Bombardment of Greytown

Bombardment of Greytown

Bombardment of San Juan del Norte, shortly before being set ablaze by U.S. Marines.
DateJuly 13, 1854
LocationGreytown, Mosquito Coast,
British Protectorate

American victory;

  • Greytown occupied and destroyed
  • Continued tax-free route to California
United States United States

 United Kingdom

Commanders and leaders
United States George H. Hollins United Kingdom W. D. Jolley
United States 1 sloop-of-war
200 crew:
U.S. Navy
U.S. Marines
United Kingdom 1 schooner
Casualties and losses
None None

The Bombardment of Greytown or the Bombardment of San Juan del Norte was a naval action initiated by the United States sloop-of-war USS Cyane, commanded by George H. Hollins, against the town of Greytown, Miskito Kingdom, which was under British protection. The town was completely destroyed.[1]

The July 13, 1854 attack was in response to attempts by the government of Greytown, then under British annexation as a protectorate, to charge taxes and duties on the ships that were using it as a port to access Commodore Vanderbilt's Nicaragua Route to California.[2] Other reasons were for attacks which damaged American property and, in one case, an American consulate.

The British schooner HMS Bermuda was moored at the port, commanded by Lieutenant W. D. Jolley, and only essayed a half-hearted protest to no avail.[3] Jolley's justification for his lack of action was that the force under his command was "so totally inadequate against the Cyane, that I can only enter this my protest."[4] Although the town was bombarded, the massive fire was set up by a number of US marines who landed at the harbour.[3] Despite the massive destruction, there were no casualties.[4]

British involvement in the Crimea War, together with the firm opposition of Britain's merchant class to a war with the United States, prevented any further diplomatic or military reaction from Britain.[3] Despite international outrage at the bombardment of the town, the United States refused to apologize for any damage or loss of life incurred, instead opting to avoid discussion of the incident until President Franklin Pierce finally gave an official position, six months later:

After giving a somewhat detailed and biased account of the bombardment, the president concluded that while it would have been more satisfactory if the Cyane's mission could have been consummated without the use of force, "the arrogant contumacy of the offenders rendered it impossible to avoid the alternative either to break up their establishment or to leave them impressed with the idea that they might persevere with impunity in a career of insolence and plunder."[5]


  1. Ficha del Municipio Graytown (PDF; 21 kB) (Spanish)
  2. Folkman, D. (1972). The Nicaragua Route. University of Utah Press.
  3. 1 2 3 DuVal, Miles Percy (1940) Cadiz to Cathay: The Story of the Long Struggle for a Waterway Across the American Isthmus. Stanford University Press, p. 93. ISBN 080471164X
  4. 1 2 Scrroggs, William O. (1916) Filibusters and financers: the story of William Walker and his associates. The MacMillan Company, p.77.
  5. Folkman, p. 68
  • Linder, Bruce, "Intertwined Heritage," Naval History magazine (October 2007) - The role of the USS Cyane in first laying claim to San Diego

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

  • Folkman, D. (1972). The Nicaragua Route. University of Utah Press.

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