Pursuit of the Santissima Trinidad

20th February 1797 - 1st March 1797
Part of : The French Revolutionary Wars (1793 - 1802)
Previous action : Capture of Trinidad 16.2.1797 - 17.2.1797
Next action : Terpsichore vs Santissima Trinidad 1.3.1797


Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Emerald (36) Velters Cornewall Berkeley (1754-1804)Fleet Flagship
Minerva (38) Thomas Peyton
Niger (32) Edward James Foote
Bonne Citoyenne (20) Sir Charles Lindsay (d.1799), Edward Berry (1768-1831)
Raven (18) John Giffard, William Prowse


Ship NameCommanderNotes
Nuestra Señora de la Santisima Trinidad (136) Ciriaco Cevallos

Notes on Action


During the night of February 14th, both fleets lay to in order to repair damages, and at dawn on the 15th, the two were within sight of one another in line of battle ahead on opposite tacks. The Spaniards had the wind, and could have provoked a renewal of the action; but they contented themselves with bearing down at 2.30 P.M., and hauling their wind as soon as Jervis hauled his. They then disappeared, and, on the afternoon of the 16th, the British fleet and its prizes anchored in Lagos Bay. When last the enemy was seen, his disabled four-decker, the Santisima Trinidad, was distant from the main body, and in tow of a frigate. Jervis, therefore, with a view to the possibility of picking her up, detached from Lagos the Emerald, 36, Captain Velters Cornwall Berkeley; Minerve, 38, Captain George Cockburn; Niger, 32, Captain Edward James Foote; Bonne Citoyenne, 20, Commander Charles Lindsay; and Raven, 18, Commander James Prowse, to look for her. The little squadron sighted the Santisima Trinidad at 3 P.M. on February 20th, about eighty miles south-south-east of Cape St. Vincent; and Berkeley, who was senior officer, signalled for a chase. The Emerald, Minerve, and Niger were overhauling the enemy, when, at about 6 P.M., Berkeley made a signal " to keep sight of the enemy, or make known their motions by day or night," and then, as the Emerald's log puts it, " only being answered by the Minerve, wore ship to the northward." Why Berkeley behaved in this extraordinary manner has never been satisfactorily explained. It has been suggested that he had reason to believe that he could not count upon the co-operation of the Bonne Citoyenne. But against this theory are to be set the two facts that he never brought the Commander of that ship to a court-martial, and that, although soon after 6 P.M. he was joined by the Terpsichore, 32, Captain Richard Bowen, he still kept his ships headed to the northward, and so presently lost sight of the disabled Spaniard.

Bowen parted company almost immediately, and, whether by accident or design, found the Santisima Trinidad at 7 P.M. on February 28th. On March 1st, although he was then alone, he pluckily engaged her. He was naturally unable to effect much against his huge antagonist, but he nevertheless kept company with her until, off Cape Spartel, she fell in with part of the Spanish fleet. It is perhaps unfair to draw comparisons between the conduct of Berkeley and that of Bowen; but it is difficult to avoid regretting that the motives of the former for his mysterious action have never been made public, and that they are not by any means so obviously creditable as is Bowen's gallantry.

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