Aid to the Colonies: 1776–1778
Spanish aid was supplied to the colonies through four main routes: from French ports with the funding of Roderigue Hortalez and Company, through the port of
New Orleans and up the
Mississippi River, from the warehouses in Havana, and from
Bilbao, through the
Gardoqui family trading company.
Smuggling from New Orleans began in 1776, when General
Charles Lee sent two
Continental Army (the army of the Thirteen Colonies) officers to request supplies from the New Orleans Governor,
Luis de Unzaga. Unzaga, concerned about overtly antagonizing the British before the Spanish were prepared for war, agreed to assist the rebels covertly. Unzaga authorized the shipment of desperately needed gunpowder in a transaction brokered by
Oliver Pollock, a
Patriot (Revolutionary) and financier.
Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez was appointed Governor of
New Orleans in January 1777, he continued and expanded the supply operations.
As the American diplomat
Benjamin Franklin reported from Paris to the Congressional Committee of Secret Correspondence in March 1777, the Spanish court quietly granted the rebels direct admission to the rich, previously restricted port of Havana under
most favored nation status. Franklin also noted in the same report that three thousand barrels of gunpowder were waiting in New Orleans, and that the merchants in Bilbao "had orders to ship for us such necessaries as we might want."