1758 - Naval operations in the Mediterranean
The campaign took place in April 1758
Description of events
A British squadron had been some time in the Mediterranean under the command of Admiral Henry Osborn and Rear-Admiral Charles Saunders. The squadron consisted of:
- 11 ships
- Berwick (70) under Captain Hughes
- Hampton Court (70) under Captain Augustus John Hervey
- Monarch (74) under Captain John Montague
- Monmouth (64) under Captain Arthur Gardiner
- Montagu (60) under Captain Joshua Rowley
- Preston (50) under Captain Evans
- Prince George (90) under Captain Joseph Peyton
- Revenge (64) under Captain John Storr
- Swiftsure (70) under Captain Thomas Stanhope
- 2 other unidentified ships of the line
- 9 unidentified frigates
In November 1757, a French squadron under M. de La Clue left Toulon for North America and the West Indies. This squadron consisted of:
- 1 x 84-guns
- 3 x 74-guns
- 2 x 64-guns
- 2 x 50-guns
- 1 x 36-guns
- 1 x 24-guns
- 1 x 16-guns
- 1 x 14 guns
M. de La Clue's squadron was forced by the vigilance of Admiral Osborn into Cartagena and was there blockaded.
The French Government, in response to M. de La Clue's representations, sent 5 ships of the line and a frigate, under M. Duquesne, to endeavour to join him there and then to assist him in breaking the blockade.
On February 6, de La Clue set off from Cartagena with 8 ships of the line and 1 frigate and cruised at large.
On February 19, Osborn’s and de La Clue’s squadrons ssighted each other and de La Clue returned to Cartagena.
Duquesne sailed from Toulon with the following vessels:
- Foudroyant (80), flagship of Duquesne with 800 men
- Orphée (64), M. de Herville with 500 men
- Oriflamme (56)
- Pléiade (24)
On February 25, Duquesne arrived off Cartagena and signalled de La Clue to join him. The latter refused to receive orders from a junior officer.
Duquesne’s detachment was blown westward on Osborn’s squadron.
At daybreak on February 28, off Cape de Gata, Osborn sighted Duquesne’s 4 sail near his fleet and ordered them to be chased, leaving a few ships off Carthagena to watch the French ships there. Duquesne's ships separated but each was pursued.
At 7:00 p.m., the Revenge (64) brought the Orphée (64) to action and, on the Berwick (70) and Preston (50) coming up, the enemy struck. In the Revenge, 33 were killed and 54 wounded, among the latter being captain Storr. The Orphée was but 10 km from Cartagena when she hauled down around 10:00 p.m.
Meanwhile the Monmouth (64), the Swiftsure (70) and the Hampton Court (70) chased the largest of the enemy, the Foudroyant (80). The Monmouth, being far ahead of her consorts, got up with and engaged the French ship at 8:00 p.m. and fought her gallantly. When Gardiner fell his place was taken by Lieutenant Robert Carkett till 12.30 a.m., when the Frenchman's guns were reduced to silence. Not until then was the Swiftsure able to get up. Captain Stanhope hailed the foe to know whether she had surrendered but was answered with a few guns and a volley of small arms, whereupon he poured in a broadside and part of a second, and the enemy promptly surrendered. She had 100 killed and 90 wounded, while the Monmouth lost only 28 killed and 79 wounded. It was a magnificently conducted action, Lieutenant Carkett had fought the Foudroyant so courageously that Admiral Osborn conferred on him the command of this ship after her capture.
The Oriflamme (56) was driven ashore under the castle of Aguilas by the Monarch (74) and the Montagu (60). The Oriflamme was not destroyed by reason of neutrality of the coast of Spain. The last, the Pléiade (24) got away by outsailing the British ships.
On March 5, the Pléiade (24) finally reached Cartagena.
In the spring, Rear-Admiral Saunders was relieved by Rear-Admiral Thomas Broderick, who went out in the Prince George (90).
On April 13, the Prince George (90) was unhappily burnt by accident with a loss of 485 lives.
Osborn continued to blockade the French in Cartagena until he was obliged to go to Gibraltar to refit, leaving only some frigates to look out off the port. M. de La Clue then escaped and returned to Toulon.
A little later Osborn, being in bad health, had to resign his command. He was succeeded by rear-admiral Broderick.
On June 6, the Oriflamme (56), who had been refloated reached Toulon.
This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Anonymous, A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761, pp. 247-248
- Clowes, Wm. Laird, The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 189-190
Boscawen, Hugh: The Capture of Louisbourg, 1758, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2011, pp. 84-88