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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJohn Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 33. Sir George Hooke Takes The Spanish Galleons In Vigo Bay
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John Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 33. Sir George Hooke Takes The Spanish Galleons In Vigo Bay Post by :Zoderami Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3005

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John Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 33. Sir George Hooke Takes The Spanish Galleons In Vigo Bay


Elizabeth's joy at seeing Mistress Pearson was very great; and she did her utmost to comfort her in her affliction, aided by Captain Davis and Deane. As soon as they arrived at Port Royal, Captain Davis took a house for her on shore, where she and Elizabeth went to reside till a plan for their future proceedings could be arranged. Deane immediately wrote to Monsieur de Mertens, and told him of his recovery of his daughter, saying that she was still with her kind guardian, in whose company he hoped that he should, without delay, be able to escort her to England.

In those days the climate of the West Indies was as dangerous to Europeans as at the present, and ships seldom remained long on the station without losing many of their officers and men. The honest old Admiral Benbow was still alive, although rapidly sinking from the effects of his wounds and his annoyance at the conduct of his officers in the action with the French. Hearing of Jack's conduct, he appointed him second lieutenant of the "Ruby," in the place of an officer who had died. He was sorry to leave Captain Davis, especially as he expected now to have fewer opportunities of meeting Elizabeth. He had, however, the consolation to know that Captain Davis expected immediately to be sent home, and proposed taking his sister and Elizabeth with him. John Deane met with no adventures worth recording during his next cruise.

On the return of the "Ruby" to Port Royal, our hero found that the "Venus" had already sailed, and his ship was shortly afterwards also ordered home. On reaching England, he was immediately appointed to the "Lennox," of seventy guns, commanded by his old friend Captain Jumper. She formed one of the squadron under Admiral Sir George Rooke just on the point of sailing for the coast of Spain. Being unable to obtain leave of absence, he wrote to Nottingham and Norwich; but before he received answers to his letters his ship put to sea. Sir George Rooke had his flag flying on board the "Royal Sovereign."

On board the fleet were a large number of troops, under the command of the Duke of Ormond. On the 12th August they anchored before the harbour of Cadiz next day the Duke of Ormond sent in a trumpeter with a letter requiring the governor to surrender. The brave governor replied that as he had been appointed to the command of the place by his lawful sovereign, he would not yield it up as long as he could hold it. On the 15th the Duke of Ormond therefore landed with the troops, and in a few days took possession of the forts of Saint Katharine and Saint Mary. It being found difficult to approach Cadiz while the Spaniards were in possession of Matagorda Fort, an assault was ordered. The Spaniards defended the place bravely, and it was found that the English force was far too small to hope for success. The troops were therefore re-embarked with the intention of returning home. Soon after this, while the fleet was off the coast of Portugal, Captain Hardy of the "Pembroke" brought the intelligence that the galleons from the West Indies had put into Vigo Bay, under convoy of a French squadron. Sir George Rooke immediately called a council of war, and it was resolved to make an attack at once on the enemy in the port of Vigo. A strong gale of wind, however, drove the fleet to the north of Cape Finisterre, which prevented their getting off Vigo before the 11th of October. The passage into the harbour was extremely narrow, and well defended by batteries on both sides. Across the entrance a strong boom also was laid, at each end of which was moored with chains a seventy-four-gun ship. Nearer the boom were laid, also moored, five ships, each carrying sixty to seventy guns, with their broadsides to the sea to defend the passage. The shoals and sand-banks, and the shallowness of the water within the harbour, made it dangerous for ships of the first and second rates to enter without a leading wind.

Notwithstanding the strong force opposed to them and the batteries on either side of the harbour, the English admirals resolved to attempt the capture of the galleons, and it being considered impossible for the larger ships to get up the harbour, they shifted their flags on board smaller vessels. A boat was then despatched up the harbour to gain intelligence respecting the disposition of the French and Spanish ships. This being obtained, it was resolved that as the whole fleet could not together act upon the enemy's ships, but would from crowding the harbour impede each others' movements, fifteen English and ten Dutch men-of-war, with all the fire-ships, should proceed in to destroy the enemy's fleet. The frigates and the bomb-vessels were directed to follow this detachment, and the larger ships were to proceed in afterwards, should their assistance be found necessary. It was arranged that the troops should at the same time land and attack the forts on either side of the harbour. Vice-Admiral Hopson was ordered to lead the van, followed by Vice-Admiral Vandergoes, Sir George Rooke commanded the centre division, and Rear-Admiral Graydon brought up the rear. Sir George Rooke spent the greater part of the night going from ship to ship in his own boat to ascertain that each captain understood clearly the plan of the attack and the part he was to take in it.

The following morning, the 12th of October, the squadron got under weigh and stood in for the harbour. Great was the disappointment of all on board, when just as the van division had almost reached within gunshot of the batteries the wind died away, and it was necessary to anchor. A strong breeze, however, shortly afterwards sprang up, when Vice-Admiral Hopson, in the "Torbay," cutting his cable, crowded every sail his ship could carry and bore down upon the boom. The velocity gained by the ship gave her such power that the boom was snapped in two, and the "Torbay" was instantly placed between the two French line-of-battle ships, the "Bourbon" and "Esperance." These two ships immediately opened a desperate fire upon the "Torbay," which gallantly replied to them, though most of her men were falling, killed and wounded from the fierce fire to which she was exposed. Scarcely had the breeze carried her into this post of danger, than it again fell, and the other ships of the squadron had considerable difficulty in following her. While they were endeavouring to get up the harbour, a fire-ship was seen descending directly for the "Torbay." On it came. The destruction of the "Torbay" seemed inevitable. Now the flames burst out on either side from the fire-ship. The brave crew of the "Torbay" instantly lowered their boats for the purpose of towing her off, but two of the boats were struck and swamped, and many of those in them were drowned before help could be rendered by those on board. Just as the flames seemed about to catch the "Torbay" they suddenly decreased, and were deadened. It seemed almost like a miracle; but when the men afterwards examined the fire-ship, she was found to be loaded with snuff, which immediately the fire reached it completely deadened the flames.

While this event was taking place, Vice-Admiral Vandergoes and the rest of the squadron made their way through the passage which the brave Hopson had opened up, and directed their fire upon the "Bourbon," which in a short time was captured. The "Torbay," however, suffered very severely, losing a hundred and fifteen men killed and drowned, besides many wounded, including among the latter Captain Moody, her brave captain. While the troops were advancing, Captain Beckenham in the "Association," of ninety guns, laid his broadside against a battery of seventeen guns on the left side of the harbour, and Captain Wyvill in the "Barfleur" was sent to batter the fort on the other side, while there was a considerable firing from great guns and small-arms on both sides. The other ships defending the harbour were now attacked. They replied to the fire of the English with considerable vigour, though they in vain attempted to resist their advance. Meantime the Duke of Ormond had landed in a sandy bay about two leagues distant from Vigo. His Grace, meeting with no opposition, ordered the grenadiers, under Lord Shannon and Colonel Pierce, to march directly to the forts which guarded the entrance to the harbour where the boom lay. This they executed with much courage and alacrity, and so furious was their attack, that they soon made themselves masters of this important fort. The Duke himself, at the head of the rest of the forces, in the meantime marched on foot over craggy mountains to support the first detachment. As they advanced, they saw before them about eight thousand Spaniards prepared apparently to contest their advance between the fort and the hills. These, however, only engaged in a little skirmishing at a distance, and as the grenadiers advanced they retired. The batteries having been taken, the enemy retreated into an old tower, or stone castle. From thence, for some time, they fired briskly upon the English. It was said that there were nearly twenty thousand French and Spanish troops in and about Vigo at that time; but, undaunted by the superiority of the enemy, the British troops pushed on. They plied the defenders of the tower so warmly with their grenadoes, and pelted them so sharply with their fusees that they soon made the place too hot for them. Finding this, Monsieur de Sorel, the valiant captain of a French man-of-war, who commanded in the fort, having encouraged his men to make a daring push for their lives, opened the gates, intending to force his way through the English, sword in hand. The grenadiers, however, rushed immediately into the castle, made themselves masters of it, and took nearly three hundred French seamen and fifty Spaniards, with their officers, prisoners at discretion. A small party of the enemy endeavoured to make their escape through the water, but were stopped by a detachment of the Dutch. As soon as this was done, the boats of the squadron pushed up the harbour to take possession of the galleons. The French admiral, however, finding that all hope of defending the place was gone, gave orders for setting the shipping on fire. Before these orders could be executed, a considerable number of the ships were taken possession of by the boats. Besides seventeen ships, carrying between them nine hundred and sixty guns, destroyed or captured by the English and Dutch, three Spanish men-of-war, carrying a hundred and seventy-eight guns, were destroyed, and fifteen galleons were found there. Four of them were taken by the English, five by the Dutch, and four destroyed.

The brave Admirals Rooke, Hopson, and Vandergoes, were still furiously attacking the French ships placed across the harbour behind the boom. Suddenly flames were seen to burst forth from the French admiral's ship. This was soon discovered to be done on purpose, for immediately afterwards they burst forth from the other French ships, from which boats were at the same time seen putting off towards the shore. The French admiral, indeed, finding that the forts were in the hands of his victorious enemies, his fire-ship spent in vain, the "Bourbon" captured, the boom cut, and the confederate fleet pouring in upon him, so that the battle was lost, hoped by burning his ships to prevent their falling into their hands. The order he issued, however, was not punctually obeyed, in consequence of the haste of the French to get on shore. Immediately this was perceived, the boats of the squadron were ordered in to take possession of the galleons. John Deane found himself in one of the leading boats. Onward they dashed, amid the burning ships. On one side the "Torbay" lay with her fore-top-mast shot away, her sails burnt and scorched, her fore-yard burnt to a coal, and her larboard shrouds, fore and aft, burned to the deadeyes, so that indeed it appeared surprising that she had not been burned altogether. The leading boats dashed alongside some of the largest ships, which were so imperfectly set on fire that the confederates were enabled to extinguish the flames before they had spread far. They then pulled, as fast as they could bend to their oars, up the harbour towards the galleons which lay at the farther end. Every man had heard of the vast amount of wealth reputed to be on board these vessels, and all were eager to capture them, therefore, before they were destroyed by the enemy. Already flames were bursting out from some of them, and the French and Spanish boats were alongside, preparing for their destruction. The Dutch and English joined each other in the race. They rowed past the town, which the British troops, having captured the forts, were already entering. Now the boats got alongside the long-looked-for galleons. Already some were in flames, which had extended too far to allow of their being extinguished, but many others were saved. So rapid had been the movements of the allies, that the Spaniards had not had time to remove the cargoes of several of the galleons. These were in truth real prizes, and the wealth found on board them stimulated the crews of the boats to make desperate attempts to save the rest. Several, however, just as the flotilla approached them, went down at their anchors, but altogether the larger number were saved.

Great was the disappointment of the allies when they found that the Spaniards had landed the larger portion of the money with which the galleons had been freighted. Seldom, however, has a naval expedition been more judiciously planned and more completely carried out. This glorious and memorable victory, too, was obtained with a very inconsiderable loss on the side of the British; for, with the exception of the loss on board Vice-Admiral Hopson's ship, as already described, very few seamen were either killed or wounded, nor did the ships receive more than a slight damage. Of the land forces, two lieutenants and about forty rank and file were killed, and five officers and about thirty men wounded. Of the French, about four hundred officers and men were taken prisoners, among whom was the Spanish Admiral Don Joseph Checon, several French captains, and other officers of note.

The result of this victory was a vast booty, both of plate and other things, the value of which cannot well be computed. The fleet, indeed, was the richest that had ever come from the West Indies to Europe. The silver and gold was computed to amount to twenty millions of eight, of which fourteen millions had been taken out of the galleons and secured by the enemy before the attack. The rest was either taken or left in the galleons that were burned and sunk. The goods were valued also at twenty millions of pieces of eight, one fourth part of which was saved by the Spaniards, nearly two parts destroyed, and the other fourth taken by the confederates. Besides the property already mentioned, there was a great deal of plate and goods on board belonging to private persons, most of which was taken or lost.

The prize-money which thus fell to John Deane's share was very considerable, and it induced him to begin setting up a castle in the air, which he hoped to commence in a more substantial manner on his return to England, as he expected by the time he should get there to find Elizabeth restored to her parents, as he had left with her and Captain Davis full directions by which they could be found.

One thing most remarkable with regard to this victory, was not only the courage and sagacity of Sir George Rooke and the other admirals, but their readiness to sacrifice themselves and to risk their safety to ensure the success of the undertaking. This was shown by the way in which they left their large ships and placed themselves on board the smaller ones, as also by their leading the way into the midst of the enemy, strongly posted as they were. Great credit was also due to the land forces, for the mode in which they co-operated with the navy. Scarcely had the action concluded, when Sir Cloudesley Shovel with a large squadron hove in sight. The Duke of Ormond proposed to keep possession of Vigo for Don Carlos, considering it a safe place for the army to take up their quarters in, having a naval force to assist them. Sir George Rooke, however, thought that it was necessary to return home for want of stores and provisions. He left, therefore, Sir Cloudesley Shovel, to whom was entrusted the task of fitting out the prizes. He succeeded also in rescuing a large portion of treasure from the sunken galleons, and he recovered the "Dartmouth," an English fifty-gun ship which had been captured in the previous war. He also took out of some of the French ships lying aground partially destroyed, fifty brass guns and about sixty from the shore, and before sailing from the port he completed the destruction of every ship that he could not bring away.

The importance of this success was very great, as not only did the Spaniards suffer a heavy loss, but the naval power of France was considerably crippled by it, nor indeed did she during the war recover from its effects. Jack remained with the fleet under Sir Cloudesley Shovel. All hands were busily employed in fitting out the captured ships and preparing them for sea. At length, in a week, all those fit for sea were got ready, when the rest, amounting to a considerable number, were set on fire, and the squadron, as the flames bursting fiercely forth sent them to the bottom, sailed away down the harbour.

On the 25th of October Sir Cloudesley got clear of Vigo, but it proving calm, he anchored in the channel in the port of Bayonne, where, with a flag of truce, he sent several prisoners on shore, receiving some English who had been captured by the Spaniards. The next day he got under sail again, with the intention of going through the north channel, but the wind taking him short, he was obliged to drop anchor. Here a galleon, a prize to the "Monmouth," struck upon a sunken rock. Immediately the water rushed into her, and before it could be pumped out she foundered. Fortunately several frigates were on each side of her, and their boats putting off, all her crew were saved, with the exception of two who were below. The same day the fleet was joined by the "Dragon," a fifty-gun ship lately commanded by Captain Holyman. One of the officers came on board and gave an account of an engagement she had just had with a French man-of-war of seventy guns. In spite of the vast superiority of the enemy, Captain Holyman defended his ship with the greatest resolution. His crew worked their guns in a way British seamen have ever known how to do when alongside an enemy. At length the captain was killed, when his First Lieutenant, Fotherby, continued the defence, urging his men not to strike as long as they had a cartridge remaining and a shot in the locker. At length, although themselves greatly crippled, they had the satisfaction of seeing the enemy brace up her yards and stand away. Loud cheers burst from their throats, though they at first believed she had merely hauled off to repair damages. However she continued standing away, and ultimately her topsails disappeared below the horizon. Besides her brave captain, the "Dragon" lost twenty-five of her crew killed, and many more wounded. The fleet on their passage home encountered very bad weather. One of the ships, the "Nassau," had, in spite of the gale, the good fortune to make a rich prize. Standing in towards the fleet, however, the sea ran so high that the prize foundered. The gale continued to increase, and the whole squadron was thus separated, every ship shifting for herself. At length all got into the Downs.

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