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|The Spanish Line, Don Andres Reggio|
|Name : Invencible (70)||74||Juan Bautista Bonet, Benito María de Spínola y Mora, Antonio Marroquin|
|Name : Conquistador (64)||64||Tomas de San Just†||Captured|
|Name : África (70)||70||Fleet Flagship|
|Name : Dragon (64)||64||Manuel de Paz|
|Name : Nueva Espanna (60)||70||Gutierra de Hevia y Valdes, Francisco Varela|
|Name : Real Familia (60)||60||Marcos Forestal|
|Not in the Line|
|Name : Galga (36)||36||Pedro de Garicochea|
|Name : Galga (50)||54||Francisco Jose de Ovando y Solis, Pedro de Garaicoechea|
|The British Line, Charles Henry Knowles|
|Name : Tilbury (58)||58||Charles Powlet|
|Name : Strafford (60)||58|
|Name : Cornwall (80)||80||Polycarpus Taylor||Fleet Flagship|
|Name : Lennox (70)||70||Charles Holmes|
|Name : Warwick (60)||60||Robert Erskine, Thomas Innes|
|Name : Canterbury (58)||58||Edward Clarke|
|Not in the Line|
|Name : Oxford (50)||50||Smith Callis, Edmund Toll|
Knowles was informed that the Spanish Plate fleet was expected at Havana from Vera Crux. He therefore detached Captain Holmes, in the Lennox, to convoy a great body of trade, which had been collecting to sail for England; and himself went to cruise off the Tortuga Banks in search of the enemy. The convoy under Holmes sailed from Jamaica on August 25th; and, being prevented from getting through the Windward Passage, had to bear away for the Gulf of Florida. On September 29th it sighted seven large ships, which were presently recognised to be Spanish men-of-war. Holmes signalled the convoy to disperse and to look to its own safety, while he endeavoured to draw the attention of the enemy to his own ship; and, knowing where the Rear-Admiral was cruising at the time, he succeeded, under press of sail, in joining him on the following morning, when he reported what had occurred. Knowles instantly went in quest of the Spaniards, and sighted them early in the morning of October 1st between Tortuga and Havana.
The Spaniards at once formed a line; yet the British, though they had the advantage of the wind, edged down only very gradually, and it was 2 o'clock before either side fired. The distance was then too great for much damage to be done, but at about 2.30 P.M., the two squadrons being nearer, a brisk action was begun. The Spaniards seem to have been in good order and close together, but the Warwick and Canterbury were far astern of station, so that for nearly two hours the British had but four ships opposed to six of the Spanish. During this time the Cornwall engaged the Africa at pistol range, and was so gallantly received that in half an hour she was obliged to fall astern and quit the line, having lost her main-topmast and received other damage to her rigging. Soon afterwards the Conquistador, also much damaged aloft, dropped astern of her consorts and fell nearly where the Cornwall lay refitting. Knowles lost no time in attacking her, and quickly killed her captain; but that officer's successor fought the ship bravely until she had thrice been set on fire by shells from the eight cohorns, which the Cornwall, unlike most of her class, carried. Not until then did he surrender. The Lennox had taken the Cornwall's place and had warmly engaged the Africa; but other Spanish ships succoured their admiral, and Captain Holmes was hard pressed for about an hour until he was relieved by the Warwick and Canterbury. The action then became general and fierce, and so continued until about 8 P.M., when the Spanish drew off towards Havana, closely pursued. All, however, escaped except the Conquistador. The Africa, owing to her damaged condition, had to anchor before she reached port; and, being discovered by the British two days after the action, was burnt by the Spaniards to save her from capture. The enemy lost 86 killed and 197 wounded; the British had 59 killed and 120 wounded. But whilst the Spaniards had several officers of rank included in each category the British had none in either.
Knowles continued to look out for the Plate fleet, but in vain. In the course of time he learnt from a prize that the preliminaries of peace had been concluded and that hostilities were to cease, whereupon he returned to Jamaica. When he went home to England he complained of Holmes for having left the convoy, oblivious of the fact that, had Holmes not rejoined the flag, the victory off Havana could not have been gained. Holmes was most honourably acquitted. On the other hand, some of the captains of the squadron complained of the conduct of the Rear-Admiral, who was in consequence tried on board the Charlotte yacht, at Deptford, by a court-martial which sat from the llth to the 20th December, 1749. It appeared that while Rear-Admiral Knowles was standing for the Spanish fleet he might, by a different disposition of his squadron, have begun the attack simultaneously with six ships, and might have begun it earlier in the day. It appeared too, that, owing to the method which he pursued, he had begun to attack with only four ships. Upon these points the court condemned him; and it was also of the opinion that, in order properly to conduct and direct the operations of his command, he ought to have shifted his flag from the Cornwall to some other vessel, after the former had been disabled. For the rest, the proceedings amply vindicated the Rear-Admiral's personal courage. The sentence was thus worded :
"The court unanimously agree that Rear-Admiral Knowles falls under part of the 14th Article of War, being guilty of negligence, and also under the 23rd Article. The court therefore unanimously adjudge him to be reprimanded for not bringing up the squadron in closer order than he did, and for not beginning the attack with so great a force as he might have done; and also for not shifting his flag, on the Cornwall’s being disabled."
|TRN2||The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol II||William Laid Clowes||Digital Book|