Being married to a woman whose maiden name was the same as that of one of Columbus’s captains, I found Henry Wiencek’s article especially interesting. However, he failed to mention one important event that occurred at St. Louis during the American Revolution.
St. Louis was founded in 1764, under Spanish rule, to be a trading center; and, as such, it was highly successful. The British were well aware of this and of the town’s control of the Missouri River, and their decision to capture St. Louis during the war was based on hopes of long-term strategic gains.
Fernando de Leyba, the Spanish lieutenant governor, successfully defended the town against the British attack on May 26, 1780, thus denying them the Missouri River basin.
Had the British gained control of the Missouri, there is no reason to believe they would have relinquished it at the table in Paris in 1783. There would have been no Louisiana Purchase and none of its consequences. In British hands the Gateway to the West would have remained forever closed to Americans.