1758 - Naval operations in the Mediterranean

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 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:

N. B.: other British ships joined the squadron during the year (the list includes the 2 unidentified ships, which already formed part of the initial squadron):

In November 1757, a French squadron under M. de La Clue left Toulon for North America and the West Indies. This squadron consisted of:

For much of 1757, the Orphée (64), Triton (64) and Fier (60) had been trapped at Malta by a British squadron. These ships had escaped at the end of the year.

A storm drove M. de La Clue's squadron into the Spanish port of Cartagena. He requested assistance from Toulon before running the Straits of Gibraltar.

On January 9, 1758, the Orphée (64), Triton (64) and Fier (60) arrived at Toulon but they needed repairs.

The French Government, in response to M. de La Clue's representations, intructed M. Duquesne, who had assumed interim command at Toulon after the departure of de La Clue, to try to join him at Cartagena and then to assist him in running the Straits.

On January 13, M. Duquesne received intelligence that a British convoy was leaving Livorno. He sent the Lion (64) and Souverain (74) to intercept it.

On January 25, the Lion (64) and Souverain (74), who had failed to intercept the British convoy, succeeded in getting in Cartagena.

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 14, Duquesne sailed from Toulon with the following vessels:

On February 19, Osborn’s and de La Clue’s squadrons sighted each other and de La Clue returned to Cartagena.

On February 25, Duquesne arrived off Cartagena. He tried to the port but a sudden storm forced him away. He then 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 (15 ships).

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.

At then end of April, Osborn was obliged to go to Gibraltar to refit, leaving only some frigates to look out off the port of Cartagena. 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.

The Lion (64) and Souverain (74) were later sent to Minorca and the Triton (64) to Malta.

On June 6, the Oriflamme (56), who had been refloated reached Toulon.

References

This article is essentially a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  1. 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
  2. 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

Dull, Jonathan R.: The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, p. 115, Appendix G