Book Review: Fire Over the Rock: The Great Siege of Gibraltar by James Falkner (three stars)
“Great Britain, at open war with France, Spain and Holland and many of her American colonists, had not often been so devoid of close friends.”
A tedious history of a tedious siege. For three years and seven months the British garrison held out against a Spanish-French-Moroccan blockade and siege. This book includes every detail.
“George III commented rather wistfully, ‘I should have liked Minorca, and the two Floridas [East and West] and Guadeloupe better than that proud fortress [Gibraltar], and in my opinion source of another war, or at least of a constant lurking enmity.’”
Paradoxically, from King George III down, most English were indifferent to retaining the Rock. They’d rather have traded it for Minorca or Florida. The Spanish didn’t want it that badly.
“No less than for Spain and France, the major British naval efforts to sustain Eliott’s garrison in Gibraltar proved to be a serious distraction from the troubled task of winning the war for the North American colonies.”
Why would Americans care? Because the siege—specifically, the drain on British naval assets to resupply Gibraltar—directly contributed to the naval loss to the French off the Chesapeake Bay on September 5, 1780, which doomed Lord Cornwall to surrender at Yorktown the next month.
‘I think peace in every way necessary to this country,’ George III wrote, ‘and I shall not think it complete if we do not get rid of Gibraltar.’
Nevertheless, Britain still occupies Gibraltar.