Battle of Algeciras Bay

Battle of Algeciras Bay

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Algeciras Bay
partof=the Napoleonic Wars

caption=HMS "Hannibal" (left foreground) lies aground and dismasted at the Battle of Algeciras Bay.
date=July 8 and July 12, 1801
place=near Gibraltar and Spain
result=1st: Franco-Spanish victory
2nd: British victory
combatant1=flagicon|UK United Kingdom
combatant2=flagicon|France French Consulate
flagicon|Spain|1785 Kingdom of Spain
commander1=flagicon|UK Admiral Sir James Saumarez
commander2=flagicon|France Charles-Alexandre Léon Durand Linois
strength1=7 ships of the line and 2 others
strength2=8 ships of the line and 1 other
casualties1=138 dead,
340 wounded
1 ship captured
casualties2=2,000 killed, wounded or capturedFact|date=July 2008
2 ships destroyed
1 ship captured

The Battle of Algeciras Bay refers to two separate battles in July 1801 between an allied French-Spanish fleet and the British near Gibraltar. In the first battle, an attack by the larger British fleet was driven off with one ship of the line being captured by the French. In the second battle, the British pursued the Franco-Spanish fleet, destroying two Spanish ships and capturing one French ship.

Algeciras Bay

The battle began in July 1801, when the French Admiral Linois brought his three ships of the line and one frigate into Algeciras after finding Cadiz blockaded. The harbour at Algeciras was protected by no less than four Spanish forts, and was considered safe despite its proximity to Gibraltar. The British observed these movements from Gibraltar, and decided to move quickly to try to neutralize this threat. On July 8, a fleet under Admiral Sir James Saumarez sailed across Algeciras Bay from Gibraltar, intending to attack the French ships.

The British fleet consisted of six ships of the line (Saumarez had a seventh ship of the line, "Superb", but she and her accompanying brig "Pasley" were absent; Saumarez dispatched his sole frigate - the "Thames" - to recall her, but they did not return in time.

Saumarez's six ships attacked the French ships and Spanish forts, but were hampered by a lack of wind and numerous shoals in the harbour. The French squadron, with aid from the forts and Spanish gunboats, held its own and drove off the larger British force, although the French ships were purposely grounded to avoid capture. Saumarez lost the 74-gun "Hannibal", which ran aground and was captured by the French, and the rest of the British squadron suffered various degrees of damage. The British lost 121 killed and 240 wounded, the French 306 killed (including Captains Laindet Lalonde and Moncousu) and 280 wounded.

Both sides retired to their respective sides of the bay, and over the next four days repaired their battle damage as best they could. The "Pompée" could not be repaired in the time available, and the "Caesar" was only repaired in time due to constant day-and-night work. The French refloated their ships and prepared them for sea.

The British squadron consisted of:
*"Caesar" 80 (flag of Rear-Adm. Saumarez, with Captain Jahleel Brenton)
*"Pompee" 74 (Captain Charles Stirling)
*"Spencer" 74 (Captain Henry d'Esterre Darby)
*"Venerable" 74 (Captain Samuel Hood)
*"Hannibal" 74 (Captain Solomon Ferris)
*"Audacious" 74 (Captain Shuldham Peard)The French squadron consisted of:
*"Le Formidable" 80 (flag of Rear-Adm. Linois, with Captain Laindet Lalonde)
*"L'Indomptable" 80 (Captain Moncousu)
*"Le Desaix" 74 (Captain Christi-Pailliere)
*"La Muiron" 40 (Captain Martinencq)

The Gut of Gibraltar

On July 12, the French squadron, which had been reinforced meanwhile by five Spanish ships of the line and another French ship of the line, left Algeciras for Cadiz, and was pursued by Saumarez. During the pursuit, the Franco-Spanish allies showed their ships to be faster, partly due to the extensive damage the British had received during the first stage of the battle.

However, "HMS Superb", which was not present for the first part of the battle and was thus undamaged, was given leave by Saumarez to pursue and attack the allied fleet at will. After night had fallen, the 74-gun "Superb" sailed between the "San Hermenegildo" and "Real Carlos", first-rate ships of 112 guns, and attacked them both. "Superb" then proceeded up the Franco-Spanish line, but between the darkness and the smoke from the firing, the Spanish did not realize that she had left. "Real Carlos" and "San Hermenegildo" furiously fired on one another, resulting in the loss of both ships. The "Superb" then attacked and captured the French "St. Antoine". The French "Formidable", at the rear of the French line, fought 4 to 1 to protect her fleet. The British lost 17 killed and 100 wounded; the allies, 2,000 - including some 1,700 killed when the "Real Carlos" and "San Hermenegildo" blew up. The French Ship-of-Line "St. Antoine" was captured by the British squadron.

The British squadron now consisted of:
*"Caesar" 80 (flag of Rear-Adm. Saumarez, with Captain Jahleel Brenton)
*"Venerable" 74 (Captain Samuel Hood)
*"Superb" 74 (Captain Richard Goodwin Keats)
*"Spencer" 74 (Captain Henry d'Esterre Darby)
*"Audacious" 74 (Captain Shuldham Peard)
*"Thames" 32 (frigate - Capt. Aiskew Paffard Hollis)
*"Calpe" 14 (polacre - Cmdr. George Heneage Lawrence Dundas)
*"Louisa" 8 (armed brig - Lieutenant Francis Truscott)The French element of the Franco-Spanish squadron now consisted of:
*"Le Formidable" 80 (Captain Aimable Gilles Troude)
*"L'Indomptable" 80 (Captain Lucas)
*"Le St. Antoine" 74 (Commodore Julien le Roy)
*"Le Desaix" 74 (Captain Christi-Pailliere)
*"La Muiron" 40 (Captain Martinencq)
*"La Libre" (?) 40 (Captain Proteau)
*"Le Vautour" 14 (?) (Captain Kemel)The Spanish element of the Franco-Spanish squadron consisted of:
*"Real Carlos" 112 (Captain Don J. Esquerra)
*"San Hermenegildo" 112 (Captain Don J. Emparran)
*"San Fernando" 94 (Captain Don J. Malina)
*"Argonauta" 80 (Captain Don. J. Herrera)
*"San Agustín" 74 (Captain Don. R. Topete)
*"San Sabina" 44 (frigate carrying the flag of both Vice-Adm. Moreno and Rear-Adm. Linois)


Rif Winfield, "British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793 - 1817", Chatham Publishing (2005)

In Literature

The battle is described in the novel Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian, from the viewpoint of Jack Aubrey, the book's protagonist. Aubrey views the first part of the battle from on board the "Desaix", a French 74 which had earlier captured him, and the second from the Rock of Gibraltar.

The battle is also described in the novel "Touch and Go", by C. North Parkinson. The main character is Commander Richard Delancey, Commanding Officer of HMS "Merlin", an 18 gun sloop. Parkinson places the "Merlin" and the "Calpe" in this phase of the battle. During the action at Algeciras the, "Merlin" sails in support of the British fleet, distracting Spanish gunboats and picking up survivors from the wrecked "Hannibal". Later, Delancey volunteers as acting sailing master aboard the "Caesar" and witnesses the battle in the Gut of Gibraltar.

External links

* [ A description of the battle.]

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