1705-03-21 – Combat of Cabrita Point
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Prelude to the Battle
Since September 1704, a Franco-Spanish force had laid siege to Gibraltar. Since then, the Allies had managed to bring reinforcements and supplies to the fortress.
In January 1705, King Philip V replaced the Marquis de Villadarias by the Maréchal de Tessé at the head of his armies in the hope that he would reconquer Gibraltar. Since the siege could only succeed if a naval force prevented any resupply from the sea, Tessé ordered Admiral de Pointis to blockade Gibraltar with his naval squadron.
On 25 February, a French squadron (14 men-of-war, 2 fireships) under de Pointis sailed for the Bay of Gibraltar to assist in the prosecution of the siege.
On 11 March, de Pointis’ fleet reached Gibraltar. Prince Georg of Hessen-Darmstadt, who commanded at Gibraltar, asked Sir John Leake, who was at Lisbon with an Allied fleet, for assistance.
On 17 March, Leake quitted Lisbon with 23 British men-of-war, 4 Dutch men-of-war and 8 Portuguese men-of-war.
On 18 March, most of the French ships, to the exception of 5 ships were driven from their anchors several days before Leake's arrival, and were believed to be in Malaga Road.
On 20 March at noon, Leake’s fleet sighted Cape Spartel and lay by to avoid discovery from the Spanish shore.
Description of Events
On 21 March at 5:30 a.m., Leake’s fleet, being within 4 km of Cabrita Point, saw 5 sail (Magnanime (74), Lys (84), Ardent (64), Arrogant (58) and Marquis (60)) coming out of the Bay of Gibraltar.
These ships were those which had managed to hold their position in the Bay of Gibraltar under Admiral de Pointis. The arrival of Leake’s fleet had taken them completely by surprise. They promptly cut their cables to avoid being trapped in the Bay of Gibraltar and made towards the Barbary shore, but, finding that they were being gained upon, stood for the Spanish coast.
At 9 a.m. Sir Thomas Dilkes, in the Revenge (70), with the Newcastle (50), Antelope (54), and a Dutch man-of-war got within gunshot of the Arrogant (58), which, after a slight resistance, struck.
Before 1:00 p.m., the Ardent (64) and the Marquis (60) were taken by two Dutch ships, and the Magnanime (74) and Lys (84) were driven ashore a little to the westward of Marbella. The Magnanime (74), in which de Pointis had his flag, ran ashore with so much force that all her masts went by the board.
The Ardent (64), the Arrogant (58) and the Marquis (60) had driven back three boarding attempts before striking.
The Magnanime (74) and the Lys (84) were subsequently burnt by the French.
The Arrogant (58) was added to the Royal Navy and first commissioned on March 25 1706, by Captain Sampson Bourne.
When the rest of de Pointis’ ships learned of the result of the engagement, they cut their cables and made for Toulon.
In consequence of these operations, the siege of Gibraltar was raised.
Order of Battle
Allied Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Vice-Admiral Sir John Leake
23 British men-of-war:
- Assurance (70)
- Bedford (70)
- Expedition (70)
- Revenge (70), flagship of Sir Thomas Dilkes
- Newcastle (50)
- Antelope (54)
- Leopard (54)
- Panther (54)
- Swallow (54)
- Tiger (48)
- Roebuck (42)
- Hampton-Court (70)
- Warspite (64)
- Yarmouth (70)
- Swiftsure (64)
- Nottingham (60)
- Pembroke (60)
- Colchester (54)
- Monck (58)
- Canterbury (60)
- Centurion (54)
- Greenwich (54)
- Garland (42)
- Lark (42)
Note: this bring the total of British ships to 24 instead of 23, the Roebuck might have been detached from the fleet...
4 Dutch men-of-war:
- Prinses Amelia (64)
- Schiedam (54)
- Vlissingen (54)
- Overijssel (52)
8 Portuguese men-of-war:
- Nossa Senhora da Esperanca (70) unidentified vessel
- Sao Joao de Deus (60)
- Nossa Senhora das Ondas (64) unidentified vessel
- Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres e Santo Antonio a Caste (60)
- Nossa Senhora da Assuncao (60)
- Nosse Senhora dos Remedios (60) unidentified vessel
- Nossa Senhora do Cabo (60)
- Nossa Senhora das Necessidades (50) unidentified vessel
- Newport (24) unidentified frigate
- Tartar (32)
Franco-Spanish Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Admiral Jean Dejeans, Baron de Pointis
- Arrogant (58), Des Herbiers de l'Eteuduère
- Marquis (60), De Mons
- Magnanime (74), flagship of Rear-Admiral de Pointis
- Lys (84), De Lanthier
- Ardent (64), De Patoulet
N.B.: the rest of de Pointis’ squadron was in the Malaga Road and did not take part in the combat.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Clowes, Wm. Laird: The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. II, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 406-407
Arre Caballo – Guerra de Sucesión Española. Campañas de 1.705
Blackmore, David S.T.: Warfare on the Mediterranean in the Age of Sail – A History, 1571–1866, 2011, pp. 113-114
Lapeyrouse Bonfils, Comte de: Histoire de la marine française, Vol. 2, Paris, 1845, pp. 51-52
Pointis: “Lettre écrite par Mr. de Pointis de Marbella le 22. Mars 1705. à un de ses amis” in Journal Historique sur les matieres du temps, vol. 2, pp. 311-314
Quincy, Charles Sevin: Histoire militaire du règne de Louis-le-Grand, roi de France, vol 4, Paris, 1726, pp. 452-454
- English Edition – Battle of Cabrita Point