The Flag of 1873 “La Bandera de Fortificación”

Puerto Rico Flag

The Flag of 1873 “La Bandera de Fortificación”During a very short period of time, from 1873 to 1875, a Republic was proclaimed in Spain, after the dethronement of Isabella II (1833-1868) and the subsequent abdication of Amadeus, Duke of Aosta, as King (1870-1873). The change from Kingdom to Republic was apparently felt, at least vexillologically, in Puerto Rico with the incorporation of a new Coat of Arms and this flag. On April 25, 2006, representatives of the Kingdom of Spain presented this flag to the recreated “Regimiento Fijo de Puerto Rico.”

Beginnings of the “Regimiento Fijo”

On February 28, 1741 a Royal Order from His Majesty Felipe V of Spain was published containing the “Regulations for the Garrison at the Plaza of Puerto Rico, castles and forts under its jurisdiction.” Through this document the Governor and Captain General Matías de Abadía was informed that the garrison of Puerto Rico would have one infantry battalion of four companies, each one with 84 men, and one company of artillery with 64 soldiers, for a total of 400 men. Initially it was named the “Veteran’s Battalion” but by the following year it would be referred to as the “Fixed Battalion.”

One of the most important characteristics of this unit was the fact that local residents were allowed to enlist. At its founding, the officers and most soldiers were experienced Europeans, but the ratio of its composition changed as the years passed. It is estimated that by the early nineteenth century about 80% of its troops were “criollos”.

The Fixed Battalion becomes a Regiment

On August 18, 1789 a Royal Order was published establishing the Fixed Regiment of Puerto Rico with two battalions of five companies each. The increase in numbers of troops was done to compensate for the loss of the Regiment of Naples which had transferred to Havana, Cuba. As a measure of additional reinforcement, the Regiment of Cantabria arrived in Puerto Rico with 1,366 veterans in 1790.

San Juan is Defended

On April 17, 1797, a British fleet of approximately 60 ships was sighted off the northern coast of Puerto Rico. Led by General Ralph Abercromby, an estimated 6,000 British and German (Lowenstein’s Fusiliers and Chasseurs) troops disembarked and lay siege to San Juan. At the time, the Fixed Regiment was providing military support in neighboring Santo Domingo and had less than 1,000 soldiers in San Juan. Despite being significantly outnumbered, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Don Ramón de Castro, orchestrated a masterful coordinated defense with his available militia forces. The combination of state-of-the-art fortification, effective use of artillery, counterattack raids, plus several cases of battlefield heroics, proved to be too much for the invaders. By May 2nd the British warships set sail, putting an end to the siege.

The End of the Fixed Regiment

The Fixed Regiment of Puerto Rico maintained a distinguished track record supporting the Spanish Crown against the independence movements in South America. It fought in Santo Domingo against French forces and in South America against revolutionary troops. In 1815 King Fernando VII unceremoniously dissolved the Fixed Regiment in response to complaints regarding its deployment to Venezuela.

The Fixed Regiment never used this flag. It served under the “Cross of Burgundy,” as did other Spanish military units in the New World.