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than the Bienfaisant, Captain Macbride, to whom she struck.
“ I beg leave to congratulate your lordships on this event, which must greatly distress the enemy, who, I am well informed, are much in want of provisions and naval stores.”
The supplies on board this squadron, were destined for Cadiz, to enable a Spanish squadron to reinforce the French in the West Indies. Their object was, however, totally defeated, and our valuable possessions in the West Indies, particularly the island of Jamacia, which was in a very defenceless state, preserved from the attack of the enemy.
Admiral Rodney then continued his course in search of a Spanish squadron, which was reported to be cruising off Cape St. Vincent, and on the 16th of January, they fell in with the Spanish fleet, consisting of fourteen ships of the line, commanded by Don Juan de Langara. Prince William was now on the eve of a real naval engagement and during the whole of the preparations which are carried on on board of a man of war, previously to battle, and which are well calculated to shake the courage of the youthful heart, Prince William maintained the greatest coolness, and addressing himself to Lieutenant Montgomery, who was standing at his side, said “ Won't we give these haughty dons a sound thrashing."
The Spaniards were under easy sail at the time, as if without any apprehension of an enemy being so close to them; some of them, indeed were lying to, and appeared to be rather cruising about for pleasure, than in danger of a victorious enemy. The weather was foggy, and, therefore, it may be conjectured, that they really did not see their enemies, who were in reality, close upon them with every sail set, and who had taken the lee-gage, in order to prevent them from retreating into their own ports. The Spaniards, however, no sooner found themselves in the immediate vicinity of an enemy, than they began to sheer off, under a press of sail, when Rodney hung out his signal for a general chase. It was near dark, before the Sandwich, Admiral Rodney's ship, could approach and engage. Rodney ordered the master of the Sandwich to lay him well up alongside the largest ship he could see, or alongside the Admiral, if he could discover one. The four headmost ships being well coppered, and sailing fast, were soon up with the enemy, and in action. The engagement began in a very rough gale, and in a very short time, the San Domingo of 70 guns blew up, and all on board perished. A second ship struck almost immediately, and about two in the morn a third, called the Monarca, the headmost of the enemy, lowered her flag. The Phænix of 80 guns, Admiral Langara's own ship, and three of 70 guns each, were taken and secured. Considerable danger was, however, now encountered, from a stormy sea, and a lee-shore close upon the enemy's coast, and not far from Cadiz. One of the ships, the San Eugenio, a prize, got upon the rocks, but was saved by the Spaniards; another, the San Julian, was run ashore and lost, but the crew was saved, and the English, who had boarded her. The rest of the squadron escaped in a shattered condition. Sir George Rodney's force was certainly much superior; yet his skill and courage were not less eminently displayed in the attack, which the violence of the storm, the darkness of the night, and the vicinity of a lee-shore, rendered extremely dargerous.
The weather continued very rough, and the larger ships of the fleet, the Sandwich and Prince George, were in imminent danger, and were forced to make sail to avoid the rocks of St. Lucar. On the following morning they fortunately got into deep water, and joined the convoy off Cape Spartel.
The following is a list of the Spanish ships :
700 men taken. 600 -- escaped. 600 - 600 - 600 — taken but lost. 600 - - & run ashore, 600
70 San Julian San Eugenio Monarca
600 men taken and run ashore
Rear Admiral Digby, in the Prince George, knowing the harbour better than the Sandwich, led the way into the bay of Gibraltar. The weather was very tempestuous, many of the ships were driven to the back of the rock, and it was not until the 26th of January, that the whole of the ships were safely anchored in the bay.
The character of the British sailor is, that he is a lion in battle, but that to a vanquished foe, he is humane and kind. A want of humanity to their prisoners of war was never a characteristic of the English nation; whereas on the contrary, the English prisoners in the prisons of Spain, had always been treated with a cruelty, at variance with every claim to the character of a civilized people. National enmity contributed much to affix this stigma on the Spanish character, but religion contributed still more. The English were looked upon as a band of heretics, whom to torment and maltreat, raised them in the good opinion of all the saints, the pope, the virgin Mary, and God. The Spanish prisons were sinks of filth and offal, inimical to the prolongation of human life; the fare of the poor prisoners was scarcely sufficient to support life, and many fell a victim to the privations which they endured. It was, therefore, no wonder that Langara expressed his surprise at the treatment which he saw shown by the English admiral towards the Spanish prisoners, and particularly towards the wounded, whose cases were attended to with all the skill and humanity, which were evinced towards the British sailors. Admiral Rodney expressed his anxious desire to obtain an exchange of prisoners, but it was the bigotted and crooked policy of the Spanish government to interpose every obstacle to that reciprocity of honourable feeling which ought to exist between two civilized nations, and which forms the chief distinction between them and the more savage governments. It was the
narrow minded opinion of the Spanish government, that if they retained our sailors in their prisons, we should not be able to man our ships, not considering at the same time, that if we retained theirs, they could not man their own ships, and they further proceeded upon the erroneous principle that the very nature of our impress service evidently showed that sailors were not to be had in England, but upon compulsion, whereas in Spain they were to be procured in any numbers, and therefore they rated the value of an English sailor in comparison with the Spanish one, in the proportion of three to one. In the negociation, however, which they set on foot with Admiral Rodney for an exchange of prisoners, they condescended to lower their demands, and adjusted the balance by putting two Spanish sailors in one scale, and one English sailor in the other. To this proposition, however, Admiral Rodney gave his most decided negative, and after some time spent in negociating, he succeeded in obtaining the freedom of as many English sailors as he had taken Spanish ones under Langara. It was also arranged with the Spanish government, that in future all Englishmen who should be made prisoners by the Spaniards, should experience the same treatment as the Spanish prisoners received from the English.
The exchange of prisoners being thus satisfactorily arranged, Don Juan Langara and his officers were released from their parole of honour, and although the Spanish nation is not very sensitive of any honourable act, except what is committed by themselves, yet, it condescended to acknowledge this act on the part of the British admiral as redounding highly to his honour, and to that of the country to which he belonged.
Previously to Langara leaving the fleet, he paid a visit to Admiral Digby, on board the Prince George. The midshipman on duty was Prince William Henry, and at the close of the visit, when Langara was about to take his leave, Admiral Digby issued his orders for the boat to be got ready. After the lapse of a few minutes, Prince William entered the cabin to announce that the boat was in readiness, and the Spanish Admiral could not refrain expressing his astonishment at