The official report of the capture of Gibraltar – by Rooke Part 1

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Sir George’s natural repugnance to inaction, and his consciousness of the necessity, with so large a force, of doing something, induced him, on the 17th of July, being then in the bay of Tetuan, to call another council, and to urge the indispensable obligation that lay on them, of effecting something commensurate with the force entrusted to them and after long debate, a prompt and vigorous attack on Gibraltar, proposed by Sir George, was resolved on, the proceedings of which we have before briefly stated.  The following is Sir George’s official report: 

The contractor for the supply of fresh meat for the troops, ” The 17th of July, the fleet being then about seven leagues to the eastward of Tetuan, a council of war was held on board the Royal Catharine, wherein it was resolved to make a sudden attempt upon Gibraltar; and, accordingly, the fleet sailed thither, and the 21st got into that bay; and, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the marines, English and Dutch, to the number of 1800, with the Prince of Hesse at the head of them, were put on shore on the neck of land to the northward of the town, to cut off all communication with the country. His Highness having posted his men there, sent a summons to the governor to surrender the place, for the service of his Catholic Majesty; which he rejected with great obstinacy; the admiral, on the 22d in the morning, gave orders that the ships which had been appointed to cannonade the town, under the command of Rear Admiral Byng, and Rear-admiral Vanderdussen, as also those which were to batter the south mole-head, commanded by Captain Hicks, of the Yarmouth, should range themselves accordingly; but the wind blowing contrary, they could not possibly get into their places, till the day was spent. In the mean time, to amuse the enemy, Captain Whitaker was sent with some boats, who burnt a French privateer of twelve guns at the mole. The 23d, soon after break of day, the ships being all placed, the admiral gave the signal for beginning the cannonade; which was performed with very great fury, above 15,000 shot being made in five or six hours time against the town, insomuch that the enemy were soon sent from their guns, especially at the south mole-head affirm, that there never was such an attack as the seamen made; for that fifty men might have defended those works against thousands. Ever since our coming to the bay, great numbers of Spaniards have appeared on the hills; but none of them have thought fit to advance towards us.” Sir George sailed again to Tetuan to wood and water the fleet, and on the 9th of August, on his return to Gibraltar, came in sight of the French fleet, commanded by Count de Toulouse. The enemy declined battle, but Sir George being resolved to force an action, if possible, pursued, and on the 13th came within three leagues of him. The French fleet now formed a line to receive him, and the action soon after commenced,* of which we shall here give Sir George’s own account, as dated on board the Royal Katharine, off Cape St. Vincent, August 27th  O. S. 1704, addressed to his Royal Highness Prince George of Denmark : On the 9th instant, returning from watering our ships on the coast of Barbary, fearing that by gaining the fortification they should of consequence reduce the town, ordered Captain Whitaker, with all the boats, armed, to endeavour to possess himself of it ; which was performed with great expedition. But Captain Hicks and Captain Jumper, who lay next the Mole, had pushed ashore with their pinnaces, and some other boats, before the rest could come up; whereupon the enemy sprung a mine, that blew up the fortifications upon the Mole, killed two lieutenants, and about forty men, and wounded about sixty. However, our men kept possession of the great platform which they had made themselves masters of, and Captain Whitaker landed with the rest of the seamen which had been ordered upon this service; they advanced, and took a redoubt, or small bastion, halfway between the mole and the town, and possessed themselves of many of the enemy’s cannon. The admiral then sent a letter to the governor and, at the same time, a message to the Prince of Hesse to send him a peremptory summons ; which his Highness did accordingly; and, on the 24th in the morning, the governor desiring to capitulate, hostages were exchanged, and the capitulation being concluded, the Prince marched into the town in the evening, and took possession of the land and north-mole gates, and the out-works. The articles are in substance as follow:

1. That the garrison, officers, and soldiers, may depart, with their necessary arms and baggage, and the officers, and other gentlemen of the town, may also carry their horses with them. They may, likewise, have what boats they shall have occasion for,

2. That they may take out of the garrison three pieces of brass cannon, of different weight, with twelve charges of powder and ball.

3. That they may take provisions of bread, wine, and flesh, for six days’ march.

4. That none of the officer’s baggage be searched, although it be carried out in chests or trunks. That the garrison depart in three days; and such of their necessaries as they cannot carry out with conveniency, may remain in the garrison, and be afterwards sent for; and that they shall have the liberty to make use of some carts.

5. That such inhabitants, and soldiers, and officers of the town, as are willing to remain there, shall have the same privileges they enjoyed in the time of Charles II. and their religion and tribunals shall remain untouched, upon condition that they take an oath of fidelity to King Charles III as their lawful king and master,

6. That they shall discover all their magazines of powder, and other ammunition, or provisions and arms, that may be in the city.

7. That all the French, and subjects of the French King, are excluded from any part of these capitulations, and all their effects shall remain at our disposal, and their persons prisoners of war.” 

The town is extremely strong, and had an hundred guns mounted, all facing the sea and the two narrow passes to the land, and was well supplied with ammunition. With little wind easterly, our scouts to the windward made the signals of seeing the enemy’s fleet; which, according to the account they gave, consisted of sixty-six sail, and were about ten leagues to windward of us. A council of flag-officers was called, wherein it was determined to lie to the eastward of Gibraltar, to receive and engage them. But perceiving that night was approaching, we followed them in the morning, with all the sail we could make.

On the 11th we forced one of the enemy’s ships ashore, near Fuengirola; the crew quitted her, set her on fire, and she blew up immediately we continued still pursuing them; and the 12th, not hearing any of their guns all night, nor seeing any of their scouts in the morning, our admiral had a feeling they might double back, and, by the help if their gallies, slip between us and the shore to the westward; so that a council of war was called, wherein it was resolved, That, in case we did not see the enemy before night, we should make the best of our way to Gibraltar; but standing in to the shore about noon, we discovered the enemy’s fleet and gallies to the westward, near Cape Malaga, going very large. We immediately made all the sail we could, and continued the chase all night.

On Sunday the 13th, in the morning, we were within three leagues of the enemy, who brought to, with their heads to the southward, the wind being easterly, formed their line and lay-to to receive us. Their line consisted of fifty-two ships, and twenty-four gallies; they were very strong in the centre, and weaker in the van and rear, to supply which, most of the gallies were divided into those quarters. In the centre was Monsieur De Toulouse, with the white squadron; and in the rear the blue; each admiral had his vice and rear admirals; our line consisted of fifty-three ships, the admiral, and rear-admirals Byng and Dilkes, being in the centre; Sir Cloudesley Shovel and Sir John Leake led the van, and the Dutch the rear. The admiral ordered the Swallow and Panther, with the Lark and Newport, and two fire-ships, to lie to the windward of us, that in case the enemy’s van should push through our line with their gallies and fire-ships, they might give them some diversion. We bore down upon the enemy in order of battle, a little after ten o’clock, when, being about half-gun shot from them, they set all their sails at once, and seemed to intend to stretch ahead and weather us, so that our admiral, after firing a chase-gun at the French admiral, to stay for him, of which he took no notice, put the signal out, and began the battle, which fell very heavy on the Royal Katharine, St. George, and the Shrewsbury. About two in the afternoon, the enemy’s van gave way to ours, and the battle ended with the day, when the enemy went away, by the help of their gallies, to the leeward. 

Old System, England retained the old “Julian” calendar which was 11 ahead of the “Gregorian”  calendar in use throughout, mainly catholic countries until 1752 when the day following the 2nd Sept became the 14th.

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