Adam S. Eterovich
on this web since 2006, with kind permission of the author

Since 1492 Croatians have been traveling to the Americas as business men, mariners, sea captains, pilots and mercenaries on Spanish and English ships or on their own ships in Spanish service.

American Revolution 1776

The thirteen American colonies wanted to be free from rule by Great Britain. Freedom would make it possible to create a new kind of government without a king. In the democracy envisioned by the country's earliest leaders, Americans would govern themselves based on certain principles or ideals. The British decided to use Hessian soldiers to fight against the colonists. Hessians were mostly German mercenaries who fought for anyone who paid them. The French decided to enter the war on the American side. The government recognized American independence. In 1779 Spain entered the war against the British. And the next year, the British were also fighting the Dutch to stop their trade with America. The French sent gunpowder, soldiers, officers, and ships to the Americans. However, neither side made much progress in the war for the next two years. The Americans were fighting at home, while the British had to bring troops and supplies from across a wide ocean. The peace treaty ending the American Revolution was signed in Paris in 1783. The independence of the United States was recognized. Western and northern borders were set. Thirteen colonies were free.

Croatian-Dalmatians to Fight in American Revolution of 1776

LETTER SIGNED WITH AUTOGRAPH SUBSCRIPTION, MANN (Sir HORACE, 1701-1786, British envoy in Florence, friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole):
Letter to Lt. General [James] Murray, informing him that he has received the King's approbation of what has been done 'with ample authority to exert every means in my power for the very important object in question' adding that it makes him 'tremble however for the safe arrival of the Vessels that may be sent down, nevertheless all risk must be run', reporting that General Paoli recommends that the Corsicans be incorporated 'in some English, or Hanoverian Regiment, in consideration of whatever future Events may happen', stating that he daily expects the return of Count Vescovich from Venice to raise a number of Dalmatians (Croatians) and wishing Murray 'compleat Success in the noble Exertions You are making for the defence of your Castle and for the Honour of His Majesty's Arms', 3 pages, folio, contemporary docket partly obscured, top edge turned over, Florence, 26 December 1781
In 1781, Minorca, where Murray was Governor, was threatened with a siege. Murray sent his wife and family to Leghorn (doubtless the cargo referred to in this letter). Murray shut himself up in Fort St. Philip and resisted the attempts of the Duc de Crillon to capture the fort and the bribe of ÂL1m to surrender. Eventually, almost all his men tainted with scurvy, a capitulation was arranged and when laying down their arms declared that 'they surrendered to God alone, as the victors could not plume themselves on taking a hospital.' In the book by Pjera del Negro, Il Mito Americano Nell Venezia del Settecento, 1975, Padova, on page 200-201, it is reported that 3000 Venetians (Dalmatians) went to the Garrison at Port Mahon, island of Minorca.
In Frederick Lane’s book, Venice a Maritime Republic, 1973, on page 425 it is reported that 3000 Venetian sailors were taken into the British Fleet during the American Revolution as reported by the French Consul. The majority were Dalmatian as per Lane. (Eterovich, A. 2003)

Dalmatia in the New World-New England 1523

Giovanni Verrazano traveled to the New World in 1523-24 in the name of the King of France and is credited with the discovery of parts of Canada and the New England coast down to New York and the Carolinas. New England was first called New Dalmatia.
Dalmatia in the New World: In a book by Jacques Habert on the voyages of Verrazano in French, a chapter heading Is entitled: "La Dalmate Da Nouveau Monde," A book by Carlos Pazzini in Italian on the adventures of Verrazano we have "La Dalmazia del Nuovo Mondo.� The American Scenic and Historical Society in a description of the American coast also has a heading; "Dalmatia of the New World." This is New England today.
" The Verrazano letter, found in French archives, was widely quoted and discussed by historians and cartographers, Ganong, one of the most respected, quotes the letter as follows: "Departing from this place, skirting between east and north a coast where no intercourse was had with the natives, the land was found very beautiful, open and bare of forests, with high mountains back inland, growing smaller toward the shore of the sea. In fifty leagues we discovered XXXII islands, all near the continent, small and of pleasing appearance, high, following the curving of the land, among which were formed most beautiful ports and channels, as in the Adriatic Gulf, in the Illyrias, and Dalmatia" (Croatia). (De Costa 1880)

Gold Fleet "The 12 Apostles� 1588

Don Pedro d'Iveglia Ohmuchievich, obtained fame as a Spanish admiral. He was in command of the first Hispanic-Ragusan squadron, organized by him under Philip II of Spain. The Hispanic-Ragusan squadron which operated in the American Indies and the Atlantic in the service of the kings of Spain under the supreme command of Admiral Don Pedro d'Iveglia Ohmuchievich, had exactly 12 big galleons. The ships were heavily armed,'' built with three masts, and large enough to accommodate an imposing fighting force. To mark the significance assigned to the 12 ships of Don Pedro's squadron, Philip II called them "The 12 Apostles�. The ships carried a complement of 3,200 men, mostly from the territory of Dubrovnik-Ragusa, Croatia. The first appearance of Don Pedro's squadron at 1588 which would indicate that the Hispanic-Ragusan flotilla, the constant aid of the Spanish crown in the defense of its dominions in America. In the course of ceaseless, voyages across the Atlantic over a period of twenty-six years Don Pedro gained for his original squadron and for all the other Hispanic-Ragusan squadrons which followed in its wake the widely recognized and still remembered title "Squadra del' Indie " and "Squadra del Mar Oceano". Don Pedro also chased and almost caught Sir Francis Drake in the Caribbean. (Corbett, J. 1897)

Spanish Fleet Contracts

Increasingly during the seventeenth century, contracts were taken with foreign adventurers offering to serve the king in the Atlantic fleet. They sought employment, a share of the booty, and the prestigious title of general of a squadron. Their offers were warmly received by the Council of War in a period of chronic shortages of ships and men. Ragusans-Croatians were particularly valued for their valour and expertise in navigation. Perhaps the most esteemed of all was Jeronimo Masibradich who left Ragusa in 1624 to serve Philip IV. His squadron of six galleons would serve continuously in the Atlantic fleet for a quarter of a century. After his death his heirs extended the much valued contract into the 1650s. (Goodman, D 1997)

Spanish Ship Building

The crown, however, continued to chase after specifications of the perfect ship. In the early 1640s this resulted in an injection of foreign influence in Spanish shipbuilding. Vicente Martolosich was appointed to produce new ordenanzas. He was a Ragusan-Croatian who had come to Spain to serve the king with his squadron, and subsequently rose to superintendent of construction in the Atlantic fleet. Dismissive of the crown's specifications, he offered to supply new data for the production of 'perfect ships', the fruit of long study. He had 'discovered the truth which so far no one has achieved'. The secrets would be imparted to the king of Spain in return for the naturalization of his two sons, giving one the command of a galleon, the other an ecclesiastical benefice; and for himself the title and pay of a general. 'I do not think this is too much to ask, he added, because these favours were temporary, in contrast to his gift of 'knowledge that is perpetual. The king succumbed to the offer of absolute truths for building perfect ships, By 1643 Martolosich had been given his generalship and was described as the author of the currently observed ordenanzas. (Goodman, D 1997)

Croatian Mariners in Spanish Service

Stronger bonds of friendship linked Spain to the Adriatic republic of Ragusa-Dubrovnik. Staunchly Catholic, it had maintained its independence as a protectorate of the Ottoman Turks, paying tribute to the sultan. Ragusa had sent ships and men to bolster Spain's naval power from the beginning of Philip 11's reign. In 1614 Luis Fajardo, captain-general of the Atlantic fleet, reporting on worsening manning difficulties, said 'the only solution is to bring a substantial number of gunners and seamen from Ragusa, since they are Catholics and tried and tested in His Majesty's armadas'. A few years later Philip III approved a contract with three Ragusan captains to bring over 500 seamen to serve in the fleet. Some of these men settled permanently, becoming vassals of the king of Spain. Captain Blas Cunich lived with his wife and children in Lima, Peru for eighteen years, sailing on fleets. The longest serving of all the Ragusans were the Masibradich family who provided the command and crews for what became a permanent unit of the Atlantic fleet. Its commander, Jeronimo de Masibradich, married into one of Spain's most illustrious military families, the Fernindez de Cordoba.
Goodman, David. Spanish Naval Power, 1589-1665. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Masibradich and Martolosich provided Spain with ships and men for service in Spain. Over 500 Croatian mariners were taken into Spanish fleets in one year.

Croatian mariners in the New World; Croatian Guilds and Collegiums

Croatia - its History, Culture and Science