The historic center is surrounded by 11 kilometers of defensive walls. These were complemented by fortifications along the coast, making Cartagena a militarily impregnable city. The walls, made in several stages, were designed to protect the city from continual pirate attacks, with construction beginning in 1586.

The 18th century began poorly for the city economically, as the Bourbon dynasty discontinued the Carrera de Indias convoys. However, with the establishment of the Viceroyalty of New Granada and the constant Anglo-Spanish conflicts, Cartagena took on the stronghold as the “gateway to the Indies of Peru”. By 1777, the city included 13,700 inhabitants with a garrison of 1300. The population reached 17,600 in 1809.

In 1731, Juan de Herrera y Sotomayor founded the Military Academy of Mathematics and Practice of Fortifications in Cartagena. He is also known for designing the Puerta del Reloj starting in 1704.

1741 attack – Cartagena Colombia

Starting in mid-April 1741, the city endured a siege by a large British armada under the command of Admiral Edward Vernon. The engagement, known as Battle of Cartagena de Indias, was part of the larger War of Jenkins’ Ear. The British armada included 50 warships, 130 transport ships, and 25,600 men, including 2,000 North American colonial infantry. The Spanish defense was under the command of Sebastián de Eslava and Don Blas de Lezo. The British were able to take the Castillo de San Luis at Bocachica and land marines on the island of Tierrabomba and Manzanillo. The North Americans then took La Popa hill.

Following a failed attack on San Felipe Barajas on 20 April 1741, which left 800 British dead and another 1,000 taken prisoner, Vernon lifted the siege. By that time he had many sick men from tropical diseases. An interesting footnote to the battle was the inclusion of George Washington’s half brother, Lawrence Washington, among the North American colonial troops. Lawrence later named his Mount Vernon estate in honor of his commander.

Silver Age (1750–1808) – Cartagena Colombia

In 1762, Antonio de Arebalo published his Defense Plan, the Report on the estate of defense on the avenues of Cartagena de Indias. This engineer continued the work to make Cartagena impregnable, including the construction from 1771 to 1778, of a 3400 yards long underwater jetty across the Bocagrande called the Escollera. Arebalo had earlier completed San Fernando, and the fort-battery of San Jose in 1759, then added El Angel San Rafael on El Horno hill as added protection across the Bocachica.

Among the censuses of the 18th century was the special census of 1778, imposed by the governor of the time, D. Juan de Torrezar Diaz Pimienta – later Viceroy of New Granada – by order of the Marquis of Ensenada, Minister of Finance – so that he would be provided numbers for his Catastro tax project, which imposed a universal property tax he believed would contribute to the economy while at the same time increasing royal revenues dramatically. The census of 1778, besides having significance for economic history, required each house to be described in detail and its occupants enumerated, making the census an important tool[35] The census revealed what Ensenada had hoped. However, his enemies in the court convinced King Charles III to oppose the tax plan.


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