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Antonio de Benavides

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Preceded by  Manuel Salcedo
Died  1763, Tenerife, Spain
Name  Antonio Benavides
Antonio de Benavides
Preceded by  Juan de Ayala y Escobar
Born  December 8, 1678 La Matanza de Acentejo, Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) (1678-12-08)
Profession  General and Administrator (governor of Florida, Veracruz and Yucatan)
Succeeded by  Francisco del Moral y Sanchez

Antonio Benavides Gonzales (or Antonio Benavides Vazan or Bajan) de Molina (December 8, 1678–January 9, 1762) was an important Lieutenant General of Spanish Army, who held a leading position in the Americas as Governor and Captain General of Florida (1718–1734), Veracruz (1734–1745) and Yucatan (1745 - 1750), as well as Governor and Captain General of Manila, Philippines (September 1750 - ?). Before his appointment as colonial governor in anywhere of Americas and Philippines, he excelled in several battles of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1710, in a of which (developed in Guadalajara, Castile-La Mancha) he saved the life to Philip V, the first Bourbon King. He is also considered the better Military Governor of Florida. During his government in Florida, he jailed to previous governor of Florida Juan de Ayala y Escobar for corruption offenses, he defeated (on several occasions) to the English who were trying to conquer Florida, on land and sea, and he repressed the piracy. He also managed to set a peace treaty and the friendship between the Appalachian Amerindians (who were the worst enemies of the colony), and the Spanish, treaty and friendship that lasted without interruption while he ruled the colony. Benavides also donated his belongings to the poor people of Florida, Yucatan, Veracruz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands), defended the rights of indigenous people in Florida and established the first African- American slave militia in the modern United States, in Florida, to defend Saint Augustine of British attacks.


Early year

Antonio de Benavides was born in La Matanza de Acentejo in Tenerife, (Canary Islands, Spain) in December 8, 1678, into a farmer family. Son of Andres (Captain of the Provincial Militias) and Maria, he was the third of 8 siblings. Due to the condition of Militia officer of Andres, at the end of 1698 stayed at his home a captain of the Bandera d Habana (Flag of Havana), who was north of the island for recruit young in the armies of other side of Atlantic. According to his first biographer, Bernardo Cologan Fallon (September 8, 1772 - April 14, 1814), the official saw military capabilities in Benavides, so he asked his parents that they deem his enlistment as a cadet. So, in the middle 1699, before his twentieth birthday, he joined the Spanish army as a volunteer in Havana, with ninety-nine other recruits, spending three years in the Cuban city. He fought in Flanders, Seville, Tortosa (Catalonia, Spain), Almahara and Penalba. Due his friendship with the king and his great ability as a shooter, - Philip V ordered Benavides was sent as exempt to Guard Corps –exceptional circumstance, because only the children of the nobility could access this corps–, because he and Benavides were friends and he wanted have him with him on hunting trips. The next day, Benavides was admitted to the Second Company of the Unit, which (in addition to addressing security of the King) was the most elitist military force of the Royal Armies of the King. Since then, many were the royal hunts in which Benavides participated. He ascended to lieutenant in 1701 and, after outbreak the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), he traveled to Madrid and joined to one of the "regiments of dragoons" of the Guard Corp.

War of the Spanish Succession

In this war, Benavides excelled in several battles in 1710. So, in August 20, 1710, he participated in the Battle of Saragossa (in Saragossa, Spain), in which he starred in a historic event because it in a surprise attack, he managed to seize the enemy's artillery. Benavides granted a similar number of troops to the flanks (as it was the case of the axis of cavalry), he managed put their men in the center of the military readiness of the aspirant to the Spanish throne, and after to neutralize the artillery, seized all pieces and use it against its owners. However, the serious damage suffered by loyal troops to Bourbon and a disorderly retreat became futile the efforts of Spanish military and the Spanish army was defeated (despite that the action of Benavides is considered the most important action in the battle).

Also in a battle in Villaviciosa de Tajuna (developed on 10 September, 1710, in Guadalajara, Castile-La Mancha, in which the Bourbon and Habsburg armies were faced), he saved the life of Philip V, the first Bourbon king. In that battle, Benavides gave his own horse to Philip, realizing that a member of the opposing faction had just launched a mortar bullet to his horse - the only one white horse in the battlefield - and that Philip V did not have spare horse to get out unscathed from the situation before the bullet arrive him. Benavides resisted walk (and with serious injuries), the enemy attacks. The bullet knocked and killed to white horse of Philip (already without him), and Benavides (who was near the horse) was also badly wounded, being to the brink of death. By direct order of the King - since Benavides could still be alive -, he was sought among those killed people in the battlefield and found badly wounded. Then, the surgeons of Philip V cured him and saved him from certain death, returning after to the battlefield until the end of the battle.

So, thanks to this feat and after the firm on April 11, 1713 of Treaty of Utrecht, he received the degree of Brigadier of Cavalry.Eventually, Benavides also reached the rank of colonel of the Royal Cavalry. He was considered un exemplar military in the Royal Guard Corps.

First years of Government in la Florida (1718 - 1821)

Soon after, the King of Spain, Philip V, eager to use their services and reward their loyalty, made him governor and captain general of Florida in August 3, 1718, while he was still resting in Tenerife. Florida have then a government of difficult and dangerous administration, having been detected corruption and serious administrative irregularities in the colony. In order to he could establish his rule in Florida as soon as possible, the Royal Council forgave him the oath, which was very common at that time, and told he should make the oath to the authority governing the Canary Islands. After, he should embark in the fleet of warships San Jose, San Francisco and San Antonio, which would do a stopover in Tenerife to go then to the Cuba island.

Reforms in Florida

Florida at that time was very poorly organized. Governed by Juan de Ayala y Escobar, who was accused of smuggling, Florida was attacked frequently for the native tribes (whom occupied the border areas), and for English settlers of South Carolina (who daily harassed the colony for to hinder their trade and get the abandonment or the evacuation of the province, that they much coveted). The Crown decided that the man that should curb these problems and maintain the Spanish domination should have great courage and perseverance to achieve their purposes. Apparently, Antonio de Benavides had all that qualities and he had shown this in the military. After arriving in Florida, he studied and visited the region, he was informed of their needs and their resources, he acknowledged the cause of the discomfort of his residents and he knew the name of the people who the originated. He wanted to stem the political mistakes in the colony, so he separated the employees embezzlers (inter alia people, to Ayala y Escobar who was arrested and sent to a Cuban prison (then ruled Cuba to Florida)), he withdrew to his accomplices, he rewarded to those people whom did their duties, and he called some people who had great knowledge for integrate them into his government. To avoid complaints from the disaffected about the twisted interpretation that may have been given for these measures, he reported to the king about the status of the colony and he explained that Florida needed reforms. The king approved his policy and he continued to occupying the same office until the end of its mandate. He, on several occasions, defeated to the English who were trying to conquer Florida, on land and sea, and he repressed the piracy. In addition, he donated his belongings to the poor people of Florida.

Relations to the Amerindians and the French

For other way, the Appalachian Amerindians (who were the worst enemies of the colony) attacked and destroyed the fort San Luis de Apalachee and the Franciscan mission. They also attacked the Spanish settlers of the town (mostly kidnapped, but many others were killed). However, Benavides traveled to the site with the captain, who gave him the news, and some Amerindian interpreters, and there he negotiated to the Apalachian people, rescued the prisoners and rebuilt the fort, the mission, and the houses. After this, he established a peace treaty with the Appalachians. In addition, he defended the rights of indigenous people and fulfilled the promises he made them, making them respect to the Spanish of Florida and that the Spanish and Appalachian Amerindians (specifically the tribes Uchize, Savacola, Apalachicola, Achito, Ocmulgee, Uchi, Tasquique, Casista, Caveta, Chavagali and Creek) exchanged between them proofs of friendship and affection, which lasted without interruption while he was ruling the colony. As a reward for these services, the king ascended him to rank of Field Marshal and he increased his salary as a reward of its high military skills, administrative and political. "Thanks to the administration of his government, his great charity to the poor and his respect for all people in Florida, which made no distinction between classes or persons, Benavides was highly respected and admired for every Floridian".

On May 14, 1719, while Benavides governed Florida, Pensacola was captured peacefully by Governor Bienville of French Louisiana, with a fleet of ships and a force of Amerindian warriors. The French occupied Pensacola until August 1719, when a large Spanish force arrived and compelled the small French garrison to surrender. This Spanish occupation only lasted until September 1, when a French fleet arrived to reassert French control. However, in 1722, Pensacola was officially returned to Spanish control, though the French garrison did not withdraw until 1726. A hurricane devastated the area in 1722, so that the Spanish forces rebuilt the Fort San Carlos de Austrias, in Pensacola.

Last years in the Government in la Florida (1721 - 1733)

In 1721 Benavides began an investigation in the historic documents about the Spanish claims from the coast of Georgia.

In 1724, Antonio de Benavides asked the Spanish Crown the sending a grant, which had been scheduled for Florida, by land rather than by sea. In addition, it was decided to maintain a land route between the western part of New Spain (current U.S. Southwest, Mexico and Central American mainland) and Florida, to eliminate delays that caused the lack of ships in Veracruz.

It was also thought to create a line of presidios along the Gulf Coast, between Veracruz and Apalachee, whose aim was initially to protect the overland, but eventually could be a way to develop in him a lucrative coastal trade. However, this proposal was little attended by the Council.

In 1726, Benavides was operated for appendicitis, so he had to rest for three months in Havana. In this time, Ignacio Rodriguez Rozo occupied his place as governor of Florida, of interim way.

After his return to Florida, Benavides created, this same year (1726), a militia of black slaves to defend Saint Augustine of British attacks, appointing to black slave and veteran of the 1715's Yamasee War Francisco Menendez to lead the militia (Benavides established the first African- American slave militia). Although Benavides promised the freedom of the slaves of the Spanish people, he ignored the 1693's order of King Charles II, who had established a law which officially freed the fugitive slaves, as Benavides thought this only was applied to the slaves who arrived to Florida when the war was taking place. In 1727, Spanish raiders and The Carolinas runaways destroyed a plantation on the Edisto River (South Carolina) and carried away another seven black slaves. However, Benavides offered money to expel to blacks and English from Florida.

Perhaps for fear of reprisals that the British could do against him, he decided to sell several fugitive slaves in 1729, in order to repay the money to British owners, and refusing to release the militants, including Menendez, despite their loyalty (Benavides even sold Menendez to a Spanish colonist). Four years later, in 1733, the King of Spain banned the sale of runaway slaves and gave freedom to the soldiers after four years of service to the crown.

In 1733, Benavides proposed sending the runaways to Carolinas for promote a rebellion in this place and "pay them for English scalps", but the Council of the Indies refused to do this.

Government in Veracruz and Yucatan

In May 21, 1734 the king had appointed to Antonio de Benavides governor of the province of Veracruz and the Castle of San Juan de Ulua, Mexico. When the news reached Florida, arose a general feeling of disgust in the province because all the inhabitants of the region did not believe back to have a governor like Benavides. In his new government, he continued showing the same politics that he had as governor in Florida. However, he also show increasingly his charity in the new territories governed, donating his belongings to the poor people of Yucatan and Veracruz, as he had done in Florida.

However, over the years, he felt that he should leave the politics, but to not harm the interests of the colony, he request their release and their headquarters. The king, who was then Ferdinand VI, refused to grant their wish. However, in 1745, the Spanish crown did accept your request of create the position of Lieutenant of King in San Francisco de Campeche, in the Captaincy General of Yucatan, for the purpose of ensuring the military command in the main port province, which had the characteristic of being the target of frequent and bitter attacks by English pirates and buccaneers whom roamed these shores. The person who should occupy this position thereafter also should ensure the automatic succession to the charge of governor and captain general of Yucatan, while the final appointment of the king or the viceroy was given as appropriate.

Benavides obtained the Captaincy General of Yucatan and Campeche because the war against England was about to begin again, so as he commanded the expedition formed to defend the coast of Tabasco and Honduras in the War of Jenkins' Ear (developed between 1739–48), with the rank of Lieutenant General. So, in this war, Benavides led a small regular army (reinforced by peasant militia) against Britain, with order to defended the coasts of Honduras and Tabasco, and established shelter and ports of supplies to Spanish Navy ship. He signed the second Treaty of Aachen on October 18, 1748, which concluded the war with Britain. He also "held off" the pirates and privateers.

Because the extremely low wages of the military in Campeche, Benavides proposed to the Spanish Crown vacancies income of encomiendas to create a fund that would financially compensate the military people. This proposal caused great unrest among the "encomenderos" across the province because they saw jeopardize their income and prerogatives in favor of the militia. So great was the backlash that Governor Benavides had to withdraw the application. Immediately, it was thought that the governor turned to face against the vested interests of wealthy families, who were the ones who enjoyed the privileges of the encomiendas.

A third initiative that would also withdraw Antonio Benavides during his tenure was the creation of a watertight for salt production in the region. In this case the adverse reaction was much wider, since this project would hurt the majority interest since salt was a staple whose price and trade affected everyone.

In 1748 the Spanish Crown prohibited the production and consumption of aguardiente of cane in whole Spanish America, which was very popular in Florida. Although the prohibition was accepted by some persons also originated the complaint of the Spanish big manufacturers of wine because they saw decrease their exports to the Spanish colonies in America and they sought royal protection for their interests.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, he persecuted and imprisoned traffickers of logwood tree, of whose branches were extracted substances for dyeing fabrics, being highly valued in Europe.

Antonio Benavides completed his term in Yucatan in 1750 when, in September, he was appointed governor of Manila, in Philippines.

Last years

On the 27th of 1750 he sailed from the port of Sisal, Yucatan to Veracruz. From there, he departed for Acapulco, and then embark on the Pacific Ocean towards Filipinas.

When he finally returns to Tenerife with 70, he rejected the king's offer, Philip VI, of appointing him commanding general of the Canary Islands, putting as an excuse his weariness after years of dedication. There, he invested money to help the poor people and expand and rebuild the "Nuestra Senora de Los Desamparados" hospital, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. He died in this hospital in January 9, 1762. Today his remains lie in the parish "Parroquia de la Conception" of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Personal life

In Americas, Benavides obtained an African servant in Americas, Antonio Quijada, with who returned to Canary, living with him until the end of his life.


  • On January 9, 2012, the council of the Tenerife island, the natal island of Benavides, paid tribute to Benavides to coincide with the 250th anniversary of his death. The insular corporation held a wreath at the grave of lieutenant-general, located in the church "Iglesia de la Concepcion" of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (as was desire of Benavides), and organized a lecture by the general and president of the Tertulia Amigos (Friends Tertulia) Emilio Abad. There was also attended by then President of the Council, Ricardo Melchior, and the insular director of Cultural and Historical Heritage, Cristobal de la Rosa.
  • In this year, the council of this island restored the grave of Benavides in Tenerife. This operation was performed because it was broken and was also used to undertake cleaning and repair. The text, which has remained intact in these 250 years, collected the following recording: Aqui yace el Excmo. Sr. D. Antonio Benavides, teniente general de los Reales Ejercitos, natural de esta isla de Tenerife. Varon de tanta virtud, cuanto cabe por arte y naturaleza en la condicion mortal (in Spanish:"Here lies HE Mr. Antonio Benavides, Lieutenant General of the Royal Armies, a native of the island of Tenerife. Man of such virtue, as it should be for art and nature in mortality").
  • References

    Antonio de Benavides Wikipedia

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