VIEWS: 9 PAGES: 12 POSTED ON: 4/8/2010
The battle of St. Vincent The beginning..... The fleets come together in the fog The Spanish fleet had sailed from Cartagena with the intention of making for Cadiz, and then on to Brest to join the French. They passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on 5th February 1797, under strong eastely gales which pushed them far out into the Atlantic. When the easterly gales eased, and the wind veered to the west, the Spanish fleet could now make their way back to Cadiz. Commodore Nelson in Minerve had sailed from Gibraltar on the 11th February. That night, in dense fog, Minerve passed through the Spanish fleet, heading for Cadiz, unseen by the sleeping lookouts. Nelson now knew the whereabouts of the Spanish fleet and it was vital to find Admiral Jervis' squadron and pass on the news. Nelson found the British squadron off Cape St. Vincent on February 13th and immediately repaired on board Victory to discuss with Jervis. That night Jervis dined with Nelson, Sir William Elliott, Captain Hallowell and Captain Calder. Jervis proposed a toast to victory in the battle that he now knew was imminent and that night made his will. He did not go to bed at all, but remained receiving reports and planning the coming battle. This slideshow is for information purposes only 1 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent During the night came the sounds that the English fleet had been waiting to hear - the signal guns of the Spanish ships in the fog. At 2.50am, came the report that the Spanish fleet was some 15 miles distant. By early morning, at 5.30am, Niger reported them to be closer still. As the dawn came it brought a cold and foggy February morning. In the increasing light, Jervis saw his fleet around him, formed into two lines of battle. He turned to his officers on the quarter-deck of Victory and said, 'A victory to England is very essential at this moment.' Jervis gave orders for the fleet to prepare for the coming action. Captain Thomas Troubridge in Culloden was in the lead. At 6.30am, Culloden signalled that she could see 5 enemy sail to the south east, and then with Blenheim and Prince George turned towards the Spanish ships. Jervis had no idea of the size of the fleet he was up against. As they loome up out of the fog, a signal lieutenant in Barfleur described them as 'thumpers, looming like Beachy Head in a fog'. This slideshow is for information purposes only 2 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent On the quarter-deck of Victory, Jervis, Captain Calder and Captain Hallowell counted the ships: "There are eight sail of the line, Sir John" –Very well, sir" "There are twenty sail of the line, Sir John" -Very well, sir" "There are twenty five sail of the line, Sir John" -- Very well, sir" "There are twenty seven sail of the line, Sir John" --"Enough, sir, no more of that; the die is cast, and if there are fifty sail I will go through them" At this point, Captain Hallowell became so excited that he thumped the Admiral on the back! "That's right Sir John, and, by God, we'll give them a damn good licking!" As the light grew, it became obvious that the Spanish ships were formed in two loose columns, one of about eighteen ships to windward and the other, of about 9 ships, somewhat closer to the British. At about 10.30am, the Spanish ships in the weather column were seen to wear ship and turn to port. This gave the impression that they might form a line and pass along the weather column of the British fleet, exposing the smaller British column to the fire of the larger Spanish division. At 11.00am, Jervis gave his order: Form in a line of battle ahead and astern of Victory as most convenient. When this order was completed the British fleet had formed a single line of battle, sailing in a southerly direction on a course to pass between the two Spanish columns. At 11.12am, Jervis made his next signal: Engage the enemy and then at 11.30am, Admiral intends to pass through enemy lines This slideshow is for information purposes only 3 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent The ships of the Spanish lee division were undecided as to their actions when they saw the British fleet forming the single line of battle. They decided that they were unable to cross the bows of the British and eventually hauled over on to the starboard tack and set sail in a north easterly direction. One ship, a 74, made full sail and turned to the south east and was soon out of sight. At 11.30am, Culloden in the vanguard of the British line, opened fire as her guns came to bear. Each of the ships following her opened fire as they came within range of the Spanish. Culloden fired a double shotted broadside, "fired", said Troubridge, "as if by a seconds watch and in the silence of a port-admirals inspection". As soon as Culloden had passed the last ship of the Spanish column, she was ordered to tack to come around behind the Spanish. However, Troubridge had anticipated this signal and flew his acknowledgment before the order broke from the flagship's signal halyards. Culloden tacked to reverse her course and take after the Spanish column. Blenheim and then Prince George did the same in succession. The Spanish lee division now put about to the port tack with the intention of breaking the British line at the point where the ships were tacking in succession. Orion came round but Colossus was in the course of going about when her foreyard and foretop yard where shot away. She was forced to wear ship instead of tack and the leading Spanish vessel came close enough to threaten her with a broadside. Saumarez in Orion saw the danger to his friends and backed his sails to give covering fire. As Victory came to the tacking point another attempt was made to break the British line. Victory however was too fast and the leading Spaniard, a 3 decker, had to tack close to Victory and received a raking broadside as she did so. 'We gave them their Valentine in style', later wrote a gunner in Goliath. As the last ship in the British line passed the Spanish, the line had formed a U shape with Culloden in the lead and on the reverse course but chasing the rear of the Spanish. At this point the Spanish lee division bore up to make an effort to join their compatriots to windward. Had they managed to do this, the battle would have ended indecisively and with the Spanish fleet running for Cadiz. The British ships would have been left harrying their sterns in much the manner of the Armada, 1588. This slideshow is for information purposes only 4 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent Decisive action - Nelson orders HMS Captain to wear ship Signal log- Victory- Engage the enemy close Nelson, realising that the leading ships of the line were unable to catch the rear of the Spanish division, gave orders to Captain Miller to wear Captain out of the line of battle. As soon as the two deck 74 gun ship was around, he directed her to pass between Diadem and Excellent and ran across the bows of the Spanish ships forming the central group of the weather division. This group included the Santissima Trinidad, the largest ship afloat at the time and mounting 130 guns, the San Josef, 112, Salvador del Mundo, 112, San Nicolas, 84, San Ysidro 74 and the Mexicano 112. Nelson's decision to wear ship was significant. As a junior commander he was subject to the orders of his Commander in Chief (Admiral Jervis); in taking this action he was acting against the 'form line ahead and astern of Victory' order and using his own wide interpretation of another signal. Had the action failed, he would have been court-martialled for disobeying orders in the face of the enemy with subsequent loss of command and disgrace. At about 1.30pm, Culloden was gradually overhauling the Spanish rear and began a renewed but not very close engagement of the same group of ships. Jervis signalled his rearmost ship, Excellent to come to the wind on the larboard tack and following this order, Collingwood brought his ship round to a position ahead of Culloden. After a few more minutes, Blenheim and Prince George came up behind and the group of British ships prevented the Spanish from grouping together. This slideshow is for information purposes only 5 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent "At about 2.00pm, the Culloden had stretched so far ahead as to cover the Captain from the heavy fire poured into her by the Spanish four-decker and her companions, as they hauled up and brought their broadsides to bear. Of the respite thus afforded to her, the Captain took immediate advantage, replenishing her lockers with shot and splicing and repairing her running rigging..... At about 2.30, Excellent having been directed by signal to bear up, edged away and at 2.35, arriving abreast of the disabled Spanish three-decker Salvator del Mundo, engaged the latter on her weather bow for a few minutes; then passing on to the next Spanish ship in succession, the San Ysidro, whose three topmasts had already been shot away. This ship Captain Collingwood engaged closely until 2.50pm when, after a gallant defence in her crippled state, the San Ysidro hauled down the Spanish flag. This slideshow is for information purposes only 6 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent Very soon after the Excellent and Diadem commenced an attack on the Salvator del Mundo, the 74 stationing herself on the weather bow and the 64 on the lee quarter of the Spanish three-decker, then, with her topmasts gone and otherwise much disabled.... Observing the Victory about to pass close astern, the Salvator del Mundo whose mizzen mast had since shared the fate of the fore and main very judiciously hauled down her flag as soon as some of Victory's bow guns came to bear." San Nicolas was in close action with Captain when Excellent opened fire on the other side. Passing within ten feet of her starboard side, Excellent poured in a destructive broadside. To avoid Excellent, San Nicolas luffed up and ran foul of the San Josef on her other side. Captain now came up to the wind, and her foretop mast fell over the side. With their ship almost out of control, Nelson and Captain Miller took Captain alongside the San Josef. As the cathead of Captain locked against the starboard quarter of San Nicolas, Nelson ordered, Boarders away This slideshow is for information purposes only 7 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent By about 3.00pm, Excellent was in close action with San Nicolas which, with foretop mast shot away, had been in action against Captain. Excellent fired broadsides into San Nicolas and then made sail to clear ahead. San Nicolas ran foul of San Josef which had suffered the loss of mizen mast and other damage. Captain was by now almost uncontrollable with her wheel shot away. At this point her foretop mast fell over the side leaving her in a completely unmanageable state and with little option but to board the Spanish vessels. Captain opened fire on the Spanish vessels with her larboard (port) side broadside and then put the helm over and hooked her larboard cat-head with the starboard quarter of the San Nicolas Commodore Nelson now ordered the crew to board the San Nicolas, with the San Josef still held fast on her port side. Nelson himself led the boarders with a cry of, "Westminster Abbey or Glorious Victory!". This slideshow is for information purposes only 8 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent Commodore Nelson now ordered the crew to board the San Nicolas, with the San Josef still held fast on her port side. Nelson himself led the boarders with a cry of, "Westminster Abbey or Glorious Victory!". Nelson later wrote: 'The soldiers of the 69th, with an alacrity which will ever do them credit, and Lieutenant Pearson of the same regiment, were almost the foremost on this service - the first man who jumped into the enemy's mizen chains was Commander Berry, late my First Lieutenant (Captain Miller was in the very act of going also, but I directed him to remain); he was supported from our sprit sail yard, which hooked in the mizen rigging. A soldier of the 69th Regiment having broken the upper quarter-gallery window, I jumped in myself, and was followed by others as fast as possible. I found the cabin doors fastened, and some Spanish officers fired their pistols: but having broke open the doors the soldiers fired, and the Spanish Brigadier fell, as retreating to the quarter-deck. I pushed immediately onwards for the quarter-deck, where I found Commander Berry in possession of the poop, and the Spanish ensign hauling down. I passed with my people, and Lieutenant Pearson, on the larboard gangway, to the forecastle, where I met two or three Spanish officers, prisoners to my seamen: they delivered me their swords. A fire of pistols, or muskets, opening from the stern gallery of the San Josef, I directed the soldiers to fire into her stern; and calling to Captain Miller, ordered him to send more men into the San Nicolas; and directed my people to board the first-rate, which was done in an instant, Commander Berry assisting me into the main chains. At this moment a Spanish officers looked over the quarter deck rail, and said they surrendered. From this most welcome intelligence, it was not long before I was on the quarter deck, where the captain, with a bow, presented me his sword, and said the admiral was dying of his wounds. I asked him on his honour if the ship was surrendered. He declared she was: on which i gave him my hand, and desired him to call on his officers and ship's company and tell them of it: which he did - and on the quarter deck of a Spanish first-rate, extravagant as the story may seem, did I receive the swords of vanquished Spaniards: which as I received, I gave to William Fearney, one of my bargemen, who put them, with the greatest sang-froid, under his arm.' This slideshow is for information purposes only 9 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent Nelson's actions at St. Vincent, capturing two Spanish vessels, was to become known as 'Nelson's patent bridge for boarding enemy vessels'. Ships bell of the San Josef, captured at St. Vincent The surrender and capture of these two Spanish vessels marks the end of the main battle. By 4.00pm the Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad was relieved by two of her escorts and made away from the scene. Jervis signalled his fleet to cover the prizes and disabled vessels and at 4.15pm the frigates were directed to take the prizes in tow. At 4.39pm the fleet was ordered to take station in line astern of Victory. The battle was by now almost over with only some remaining skirmishing between Britannia, Orion and the departing Spanish covering the Santissima Trinidad (which was to later serve as the Spanish flagship at Trafalgar ). The battle ends Nelson remained on board the captured Spanish ships whilst they were made secure - and was cheered by the British ships as they passed. He returned to the Captain to thank Captain Miller and presented him with the sword of the captain of the San Nicolas At 5.00pm, Nelson shifted his pennant from the disabled Captain to Irresistible. The Battle of Cape St. Vincent had cost the lives of 73 men of the Royal Navy and wounded a further 227 (this figure only includes serious injury). Casualties amongst the Spanish ships were far higher - aboard San Nicolas alone 144 were killed. Then, still black with smoke and with his uniform in shreds, Nelson went on board Victory where he was received on the quarter- deck by Admiral Jervis - "the Admiral embraced me, said he could not sufficiently thank me, and used every kind expression which could not fail to make me happy". It was a great and welcome victory for the Royal Navy - 15 British ships had defeated a Spanish fleet of 27, and the Spanish ships had a greater number of guns and men. But, Admiral Jervis had trained a highly disciplined force and this was pitted against a Spanish navy under Don José Cordoba that was little more than a panic stricken mob. Of 600-900 men on board his ships, only some 60 to 80 were trained seamen, the others being soldiers or inexperienced landsmen. The Spanish men fought courageously but without direction. After the San Josef was captured it was found that some her of guns still had their tompions in the muzzles. The confusion amongst the Spanish fleet was so great that they were unable to use their guns without causing more damage to their own ships than to the British. Admiral Sir John Jervis' long period of discipline and training had paid off in battle and set the pattern for the future. This slideshow is for information purposes only 10 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent Dispatches from Admiral Sir John Jervis to the Board of Admiralty Victory in Lagos Bay, February 16th, 1797 Sir, The hopes of falling in with the Spanish fleet, expressed in my letter to you of the 13th instant, were confirmed that night by my distinctly hearing the report of their signal-guns, and by intelligence received from Captain Foote of his Majesty's ship the Niger, who had, with equal judgment and perseverance, kept company with them for several days, on my prescribed rendezvous (which, from the strong south-east winds, I had never been able to reach), and that they were not more than the distance of three or four leagues from us. I anxiously awaited the dawn of day, when, on the starboard tack, Cape St. Vincent bearing east by north eight leagues, I had the satisfaction of seeing a number of ships extending from south-west to south, the wind then at west and by south. At forty-nine minutes past ten, the weather being extremely hazy, La Bonne Citoyenne made the signal, that the ships seen were of the line, twenty five in number. His Majesty's squadron under my command, consisting of fifteen ships of the line, happily formed in the most compact order of sailing in two lines. By carrying a press of sail, I was fortunate in getting in with the enemy's fleet at half past eleven o'clock, before it had time to command, and judging that the honour of his Majesty's arms and the circumstances of the war in these seas required a considerable degree of enterprise, I felt myself justified in departing from the regular system; and passing through their fleet in a line, formed with the utmost celerity, tacked, and thereby separated one-third from the main body, after a partial cannonade, which prevented their rejunction till the evening; and by the very great exertions of the ships who had the good fortune to arrive up with the enemy on the larboard tack, four ships were captured, and the action ceased about five o'clock in the evening. I enclose the most correct list I have been able to obtain of the Spanish fleet opposed to me, amounting to twenty seven sail of the line; and an account of the killed and wounded in his Majesty's ships, as well as those taken from the enemy. The moment the latter (almost totally dismasted), and his Majesty's ships the Captain and Culloden, are in a state to put to sea, I shall avail myself of the first favourable wind to proceed of Cape St. Vincent, in my way to Lisbon. Captain Calder, whose able assistance has greatly contributed to the public service during my command, is the bearer of this, and will more particularly describe to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty the movements of the squadron on the 14th and the present state of it. I am, J. Jervis This slideshow is for information purposes only 11 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages. The battle of St. Vincent Aftermath of Battle The Battle of Cape St. Vincent effectively ended when the two Spanish ships of the line, the San Nicolas and San Josef struck their colours to Commodore Nelson. Thus ended a decisive day in British naval power - and came a welcome victory in the war against France and Spain. Admiral Sir John Jervis prepared dispatches for the Admiralty in London and sent Captain Robert Calder of Victory to take passage in the brig Lively to London to deliver them into the hands of their Lordships of the Admiralty. In one dispatch, Nelson, Troubridge and Collingwood were singled out for special praise. Nelson wrote to Collingwood to thank him for coming to the assistance of Captain, Collingwood in return, replied congratulating Nelson on his success The news reached London in early March, almost three weeks after the battle. Parliament heard the news and both houses immediately voted their thanks to Admiral Sir John Jervis and his fleet. The victory was decisive and had come at an opportune moment. It gave the Spanish alliance pause for thought and made an invasion of England less likely. In popular view, it confirmed that no Spaniard was a match for an Englishman at sea. Above all it restored the confidence of the nation, reeling from the retreat from the Mediterranean. This slideshow is for information purposes only 12 All information & pictures have been sourced from various web pages.
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