Columbus was probably the first European to hit the Bahamas. From our point of view, things sort of started in 1629 when Charles I granted the islands to Robert Heath, Attorney-General of England at the time. It was a bit of a cheap grant in many ways, since Charles didn’t actually control them and the man who was awarded the grant doesn’t seem to have done anything with them either. So, not much of an invasion at that point. Finally, in 1648, William Sayle seems to have turned up from Bermuda with some English Puritans to found a settlement called Eleuthera, Greek for �?free’. A settlement on New Providence followed and in 1670 Charles II granted the islands to the Duke of Albemarle and five others.
But it all became a bit of a mess with pirates and privateers running rampant and foreign powers joining in the chaos. In 1702–03, Nassau was briefly occupied by the French and Spanish.
The British crown took over control of the islands in 1717 and stamped out piracy, but our grip was still pretty tenuous at times. Well, in fact, more than tenuous, because we lost the islands occasionally and had to get them back. The Spanish attacked in 1720; in 1776 US marines occupied Nassau briefly; and in 1782 the Spanish turned up again and took control. At least this provided us with one really good story about invading the Bahamas.
The main character in the story is one Andrew Deveaux, who had an extraordinary career. He had been born in Beaufort, South Carolina. When the American Revolution came, he had originally joined the American rebels, but then had reverted to the loyalist side. He’d been given the rank of colonel by the British and raised a force of irregulars to fight for them. The traditional account is that when the Bahamas fell to the Spanish in 1783, he set off from St Augustine, Florida, with only seventy men to recapture the islands. He recruited another 170 men to his cause in the Bahamas themselves, and so with only 240 men, and even fewer guns, he faced a much larger Spanish occupation force, yet managed to persuade the Spanish commander Don Antonio Claraco Sauz to surrender. The Bahamas became independent in 1971.