Battle of Cape Passaro

Last updated

Battle of Cape Passaro
Part of the War of the Quadruple Alliance
The Battle of Cape Passaro, 11 August 1718 RMG BHC0351.tiff
The Battle of Cape Passaro, 11 August 1718
by Richard Paton (oil on canvas, 1767)
Date11 August 1718
Cape Passaro, Sicily

36°41′13″N15°08′54″E / 36.6869°N 15.1483°E / 36.6869; 15.1483
Result Decisive British victory
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg  Great Britain Bandera de Espana 1701-1748.svg Kingdom of Spain
Commanders and leaders
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Sir George Byng
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Charles Cornewall
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg George de Lavall [1]
Bandera de Espana 1701-1748.svg Antonio de Gaztañeta
Bandera de Espana 1701-1748.svg Fernando Chacón
Bandera de Espana 1701-1748.svg George Camocke
22 ships of the line,
7 others,
1,444 guns,
9,000 crew members
15 ships of the line, 6 frigates,
4 bomb ships, 2 fire ships, 7 galleys, merchantmen
1,320 guns
10,000 crew
Casualties and losses
500 killed or wounded [2] 10 ships of the line captured,
4 ships of the line sunk or burnt,
4 frigates captured,
6 others captured, sunk or burnt.
2,400 killed or wounded,
3,600 captured [2]

The Battle of Cape Passaro (also known as Battle of Avola or Battle of Syracuse) was a major naval battle fought on 11 August 1718 between a fleet of the British Royal Navy under Admiral Sir George Byng and a fleet of the Spanish Navy under Vice-Admiral Antonio de Gaztañeta and Rear-Admiral Fernando Chacón. It was fought off Cape Passaro, in the southern tip of the island of Sicily of which Spain had occupied. Spain and Britain were at peace. but Britain was already committed to supporting the ambitions of the Emperor Charles VI in southern Italy.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

George Byng, 1st Viscount Torrington 17th and 18th-century Royal Navy admiral

Admiral of the Fleet George Byng, 1st Viscount Torrington, of Southill Park in Bedfordshire, was a Royal Navy officer and statesman. While still a lieutenant, he delivered a letter from various captains to Prince William of Orange, who had just landed at Torbay, assuring the Prince of the captains' support; the Prince gave Byng a response which ultimately led to the Royal Navy switching allegiance to the Prince and the Glorious Revolution of November 1688.

Spanish Navy Naval warfare branch of Spains military

The Spanish Navy is the maritime branch of the Spanish Armed Forces and one of the oldest active naval forces in the world. The Spanish navy was responsible for a number of major historic achievements in navigation, the most famous being the discovery of America by Spain and the first global circumnavigation by Magellan and Elcano. For several centuries, it played a crucial logistical role in the Spanish Empire and defended a vast trade network across the Atlantic Ocean between the Americas and Europe and across the Pacific Ocean between Asia and the Americas.


The battle was fought without a formal declaration of war but once the Spanish fired on the nearest British ships, this gave Byng his excuse to attack. The British were superior in numbers. The battle was the most significant naval action of the War of the Quadruple Alliance and resulted in a decisive victory for the British fleet, which captured or burned sixteen Spanish ships of line and frigates and several small vessels. Some of the Spanish ships were taken in the main action and some taken or burnt by their crews, who fled to the coast of Sicily. Both Castaneta and Chacon were captured. As a result of the battle the Spanish army in Sicily were thus isolated and cut off from outside help. Four months later the War of the Quadruple Alliance was formally declared.

War of the Quadruple Alliance war (1717–1720) between Spain and the Quadruple Alliance (Britain, France, Austria, the Dutch Republic), resulting in Quadruple Alliance victory and the Treaty of The Hague

The War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720) was caused by Spanish attempts to recover territorial losses agreed by the 1713 Peace of Utrecht. Primarily conducted in Italy, it included minor engagements in the Americas and Northern Europe, as well as the Spanish-backed 1719 Jacobite Rising.


Philip V of Spain around 1720. Oil on canvas by Miguel Jacinto Melendez in the Prado Museum. Felipe V, duque de Anjou.jpg
Philip V of Spain around 1720. Oil on canvas by Miguel Jacinto Meléndez in the Prado Museum.

On 11 April, 1713, after the War of the Spanish Succession, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed between France and the Kingdom of Great Britain, the United Provinces, the Kingdom of Prussia, the Kingdom of Portugal and the Duchy of Savoy. It marked the end of the Spanish Empire in Europe, as the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, the Duchy of Milan and Sardinia were ceded to Austria, the Kingdom of Sicily to Savoy, Gelderland to the Kingdom of Prussia, and Minorca and Gibraltar to Great Britain. France had succeeded in placing a king of her own royal house on a neighbouring throne, but the ambitions expressed in the wars of Louis XIV had been defeated and the European system based on the balance of power largely directed by Britain was preserved. [3]

War of the Spanish Succession 18th-century conflict in Europe

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was a European conflict of the early 18th century, triggered by the death of the childless Charles II of Spain in November 1700. His closest heirs were members of the Austrian Habsburg and French Bourbon families; acquisition of an undivided Spanish Empire by either threatened the European balance of power and thus involved the other leading powers. Related conflicts include Rákóczi's War of Independence in Hungary, the Camisard revolt in Southern France, Queen Anne's War in North America, and minor struggles in Colonial India. The 1700-1721 Great Northern War is viewed as connected but separate.

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Kingdom of Great Britain Constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707 and 1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 1 January 1801. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". Since its inception the kingdom was in legislative and personal union with Ireland and after the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

Giulio Alberoni Cardinale Giulio Alberoni.jpg
Giulio Alberoni

The British gains at the expense of the French and Spanish allowed it to strengthen her naval power. [3] Gibraltar and Port Mahon in the Mediterranean and the colonies of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in North America proved useful to extend and protect British trade. [4] [5] In comparison, the Spanish navy was old and many of their ships needed refitting. [6] Philip ordered more shipbuilding to commence in the American and Spanish shipyards. [7] The major political figure Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, who had come from the Duchy of Parma proceeded to reorganise the royal administration. [8] Alberoni had promised Philip to put Spain in a strong position to recover Sicily and Naples if there were five years of peace. Alberoni was even willing to help Philip V to overthrow the Regent of France, Philip of Orleans, and alienate that country in order to grant trade benefits to Britain with the aim of isolating Austria. [9]

Nova Scotia Province of Canada

Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime Provinces, and one of the four provinces that form Atlantic Canada. Its provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second-smallest of Canada's ten provinces, with an area of 55,284 square kilometres (21,300 sq mi), including Cape Breton and another 3,800 coastal islands. As of 2016, the population was 923,598. Nova Scotia is Canada's second-most-densely populated province, after Prince Edward Island, with 17.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (45/sq mi).

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Shipbuilding Construction of ships and floating vessels

Shipbuilding is the construction of ships and other floating vessels. It normally takes place in a specialized facility known as a shipyard. Shipbuilders, also called shipwrights, follow a specialized occupation that traces its roots to before recorded history.

The British monarch George I, who was also Elector of Hanover, felt threatened by Alberoni who thought he would undermine the power of Emperor Charles VI. Alberoni on hearing this withdrew all claims. This, together with Philip's claims over the French throne, turned Great Britain and France against Spain. [9] Both countries, jointly with the United Provinces, had formed the so-called Triple Alliance a year before to maintain the balance of power in the continent. [10] Meanwhile, both Austria and Spain were at loggerheads over Sicily. The British statesmen preferred the island to be ceded to their former ally rather than Spain. France, under the weakness of Philip of Orleans agreed, and it was proposed to modify the Treaty of Utrecht and force Victor Amadeus II of Savoy to exchange Sicily for Sardinia. The detention of the Spanish Grand Inquisitor José Molinés at Milan however by orders of the Emperor gave Spain a pretext to initiate military hostilities in Italy. [11]

George I of Great Britain King of Great Britain and Ireland

George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) in the Holy Roman Empire from 23 January 1698 until his death in 1727. He was the first British monarch of the House of Hanover.

The Triple Alliance was a treaty between the Dutch Republic, France and Great Britain, against Spain, attempting to maintain the agreement of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. The three states were concerned about Spain becoming a superpower in Europe. As a result of this, militarisation took place, causing great havoc to civilians. This enraged Spain and other states, leading to brinkmanship. It became the Quadruple Alliance the next year with the accession of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.

Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia King of Sardinia

Victor Amadeus II was Duke of Savoy from 1675 to 1730. He also held the titles of marquis of Saluzzo, duke of Montferrat, prince of Piedmont and count of Aosta, Moriana and Nice.


On 22 July 1717, a large Spanish fleet set sail from Barcelona [12] with an army led by the Flemish nobleman Lieutenant General Jean François de Bette, Marquis of Lede. [13] This force then captured the island of Sardinia. At the same time negotiations had ensued between Austria, Spain, and France in order to avoid a war. [11] The British and French envoys at the same time offered Philip V the Duchies of Parma and Tuscany, and also to renounce Charles VI's claim to the Spanish throne, if Philip abandoned Sicily and accepted Sardinia. In view of Alberoni's negatives, even Gibraltar was offered. The Cardinal was strengthening Spain's position in Europe by forming an alliance with Russia and Sweden, with the aim of restoring the House of Stuart to the British throne. [14]

Grand Duchy of Tuscany Former Italian state (1569–1801; 1815–1859)

The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was a central Italian monarchy that existed, with interruptions, from 1569 to 1859, replacing the Duchy of Florence. The grand duchy's capital was Florence. Tuscany was nominally a state of the Holy Roman Empire until the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), it is, by a considerable margin, the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund Strait. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. The capital city is Stockholm. Sweden has a total population of 10.3 million of which 2.5 million have a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi) and the highest urban concentration is in the central and southern half of the country.

Byng sent to the Mediterranean

Portrait of Jose Patino by Jean Ranc commander of the Spanish expedition JosePatinoMuseoNaval.jpg
Portrait of José Patiño by Jean Ranc commander of the Spanish expedition

In the early months of 1718 a large number of Royal Naval vessels began to be commissioned and refitted; this alarmed the Spanish ambassador, the Marquis of Monteleon. [15] Admiral George Byng, a man of long experience, was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean on 24 March. He was, upon his arrival there to inform the King of Spain, the Viceroy of Naples (at that time Count Wirich Philipp von Daun) and the Governor of Milan (the Prince Maximilian Karl of Löwenstein–Wertheim), that he had been sent to settle the differences between Spain and Austria.

Byng set sail from Spithead on 15 June with a fleet of twenty ships of line, two fireships, two bomb vessels, a store ship, a hospital ship and two tenders. [16] On 30 June he arrived at Cádiz and sent a letter to the British ambassador at Madrid, William Stanhope, informing Philip V of the presence of the British fleet. [17] Alberoni wrote Byng that if he attacked the Spanish fleet he should prepare for a humiliating defeat. Stanhope replied that Britain was acting only as a mediator. Nine days later, Alberoni wrote to Stanhope that Byng would execute his sovereign's orders. [16] [18]

Admiral Sir George Byng. Oil on canvas by Sir Godfrey Kneller George Byng (1663-1733), 1st Viscount Torrington.jpg
Admiral Sir George Byng. Oil on canvas by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Byng resumed his voyage and by 8 July the British fleet was rejoined off Cape Spartel by the two ships with news of the Spanish fleets departure from Barcelona on 18 June. [19] Byng was joined by Vice-admiral Charles Cornwall with a small division of two ships from Gibraltar, HMS Argyll and HMS Charles Galley. On 23 July Byng anchored off Port-Mahon and while reinforcing the garrison there was told that the Spanish fleet had been seen on 30 June off Naples. Two days later, the British fleet set sail, arriving at the Bay of Naples on 1 August. [19]

Spanish invasion of Sicily

On 18 June a Spanish expedition sailed from Barcelona consisting of twelve ships of line, seventeen frigates, seven galleys, two fireships, and two bomb vessels, plus 276 transports and 123 tartanes commanded by Admiral Antonio de Gaztañeta and the General Quartermaster of the Spanish navy, José Patiño Rosales. This fleet carried aboard 36,000 infantrymen and 8,000 horse, along with artillery, supplies, and ammunition again under the command of Marquis of Lede. [20] their objective was the island of Sicily. [21] On 30 June, having embarked reinforcements at the Bay of Cagliari between 25 and 27 June, the Spanish fleet came in sight of the city of Palermo. The Austrian force, surprised by Spanish numbers, evacuated Palermo. [21] A month later, most of the island had fallen to the Spaniards with little or nor resistance, with the exception of Messina and a few coastal fortresses. [19]

As Victor Amadeus II of Savoy had agreed to surrender Sicily to the Emperor, the Austrian Viceroy of Naples, Wirich Philipp von Daun, asked Byng to transport 2,000 German infantry under General Wetzel to the citadel of Messina. [22] Byng agreed and sailed from Naples on 6 August, while the Spanish fleet was anchored off Paradiso. [23]

Byng also proposed a "cessation of arms" in Sicily for two months, but Lede declined. With this offer rejected, Byng was left with no choice but to help the Imperialists and Savoyards resist Spanish attack. The British fleet arrived at Messina but were discovered by a Spanish felucca on 8 August, heading to the point of the Faro. [24] The Marquis of Mari warned Gaztañeta and Patiño of the inferiority of the Spanish fleet, and the Irish-born Squadron Chief George Cammock, a former officer in the British Royal Navy, proposed that the fleet anchor in the Paradiso roadstead where it could be assisted with shore batteries. [23] This defensive position would, according to Cammock, favour the Spanish ships, as the strong currents of the Faro would throw Byng over them, thus avoiding a feared long-range cannonade. Gaztañeta and Patiño, however, were confident of the peaceful intentions of Byng due to Alberoni's letters, and they decided to sail to Malta to join forces with Baltasar de Guevara. [25]

View of the Bay of Naples with Admiral Byng's Fleet at Anchor, 1 August 1718. Painting by Gaspar Butler. Admiral Byng's Fleet at Naples.jpg
View of the Bay of Naples with Admiral Byng's Fleet at Anchor, 1 August 1718. Painting by Gaspar Butler.


Fight against the Spanish rear

Esteban de Mari, Marquis of Mari. Anonymous copy of an 18th-century work. Esteban de Mari.jpg
Esteban de Mari, Marquis of Mari. Anonymous copy of an 18th-century work.
Admiral Nicholas Haddock painting possibly by Hans Hysing Admiral Nicholas Haddock, c. 1685-1746 RMG BHC2730.tiff
Admiral Nicholas Haddock painting possibly by Hans Hysing

The Spanish fleet sailed from the Faro Point in disorder. No defensive disposition was taken by Gaztañeta, except to leave behind two frigates to follow the British fleet in distance. [27] As Byng stood in off Faro Point, both ships were detected. At the same time, a felucca from the Calabrian coast informed the British admiral that the Spanish fleet had been seen from the hills laying in. Byng dispatched German troops they were carrying to Reggio under escort of two of his ships while he headed to Faro point and sent scouts ahead. At noon they discovered the Spanish fleet, drawn into a line of battle: 27 ships of the line and frigates, two fireships, four bomb-vessels, seven galleys, and several storeships. [28] Byng followed them during the rest of the day. A Spanish account of the battle said that, on the morning of 10 August, the Spanish ships saluted the British ones as they approached, not showing, therefore, any sign of belligerence. The night passed with fair weather; small winds and sometimes calm. [29] The following morning the Spanish fleet was dispersed, with ships divided into three large groups separated from each other. Gaztañeta tried then to form a line of battle by towing his ships of the line with the galleys, but had no time. [30]

The Marquis of Mari, who commanded the Spanish rear, had under his command various warships: the ship of line El Real, the frigates San Isidro, Tigre, Águila de Nantes, two bomb-vessels, a fireship, and some storeships, besides the galley squadron. Mari had lagged behind and was near the shore off Avola. [30] The British vessels were close to them, and Byng dispatched Captain George Walton of HMS Canterbury with five more vessels to chase them. HMS Argyll fired two shots near De Mari's El Real, while Canterbury fired three more. Then, Mari's ship returned fire and the battle ensued with British at an advantage. [29] The Marquis, having his ship badly mauled by the British gunfire, resolved to drive his squadron ashore, and later set fire to the ships to avoid capture. His own ship sustained fifty casualties, killed and wounded, and had her rigging severely damaged. She was ran aground and her crew escaped inland, but the ship was refloated by her British captors. Two of the Spanish frigates were completely burned; their crews also escaped. Sorpresa, under Captain Miguel de Sada, was the only ship which offered battle, but were forced to surrender, having sustained heavy damage and casualties. The other Spanish vessels struck their colours after a brief engagement, following which the British took possession of them. [30]

Attack on the Spanish centre

The Spanish flagship San Felipe flanked on either side by British ships, probably Superbe and Kent - painting by Isaac Sailmaker. Cape Passaro 1718.jpg
The Spanish flagship San Felipe flanked on either side by British ships, probably Superbe and Kent - painting by Isaac Sailmaker.
Antonio de Gaztaneta Antonio Gaztaneta.jpg
Antonio de Gaztañeta

With the Spanish rear now severed from the main fleet, Byng committed most of his vessels in pursuing Gaztañeta's squadron, which continued its way towards Cape Passaro. The Spanish admiral had with him six ships of the line and four frigates, but had not succeeded in forming a line of battle. HMS Oxford and HMS Grafton were the first two British ships of the line to engage Gaztañeta's centre. At 10 AM, as they approached, the disorganised Spanish vessels opened fire. The two British ships returned fired, having been ordered by Byng not to fire until the Spaniards repeated their firing. [32] Oxford fell upon the 64-gun Santa Rosa and took her after a murderous cannonade, supported by other British ships in the distance. The 60-gun San Carlos struck her colours to Captain Thomas Matthews' HMS Kent, having made little resistance. Captain Nicholas Haddock's Grafton, meanwhile, confronted Príncipe de Asturias (formerly HMS Cumberland), under Chief of Squadron Fernando Chacón, together with HMS Breda and HMS Captain. Príncipe de Asturias was left almost shattered by Grafton and had most of her crew killed or injured, including Chacón, who was wounded in the face by splinters. [33] The ship surrendered to Breda and Captain while Grafton moved to engage another Spanish ship of sixty guns on his starboard. [32]

At 1 PM, Gaztañeta's flagship, the 74-gun San Felipe, was attacked by Kent and soon after by Superb, from which she received two broadsides. A running fight took place for two hours between the Spanish admiral's ship, supported by three others, and Byng's division of seven ships of line and a fireship. [34] Gaztañeta held off his pursuers until Kent, bearing down under his stern, fired a broadside and fell to the leeward while Superb fell simultaneously on his weather-quarter. [32] San Felipe, which could only return fire with her after guns, was left dismasted and had its hull severely mauled, but Gaztañeta was unwilling to surrender. Byng's HMS Barfleur came close to San Felipe, and Byng demanded that Gaztañeta strike his colours or Byng would dispatch one of his fireships against San Felipe. [35] Gaztañeta refused and responded with a broadside. The British fired back and he received a shot which pierced his left leg and wounded his right heel. Volante, commanded by Captain Antonio Escudero, attempted to relieve San Felipe. staying close to her with the aim to attract some of the British fire upon herself. [33] Pierced by the fire of three British ships, she struck to HMS Montague and HMS Rupert at nightfall. [36] San Felipe, having 200 men out of action, amongst them flag captain Pedro Dexpois, who had been hit by the shattered bones of a sailor cut in half by a cannonball, also surrendered. [35] Of the remaining ships of Gaztañeta's squadron, Juno meanwhile had been taken by HMS Essex after a three-hour fight.

Portrait of Sir George Walton, by Bartholomew Dandridge Sir George Walton.jpg
Portrait of Sir George Walton, by Bartholomew Dandridge

Guevara's arrival and retreat

In almost total darkness, Gaztañeta's San Felipe struck her colours. Baltasar de Guevara, in San Luis with another ship of line, came in sight of the Spanish flagship, which had been alerted by the gunfire. Guevara's two ships bore down windward of them and exchanged a broadside with Byng's Barfleur. [36] Told that San Felipe had surrendered, Guevara charged upon the wind and committed himself to collect the few Spanish ships still fighting on. The frigate Perla under Captain Gabriel Alderete, was relieved and allowed to escape from the three British ships. Together with another frigate, San Juan el Chicho, they left the battle, and headed towards Malta. [33] Byng pursued them for sometime, but given the fading light and low wind, he decided to stay with his fleet. [36] George Cammock, convinced of the defeat, set sail to the Venetian island of Corfu with his flagship San Fernando and a frigate.

An aerial view of the battle by Peter Monamy The Battle of Cape Passaro, 11 August 1718 RMG PW5730.tiff
An aerial view of the battle by Peter Monamy

Francisco Grimau's seven galleys, taking advantage of favourable winds, retired to Palermo. The ships which managed to escape were, besides the galleys, four ships of the line, nine frigates, a bomb galley, and one of Pintado's ships. [37] The 64-gun Santa Isabel, under Captain Andrea Reggio, was pursued all through the night and surrendered the next morning to Rear Admiral George Delaval. [38] The British, in contrast, sustained trifling damage with no more than 500 killed or wounded all told. Of Byng's fleet, the ship which suffered the most damage was Grafton; but she had engaged and disabled several Spanish vessels. The necessary repairs of the Royal Navy ships, mostly in the rigging, and those relating to prizes taken, were done over the following days. [39] On 18 August Byng received a letter from Captain Walton:

Sir, We have taken and destroyed all the Spanish ships and vessels which were upon the coast, the number as per margin.

20, 20, Captain George Walton Canterbury, off Syracuse, August 16, 1718. [39]

End of the battle

Walton had succeeded in capturing, by his own account, four men-of-war, a bomb vessel and a storeship in addition to burning four other men-of-war. [40] Having repaired his damaged ships, Byng entered the port of Syracuse, then held by Savoyard troops under the Count of Maffei and blockaded by the Spanish army. [41] From there Byng dispatched five captured Spanish ships of the line and four Spanish frigates to Port-Mahon under a heavy escort. One of his ships, Gatzañeta's San Felipe, took fire accidentally and blew up with most of his crew; 160 British and 50 Spaniards. [42] According to Spanish accounts, shortly after the action, a captain of the British fleet made a complaint to the Marquis of Lede in the name of Byng, stating that the Spaniards had fired first. [37] Gaztañeta and his officers were dispatched to Augusta in a felucca, having taken an oath not to take up arms against the Habsburg armies for four months. Of the haul of Spanish prisoners taken – 2,600 who were wounded or sick, were also freed. [43] Of the Spanish ships which escaped to Malta, where the Sicilian galleys under the Marquis of Rivaroles were still anchored. [44] The Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, the Catalan Ramon Perellos y Roccaful, was a sympathiser of the House of Habsburg and refused entry to the Spanish. [33]


Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1716. Portrait by Jan Kupecky. Byng's victory over the Spanish fleet ensured him the Sicilian throne. Charles VI 1716.jpg
Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1716. Portrait by Jan Kupecký. Byng's victory over the Spanish fleet ensured him the Sicilian throne.

Having achieved his goal of destroying or capturing the bulk of Spanish fleet, Byng, then anchored at Malta. He was resolved to commit all his efforts to lift the Siege of Messina but to his surprise, even though German reinforcements broke through to the citadel, the Marquis d'Andorno surrendered on 29 September. The Marquis of Lede then held all of Sicily except the towns of Syracuse, Melazzo, and Trapani, held by considerable Savoyard garrisons for the following months. [41] Byng detached four of his ships to eliminate Cammock's surviving ships and blockade the Spanish army. In the harbour of Augusta, the British attacked a convoy of small vessels and forced the Spaniards to burn a bomb vessel and a fireship. Off Palermo, HMS Grafton captured two Genoese vessels which had sailed from Porto Longone with a corps of Swiss mercenaries, munitions, and gunpowder. A third vessel ran aground when approached by HMS Lennox near Castellammare del Golfo and was set on fire, though its crew managed to land 240 men, 700 flintlocks and some gunpowder. [43]

As Byng's attack had virtually destroyed the Spanish fleet at Cape Passaro, the Spanish situation at Sicily considerably worsened over the months following the battle. [41] Their army was isolated on the island, so the War Ministry informed Lede that they couldn't send troops or supplies. [43] The blow was felt so severe by Alberoni that he banned the circulation of any information on the expedition and took measures against Great Britain, although he did not immediately declare war. He requested that ambassador Monteleone was to leave London and gave orders to issue letters of marque to privateers and to seize all British vessels and goods in the ports of Spain. [45] This was a task in which Baltasar de Guevera played a major role when he entered the port of Cádiz with his few surviving ships. [46] In the meantime, Byng sent his eldest son to England with a full account of the battle. When he was at Naples in November, he received a letter written personally by Emperor Charles VI:

Medal commemorating the Battle made in 1718 - The Spanish fleet destroyed by Jupiter and Neptune The gods are symbolic of the Emperor (Charles VI) and the King (George I) Cape Passaro medal1718.jpg
Medal commemorating the Battle made in 1718 - The Spanish fleet destroyed by Jupiter and Neptune The gods are symbolic of the Emperor (Charles VI) and the King (George I)

Admiral Sir George Byng,
I have received with a great deal of joy and satisfaction, by the bearer of this, yours of the 18th of August. As soon as I knew you was named by the king your master to command his fleet in the Mediterranean, I conceived the greatest hopes imaginable from that very circumstance. The glorious success yon have had surpasses, however, my expectations. You have given, upon this occasion, very singular proofs of your courage, conduct, and seal for the common cause: the glory you obtain from thence it indeed great, and yet my gratitude falls nothing short thereof, as Count Hamilton will fully inform you. You may always depend upon the continuance of my thankfulness and affection towards you: may God have yon always in his holy keeping.

20, 20, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor Vienna, October 22, 1718. [47]

On 26 December Great Britain declared war on Spain, France did the same soon after on 9 January the following year. [48] In spite of the unfavourable turn of events, Alberoni was even more unwilling than at first to accept the terms dictated by the Quadruple alliance. To reverse the course of the war, Alberoni began to collect armaments and shipping at Cádiz and Corunna for an expedition to Britain itself. [49] He sought alliance with King Charles XII of Sweden, he obtained the support of the Jacobite pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart. His plan was an invasion of the western England by 5,000 men under British turncoat James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde. [50] To deter Swedish involvement, Britain dispatched a squadron of ten ships of the line led by John Norris to the Baltic. [51] The Swedish ships remained at their ports, and no naval action took place. [52] Moreover, on 11 December Charles XII was killed by a cannonball at the Siege of Fredriksten, and Spain was deprived of its only potential ally. [45] Alberoni decided to continue the project and entrusted the command of the fleet destined to England to Baltasar de Guevara. [53] Off Cape Finisterre the expedition was dispersed in a long and violent storm which sank several ships and scattered the fleet. [49] Three frigates and five transports with troops reached Scotland and disembarked about 400 men, but they were promptly defeated at the Battle of Glenshiel. [54]

Order of battle

Britain (Admiral Sir George Byng)

Total was 1 of 90 guns, 2 of 80 guns, 9 of 70 guns, 7 of 60 guns, 2 of 50 guns, 1 of 44 guns. The British fleet also comprised 6 smaller vessels – the fireships Garland (Samuel Atkins) and Griffin (Humphrey Orme), the storeship Success (Francis Knighton), the hospital ship Looe (Timothy Splaine), the bomb-ketch Basilisk (John Hubbard) and an unnamed bomb tender.

Spain (Vice-Admiral Don José Antonio de Gaztañeta)

Total was one 74-gun, 1 70-gun, 8 60-gun, 1 54-gun, 2 46-gun, 2 44-gun, 2 36-gun, 3 30-gun, one 26-gun, one 24-gun, one 22-gun, two 20-gun, and one 18-gun. The Spanish fleet also included three bomb ships, a fireship, one ordnance store ship, three ordinary store ships, a settee, and seven galleys.

See also

Related Research Articles

Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1780) 1780 naval battle between the UK and Spain

The Battle of Cape St. Vincent was a naval battle that took place off the southern coast of Portugal on 16 January 1780 during the Anglo-Spanish War. A British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney defeated a Spanish squadron under Don Juan de Lángara. The battle is sometimes referred to as the Moonlight Battle because it was unusual for naval battles in the Age of Sail to take place at night. It was also the first major naval victory for the British over their European enemies in the war and proved the value of copper-sheathing the hulls of warships.

Battle of Palermo Naval battle during the Franco-Dutch War

The naval Battle of Palermo took place on 2 June 1676 during the Franco-Dutch War, between a French force sent to support a revolt in the city of Messina against the Spanish rule in Sicily, and a Spanish force supported by a Dutch maritime expedition force.

Spanish ship <i>Fenix</i> (1749) spanish ship

Fénix was an 80-gun ship of the line (navio) of the Spanish Navy, built by Pedro de Torres at Havana in accordance with the system laid down by Antonio Gaztaneta launched in 1749. In 1759, she was sent to bring the new king, Carlos III, from Naples to Barcelona. When Spain entered the American Revolutionary War in June 1779, Fénix set sail for the English Channel where she was to join a Franco-Spanish fleet of more than 60 ships of the line under Lieutenant General Luis de Córdova y Córdova. The Armada of 1779 was an invasion force of 40,000 troops with orders to capture the British naval base at Portsmouth.

Henry Inman (Royal Navy officer) British Royal Navy officer during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, serving in the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars

Captain Henry Inman was a British Royal Navy officer during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, serving in the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Inman's service in the American war was punctuated by three shipwrecks: the burning of HMS Lark off Rhode Island in the face of a superior French squadron, the grounding of HMS Santa Monica on Tortola and the foundering of Hector following an engagement with two French ships in the Mid-Atlantic. After the war he was placed in reserve until the Spanish Armament of 1790, when he was given command of the 14-gun cutter HMS Pygmy stationed off the Isle of Man.

Raid on Dunkirk (1800)

The Raid on Dunkirk of 7 July 1800 was an attack by a British Royal Navy force on the well-defended French anchorage of Dunkirk in the English Channel during the French Revolutionary Wars. French naval forces had been blockaded in their harbours during the conflict, and often the only method of attacking them was through fireships or "cutting-out" expeditions, in which boats would carry boarding parties into the harbour at night, seize ships at anchor and bring them out. The attack on Dunkirk was a combination of both of these types of operation, aimed at a powerful French frigate squadron at anchor in Dunkirk harbour. The assault made use of a variety of experimental weaponry, some of which was tested in combat for the first time with mixed success.

Voyage of the <i>Glorioso</i>

The voyage of the Glorioso involved four naval engagements fought in 1747 during the War of the Austrian Succession between the Spanish 70-gun ship of the line Glorioso and several British squadrons of ships of the line and frigates which tried to capture it. The Glorioso, carrying four million silver dollars from the Americas, was able to repel two British attacks off the Azores and Cape Finisterre, successfully landing her cargo at the port of Corcubión, Spain.

Action of 25 January 1797

The Action of 25 January 1797 was a minor naval battle of the French Revolutionary Wars, fought in the Gulf of Cádiz. The Spanish third-rate ship of the line San Francisco de Asís was attacked and pursued for several hours by a British squadron of three fifth-rates frigates and a sixth-rate corvette under George Stewart, 8th Earl of Galloway. After an intermittent but fierce exchange of fire, the British warships, badly damaged, were eventually forced to withdraw. The San Francisco de Asís, which suffered only minor damage, was able to return to Cádiz without difficulties. The commander of the ship, Captain Alonso de Torres y Guerra, was promoted for his success.

Battle of Orbetello

The Battle of Orbetello, also known as the Battle of Isola del Giglio, was a major naval engagement of the Franco-Spanish War of 1635. It was fought on 14 June 1646 off the Spanish-ruled town of Orbetello, on the coast of Tuscany, Italy, between a French fleet led by Admiral Armand de Maillé, Marquis of Brézé, and a Spanish fleet commanded by Miguel de Noronha, 4th Count of Linhares sent to break the blockade of Orbetello and relieve the town, besieged since 12 May by a French army under the command of Prince Thomas of Savoy. The Battle of Orbetello was tactically very unusual, since it was fought by sailing ships towed by galleys in a light breeze.

Battle of Cape Celidonia

The battle of Cape Celidonia took place on 14 July 1616 during the Ottoman-Habsburg struggle for the control of the Mediterranean when a small Spanish fleet under the command of Francisco de Rivera y Medina cruising off Cyprus was attacked by an Ottoman fleet that vastly outnumbered it. Despite this, the Spanish ships, mostly galleons, managed to repel the Ottomans, whose fleet consisted mainly of galleys, inflicting heavy losses.

Action of 7 April 1800

The Action of 7 April 1800 was a minor naval engagement fought between a British squadron blockading the Spanish naval base of Cádiz and a convoy of 13 Spanish merchant vessels escorted by three frigates, bound for the Spanish colonies in the Americas. The blockade squadron consisted of the ships of the line HMS Leviathan and HMS Swiftsure and the frigate HMS Emerald, commanded by Rear-Admiral John Thomas Duckworth on Leviathan. The Spanish convoy sailed from Cádiz on 3 April 1800 and encountered Duckworth's squadron two days later. The Spanish attempted to escape; Emerald succeeded in capturing one ship early on 6 April. The British captured a brig the following morning and the British squadron divided in pursuit of the remainder.

Battle of Bordeaux (1653)

The Battle of Bordeaux was a naval engagement of the Franco-Spanish War of 1635 fought on 20 October 1653 in the Gironde estuary. A Spanish fleet under Álvaro de Bazán, 3rd Marquis of Santa Cruz, sent to relieve Bordeaux, at that time held by the nobles rose up against Louis XIV during the Fronde, encountered a great concentration of French warships belonging to Duke of Vendome's army in the channel of Blaye and captured or destroyed most of it. Shortly after a landing was made by some 1,600 soldiers of the Spanish Tercios which sacked the village of Montagne-sur-Gironde. A similar attempt in the Island of Ré was rejected, so Santa Cruz, having accomplished his orders, returned to Spain.

Bombardment of Algiers (1784)

The 2nd Bombardment of Algiers took place between 12 and 21 July 1784. A joint Spanish-Neapolitan-Maltese-Portuguese fleet commanded by the experienced Spanish Admiral Antonio Barceló bombarded the city, which was the main base of the Barbary corsairs, with the aim of forcing them to interrupt their activities. Massive damage and casualties were inflicted to the Algerians, while the loss aboard the allied fleet was low. The Dey of Algiers refused to start negotiations immediately but the fear of a third planned expedition under José de Mazarredo convinced him to negotiate a peace with the Spanish by which he was forced to cease large-scale piracy, signalling the effective end of the Barbary privateering until the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars.

Battle of Cape Corvo

The Battle of Cape Corvo was a naval engagement of the Ottoman–Habsburg wars fought as part of the struggle for the control of the Mediterranean. It took place in August 1613 near the island of Samos when a Spanish squadron from Sicily, under Admiral Ottavio d'Aragona, engaged an Ottoman fleet led by Sinari Pasha. The Spanish were victorious and captured seven galleys and about 600 prisoners, among them the Bey of Alexandria and another 60 important Ottoman nobles. Cape Corvo was the first major victory of the Spanish fleets under Pedro Téllez-Girón, 3rd Duke of Osuna, the Spanish Viceroy of Sicily, as well as the greatest Spanish victory over the Ottoman Empire since the Battle of Lepanto.

Spanish conquest of Sardinia

The Spanish conquest of Sardinia, also known as the Spanish expedition to Sardinia, took place between the months of August and November 1717. It was the first military action between the Kingdom of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire after the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), and was the direct cause of the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718–1720). The Spanish troops commanded by the Marquis of Lede and Don José Carrillo de Albornoz, 1st Duke of Montemar, supported by the Spanish fleet, defeated the Emperor's troops easily, and conquered the entire island of Sardinia, which had been ruled by the Emperor since the Treaty of Rastatt (1714), returning it again and for the final time to Spain.

Action of 14 June 1742

The Action of 14 June 1742 was a minor naval battle of the War of the Austrian Succession in which a small British squadron under Captain Richard Norris burned 5 Spanish royal galleys at the French port of Saint Tropez. Norris had surprised the galleys near Sainte-Marguerite and had chased and driven them into the French port. The British captain, in spite of alleged French neutrality, followed the Spanish vessels into the port and destroyed them at slight cost.

The Naval Battle of Tarragona fought between 4 and 6 July 1641, was a naval engagement of the Reapers' War in which a Spanish galley fleet led by the Duke of Fernandina attempted to break the French naval blockade over Tarragona, at that time besieged by land by the French and Catalan armies under the French Viceroy of Catalonia. The French blockading fleet was under command of Henri d'Escoubleau de Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux, and consisted both of sailing and rowing vessels. On 4 July it was engaged by the Spanish galleys, of which some managed to enter the port of the town during a fierce action. In the end, a large number of Spanish galleys were abandoned when their crews panicked and fled to the beaches. On the night of 6 July Abraham Duquesne escorted 5 fireships to the mole of the harbor, where the Spanish galleys were abandoned, and set fire to them.

Francisco Díaz Pimienta Spanish naval officer

Francisco Díaz Pimienta (1594–1652) was a Spanish naval officer who became Captain general of the Ocean Fleet.

The Capture of the galleon San Joaquin or the Battle of Cartagena was a naval engagement that took place off the coast near Cartagena. It involved five British ships of the line against the Spanish galleon San Joaquin and a smaller ship. After an action lasting barely an hour the Spanish ship surrendered. The galleon had fought in the previous encounter during Wager's Action nearly three years earlier but had just barely escaped capture.

HMS Rosario, previously the Spanish ship Nuestra Senora Del Rosario, was a brig the British Royal Navy captured off Cadiz in 1797 and took her into service. The British converted her to a fireship and expended her in 1800 in an attack at Dunkirk Roads.

The Battle of the Levant Convoy was a naval engagement of the French Revolutionary Wars fought on 7 October 1795. During the battle, a powerful French squadron surprised a valuable British convoy from the Levant off Cape St Vincent on the coast of Portugal. The convoy was weakly defended, and although the small escort squadron tried to drive the French back, they were outmatched. In the ensuing action one of the British ships of the line and almost the entire convoy was overrun and captured. The French commander, Commodore Joseph de Richery, then retired to the neutral Spanish port of Cádiz, where he came under blockade.


  1. Blackmore, David S.T. (2010). Warfare on the Mediterranean in the Age of Sail: A History, 1571-1866. McFarland & Co. p. 121. ISBN   978-0786447992.
  2. 1 2 Gaston Bodart: Militär-historisches Kriegs-Lexikon, (1618-1905). Wien, 1908 pg. 176 (German)
  3. 1 2 Mahan 1895, p. 219.
  4. Mahan 1895, p. 220.
  5. Black 1994, p. 110.
  6. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 110.
  7. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 110-111.
  8. Paoletti 2008, p. 49.
  9. 1 2 Mahan 1895, p. 234.
  10. Sheehan 1996, p. 110.
  11. 1 2 Mahan 1895, p. 235.
  12. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 135.
  13. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 138.
  14. Mahan 1895, p. 236.
  15. Campbell 1818, p. 144.
  16. 1 2 Clowes 1897, p. 31.
  17. Campbell 1818, p. 148.
  18. Campbell 1818, p. 149.
  19. 1 2 3 Clowes 1897, p. 32.
  20. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 140.
  21. 1 2 Fernández Duro 1972, p. 141.
  22. Campbell 1818, p. 152.
  23. 1 2 Fernández Duro 1972, p. 144.
  24. Campbell 1818, pp. 154-56.
  25. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 145.
  26. "View of the Bay of Naples with Admiral Byng's Fleet at Anchor, 1 August 1718". National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
  27. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 148.
  28. Campbell 1818, p. 155.
  29. 1 2 Campbell 1818, p. 156.
  30. 1 2 3 Fernández Duro 1972, p. 149.
  31. "The Battle of Cape Passaro, 11 August 1718". National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
  32. 1 2 3 Campbell 1818, p. 157.
  33. 1 2 3 4 Fernández Duro 1972, p. 151.
  34. Campbell 1818, p. 162.
  35. 1 2 Fernández Duro 1972, p. 150.
  36. 1 2 3 Campbell 1818, p. 158.
  37. 1 2 Campbell 1818, p. 164.
  38. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 152.
  39. 1 2 Campbell 1818, p. 159.
  40. Campbell 1818, p. 160.
  41. 1 2 3 Cust 1858, p. 158.
  42. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 155.
  43. 1 2 3 Fernández Duro 1972, p. 156.
  44. Campbell 1818, p. 168.
  45. 1 2 Cust 1858, p. 159.
  46. Clowes 1897, p. 38.
  47. Campbell 1818, p. 168-169.
  48. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 206.
  49. 1 2 Clowes 1897, p. 39.
  50. Campbell 1818, p. 173.
  51. Campbell 1818, p. 169.
  52. Clowes 1897, p. 41.
  53. Fernández Duro 1972, p. 171.
  54. Clowes 1897, p. 39-40.