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The Corsairs of Santiago de Cuba

Today, we return to the War of Jenkins' Ear, a war in which, despite the inferiority of our naval forces, it could be said without embarrassment that Spain faced squarely the powerful Royal Navy. And not only the forces of the Real Armada: Spanish corsairs also played a big role and, looking at official figures, their effectiveness was demonstrated. In order for you to see how bloody it was, and the intense activity of these Spanish corsairs, I bring to you this reading with action located in the Caribbean area.

During a short period of time, but with no fixed date, towards the middle of 1743, up to 14 captured English vessels entered the harbor of Santiago de Cuba. All were captured by the corsairs of that city. The corsair captains involved were: José Domingo Cortázar, Bartolomé Valadón, Victorio Hernández, Luis Siverio and Juan Domínguez.

The prizes were the following: Abigail, Tiger, Fians [Faïence?], Phoenix, St. Esteban [St. Stephen?], Reyna de las Indias (sic) [Queen of the Indies?], Hector, Robert, Antelope, Succes [sic; Success?], Santísima Trinidad [thus, or Holy Trinity?], Meforlan [Macfarlan?] and Linn [Lynn].

The names of the captains of said prizes, I abstain from writing down, because besides it being a little boring, they are Hispanicized. We settle upon the action engaged in by one of these Spanish corsairs, specifically, the ship of Bartolomé López, which was pursued by an English picket boat outfitted for war, mounting 12 cannon, 24 pedreros [deck swivel breach-loading guns], and a crew of 100 men.

The corsair had to take refuge on Cayo Damas, 12 leagues to the leeward of the Port of Santiago, to which place the picket boat also followed, and there began a furious combat, in which the English saw that they were losing too many men; they determined to take over an islet with 50 men, in order to mount a few cannon there and thus place the Spanish corsair between two fires. But good Bartolomé had thought of that first, having placed 35 sailors and two small cannon there. The picket boat’s launch, with fifty men about to occupy the islet, sank upon approaching the same, and all the launch’s survivors, in addition to those on the boat which came to the rescue, were run through with the knife by the corsairs on the islet. Only 11 were saved, who were made prisoners, and another 3 who being frightened managed to save themselves on the second boat, and return to the picket boat, which immediately fled the place, while the Spanish corsair returned to his base with no further action.

 (Source: Gaceta de Madrid. Found by Todo a Babor). Image: the flag flown by Spanish corsairs in 1748). Copyright © 2007 circulonaval.com For information: info@circulonaval.com
[Translated by Alfredo E. Figueredo]

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    I.  From 1,492 to 1,897              II.  From 1,898 to 1,902          III.  From 1,903 to 1,940

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