Capture of Omoa

15th September 1779 - 20th October 1779
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Siege of Savannah 9.9.1779 - 18.10.1779
Next action : Battle of Flamborough Head 23.9.1779


Great Britain

British Squadron, John Luttrell (d.1829)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Charon (44) John Luttrell (d.1829)Fleet Flagship
Lowestoffe (28) Christopher Parker (1752-1804)
Pomona (28) Charles Edmund Nugent (1759-1844)
Porcupine (16) John Pakenham (1743-1807)
Racehorse (14)  

Notes on Action


A brilliant episode of the autumn of 1779 was the capture of Omoa and two Spanish treasure ships by Captain the Hon. John Luttrell, with a small squadron, and a few armed " Baymen " from British Honduras. The squadron consisted of the Charon, 44, Captain Luttrell, Lowestoft, 32, Captain Christopher Parker, Pomona, 28, Captain Charles Edmund Nugent, Porcupine, 20, Commander John Pakenham, Racehorse, schooner, and some other schooners and smaller craft. These arrived on the Honduras coast on September 15th. After some skirmishing in the Gulfs of Honduras and Dolce, and after an attempt to capture the town of Omoa by a purely naval attack from the sea had failed through the remissness of the pilots, a landing was effected at Puerto Caballo, and a force composed of seamen, 250 Baymen, a number of Mosquito Indians, and detachments of the Royal Irish Regiment and Marines, began the march on Omoa, nine miles distant, on the night of October 16th. It was hoped to surprise the fort, but the allowance of time was not sufficient and the difficulties of the march were enormous. The landing force had to make its way through mangrove swamps and across mountains, and, when day dawned, it was in great disorder and still six miles off the town. After some hours' halt the march was resumed.

When the force was near Omoa it met with a party of 50 or 60 Spaniards, who fired upon it, inflicting trivial loss, and then fled. The British sailors carried and fired the town; but the fort they could not take, as the Baymen, who were carrying the scaling ladders, had dropped them in their eagerness to fight. Meantime the British ships had stood in to the support of the assaulting party. The Lowestoft and Charon opened fire, but at somewhat long range. The Lowestoft then tried to run in closer, and grounded, but luckily got off again, though not without considerable damage. On the 18th the sailors landed some of the Pomona's guns and opened with them on the fort; but this was rather to hide the real plan of attack than to breach the walls.

It was decided to assault the fort on the night of the 19th-20th, while the ships covered and aided the storming party. Accordingly, on the night of the 19th, the squadron attacked the fort. When the garrison was busy, four storming parties of seamen, Marines, and Royal Irish dashed forward and were in the fort before the Spaniards were aware of their presence, with a loss of only six killed and wounded. The treasure taken in the galleons and the fort was estimated at 3,000,000 dollars. The fort was garrisoned by British troops till November 28th, when it was abandoned on a Spanish force threatening it. In the assault only two Spaniards were wounded by the British seamen. A story is told of a sailor who, with a cutlass in each hand, met an unarmed Spaniard, presented him with one of his cutlasses, and challenged him with these words, " I scorn to take any advantage: you are now upon a footing with me."

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