Unwashed

1997 was the 200th anniversary of the attack on San Juan by General Abercrombie in the last and largest attempt by the British to take the Island. On 17 April 1797, 68 ships and over 3,000 troops anchored off Punta de Cangrejos.


The next day they landed, occupied the town of San Mateo de Cangrejos, and Abercrombie set up command in the summer residence of Bishop La Cuerda. They marched on San Juan but were unable to penetrate its defences despite continuous bombardment. The seige was raised when local reinforcements arrived with 800 infantry and two cavalry divisions from Guaynabo and Bayamón. Fighting was fierce in the counterattack and continued until 30 April, when Abercrombie decided to retreat and re-embark his troops. According to the report in The Times on 9 June the expeditions difficulties were so severe that “officers and men under Sir Ralph Abercrombie laboured for 15 days without even being able to change their clothes.”


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