The British garrison nearest to Mobile was in West Florida's capital, Pensacola. The commander, General John Campbell, had under his command about 500 men, composed mostly of men from the 16th and 60th Regiments, but also including some German Waldecker grenadiers and some Loyalist militia. The British relations with the Creeks, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Indians were also relatively good.
Emboldened by the destruction of a Gálvez-led expedition against Pensacola by a hurricane in the fall of 1780, Campbell decided to attempt the recapture of Mobile. On January 3, he dispatched an expedition of more than 700 men under the command of the Waldecker Captain von Hanxleden.
Hanxleden's force arrived near the outpost late on January 6, and made a dawn attack the next morning. Forty of the Spaniards made a dash for a boat anchored nearby, but the British cut many of them down with a musket volley. Indians from the expedition then followed the Spaniards into the water to collect scalps. The remaining Spanish coolly opened fire on the British, killing Hanxleden and nineteen others. The British troops then disengaged and retreated.