The 70 cannons ship of the line San Ignacio de Loyola, alias Glorioso (Glorious), was built in the shipyard of Havana and delivered to the Real Armada (Spanish Royal Navy) in early 1741. It was a ship of excellent design, built with high quality tropical timbers.
Spain and England were at war since 1739, in the so-called War of Jenkins' Ear, fighting continued in the War of Austrian Succession, until 1748.
On May 28, 1747, the Glorioso, commanded by Captain Don Pedro Messia de la Zerda, set off alone from Veracruz to the Iberian Peninsula with a shipment whose declared value exceeded 4.5 million pesos, most of them in silver coins best known as reales de a 8.
The English, alerted by his spies, tried by all means to seize the cargo.
At dawn on July 25, a British convoy of 13 merchant and 4 escort warships spotted the Glorioso. The escorts chased him for 40 hours and finally, at night from 26 to 27 July, a battle was held about 200 km north of the island of Flores in the Azores. The Spanish ship faced the ship of the line HMS Warwick (60 cannons), the frigate HMS Lark (40 cannonss) and the brig Montagu (16 cannons) and after dismasting the two first she continued her journey with some damages in her own hull and rig.
A few days later, on August 14, the British located and attacked again the Glorioso, this time near Cape Finisterre. This second bout involved the ship of the line HMS Oxford (50 cannons), the frigate HMS Shoreham (24 cannons) and the sloop HMS Falcon (14 cannons). It was a tactical battle, with many manoeuvres and few cannon shots, in which the audacity of Captain Messía de la Zerda got the English to steer away from the combat after suffering some minor damage.
The Spanish captain brought his ship to the nearby estuary of Corcubión where he arrived on August 16. He managed to land their valuable cargo and move it inland, away from the English. Glorioso's vital mission had been completed successfully.
The ship stayed at Corcubion for the next two months, under reparation with the parts sent from the arsenal of La Grana. Unfortunately the also requested ammunition was not sent. Finally on October 11, she sailed out towards Ferrol but a strong gale forced her to change course and Captain Messía de la Zerda decided to go to Cadiz, sailing off the coast of Portugal to avoid encounters with English ships.
But less than a week later, at dawn on October 17, not far from Cape San Vicente, the lookouts in the Glorioso sighted 10 vessels on the horizon, two of which, the privateering frigates King George (32 cannons) and Prince Frederick (approx. 26 cannons), headed towards the Spanish ship and they faced her in the dark. The first of the frigates was completely dismasted. The Glorioso broke contact and sailed south pursued by other British ships.
HMS Darmouth (50 cannons) managed to reach the Glorioso and at noon on October 18 the two ships were engaged in an artillery duel 3 hours long. The English ship was also dismasted and the powder magazine hit by a cannon shot. She exploded, dying in the explosion most of her 300 crewmen.
The English did not give up the pursuit of Glorioso and towards midnight, the ship of the line HMS Russell (92 cannons) and the privateering frigates Prince Frederick (approx. 26 cannons) and Prince George (approx. 20 cannons) reached the Spanish ship.
Then the last and final artillery duel with the Glorioso took place. It was a night battle that lasted 9 hours. The HMS Russell carried out most of the English attack resulting badly damaged and in danger of sinking.
But the Glorioso, dismasted partially (she had lost the main mast), ran out of ammunition. Given the impossibility of continuing the defence, the captain Messía de la Zerda decided to surrender his ship to the HMS Russell.
The Glorioso had faced alone in 5 fights with a total of 4 ships of the line, 6 frigates and 2 brigs. He sank the HMS Dartmouth, dismasting or causing serious damage to the ships of the line HMS Warwick and HMS Russell, and the frigates HMS Lark and King George.
The Spaniards suffered a total of 43 dead, but they caused 433 to the English.
The badly damaged Glorioso and her crew were taken to Lisbon, where they arrived on October 31. There, the crew was delivered to the Spanish ambassador and released.
Pedro Messia de la Zerda, who had been promoted to commodore while he was in Corcubion, reached the rank of lieutenant general of the Armada Real and afterwards become Viceroy of New Granada.
The San Ignacio de Loyola, alias Glorioso, was repaired in Lisbon and an English crew brought it to Portsmouth, where she remained docked over a year. She was auctioned but did not return to navigate. She was scrapped and it is believed that the valuable timbers with which she was built were used to make luxury furniture.
We thank to Captain Agustin Fernandez Pacheco, author of the book El “Glorioso", for the revision of this post.
|The Glorioso anchored at Cadiz (1746). Drawing by Carlos Parrilla|
El Glorioso. Agustín Pacheco Fernández. Galland Books. 2015
Wikipedia. Voyage of the Glorioso (English)
Wikipedia. Carrera del Glorioso (Spanish)
One Magazine. Las hazañas navales del navío 'El Glorioso'
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The Arsenal of Cartagena
Cartagena and the Royal Artillery Factory at La Cavada
Index of posts about History