Operations against Cartagena

Battle of Cartagena de Indias

4th March 1741 - May 1741
Part of : War of Jenkins' Ear (1739 - 1748)
Previous action : Capture of the Princesa 8th April 1740
Next action : Operations against Santiago July 1741 - October 1741



Unknown Division
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
San Felipe (80) 80 

Great Britain

Unknown Division
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Suffolk (70) 70Thomas Danvers
Prince Frederick (70) 70Aubrey Beauclerk, The Hon. Edward Boscawen
Deptford (60) 60Christopher Pocklington, Savage Mostyn
Jersey (60) 60Edmund Williams, Peter Lawrence
Lion (60) 60William Smith, Charles Cotterel
Princess Louisa (60) 60Thomas Waterhouse, Miles Stapleton
Dunkirk (60) 60Thomas Cooper
Weymouth (60) 60Charles Knowles
Rippon (60) 60Thomas Jolley
Tilbury (60) 60Robert Long
Windsor (60) 60George Berkeley
Worcester (60) 60Perry Mayne
Defiance (60) 60John Trevor
Lichfield (50) 50Peter Osborn, William Cleland
Falmouth (50) 50William Douglas
Anglesea (40) 40Henry Reddish
Princess Royal (24) 18Nathaniel Tucker
Success (24) 8Daniel Hore
Astrea Prize (20) 20James Scott
Experiment (20) 20James Rentone
Squirrel (20) 20Peter Warren
Scarborough (18) 18William Carter
Aetna (8) 8Benjamin Fenwick
Alderney (8) 8Henry Ward
Cruizer (8) 8Francis Wakeman
Cumberland (8) 8Robert Maynard, Thomas Broderick
Eleanor (8) 8Henry Dennis
Firebrand (8) 8Isaac Barnard
Phaeton (8) 8Silvester Kennedy
Strombolo (8) 8Thomas Langstaffe, William Hay
Vesuvius (8) 8Edward Guy
Vulcan (8) 8Thomas Pellatt
Terrible (6) 6Edward Allen

Notes on Action

Description of the ActionEWIKI

The battle of Cartagena pitted a British invasion force of at least 26,400, 12,000 of which were infantry, in numerous ships and veesels against a force of 3,000 Spanish and colonial regulars, an unspecified number of sailors and armed townsmen and 600 Indian archers, perhaps up to 6,000 combatants, fighting from six frigates and massive fortifications —nder the command of the Viceroy Sebastián de Eslava, Don Melchor de Navarrete, Don Carlos Des Naux, and Don Blas de Lezo.

The British expedition arrived off Cartagena on March 4 and after a couple of weeks bombardment the initial attack made by land and sea at Boca Chica, the Little Mouth, on April 5. This channel ran between two narrow peninsulas and was defended on one side by the fort of St. Louis, Boca Chica Castle, with four bastions having some 80 cannons, on the other side of the channel an earthwork battery of 15 cannon all supported by redoubts. A boom stretched from the island of La Bomba to the southern peninsula on which was Fort St. Joseph with 21 cannon. Also supporting the entrance were the 6 Spanish line ships. The British army forces on land established a battery and made a breach in the main fort while part of the fleet assisted and another part of the fleet engaged the Spanish ships which, ultimately, Lezos tried to scuttle and set on fire. Two Spanish ships partially blocked the channel and one was captured by the British before it could sink. An advance was made on the breach, however the Spanish had already retired to fortifications in the inner harbor on the March 24. The landing force re-embarked and the harbor then entered. The next council of war decided to attempt to isolate Cartagena from the land side by an assault of Fort St. Lazar. The assault failed with a loss of 600 casualties.
Blas de Lezo by unknown painter

Don Blas de Lezo's plan was that, given the overwhelming force against him, he hoped to conduct a fighting withdrawal and delay the British long enough until the start of the rainy season at the end of April. The tropical downpours would effectively end campaigning for another 2 months. Also, the longer the enemy had to remain mostly at sea and in the open the more likely it would become that insufficient supply, discomfort and especially disease would become his allies and the deadly enemies of the British. De Lezo was aided in this by the contempt that Vernon and Wentworth had for each other which prevented any further cooperation after the initial landing. Wentworth was goaded by Vernon into an ill-considered, badly planned assault on Cartagena which Vernon refused to support with the fleet making specious excuses about the depth of the harbor.

An experienced, wily and tenacious Spanish Naval commander, de Lezo, whose previous career was as daring and spectacular as any naval officer of his day, made use of every advantage, strategy and tactic available to him. Cartagena's defensive fortifications had been repaired and improved over the past year. Although De Lezo was pressed to the limit, his plan bore the hoped for fruit. The rains came and the British had to board their ships, where close quarters made disease even more deadly, and by April 25, Vernon resolved to retreat to Jamaica and by mid-May they were gone.

The battle lasted 67 days and ended with the British fleet withdrawing in defeat, with 18,000 killed and wounded , half of them to disease. 50 ships were sunk or abandoned for lack of crew.


EWIKI WikipediaVariousWeb Site

Previous comments on this page

Posted by Brian on Monday 11th of January 2016 20:48

The Gentleman's Magazine 1741 Taking of Cartagena (in part)
Admiral Vernon's line of battle - The Princess Amelia to lead with the starboard, and the Suffolk with the Larboard Tacks on Board. But if I shall find it necessary, from the different motions of the enemy, to change our order of battle, to have those who are now appointed to lead on the Starboard Tack, to continue to lead the fleet on the Larboard Tack on our going about, or those now to lead on the Larboard Tack, on the contrary to do the same, as the Exigency of the Service may require; I will with my Signal for Tacking, hoist a Dutch Jack on the flag staff, under the Union Flag, the usual signal for Tacking, when they are to continue to lead the fleets on their respective tacks accordingly.
When the Admiral would speak with the Captain of any ship undermentioned, he will raise a pendent, as against the ships name, and of the colour set above it; if a Lieutenant, the same signal with a west of the ensign; and if a boat without an officer, the west will be hoisted but half staff up. When I would have any of the Fireships, Bombs, or Tenders, taken in tow at the same time, I make the signal for the Ship that is to tow, and for the Ship that is to be tow'd I will hoist up a Flag Blue and White, at the Flag Staff of the main-top mast head. When the Ships are in Line of Battle, the Frigates, Fireships, Bombs, and Tenders, are to keep on the opposite side of the enemy, when I make the Signal in Line of Battle, for the Van of the Fleet to tack, first in order to gain the Windward of the enemy, then each ship is to tack in the head most ships weak, for losing no ground. For all other signals they are referred to the General Printed Sailing and Fighting Instructions.

Extract of a letter from Cartagena - A gentleman from onboard the Shrewsbury writes us thus. - As our ship was one of the ordered to the attack of the Forts St. ?ago and St. Philip, our cable was unluckily shot before we could bring her up, and we drove towards the mouth of the Harbour, into the midst of the enemy, having a battery of 15 guns, the forts of Bocca Chica and St. Joseph, with four men of war, all firing at us together, with about a 160 guns, which we could return with only 26. In this situation we engaged seven hours, when, to our no small joy, night coming on, put a stop to the enemies firing, and we weighed our anchor, and went about our business. We had 20 men killed and 40 wounded, 16 shot between wind and water, 250 shot in our hull and our masts, yards, and rigging shot to pieces.

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