Action of 1798-07-15

15th July 1798
Part of : The French Revolutionary Wars (1793 - 1802)
Previous action : Capture of the Seine 29.6.1798
Next action : Battle of the Nile 1.8.1798


Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Lion (64) Manley Dixon (1757-1838)wounded Mr. Patey Midshipman

Spain (Armada Real) - Felix O'Neil

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Pomona (34) Francis VillamilFleet Flagship
Santa Dorotea (34) Manuel Gerrarofrom 20 to 40 killed and 32 wounded Captured
Santa Casilda (34) Deam. Errara
Proserpina (34) Quaj Bial

Notes on Action

Description from the letter of Captain Dixon in the London GazetteBG

Copy of a Letter from Captain Dixon, of His Majesty's Ship the Lion, to Admiral the Earl of St. Vincent, dated at Sea, the 6th July, 1798.
My Lord,
It is with the greatest pleasure I have the honor to inform your Lordship, that yesterday morning at Nine o'Clock, Carthagena bearing N. 79 W. distant 29 leagues, I had the good fortune to fall in with a Squadron of Spanish Frigates ,as per Margin*, nnd that after having brought them
to close action, about a quarter past Eleven o'Clock, which lasted with great Warmth till 10 minutes past One P. M. the enemy was totally defeated and put to flight, leaving the Dorothea to her fate, having hoisted an English Ensign with the Union downwards; and as I considered her in the greatest distress, I lost not a Moment in taking possession, which was done in the face of the 3 remaining frigates, distant about 2 Miles on my Weather- Bow. In detailing the particulars of the above affair, I have to inform your Lordship, that at the Hour the frigates were descried in the S. E. Quarter, the Lion was steering East with a crowd of sail, the wind moderate at W. S. W  and as I soon discovered by their signals and other manoeuvres they were enemies, I immediately cleared ship for action, which being effected in the shortest time .
I ever recollect to have seen, I acquainted the officers and ship's company with my intention of immediately bringing the frigates to the closest action possible ; and observing the chearfulness with which it was received, I determined not to lose a moment to profit thereby, and accordingly took in studding sails and first reefs
of the topsails, in order to secure the fighting of the lower battery, and hauled up towards the frigates which were steering for the Lion. Having secured the weather-gage, I bore down on the enemy, who was forming in a close order of battle on the larboard line of bearing: the third frigate from the Van had lost her fore-top-mast. It immediately occurred to me that the crippled ship was my objectif , in order to secure a general action; supposing that a spaniard (from the nobleness of his character) would never with so superior a force forsake a friend in distress. In this I fortunately succeeded and steering for and closing with the crippled ship, which was now become the sternmost in the line of battle, the other three frigates tacked in succession, and passed the Lion very gallantly within musquet shot : But as their line after tacking was by no means a close one, they each received a well-directed broadside from the lien ; the good effect of which was very visible by their standing a considerable time on that task. I still continued to steer for the crippled ship, who, nearly sailing as well as the Lion, galled her very
considerably in the rigging by her stern chaces. The three frigates made a second close attempt, but not so close as the former, to support her, and were each fully repaid by an exchange of broadsides. At length we closed with the crippled ship, and poured in a destructive fire, the yard-arms being just clear of each other; he nevertheless did not strike for some time after. At this period I found the Lion totally ungovernable, having all her braces, bowlings, clue garnets, &c. shot away, the foresail nearly rendered useless, and the other sails much torn.The three frigates for the third time made a distant and feeble effort to protect and cover the distressed frigate, but in vain ; they did not dare to approach within the distance to do so, and by great exertions being; enabled to wear round; on the fame task with the frigate that had now struck her colours, and substituted the english ensign in its place, I  closed with and took possession of her as before related. During the remainder of the day we were lying to, fully employed in repairing the rigging, bending new canvas, and securing the prize, in order to enable me, if possible, to go in pursuit of the three frigates, which were making off close by the wind to the N. W. . Now, my Lord, it is with the greatest and most heartfelt pleasure to me that this service has been effected with the probable loss of only one poor man, who has had his thigh amputated, as likewise Mr. Patey Midshipman, slightly wounded in the shoulder : this youth did not quit his quarters in consequence of the wound, and was; from first to last, particularly active : But, my Lord, there have been several miraculous recoveries in the Lion, owing to the great ability and humane attention of the Surgeon, Mr. Young, I therefore never despair of a man while there is life.I have now the Satisfaction of declaring to your Lordship, that nothing -could exceed the cool and collected bravery and determined resolution of every individual in the Lion; I have taken the Dorothea in tow, as she has her mizen-mast and, fore-top-mast carried away; and sails and rigging cut to pieces  her rudder and main-mast much damaged . as well as on account of the necessary attendance of the surgeon to the relief of the wounded men on board, the surgeon of the Dorothea being an inexperienced man and without the necessary instruments.
I can get, my Lord but an imperfect account of the killed on board the Dorothea; their complement at the commencement of the action was called 350 mens, and now there are victualled on board the Lion 351 mens : many volunteers embarked on board at Carthagena; the captain and officers suppose there might be from 20 to 40 killed in the action, and the wounded now on board the Lion are 32.
I am, &c. &c. Sec.

Margin :

* Pomona, of 43 Guns and 350 Men, Felix O'Neil Commodore,
Don Francis Villamil Captain :
* Dorothea, of 43 Guns and 370 Men, Don Manuel Gerraro
* Casilda, of 43 Guns and 350 Men, Don Deam. Errant Captain
*  Proserpine, of 42 Guns and 350 Men, Quaj. Bial Captain:
They all sailed from Carthagena the 8th Instant on a Cruise.

Description of the Action from Clowes' "History of the royal Navy Vol IV"
On July 15th, to the south-east of Cartagena, the [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion], 64, Captain Manley Dixon, engaged four Spanish frigates, the Pomona, Proserpine, Santa Cazilda, and [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea], each of thirty-four guns. The Spaniards formed in a line of battle, the Lion holding the weather gage. The [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea] dropped astern in the line and was attacked by the British ship, whereupon the other frigates tacked to her support, and, passing the [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion], each gave and received a broadside twice. The [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion], however, closed her opponent, and the other three Spanish ships, after a third attempt to give help, stood away for Cartagena. The [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea], being very much cut up and quite unable by herself to resist the battleship's crushing fire, struck her colours.
Description of the Action from William James' "Naval History of Great Britain Vol II"
On the 15th of July, at 9 a.m., Carthagena bearing about west by north, distant 29 leagues, the British 64-gun ship, [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion], Captain Manley Dixon, steering east, with a crowd of sail, the wind moderate at west-south-west, descried, in the south-east quarter, standing towards her, four strange ships, which we may at once introduce as the Pomona Commodore don Felix O'Neil Captain don F. Villamil, Proserpine Captain don Quaj. Bial Santa-Cazilda Captain don D. Errara and [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea] Captain don M. Gerraro.

The [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion] immediately shortened sail, and hauled up, so as to secure the weathergage ; then bore down upon the four Spanish frigates, formed in close order of battle on the larboard line of bearing, the third frigate from the van, the [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea]; with her fore topmast gone. In order to secure a general action, Captain Dixon meditated his first attack on this ship; which, being left astern by her comrades, the [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion] was not long in cutting off. The three remaining frigates tacked in succession, and passed the Lion very gallantly within musket-shot, but, as their line, after tacking, was by no means a close one, they each received a well-directed broadside, the effect of which was evident by their standing a long time on the same tack. Captain Dixon still kept in chase of the [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea]; who, notwithstanding the loss of her fore topmast, sailed nearly as well as the [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion], and galled her considerably in the rigging by her stern-chasers.

The three frigates, having at last tacked, made a second attempt, but not so close as the former, to succour their friend, and were each repaid by a broadside in return. At length the [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion] closed with the [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea], and poured in a destructive fire, the yard-arms of the two ships passing just clear of each other. Still the latter held out. Her consorts made a third, but a distant and feeble effort to cover ; and then hauled close by the wind and stood to the north-west. The [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion], whose rigging and sails were much cut, succeeded, with difficulty, in wearing round on the same tack as the [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea]; who, having, in addition to the loss of her fore topmast, had her mizenmast shot away, her mainmast and rudder damaged, and her rigging and sails cut to pieces, and being, besides abandoned by her three comrades, very wisely substituted the British for the Spanish ensign.

As an additional proof that Captain Gerraro had maintained the action with becoming bravery, the loss on board his ship, out of a crew, supernumeraries included, of 371 men and boys, amounted to 20 men killed and 32 wounded. The loss sustained by the [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion] was very trifling, amounting to no more than one young midshipman (Joseph Patey), wounded slightly in the shoulder, and who would not quit his quarters, and one seaman wounded dangerously.

It took Captain Dixon during the remainder of the day to repair, the rigging and sails of the [HBMS Lion (1777)|Lion], and to place the prize in a state to be conducted to her new destination. The [HMCF Santa Dorotea (1776)|Santa Dorotea] measured 958 tons, and was afterwards added to the British navy, under the same name, as a 12-pounder 36-gun frigate.


BGThe London GazetteOfficial, Web Site

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