“War is horrid, in fact”: Virginians in the West Indies Expedition, 1740–42

Time Period
1623 to 1763
Media Type
Military History
Politics & Government
Craig S. Chapman

On May 5, 2023, Craig S. Chapman spoke about the first overseas deployment of American troops, in which 4,000 colonists (including 400 from Virginia) served in the British Army on a disastrous expedition to the Caribbean. In 1740 Great Britain mounted the largest overseas expedition in its history to that time. The goal was to seize control of Spain’s West Indies possessions during the so-called War of Jenkins’ Ear. Because of the large number of sailors and soldiers required, Britain resorted to enlisting recruits from its North American colonies to serve in the king’s army. The British launched joint land-sea attacks on Cartagena de Indias (modern day Colombia), Santiago de Cuba, and Panama, but failed in all three missions. Thirteen to fifteen thousand Britons and Americans perished on the expedition, as many as would die in the entire French and Indian War. As Capt. Lawrence Washington remarked, “War is horrid, in fact.”

Craig S. Chapman is the author of Disaster on the Spanish Main: The Tragic British-American Expedition to the West Indies during the War of Jenkins’ Ear and two other military histories, Battle Hardened: An Infantry Officer’s Harrowing Journey from D-Day to VE Day and More Terrible Than Victory: North Carolina’s Bloody Bethel Regiment, 1861–65.

This lecture was sponsored by the Society of Colonial Wars in Virginia.

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. 

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