1702 – Siege of Cádiz

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Sieges >> 1702 – Siege of Cádiz

The campaign lasted from August to October 1702


At the time of the declaration of war in 1702, Thomas Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was Lord High Admiral of Great Britain. He was to have taken command in person of the main Anglo-Dutch fleet; but the Queen's appointment of Prince George of Denmark to supersede him, and the fact that Pembroke was a civilian, led to the command being eventually entrusted to Admiral Sir George Rooke. It was intended to open the war with an attack in force upon Cádiz. The purpose of this expedition was to occupy Cádiz and encourage a rising in Andalusia on behalf of the Habsburg candidate.

Under Rooke were Vice-Admiral Thomas Hopsonn, Rear-Admiral Sir Stafford Fairborne, and Rear-Admiral John Graydon, together with the five Dutch flag-officers, Lieutenant-Admiral P. van Almonde, Lieutenant-Admiral G. van Callenburgh, Vice-Admiral P. van der Goes, Vice-Admiral A. Pieterson and Rear-Admiral Jan Gerrit Baron van Wassenaer.

A powerful combined fleet (some 160 sail) was assembled:

  • 30 British ships-of-the-line under Admiral Sir George Rooke
  • 20 Dutch ships-of the line under Lieutenant-Admiral van Almonde
    • Meuse Squadron under Vice Admiral Van der Goes
      • Dordrecht (72), Captain Barend van der Pott
      • Zeven Provincien (92), Captain Starrenburgh (Vice-Admiral P. van der Goes' flagship)
      • Veluwe (64), Captain Baron van Wassenaer
      • Holland (72)
      • Wassenaer (66)
      • Prinses Amelia (64)
    • Amsterdam Squadron under Lieutenant-Admiral van Almonde
      • Vrijheid (96) (Lieutenant-Admiral van Almonde’s flagship)
      • Hardenbroek (50)
      • 't Loo (64)
      • Reigersbergen (72), Captain Lijnslager
      • Unie (94) (Lieutenant-Admiral Callenburgh and Vice-Admiral Baron J. G. van Wasseuaer's flagship)
      • Gouda (64), Captain Somelsdijk
      • Katwijk (72), Captain Beeckman
    • Northern Squadron under Lieutenant-Admiral Callenberg
      • Beschermer (90)
      • Wulverhorst (50)
      • Utrecht (64)
      • Maagd van Enkhuizen (74)
      • Wapen van Arnhem (66)
      • Wapen van Alkmaar (72) (Vice-Admiral Anthonij Pietersen's flagship)
      • Slot Muiden (72), Captain Schrijver
  • 12 British frigates, including:
    • Albion
  • 3 Dutch frigates
  • 7 British fireships, including:
    • Hunter
    • Lightning
  • 3 Dutch fireships
  • 5 British bombs
  • 3 Dutch bombs
  • 57 troop transports, including:
    • Ruby
    • Prince of Orange
  • 5 hospital ships and tenders

On board the ships were embarked 9,663 British and 3,924 Dutch troops under General the Duke of Ormonde and Major-General Baron de Sparre.

Note: unless specifically noted, the number of men includes officers

As the Anglo-Dutch were preparing this amphibious expedition, a French army of 19 bns and 19 sqns under General Puynormand was marching towards Spain to reinforce the army of Philip V. This army consisted of:


Map of the Anglo-Dutch expedition against Cádiz in 1702 published in Wikimedia Commons by user Rebel Redcoat and released in the public domain


On 21 June 1702, this great Anglo-Dutch fleet weighed from Spithead and anchored at St. Helens.

On 24 June, Rear-Admirals Fairborne and Graydon, with a squadron (4 British men-of-war and 10 Dutch men-of-war), were detached to look into Corunna (present-day A Coruña) and, if they found any French ships in that port, to blockade them there.

On July 12, the main body of the Anglo-Dutch fleet sailed from Spithead.

On July 18, the main body of the Anglo-Dutch fleet put into Torbay.

On 2 August, the main body of the Anglo-Dutch fleet, delayed by various causes, finally got clear of the Channel.

On 18 August, the Anglo-Dutch fleet was in view of Lisbon. It staid at the mouth of the Tagus for a full day before sailing away.

On 19 August, Fairborne and Graydon after having found nothing in Corunna and cruised and taken several prizes, rejoined Sir George Rooke.

Prince Georg of Hessen-Darmstadt, sailing aboard the Adventure (42), joined the Allied fleet off Cabo de São Vicente. Along with Paul Methuen, the British envoy at Lisbon, he informed Rooke that Cádiz would be an easy prey. However, the admiral had learned from a captured fisherman that the place had a strong garrison. In fact, Cádiz was defended by the governor of Andalusia and of the Island of León, Captain-General Don Francisco del Castillo, Marquis de Villadarias with a weak garrison of only 300 men, the command of Scipio Brancaccio. Another force of some 300 men was posted along the coast.

On 23 August, Rooke proceeded and anchored in the Bay of Bulls, about 10 km from Cádiz. The French men-of-war and the galleys, which had lain in the Bay, retired into the Puntal Road. Fairborne was for closely following these ships as they retired into Puntal Road and offered to lead the movement, but Sir George Rooke refused his consent.

Cádiz is located on a narrow point of land at the north-western extremity of the Island of León which, in these days, was still separated from the continent. This point forms a large bay itself separated in two parts by the Point of Matagorda. The western part of the bay was known as the bay of Cádiz and formed the outer harbour; while the eastern part was designated as the Bay of Puntal, forming the inner harbour.

Cádiz was fortified but not an especially strong place. A few bastions, oriented towards the port entrance, were linked with Fort Santa Catalina (Fort St Catherine on our plan). Defensive works also extended along the beach of Santa Maria (St Mary on our plan). The points of Puntal and of Matagorda separating the two parts of the bay were fortified and the channel between these two forts (Fort San Lorenzo aka Fort Puntal, and Fort Matagorda) was known as the Puntal Road, giving access to the inner harbour. Furthermore, Spanish galleys, under Count Fernán Núñez, formed a line of defence between the docks and the Porto Real.

Although two or three councils of war had been held after the Allied fleet had quitted the Channel, there seems to have still been no definite plan of action. Certain it is that the leaders of the Allies were very much in the dark, not only as to the situation of affairs on shore and as to the state of the garrison and fortifications, but also as to the natural conformation of the coast upon which they were about to attempt a landing in spite of the fact that the expedition had been many months in preparation.

Sir Thomas Smith, quartermaster-general of the Allied army, reported after a reconnaissance that there were three bays favourable for landing troops on the Island of León where Cádiz stood. Another council of war was held in the Bay of Bulls but it was determined not to land in these places.

Cádiz was summoned, but the governor civilly declined to surrender the place; and again a council of war was held. Villadarias supplied the place and called for the provincial militia. The nobility of Córdoba and Seville assembled some 550 horse while the militia provided a few thousands men. He also sank two ships at the entrance of the harbour.

On 24 August, the British sounded the coast between Rota and Fort Matagorda under the fire of the cannon of San Felipe and of the Candelaria Bastion. Brancaccio sent eight galleys from Cádiz to observe the Allied ships.

On the morning 25 August, two Allied ships sailed by Rota and entered into the bay, approaching Fort Canuelos on the shore facing Cádiz. In the evening, the entire Allied fleet appeared under sail; a part entered into the bay and took position opposite Cadiz; while the other part retreated.

On the morning of 26 August, Allied troops embarked aboard landing boats. A landing was then effected near Rota, on the mainland to the north of the island. The Spanish guns of Fort Santa Catalina opened a lively fire and a heavy swell impeded the operation, 25 landing boats were overturned and 20 men drowned. Aided, however, by a covering fire from the Lenox (70) and from several small craft, Colonel Palland at the head of 1,200 grenadiers obtained a footing on shore and drove back the armed peasants defending the batteries. Spanish patrols occupying heights overlooking the beach were also driven away by the fire from the supporting vessels. Prince Georg of Hessen-Darmstadt was the first general to set foot on the Spanish soil, soon followed by General Count Donegal and by the Dutch General Saint-Amand. Four irregular Spanish sqns under Vallaro were supposed to attack the Allies before they could deploy. However, the proximity of the enemy seriously damped the ardour of these unexperimented troops and Vallaro soon found himself at the head of only 30 horse... Nevertheless, Vallaro hurled himself against a detachment of 50 British grenadiers. Himself and 12 men fell victims of the steady fire of the grenadiers and the rest of his units took flight. In these operations, the British lost only 16 men. Meanwhile, Villadarias was tireless, constantly moving his troops and militia so that the Allies started to be quite uncertain about the strength of their enemy and began to retire towards Puerto Santa Maria (Port St Mary on our plan), redirecting their march on the way towards Rota. Priests prophesied the destruction of the sanctuaries, the robbery of the churches by the Protestant soldiers and encouraged the population to flee. Accordingly, countrymen and inhabitants fled everywhere. Villadarias threw himself into Puerto Santa Maria with a militia detachment. As the Allies approached Rota, the governor of the place declared himself for the Habsburg. Prince Georg of Hessen-Darmstadt rewarded him with the title of marquis.

On 27 August, Rota surrendered without further fighting. A few cannon and 1,000 muskets were captured in the place. In the meantime, yet another council of war was being held afloat. A scheme, the carrying out of which was to depend upon various contingencies, was formulated for the bombardment of Cádiz but never put into execution.

Prince Georg published a manifesto, inviting Spaniards to join the cause of Charles of Austria. Spanish authorities threatened to hang anyone caught in possession of this manifesto.

To get access to the inner harbour, the Allies now had to advance along the fortified Andalusian coast and make themselves masters of Fort Matagorda. Therefore, their next objective was to attack Fort Santa Catalina and the village of Puerto Santa Maria, standing on their way towards Fort Matagorda.

On 28 August, the Allied fleet cannonaded Fort Santa Catalina while the cavalry and the artillery were disembarked. Villadarias armed all valid hands and threw additional troops into Santa Catalina. Reinforcements were pouring into Cádiz from all sides; the City of Sevilla alone contributed 1,000 men.

On 30 August, the Allied fleet began a rather ineffectual bombardment of Fort Santa Catalina. A few French galleys under the command of Captain Valbelle cruised the outer harbour to observe the operations of the Allies and returned unmolested.

On 31 August, Allied troops slightly delayed by a small troop of Spanish cavalry, advanced against the deserted town of Puerto Santa Maria which was full of warehouses belonging to the rich merchants of Cádiz. The Allied army entered into Puerto Santa Maria and, after some street fighting with a handful of defenders, made itself master of the town. Soldiers found spoil and wine in plenty and, owing to the unwise leniency of Ormonde and the evil example of certain other general officers, the men behaved in the most disgraceful and abominable manner. Such seamen as had been put ashore conducted themselves not less shamefully and it is not surprising that the violent and licentious proceedings of the champions of Charles of Austria disgusted all the local adherents of that prince, and fortified the friends of Philip V in their hostility to the other claimant. During their stay in Puerto Santa Maria, Allied soldiers committed many excesses, rifling churches and forcibly entering a convent of nuns.

Prince Georg complained about the conduct of Henry Belasys Henry Belasys (Ormonde's second-in-command), O'Hara, and the Dutch Baron Sparre, whom he held responsible for the gross misconduct of the troops.

On 2 September, Fort Santa Catalina, to the southward of Puerto Santa Maria, was once more bombarded. Some 200 bombs fell on the small fort which finally surrendered to Colonel Pierce: 25 men were immediately taken prisoners of war while another 300 men who had attempted to rejoin Villadarias' forces were captured on their way. With the capture of this fort, the Allied fleet could easily enter into the outer harbour.

On 3 September, Rear-Admiral Fairborne enter into the outer bay with 16 ships-of-the-line and a few frigates.

On 7 September, 30 additional Allied vessels and a few bombs advanced towards the inner bay where 3 French ships-of-the-line and eight galleys had taken refuge. The Allied vessels set Fort San Lorenzo and Fort Matagorda afire while keeping safe distance. The Allies planned to launch an attack on these two forts with troops landed on the south-east side of the peninsula of Trocadero. To facilitate the landing, the Allies made a diversionary landing at the mouth of the Rio Santo Pedro where General-Quartermaster Smith had wished to effect the main landing. The detachment landed at the mouth of the Rio San Pedro then advanced immediately to Puerto Reale where it intended to seize the bridge of Suazo. Meanwhile, General Sparre attacked Fort Matagorda with 4,000 men. The swampy terrain barely allowed Sparre to plant 2 cannon and 2 mortars in front of the fort. His troops were very badly covered and the forts of San Luis on the Trocadero and Matagorda could both fire on them. The Spanish galleys under Nuñez also took part in the defence of the fort.

The Spaniards boomed and obstructed the entrance of the inner bay and strengthened their defences.

Operations against Fort Matagorda lasted until 15 September when French galleys also joined the defenders. The besiegers had already lost a great number of men. On that day, the Allies launched a strong attack against the barrier of the inner harbour behind which the French and Spanish ships were positioned. The ships charged to break the barrier were driven back with heavy damage. Spanish militias and regulars arrived from all sides and the situation of the Allies became perilous. In this operation the Allies lost 32 men killed and 33 wounded.

On the night of 16 to 17 September, Sparre abandoned the entrenchments around Fort Matagorda. He set Porto Reale afire, evacuated the Trocadero peninsula and marched towards Puerto Santa Maria.

After their failure in front of Matagorda, the Allies held a council of war where it was decided to abandon the siege of Cádiz.

From 22 September, the Allies started to re-embark their troops. Fort Santa Catalina was completely destroyed. Villadarias with his militia, supported by 500 men sent by Brancaccio from Cádiz, progressed steadily towards Puerto Santa Maria.

The British troops occupying Puerto Santa Maria launched a last attack against a French frigate, the Espagnolette, who had taken refuge in the Guadalete River. They captured the frigate and burned her.

At 11:00 a.m. on 24 September, the Allied cavalry along with the infantry vanguard and rearguard, and the train set off from Puerto Santa Maria and marched to Rota.

On 26 September, the rest of the Allied troops marched to Rota for re-embarkation. The stores at Puerto Santa Maria and Rota were destroyed and the Allied army was re-embarked. They were closely followed by Villadarias who recaptured Rota and seized a large quantity of arms and baggage and took 300 men prisoners. The former governor was sentenced to death and executed as a traitor.

By 27 September, re-embarkation was completed.

On 28 September, another council of war was held on board the Ranelagh. The Allied commanders decided not to essay an attack upon any other place in Spain, but to return to England, after detaching to the West Indies, under Captain Hovenden Walker of the Burford, a small squadron (6 ships), and 6 transports carrying 4 regiments, which it had been previously determined to send thither.

On 30 September, the Anglo-Dutch fleet finally left the neighbourhood of Cádiz.

On 2 October, several British vessels belonging to the fleet were sent into Lagos Bay to water. One of these was the Pembroke (60). Her chaplain, a Mr. Beauvoir, was among the officers who went on shore. By accident he encountered, and struck up an acquaintance with the French Consul, a boastful person, who, in his anxiety to magnify the power of France, injudiciously hinted that, not far off, King Louis, unknown to the Allies, had a considerable force of ships, and that with them, in perfect safety, were certain Spanish galleons which had lately arrived from the Indies. Mr. Beauvoir, a gentleman of much tact, seized an opportunity of obtaining corroborative evidence that M. de Chateaurenault, from Brest, with ships and galleons, was in Vigo Bay. Having secured as much intelligence as possible, he hurried on board, roused Captain Hardy, who was in bed, and told him the news, which was then, by direction of the senior officer, sent off to Sir George Rooke.

On 4 October, Captain Walker was signalled to part company.


On 17 October, the Pembroke (60) of Captain Hardy finally discovered the Franco-Spanish fleet. The Allied admirals, after having held the inevitable council of war, decided that it was their duty to attack this fleet.

On 23 October, in the ensuing Battle of Vigo Bay, the Anglo-Dutch fleet fell in with the plate-fleet at Vigo, of which they captured 25 galleons containing treasure worth a million sterling. Comforted by this good fortune Rooke and Ormonde sailed homeward, and dropped anchor safely in Portsmouth harbour.


This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 4, Vienna 1877, pp. 573-590
  • Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Thirty-Sixth or The Herefordshire Regiment of Foot, London: Parker, Furnivall & Parker, 1853, p. 5
  • 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. 377-381
  • Spanish Succession, War of the, in Encyclopaedia Britannica (c1910-1922), Vol. 25, pp. 606-607
  • Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army, Vol. I, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 406-407
  • History of Queen Anna reign. Year the 1st. London, 1703. Appendix. P. 10-11
  • MacKinson, Daniel: Origin and services of the Coldstream Guards, vol. 1, London: Richard Bentley, 1833, pp. 279-283
  • Trimen, Richard: An Historical Memoir of the 35th Royal Sussex Regiment of Foot, Southampton Times, 1873, pp. 3-6

Other Sources

Arre Caballo - Guerra de Sucesión Española. Campañas en 1.702