First Battle of Algeciras

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First Battle of Algeciras
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Bataille algesiras.jpg
Algéciras, 6 Juillet 1801 by Alfred Morel-Fatio
Date6 July 1801
Coordinates: 36°08′00″N05°25′45″W / 36.13333°N 5.42917°W / 36.13333; -5.42917
Result Franco-Spanish victory
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom Flag of France.svg France
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spain
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez Flag of France.svg Contre-Amiral Charles Linois
6 ships of the line (OOB) Flag of France.svg 3 ships of the line and 1 frigate
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg 14 gunboats and extensive shore defences (OOB)
Casualties and losses
HMS Hannibal captured,
121 killed, 240 wounded and 14 missing
Flag of France.svg 161 killed, 324 wounded
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg 11 killed
5 gunboats sunk

The First Battle of Algeciras was a naval battle fought on 6 July 1801 (17 messidor an IX of the French Republican Calendar) between a squadron of British Royal Navy ships of the line and a smaller French Navy squadron at anchor in the fortified Spanish port of Algeciras in the Strait of Gibraltar. The British outnumbered their opponents, but the French position was protected by Spanish gun batteries and the complicated shoals that obscured the entrance to Algeciras Bay. The French squadron, under Contre-Amiral Charles Linois, had stopped at Algeciras en route to the major Spanish naval base at Cadiz, where they were to form a combined French and Spanish fleet for operations against Britain and its allies in the French Revolutionary Wars. The British, under Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez, sought to eliminate the French squadron before it could reach Cadiz and form a force powerful enough to overwhelm Saumarez and launch attacks against British forces in the Mediterranean Sea.

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.

French Navy Maritime arm of the French Armed Forces

The French Navy, informally "La Royale", is the maritime arm of the French Armed Forces. Dating back to 1624, the French Navy is one of the world's oldest naval forces. It has participated in conflicts around the globe and played a key part in establishing the French colonial empire.

Algeciras City in Andalusia, Spain

Algeciras is a port city in the south of Spain, and is the largest city on the Bay of Gibraltar. The Port of Algeciras is one of the largest ports in Europe and the world in three categories: container, cargo and transhipment. It is located 20 km north-east of Tarifa on the Río de la Miel, which is the southernmost river of the Iberian peninsula and continental Europe. In 2015, it had a population of 118,920.


Sailing directly from his blockade station off Cadiz, Saumarez's squadron consisted of six ships of the line, twice the number under Linois's command. Discovering the French at anchor in Algeciras on the morning of 6 July, Saumarez launched an immediate attack on the anchorage through the complicated shoals of Algeciras Bay. Although the initial attack caused severe damage to the French ships, light winds and shallow water led to the British ship HMS Hannibal grounding under heavy fire while the French vessels were driven on shore to prevent their capture. With his intentions frustrated, Saumarez ordered his squadron to withdraw, five of his ships limping out of the bay while the battered Hannibal remained trapped. Isolated and unable to manoeuvre, Captain Solomon Ferris on Hannibal endured the enemy fire for another half an hour before surrendering his ship.

Blockade effort to cut off supplies from a particular area by force

A blockade is an effort to cut off supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade. It is also distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually directed at an entire country or region, rather than a fortress or city. While most blockades historically took place at sea, blockade is still used on land to prevent someone coming into a certain area.

HMS <i>Hannibal</i> (1786)

HMS Hannibal was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 15 April 1786, named after the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca. She is best known for having taken part in the Algeciras Campaign, and for having run aground during the First Battle of Algeciras on 5 July 1801, which resulted in her capture. She then served in the French Navy until she was broken up in 1824.

Both sides had suffered severe damage and casualties, but both were also aware that the battle would inevitably be rejoined and so the aftermath of the British defeat was one of frenzied activity at Gibraltar, Algeciras and Cadiz. While the British and French squadrons conducted hasty repairs, the French and Spanish fleet at Cadiz was prepared for a rescue mission, a heavy squadron arriving at Algeciras on 12 July. As the Spanish squadron departed with Linois's ships, they were attacked again by Saumarez's squadron at the Second Battle of Algeciras and caught at night by faster and more manoeuvrable ships, which resulted in the British inflicting heavy losses on the Spanish rearguard but failing for a second time to destroy the French squadron.

Gibraltar British Overseas Territory

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It has an area of 6.7 km2 (2.6 sq mi) and is bordered to the north by Spain. The landscape is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar at the foot of which is a densely populated town area, home to over 30,000 people, primarily Gibraltarians.

Second Battle of Algeciras battle

The Second Battle of Algeciras was a naval battle fought on the night of 12 July 1801 between a squadron of British Royal Navy ships of the line and a larger squadron of ships from the Spanish Navy and French Navy in the Gut of Gibraltar.


A map of Algeciras Bay, c.1750, showing Algeciras (left) and Gibraltar; there is roughly 10 km (5.4 nmi; 6.2 mi) of open water between them. Gibraltar and Bay map 1750.jpg
A map of Algeciras Bay, c.1750, showing Algeciras (left) and Gibraltar; there is roughly 10  km (5.4  nmi ; 6.2  mi ) of open water between them.

On 1 August 1798, the French Mediterranean Fleet was almost completely destroyed at the Battle of the Nile in Aboukir Bay off Egypt. As a result, the British Royal Navy became dominant in the Mediterranean Sea and imposed blockades on French and Spanish ports in the region, including the important naval bases of Toulon and Cadiz. [1] By 1801, the British were planning a large scale operation to invade and recapture Egypt from the French, and First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte made plans to restore the Mediterranean Fleet and reinforce the garrison before the invasion took place. To this end, a squadron was despatched to Egypt from the French Atlantic ports and an agreement was reached with the Spanish Navy to supply the French Navy with six ships of the line from their reserve at Cadiz. [2] The squadron never reached Egypt, diverting to Toulon under British pressure and separating, the most seaworthy vessels making a vain attempt to Egypt later in the year while the remainder were left at Toulon. [3]

Battle of the Nile Naval battle between Britain and France

The Battle of the Nile was a major naval battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the Navy of the French Republic at Aboukir Bay on the Mediterranean coast off the Nile Delta of Egypt from the 1st to the 3rd of August 1798. The battle was the climax of a naval campaign that had raged across the Mediterranean during the previous three months, as a large French convoy sailed from Toulon to Alexandria carrying an expeditionary force under General Napoleon Bonaparte. The British fleet was led in the battle by Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson; they decisively defeated the French under Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Mediterranean Sea Sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean between Europe, Africa and Asia

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.

In June 1801, a squadron of three ships of the line that had been detached from the Egyptian squadron departed Toulon for Cadiz under the command of Contre-Amiral Charles Linois. The squadron's orders instructed Linois to join with the French and Spanish fleet at Cadiz and take possession of the promised vessels. [4] From there the combined fleet, bolstered by 1,500 French soldiers under General Pierre Devaux on Linois's ships, [5] could launch major operations against British forces or those of their allies: attacks on Egypt and Lisbon were both suggested, although no firm plan had been drawn up for either. [4] Able to leave Toulon without resistance in the absence of the British blockade squadron, Linois passed along the Spanish Mediterranean Coast without interception, passing the fortified British port of Gibraltar on 3 July. There Linois was informed by Captain Lord Cochrane, captured in his brig HMS Speedy on 4 July, that a powerful squadron of seven British ships of the line were stationed off Cadiz under Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez. On hearing this news, Linois postponed the plan to reach the Spanish naval base and instead anchored at Algeciras, a well-fortified coastal town in Algeciras Bay, within sight of Gibraltar. [6]

Pierre Antoine A. Devaux was a Belgian long-distance runner. He competed in the men's 10,000 metres at the 1920 Summer Olympics.

Lisbon Capital city in Lisbon metropolitan area, Portugal

Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal. With an estimated population of 505,526 within its administrative limits in an area of 100.05 km2, Lisbon's urban area extends beyond the city's administrative limits with a population of around 2.8 million people, being the 11th-most populous urban area in the European Union. About 3 million people live in the Lisbon metropolitan area, including the Portuguese Riviera,. It is mainland Europe's westernmost capital city and the only one along the Atlantic coast. Lisbon lies in the western Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus. The westernmost portions of its metro area form the westernmost point of Continental Europe, which is known as Cabo da Roca, located in the Sintra Mountains.

Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald Royal Navy admiral

Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, Marquess of Maranhão, GCB, ODM, OSC, styled Lord Cochrane between 1778 and 1831, was a British naval flag officer of the Royal Navy, mercenary and radical politician. He was a daring and successful captain of the Napoleonic Wars, leading Napoleon to nickname him Le Loup des Mers. He was successful in virtually all his naval actions.

At Gibraltar, the only ship in harbour was the small sloop-of-war HMS Calpe under Captain George Dundas, who on sighting the French squadron immediately sent word to Saumarez off Cadiz. The message arrived on 5 July, delivered by Lieutenant Richard Janvrin in a small boat. The admiral, a veteran of the Battle of the Nile, immediately gathered his ships and sailed eastwards to investigate. [7] He had only six ships of the line as one, HMS Superb under Captain Richard Goodwin Keats, was on detached duty at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River with the brig HMS Pasley. Saumarez sent messages in the frigate HMS Thames recalling Keats, who followed Saumarez towards Algeciras, and was in sight of the admiral's ship on the horizon at dawn on 6 July. However, after hearing an inaccurate report from an American merchant ship that Linois had already sailed from Algeciras, Keats reasoned that the French would have turned eastwards for Toulon and thus he would be too late to catch them. He therefore resolved to return to his station observing the Spanish at Cadiz, retaining Pasley and Thames. [8]

Sloop-of-war ship type

In the 18th century and most of the 19th, a sloop-of-war in the Royal Navy was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. The rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above; thus, the term sloop-of-war encompassed all the unrated combat vessels, including the very small gun-brigs and cutters. In technical terms, even the more specialised bomb vessels and fireships were classed as sloops-of-war, and in practice these were employed in the sloop role when not carrying out their specialized functions.

HMS Calpe was the former 14-gun polacca San José of the Spanish Navy, originally built in 1796 in Greece. The British captured her in 1800 and commissioned her as a sloop-of-war. She served at the Battle of Algeciras Bay before the Navy sold her in 1802. She underwent repairs and reappears as a merchantman in the 1805 registers; however, she wrecked at the Dardanelles in 1805.

HMS <i>Superb</i> (1798)

HMS Superb was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, and the fourth vessel to bear the name. She was launched on 19 March 1798 from Northfleet, and was eventually broken up in 1826. Superb is mostly associated with Richard Goodwin Keats who commanded her as captain from 1801 until his promotion in 1806. She also served as his flagship from early 1808 until she was paid off in 1809.

As Saumarez sailed eastwards towards Algeciras against the wind, the already strong defences at Algeciras were augmented to meet him: Linois drew his ships up in a line of battle across the harbour, with the flagship Formidable at the northern edge, followed by Desaix and with Indomptable to the south, the ships each 500 yards (460 m) apart. The frigate Muiron was stationed in shallower water to the south of Indomptable. The French position was strengthened by the presence of 11 large Spanish gunboats at the northern extremity of the harbour, which was also overlooked by fortifications at the Bateria de San Iago and the Torre de Almirante. [9] The southern approach to the harbour was covered by three gunboats and batteries at Fort Santa Garcia and Torre de la Vila Vega on the shore and the fortified island of Isla Verda, which mounted seven heavy cannon, lay between Indomptable and Muiron. [10] Further support was offered by more distant forts that could land shells in the anchorage and most importantly by the geography of the bay, which was scattered with complicated shoals and rocks that made navigation difficult for unfamiliar sailors. [11]


The battle of Algeciras, Alfred Morel-Fatio The Battle of Algeciras.jpg
The battle of Algeciras, Alfred Morel-Fatio

Saumarez's attack

Delayed during 5 July by contrary winds, Saumarez's squadron did not reach Algeciras until 07:00 on 6 July, the British admiral deciding to immediately descend on the French squadron and issuing orders for his ships to launch their small boats "in readiness to act when required." [9] Thousands of spectators lined both the Spanish and Gibraltan shoreline in anticipation of the battle to come. [12] Orders had been given for HMS Venerable under Captain Samuel Hood to lead the attack as the officer with most experience in these waters, and his vessel was the first to enter the bay around Cabrita Point. [13] Once in the bay however, the wind dropped and Hood was left becalmed. As a result, the first shots of the engagement were fired from a battery on Cabrita Point at HMS Pompee under Captain Charles Stirling, which entered the bay at 07:50, followed closely by HMS Audacious under Captain Shuldham Peard. On sighting the British squadron, Linois gave orders for the French ships to warp into the shallower waters along the shoreline, and many sailors and soldiers aboard were despatched to assist the Spanish gun batteries around the bay. [14] The French ships joined the fire as Pompee and Audacious came within range, first Muiron and then the ships of the line attacking the approaching British vessels. [15]

Saumarez and remainder of the British squadron were 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) behind the leading ships but Stirling pressed ahead with the attack, passing close to the Isla Verda at 08:30 and engaging each of the French ships in turn until anchoring next to Formidable at 08:45 and opening fire from close range. [6] Venerable and Audacious suffered from light winds further out in the bay and it was not until 08:50 that they were able to enter the action, Venerable firing on Desaix and Formidable and Audacious on Indomptable although, contrary to Saumarez's orders, both were anchored at long range. [16] The French and Spanish responded with a heavy cannonade against the anchored ships, the engagement lasting half an hour until Formidable temporarily ceased firing and began to slowly warp further inshore. Suddenly, Pompee was caught by a fresh current, which swung the ship so that its bow was facing Formidable's broadside, although at some distance, allowing the French to rake the British ship which could only respond with a handful of the forward cannon. [17] Assistance was provided by Dundas in Calpe, who took his small vessel inshore to engage the Spanish batteries firing on the British squadron, [13] and also attacked Muiron at close range, the undermanned frigate still powerful enough, however, to drive off its smaller opponent. [18]

Plan of the battle from Naval History of Great Britain. Volume III. William James. London 1837 First Battle of Algeciras map.png
Plan of the battle from Naval History of Great Britain. Volume III. William James. London 1837

At 09:15 the straggling rear of the British squadron began to arrive, led by the flagship HMS Caesar, which anchored ahead of Audacious and inshore of Venerable before opening fire on Desaix. At 09:20, HMS Hannibal under Captain Solomon Ferris joined the action, anchoring ahead of Caesar. This left only HMS Spencer under Captain Henry Darby unengaged: Spencer had been left becalmed to the south of Isla Verda and came under heavy fire from the batteries and towers, some of which were firing hot shot designed to start fires in the ship's timbers. [19] Captain Jahleel Brenton on Caesar suggested to Saumarez that if he negotiated with the Spanish they might permit him to seize the French ships in exchange for a cessation of the action, but Saumarez dismissed the idea as premature. [20] At 10:12, with Formidable pulling into shallower waters away from the attacking British ships, Saumarez sent orders to Captain Ferris on Hannibal instructing him to manoeuvre his ship closer inshore to attack Formidable more effectively: specifically he was told to "go and rake the French admiral". Ferris began by sailing slowly northwards, using the light winds to pull ahead of the combat before tacking back towards Formidable. The manoeuvre was initially successful, but at 11:00, as he passed the Torre de Almirante, Hannibal grounded. From this position, Ferris was able to direct part of his broadside onto Formidable and the rest against the Spanish shore defences, but his ship was left very vulnerable to fire from the shore. [21]

Hannibal was now isolated at the northern end of the British line, under heavy fire from Formidable as well as the Spanish shore batteries and gunboats and unable to manoeuvre or effectively respond. Ferris attempted to notify Saumarez of his ship's precarious position, but his signal halyards had been torn away by shot and it was sometime before assistance could be organised. [19] The rest of the squadron was ordered to provide ship's boats to attempt to tow Hannibal off the shoal but the attempt failed, Caesar's pinnace sinking in the process after being struck by a cannonball. [21] Ultimately, Hannibal was left stranded as the last of the seabreeze disappeared, preventing any of the other British ships from coming to Ferris' assistance. There was, however, a light land breeze from the northwest that initially favoured the outnumbered and battered French squadron, Linois immediately ordering his ships to sever their anchor cables and use the breeze to manoeuvre slowly into stronger defensive positions closer inshore. His flagship Formidable successfully completed the manoeuvre, but neither Indomptable nor Desaix could be brought back under control in time, and both grounded, Desaix directly in front of Algeciras and Indomptable northeast of Isla Verda with her bow facing out to sea. [22]

Saumarez responded by cutting his cables on Caesar and wearing past the becalmed Audacious and Venerable, taking up station off Indomptable's vulnerable bows and repeatedly raking the stranded ship. Audacious followed the flagship at 12:00, taking up a new station between Caesar and Indomptable and also opening fire on the beleaguered Indomptable. Both Caesar and Audacious were now directly exposed however to the heavy fire from Isla Verda, the batteries there and all around the bay now manned by French sailors who had evacuated the grounded ships of the line. Audacious had been becalmed with Desaix off the bow and out of the ship's field of fire and it took considerable time and effort with the ship's boats to affect the turn needed to engage the French ship. [18] Spencer and Venerable, ordered to join the attack, were unable to take up their intended positions due to the absence of wind, Venerable losing its mizen-topmast to French shot as Hood attempted to wear his ship around. [22] Venerable's masts and rigging had been so badly torn by this stage of the battle that Hood was no longer able to effectively manoeuvre in the fitful breeze, although he did eventually pull his ship within range. [18]

Saumarez's withdrawal

Victoire francaise d'Algesiras, Louis Lebreton, 1866 Algesiras.jpg
Victoire française d'Algésiras, Louis Lebreton, 1866

To the north of this engagement, the trapped Pompée and Hannibal were under heavy fire from the anchored Formidable and an array of Spanish batteries and gunboats, both ships taking severe damage without being able to effectively reply as their main broadsides now faced away from the enemy. [19] On Hannibal the situation seemed hopeless: as casualties mounted, the main and mizen masts were shot away and the ship remained firmly and irretrievably grounded. Pompée was in a slightly better position: Sterling's rigging was in tatters, but his masts held and his ship was at least afloat, although totally becalmed. At one stage, Pompée's colours were shot away, leading to French claims that the ship had surrendered, although they were quickly replaced. At 11:30, no longer able to contribute to the battle with rigging torn and more than 70 casualties, Saumarez ordered the remainder of the squadron to send their remaining boats to tow Pompée out of danger, [18] the boats coming under heavy fire as they did so, with a number sunk. [17]

The diversion of the boats to Pompée prevented Saumarez from launching a planned amphibious assault against Isla Verda with the squadron's Marines, and in the fitful breeze, both Caesar and Audacious were beginning to drift dangerously close to the shoals around the island: if they grounded, then they would share Hannibal's fate directly in front of the island's batteries. [21] Observing the failure of his planned attack on the French squadron, Saumarez raised the signal at 13:35 for his ships to withdraw to Gibraltar. [22] Pompée was already well on the way thanks to the towing boats, and Caesar and Audacious were able to cut their remaining anchors and limp out of the bay with the assistance of a sudden land breeze that carried them rapidly out of reach of the French and Spanish guns. They were joined by Venerable and Spencer as they left, the battered squadron retiring to Gibraltar leaving the almost dismasted hulk of Hannibal grounded in Algeciras harbour. [17]

On Hannibal, more than sixty men had been killed and Captain Ferris ordered the survivors below decks to escape the worst of the fire as the combined guns of the French and Spanish forces turned on the last remaining target, starting several fires. By 14:00, seeing that continued resistance was futile, he had ordered the colours struck, and the Hannibal's ensign came down. [23] French and Spanish soldiers then stormed the ship, and Hannibal's surgeon later reported that a number of wounded men were trampled to death as the boarding parties sought to extinguish the fires. [24] It has not been established whether what followed was a misunderstanding aboard Hannibal or a deliberate ploy by the French, but Hannibal's ensign was then rehoisted upside down, a recognised international signal of distress. [25] Captain Dundas, who had watched the entire battle from Gibraltar, believed on seeing the flag that it meant that Ferris was still holding out on Hannibal and requesting either support to salvage his battered ship or for it to be evacuated before surrendering. Boats were sent from Gibraltar with carpenters from the dockyards there to effect repairs on Hannibal and Dundas took HMS Calpe back into the bay to provide assistance, coming under heavy fire before withdrawing when his error was realised, although not before several of the boats had been seized by the French as their crews boarded Hannibal. [23]


Both sides had suffered heavy casualties and damage, the British losing 121 killed, 240 wounded and 11 missing, the missing thought to have drowned when their boats were sunk. As well as the loss of Hannibal, both Pompée and Caesar were heavily damaged, although both Venerable and Spencer had only suffered relatively lightly during the battle. Casualties were heavy throughout the squadron, Hannibal suffering more than 140 men killed and wounded and the rest made prisoner, Pompée more than 80 casualties and none of the other ships less than 30. [23] The French had suffered higher casualties, with 161 killed, including Captains Moncousu and Lalonde and 324 wounded, including Devaux. [Note A] All three French ships of the line were damaged: Saumarez believed that the French ships "were unserviceable" following the battle, although he was soon proven incorrect. Indomptable and Desaix were particularly damaged, although the frigate Muiron, which had remained in the shallow water of Algeciras harbour, was undamaged. [26] The Spanish reportedly had 11 men killed and an unspecified number wounded, the casualties occurring in the battered forts and on the gunboats, five of which had been destroyed in the battle. [27] The British crews had found during the engagement that their gunnery was affected by the lack of wind, much of their shot flying over the French ships and into the town of Algeciras, which was considerably damaged. [28] The Spanish authorities later accused Saumarez of deliberately targeting the town in his frustration at being unable to capture the French squadron. [29]

On 7 July, Saumarez sent Captain Brenton into Algeciras with a flag of truce and negotiations were held with a view to returning Captain Ferris and his officers to British control under terms of parole. After a brief correspondence between Linois and Saumarez this was agreed, and Ferris, his officers, his wounded men and the officers taken from HMS Speedy were sent to Gibraltar. [30] By August 1801, Ferris and his officers were back in Britain, where a court-martial, standard practice in the case of a ship lost to the enemy, was held. Rear-Admiral John Holloway presided and the court found that Ferris' conduct during the battle was exemplary and he was acquitted of any blame for the loss of his ship. On returning his sword, Holloway remarked that "I feel assured, if ever you have occasion to unsheathe it again, it will be used with the same gallantry which you so nobly displayed in defending his majesty's ship Hannibal." [31]

The immediate reaction in both Algeciras and Gibraltar was devoted to repairing and refitting the damaged warships: it was assumed by all involved that continuation of the action had merely been postponed rather than concluded. At Gibraltar, Saumarez decided to temporarily abandon Pompée and Caesar and reassign their crews to ensuring that the rest of the squadron was ready for battle. This decision was disputed by Captain Brenton of Caesar, and by working continuously for three days Caesar's crew successfully readied their ship in time for Saumarez to sail again. [32] The haste was necessary because Linois, while strenuously repairing his own squadron and readying the captured Hannibal for sea with jury masts, had sent word to Cadiz urging Vice-Admiral Jose de Mazzaredo to send reinforcements before Saumarez was ready to attack again. Urged by French Contre-Amiral Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley, who was in Cadiz to take occupation of the promised six ships of the line, Mazzaredo ordered Vice-Admiral Juan Joaquin de Moreno  [ es ] to sail with a formidable force which arrived off Algeciras Bay on 9 July. [33] The Franco-Spanish squadron was shadowed by Superb, which then joined Saumarez at Gibraltar. [34] At Algeciras the Spanish squadron intended to collect Linois and convoy his battered squadron to Cadiz with five ships of the line, including two massive 112-gun first rate ships, as escorts. Hannibal proved too damaged for the journey and was anchored in Algeciras harbour, but the remainder of the French and Spanish squadrons sailed for Cadiz on 12 July and were caught that night by Saumarez's repaired squadron in the Second Battle of Algeciras. [35] The Spanish rearguard was overwhelmed, the 112-gun ships both sunk with more than 1,700 lives and another ship was captured, but Linois's force succeeded in reaching Cadiz the following morning. Hannibal was later removed from Algeciras by the French and commissioned as Annibal. [36]

In France, the victory was the cause of celebration, Le Moniteur Universel declaring that "the combat covers the French arms with glory and shows what they are capable of". Linois was proclaimed a national hero and presented with a Sabre d'honneur by Napoleon. [37] The French victory over a significantly stronger British force was an unusual event in the war during which the Royal Navy had dominated at sea. Saumarez publicly represented the battle as a victory, declaring that he had "compleately [ sic ] succeeded in disabling the Enemy's ships", although in private he acknowledged the defeat. [38] Historian Richard Gardiner commented that "The well trained and led French had fought hard and skillfully and a combination of weather, luck and shore support had given them the victory against a superior force of which they had captured one. It is, however, also significant that this rare British setback occurred close inshore with all the difficulties and chanciness that implied." [39]


  1. ^ Note A: Reports of French casualties vary widely. James and Clowes quote French reports of 306 killed and 280 wounded in total and Spanish reports that the French suffered 500 wounded. [26] [27] However in his breakdown of French casualties ship by ship, Musteen only records 161 killed and 324 wounded. [38]

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HMS Spencer was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 10 May 1800 at Bucklers Hard. Her designer was the French émigré shipwright Jean-Louis Barrallier. She served in two major battles, Algeciras Bay and San Domingo, and in a number of other campaigns. She was broken up in 1822.

Order of battle in the Atlantic campaign of 1806

The Atlantic campaign of 1806 was one of the most important and complex naval campaigns of the post-Trafalgar Napoleonic Wars. Seeking to take advantage of the withdrawal of British forces from the Atlantic in the aftermath of the Battle of Trafalgar, Emperor Napoleon ordered two battle squadrons to sea from the fleet stationed at Brest, during December 1805. Escaping deep into the Atlantic, these squadrons succeeded in disrupting British convoys, evading pursuit by British battle squadrons and reinforcing the French garrison at Santo Domingo. The period of French success was brief: on 6 February 1806 one of the squadrons, under Vice-Admiral Corentin Urbain Leissègues, was intercepted by a British squadron at the Battle of San Domingo and destroyed, losing all five of its ships of the line.

Linoiss expedition to the Indian Ocean

Linois's expedition to the Indian Ocean was a commerce raiding operation launched by the French Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Contre-Admiral Charles-Alexandre Durand Linois was ordered to the Indian Ocean in his flagship Marengo in March 1803 accompanied by a squadron of three frigates, shortly before the end of the Peace of Amiens. When war between Britain and France broke out in September 1803, Marengo was at Pondicherry with the frigates, but escaped a British squadron sent to intercept it and reached Isle de France. The large distances between naval bases in the Indian Ocean and the limited resources available to the British commanders in the region made it difficult to concentrate sufficient forces to combat a squadron of this size, and Linois was subsequently able to sustain his campaign for three years. From Isle de France, Linois and his frigates began a series of attacks on British commerce across the Eastern Indian Ocean, specifically targeting the large convoys of East Indiamen that were vital to the maintenance of trade within the British Empire and to the British economy. Although he had a number of successes against individual merchant ships and the small British trading post of Bencoolen, the first military test of Linois squadron came at the Battle of Pulo Aura on 15 February 1804. Linois attacked the undefended British China Fleet, consisting of 16 valuable East Indiamen and 14 other vessels, but failed to press his military superiority and withdrew without capturing a single ship.

Atlantic campaign of 1806

The Atlantic campaign of 1806 was a complicated series of manoeuvrees and counter-manoeuveres conducted by squadrons of the French Navy and the British Royal Navy across the Atlantic Ocean during the spring and summer of 1806, as part of the Napoleonic Wars. The campaign followed directly from the Trafalgar campaign of the year before, in which the French Mediterranean fleet had crossed the Atlantic, returned to Europe and joined with the Spanish fleet. On 21 October 1805, this combined force was destroyed by a British fleet under Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, although the campaign did not end until the Battle of Cape Ortegal on 4 November 1805. Believing that the French Navy would not be capable of organised resistance at sea during the winter, the First Lord of the Admiralty Lord Barham withdrew the British blockade squadrons to harbour. Barham had miscalculated – the French Atlantic fleet, based at Brest, had not been involved in the Trafalgar campaign and was therefore at full strength. Taking advantage of the reduction in the British forces off the port, Napoleon ordered two heavy squadrons to sea, under instructions to raid British trade routes while avoiding contact with equivalent Royal Navy forces.

Ganteaumes expeditions of 1801

Ganteaume's expeditions of 1801 were three connected major French Navy operations of the spring of 1801 during the French Revolutionary Wars. A French naval squadron from Brest under Contre-amiral Honoré Ganteaume, seeking to reinforce the besieged French garrison in Egypt, made three separate but futile efforts to reach the Eastern Mediterranean. The French army in Egypt had been trapped there shortly after the start of the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt in 1798, when the French Mediterranean Fleet was destroyed at the Battle of the Nile. Since that defeat, the French Navy had maintained only a minimal presence in the Mediterranean Sea, while the more numerous British and their allies had succeeded in blockading and defeating several French bases almost unopposed.

Order of Battle in the Algeciras Campaign

The Algeciras Campaign, or the Battles of Algeciras, was a brief naval campaign fought between a combined French and Spanish Navy force and a British Royal Navy force between 4–13 July 1801. A French squadron, seeking to join the Spanish fleet and a number of French ships of the line at the Spanish Atlantic base of Cadiz, sailed from Toulon on 13 June under Contre-amiral Charles Linois. Rounding the British naval base of Gibraltar on the southern coast of Spain on 4 July, Linois learned that a British squadron under Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez was on station off Cadiz. Seeking to avoid battle with Saumarez's much larger force, Linois anchored in the Spanish port of Algeciras, close to Gibraltar. Saumarez discovered Linois there on 6 July and attacked at 08:30, his ships hampered by light winds and Linois's strong defensive position.

Algeciras Campaign

The Algeciras campaign was an attempt by a French naval squadron from Toulon under Contre-Admiral Charles Linois to join a French and Spanish fleet at Cadiz during June and July 1801 during the French Revolutionary War prior to a planned operation against either Egypt or Portugal. To reach Cadiz, the French squadron had to pass the British naval base at Gibraltar, which housed the squadron tasked with blockading the Spanish port. The British squadron was commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez. After a successful voyage between Toulon and Gibraltar, in which a number of British vessels were captured, the squadron anchored at Algeciras, a fortified port city within sight of Gibraltar across Gibraltar Bay. On 6 July 1801, Saumarez attacked the anchored squadron, in the First Battle of Algeciras. Although severe damage was inflicted on all three French ships of the line, none could be successfully captured and the British were forced to withdraw without HMS Hannibal, which had grounded and was subsequently seized by the French.

Solomon Ferris was an officer in the Royal Navy who served during the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

The Croisière de Bruix was the principal naval campaign of the year 1799 during the French Revolutionary Wars. The expedition began in April 1799 when the bulk of the French Atlantic Fleet under Vice-Admiral Étienne Eustache Bruix departed the base at Brest, evading the British Channel Fleet which was blockading the port and tricking the commander Admiral Lord Bridport into believing their true destination was Ireland. Passing southwards, the French fleet narrowly missed joining with an allied Spanish Navy squadron at Ferrol and was prevented by an easterly gale from uniting with the main Spanish fleet at Cádiz before entering the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean was under British control following the destruction of the French Mediterranean Fleet at the Battle of the Nile in August 1798, and a British fleet nominally under Admiral Earl St Vincent was stationed there. Due however to St. Vincent's ill-health, operational control rested with Vice-Admiral Lord Keith. As Keith sought to chase down the French, the Spanish fleet followed Bruix into the Mediterranean before being badly damaged in a gale and sheltering in Cartagena.

Action of 17 July 1761

The Action of 17 July 1761 was a naval engagement fought off the Spanish port of Cádiz between a British Royal Navy squadron and a smaller French Navy squadron during the Seven Years' War. British fleets had achieved dominance in European waters over the French following heavy defeats of French fleets in 1759. To maintain this control, British battle squadrons were stationed off French ports, as well as ports in neutral but French-supporting Spain which sheltered French warships. In 1761, two French ships, the 64-gun ship of the line Achille and 32-gun frigate Bouffone were blockaded in the principal Spanish naval base of Cádiz, on the Southern Atlantic coast of Spain.

Mediterranean campaign of 1793–1796

The Mediterranean campaign of 1793–1796 was a major theater of conflict in the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars. Fought during the War of the First Coalition, the campaign was primarily contested in the Western Mediterranean between the French Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, based at Toulon in Southern France, and the British Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, supported by the Spanish Navy and the smaller navies of several Italian states. Major fighting was concentrated in the Ligurian Sea, and focused on British maintenance of and French resistance to a British close blockade of the French Mediterranean coast. Additional conflict spread along Mediterranean trade routes, contested by individual warships and small squadrons.

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. Gardiner, p. 58
  2. Woodman, p. 161
  3. James, p. 93
  4. 1 2 James, p. 112
  5. Woodman, p. 159
  6. 1 2 Gardiner, p. 88
  7. Clowes, p. 459
  8. Clowes, p. 460
  9. 1 2 Clowes, p. 461
  10. Musteen, p. 34
  11. James, p. 114
  12. Mostert, p. 407
  13. 1 2 "No. 15391". The London Gazette . 28 July 1801. pp. 930–931.
  14. Mostert, p. 404
  15. Musteen, p. 35
  16. Clowes, p. 462
  17. 1 2 3 Gardiner, p. 89
  18. 1 2 3 4 Musteen, p. 37
  19. 1 2 3 James, p. 116
  20. Musteen, p. 36
  21. 1 2 3 Clowes, p. 463
  22. 1 2 3 James, p. 117
  23. 1 2 3 Clowes, p. 464
  24. Mostert, p. 405
  25. James, p. 118
  26. 1 2 Clowes, p. 465
  27. 1 2 James, p. 119
  28. Musteen, p. 38
  29. Musteen, p. 40
  30. James, p. 122
  31. James, p. 123
  32. Mostert, p. 406
  33. Gardiner, p. 92
  34. James, p. 124
  35. Clowes, p. 467
  36. James, p. 355
  37. Musteen, p. 39
  38. 1 2 Musteen, p. 41
  39. Gardiner, p. 90