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Capture of the Princesa

8th April 1740 (1740/04/19 NS)
Part of : War of Jenkins' Ear (1739/10/22 - 1748/10/18)
Previous action : Attack on St. Augustine 4.1740 - 5.7.1740
Next action : Operations against Cartagena 4.3.1740/41 - 5.1741


Great Britain

British Ships
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Orford (70) 1713-1745
British 70 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Lord Augustus FitzroyBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1735-1741
Lennox (70) 1723-1756
British 70 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Covill MayneBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1692-1741
Kent (70) 1724-1744
British 70 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Thomas DurellBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1697-1739


Spanish Ship
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Princesa (70) 1730-1740
Spanish 70 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Pablo Agustin de AguirreSpanish
Naval Sailor

Notes on Action

The Princesa was sighted at 9 A.M. on April 8th, 1740, and was at once chased by the three ships, viz., Lenox, 70, Captain Covill Mayne, Kent, 70, Captain Thomas Durell, and Orford, 70, Captain Lord Augustus Fitzroy. The chase was then under French colours; but, when the Orford drew up soon after half-past ten, she hoisted Spanish. About eleven the Lenox also drew close up. and opened fire with her chaserguns, being soon followed by the Orford. All three ships came into close action and gave her many broadsides, for the most part within pistol shot; but she made a most stubborn defence, and, though she became ungovernable, owing to the loss of her foretopmast, early in the engagement, she proved capable of a great deal of passive resistance. In explanation of this it was pointed out at the time that she was more heavily armed than the British 70's. The Spanish establishment was, 24-prs. on the lower deck, 18-prs. on the upper deck, and 8-prs. on the quarter deck and forecastle, as against 24, 12, and 6-prs. in the British Navy; but it is possible that the Princesa may have had heavier guns mounted. She was moreover of very stout scantling, and, having small portholes, was, defensively at any rate, a most powerful ship. It has also been suggested that, as a fresh breeze was blowing, the British ships could not use their lower deck guns. This was not so. Covill Mayne makes special mention of sending the enemy broadsides from his lower, upper, and quarter-deck guns. The reports clash some-what; but, roughly, the middle part of the action seems to have been fought with the Princesa out of hand, the Kent on her larboard beam, and the Lenox, or Orford on her starboard side, and the third ship always under her stern, raking her fore and aft. In the afternoon the Orford had her fore rigging so much disabled that she dropped astern and had to lie to to knot and splice; but meanwhile the raking fire from the Lenox had carried away the Princesa's main and mizen masts. The Orford, having repaired damages, drew up again; and thereupon the enemy struck her colours, having maintained an almost hopeless struggle with the utmost gallantry for close on seven hours. Not unnaturally Lord Augustus Fitzroy claimed that she had struck to him, and sent the first boat on board, following closely himself. To Covill Mayne's indignation he received the sword of her commander, Don Pablo Agustin de Aguirre, and took charge of her papers. There was some angry protest, but the matter seems to have blown over. The prize, rated as a 70, continued for some years as one of the best two-deckers in the British Navy.

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Posted by Brian on Saturday 9th of January 2016 20:46

May 1740 (Gentleman's Magazine) - Remarks made onboard the Oxford, April 8, 1740 during the time of the late engagement with the spanish man of war. At nine, saw a sail, gave chace,came up with her, and found her to be a Spanish man of war of 68 guns and 600 men called the Princessa; at eleven we began to engage the spanish ship on her starboard quarter about half a cubic distance. The Lenox gave her first fire about a quarter of a mile on his weather beam; the Kent run then pretty close to leeward, and gave him her broadside, some of the whole shot flew very near us. We exchanged three broadsides, at which time the Main-brace Bowlings and main topmast stay, being shot away, and we bringing the ship to the wind to fire the third broadside, the main-topsail flew back occasioning ship to face a stern we put our helm to weather, and were so lucky as to take him fore and aft, with our starboard guns, and afterwards hauled our wind again, and before we fell out of gunshot, exchanged another fire with them. The Lenox had by this time stretch a head and tacked, and came and gave her broadside passing him, which brought down her fore top mast. The Kent who had gone before the Lenox had tacked and run off the Princessa a Larboard Quarter, and shot down her ensign staff, and were again astern of him. We by this time clew'd our main-topsail up, and received new main-top bowlines, and hauled our main tack on board, and shot out by him and exchanged our fires, thou at a great distance; as soon as we had got far enough ahead to weather him, we tacked and gave him our starboard broadside, within pistol shot of his weather bow passing him, which he returned: As soon as we got two cables lengths astern we tack'd again and run up close under his stern, and gave him our larboard fire, and shot out ahead on his larboard bow, were we back'd our main-tops and sailed; the Lenox shooting away our fore-top gallant mast. The Kent stood ahead of us towards the Spaniards, upon which we fill'd and tacked again, as soon as we found we could weather her, which we barely did, and exchanged our fires in which so shattered our rigging and splintered our bowsprit foremast and fore-yard that we were obliged to lay by for half an hour. The Kent followed us and gave his fire likewise on his weather-bow; and the we ?? set out foresail and stood after him, and upon our coming about musket shot from him, he struck his colours. We sent our boats aboard and hoisted an ensign Jack on the remains of the ensign staff, the Capt. sent to desire Lord Augustus to come on board and receive his commission, which he did accordingly.

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