Guest Author - Rebecca M. Cuevas De Caissie
According to the U.S. Army records, Hispanics have been fighting in every war since the revolutionary war with both honor and pride. Whenever the call was issued forth for those who loved America to come to her defense, Hispanics have heeded the call and deserve credit for defending America’s freedom initially and to date. Today, thousands of Hispanic Americans still fight to defend the freedom and liberty of America, fighting the war on terrorism, engaging enemies on distant shores as well as protecting the homeland in the service of the coast guard, border patrol and the reserves. Though a well known fact that many Hispanics serve in the military today, it is less known the history of Hispanics in the armed services paralleling the development of the United States through all of its years of change and resulting wars.
Revolutionary War 1775-1783
From the very beginning, when the United States declared it’s independence from Brittan, the involvement of French in support is widely known and acknowledged. Less known is the involvement and support the United States received from Spain who was a crucial ally during revolutionary times. Troops from Spain, Mexico and the Caribbean region, along with Hispanic Americans, were instrumental in defeating British forces along the Gulf of Mexico from Pensacola and Baton Rough to Natchez and Mobile, thus securing the fledgling republic's southern flank. During the last major battle of the war, at Yorktown, Va., the French and American forces were able to sustain their triumphal efforts and pay for salaries, provisions and ammunition, thanks in large measure to financial donations received from Hispanic women in Havana, Cuba.
The War of 1812 1812-1815
Shortly following the Revolutionary War was what some termed as a second revolution between Brittan and the United States erupted when the British again attempted to invade the United States through New Orleans. Late in 1814 a British fleet of 50 ships sailed into the Gulf of Mexico preparing to attack New Orleans. Gen Andrew Jackson, commander of the U.S. Army of the Southwest fought the British who stormed their position in Janurary 8th, 1815. The U.S. delivered a decisive victory resulting in a British withdrawal, and the death of Gen. Pakenham. The war held no military values as a treaty had been signed in December of 1814. The news of the treaty was slow to reach New Orleans but the victory boosted the morale of the U.S. and reinforced Gen Andrew Jackson as a hero to the American People. This victory was in large part a result of Hispanic American living in Louisiana and the surrounding areas that helped stave off the massive British invasion and secured New Orleans.
Texas Independence and the Mexican War 1846-1848
Thousands of Hispanics sided with the Texans and later with the Americans during the war for Texas independence and the Mexican War, which followed. At the Alamo, perhaps the most famous battle of the war, a number of Hispanics fought alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, defending the Alamo to the death against the numerically superior Mexican Gen. Santa Anna's army. Also, the Mexican military commander of northern California, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, helped the United States secure California. A city in that state, and more recently, a nuclear-powered submarine, were named after him. Vallejo also was elected to California's first state senate. Among the many other famous Hispanics who assisted in Texan independence was Jose Antonio Navarro, who fought for Texas and was one of three Hispanics who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. A county in Texas is named after him.
Civil War 1861-1865
Like other ethnic groups of Americans, Hispanics were divided in their loyalties, fighting heroically on both sides for both the Union and Confederate armies. Most Hispanics were integrated into regular army or volunteer units, although some served in predominately Hispanic units with their own officers. Hispanics were especially instrumental in protecting the southwest against the confederate advances, most notably in California, Arizona and Mexico. The best-known Hispanic during the war was Adm. David Farragut, who commanded Union naval forces during the battle at Mobile Bay, Ala. He is most often remembered for coining the phrase, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” during his attack into Mobile Bay, AL, August 5th, 1864. Incidentally, Farragut's father, Jorge, who came from Spain in 1776, assisted the U.S. Army during in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Lt. Col. Federico Fernández Cavada served honorably in the Union Army and was captured during the Battle of Gettysburg. After the war he wrote a popular book about his experiences. He later fought and died fighting while leading the battle for the liberation of Cuba. Hispanic women were even present in the ranks, the most famous of which was Cuban born Loretta Janeta Velasquez who claims her place in history with the few women who took up arms to fight for what they held to be true and right. Loretta masqueraded as a male confederate soldier serving the Civil War. She enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861, without her husband’s knowledge who was also a serving soldier. She fought at Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff and Fort Donelson but her gender was discovered while in New Orleans and she was discharged. Once again she reenlisted and fought at Shiloh until once again her gender was discovered. She then became a spy working both as female and male guises. Her husband died during the war and she later remarried three more times, each time to be widowed.
Of course to follow are the Spanish American war, WW1, WW2, Korean war and the Vietnam War to which all have had many Hispanic American admirably serving and dieing for the freedom and independence that Americans are so proud of. Currently there are 1.1 million Latino veterans of the U.S. armed forces with about 53,000 Hispanic-origin people who were on active duty in 2003 in the United States. To any who say that Hispanics have not earned the right to the freedoms that the United States offers have only but to look to the history books or the publications from the U.S. Army to learn that indeed, this country was founded on the backs and paid for by the blood of many Hispanics. Some of the greatest American heroes to which we look to and quote are Hispanic and who without there would be no United States of America at all. It is a fact of history to which no one can argue that had it not been for the intervention of the Spanish and the dedication and service of many Hispanic Americans, we may not have the luxury of that freedom to argue who has the right as there would be no rights at all.