War of Jenkins Ear
In the struggle for control of North America, the contest between England and France was the vital one, the conflict with Spain, a declining power, important but secondary. This latter conflict reached its height in the "War of Jenkins Ear," a prelude to the War of Austrian Succession, which began in 1739 and pitted the British and their American colonists against the Spanish.
The war was named after Robert Jenkins, captain of the ship Rebecca, who claimed Spanish guards had cut off his ear in 1731. He exhibited the ear in the British House of Commons, inflaming public opinion against the Spainish. The government of the British Prime Minister Robert Walpole reluctantly declared war on 23 October 1739.
In the colonies the war involved a seesaw struggle between the Spanish in Florida and the West Indies and the English colonists in South Carolina and Georgia. Its most notable episode, however, was a British expedition mounted in Jamaica against Cartagena, the main port of the Spanish colony in Colombia. The mainland colonies furnished a regiment to participate in the assault as British Regulars under British command. The expedition ended in disaster, resulting from climate, disease, and the bungling of British commanders, and only about 600 of over 3,000 Americans who participated ever returned to their homes. The net result of the war itself was indecisive.