Assault on Cádiz

The Assault on Cadiz was a part of a protracted naval blockade of the Spanish port of Cadiz by the Royal Navy, which comprised the siege and the shelling of the city as well as an amphibious assault on the port itself from June to July 1797. After the battle of Cape Saint Vincent the British fleet led by Lord Jervis and Sir Horatio Nelson had appeared in the Gulf of Cadiz. During the first days of June the city was bombarded, but causing slight damage to the Spanish batteries, navy and city. Nelson's objective was to force the Spanish admiral Jose Mazarredo to leave the harbour with the Spanish fleet. Mazarredo prepared an intelligent response and the Spaniards began to build gunboats and small ships to protect the entrance of the harbour from the British. By the first days of July, after a series of failed attacks led by Rear-Admiral Nelson, and with the British ships taking huge fire from the Spanish forts and batteries, the British withdraw and the siege was lifted.[10] The naval blockade, however, lasted until 1802.

The Blockade of Cadiz has been and is the completist thing in Naval History.[11]
— Admiral Sir John Jervis to Evan Nepean, 21 May 1797
Assault on Cadiz (1797)
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Nelson's Blockading Squadron at Cadiz 1797

Nelson's Blockading Squadron at Cadiz 1797 by T. Buttersworth, oil on canvas.
DateJune 1797
Coast of Cádiz, Spain

Spanish victory[1][2]

  • British assault repelled[3]
  • Failure of the bombardment of the city[4]
  • Economic losses for both countries[5][6][7]
 Great Britain Spain Kingdom of Spain
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain Horatio Nelson
Kingdom of Great Britain John Jervis
Spain José de Mazarredo
Spain Federico Gravina
Casualties and losses
3 armed boats sunk[8]
Victory's launch driven
3 armed boats captured


In February 1797 the British routed a Spanish fleet near Cape St. Vincent but failed to strike a solid blow against the Spanish Navy in the uneven struggle. Admiral Sir John Jervis sailed for Lisbon after the engagement, frustrated at the escape of several valuable prizes including Santísima Trinidad. New orders from the Admiralty demanded him to blockade and subdue the Spanish port of Cádiz, where much of the battered Spanish fleet had sought shelter. The First Sea Lord thought that the ease of Jervis' victory over José de Córdoba y Ramos guaranteed a successful attack on that strategic harbour. Events proved otherwise.

Blockade begins

The blockade of Cadiz, which had been begun by Sir John Jervis in 1797, had no intermission from that time until the peace of Amiens, and on the renewal of the war it was recommenced with all its former rigour. The fleet was distant from the town about 15 miles; the Spanish fleet within the harbour, and the British in-shore squadron under the command of Rear-admiral Thomas Louis, closely watching their movements, and reporting every indication of their disposition to come to sea. Two frigates were at the mouth of the harbour, for the purpose of intercepting any supply of provisions for the enemy. Nelson said he knew no more certain means of bringing them out than starvation.[12]

Having completed these arrangements, the admiral retired with the body of the fleet to the neighbourhood of Cape St. Mary's between 50 and 60 miles west of Cadiz, establishing a line of communication between himself and his advanced squadron, by means of three or four intermediate ships. By keeping at this distance from Cadiz, Nelson prevented the enemy from acquiring any accurate knowledge of his force.


Nelson at Cadiz
Nelson fighting a Spanish launch at Cádiz.
José de Mazarredo
Spanish Admiral José de Mazarredo by Jean François-Marie Bellier.

Nelson was appointed to the command of the inshore squadron blockading Cadiz. An order from Sir John Jervis directed the launches and barges of two divisions of the fleet to assemble on board HMS Theseus, between 9 and 10 o'clock every night, armed with carronades, spikes, cutlasses, broad axes, and chopping knives, a lamp in each boat with spikes, a sledge-hammer, and a coil of small rope, to tow off any armed brig, mortar or gun-boat, that should be carrier, and to follow the directions of Nelson for the night.

The Spaniards had equipped a number of gun-boats and large launches, in which they rowed guard during the night, to prevent the near approach of the blockaders. On these a vigorous attack was made in the night of 3 July by the British boats, headed by Nelson himself, which pursued the Spaniards close to the walls of Cadiz, and took two mortar-boats and an armed launch. In this conflict it was the admiral's fortune to encounter the barge of Don Miguel Tregoyen, the commander of the Spanish gun-boats. The struggle that ensued was one of the most perilous in which Nelson had ever been engaged. He fought hand to hand with the Spanish commandant, and it was his own opinion that he must have lost his life but for the devoted attachment of his faithful coxswain, John Sykes.

The Spanish garrison of Cadiz at this time consisted of more than 4,000 men. On the line wall facing the bay were mounted 70 pieces of cannon and eight mortars; near the Alameda were four other mortars; and from the Capuchins, at the back of the city, to the land point were three batteries of four guns each. Such was the strength of the place when Nelson was ordered to bombard it. The first attempt proved ineffective, as the large mortar had been materially damaged in earlier service. The second produced considerable effect in the town and among the shipping, as ten sail of the line, among them the ships carrying the flags of admirals Mazarredo and Gravina, warped out of the range of the shells with much precipitation on the following morning.

On the night of 8 July, Nelson meditated another operation under his own immediate direction; but the wind blew so strong down the bay, that it was found impossible to bring up the bomb vessels to the point of attack in time. On the following day, he informed Earl St. Vincent that, though he hoped enough had been done to force out the Spanish fleet, yet in case there had not, he would try them again.

The continuation of the blockade for most of the following three years, greatly curtailed the operations of the Spanish fleet from Cadiz until the Peace of Amiens in 1802, allowing the Royal Navy to establish its dominance in the Mediterranean.


Nelson had some time before he proposed to the commander-in-chief an expedition against the town of Santa Cruz, in the island of Tenerife. Lord Jervis allowed Sir Horatio to select such ships and officers as he thought proper for this service. The expedition resulted in another defeat for him.

The Spanish citizens of Cadiz composed a song of the victory that became very popular in Spain during the 19th century:

¿De qué sirve a los ingleses
tener fragatas ligeras
si saben que Mazarredo
tiene lanchas cañoneras?
What good is for English
having light frigates
if they know that Mazarredo
has gunboats?


  1. ^ Gardiner p.135
  2. ^ San Juan p.96
  3. ^ Gardiner p.135
  4. ^ Gardiner p.135
  5. ^ O'Flanagan, p. 112
  6. ^ Fisher, p. 202
  7. ^ San Juan p.96
  8. ^ Fernández Duro p. 143
  9. ^ Fernández Duro p. 143
  10. ^ San Juan p. 96
  11. ^ Knight, Roger (2005). The Pursuit of Victory : The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson. New York, USA: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-03764-3.
  12. ^ Belton, the naval history of Great Britain p 57


  • Gardiner, Robert. Fleet Battle and Blockade, The French Revolutionary Wars (2001) ISBN 1-84067-363-X
  • Knight, R.J.B. (2005). The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson, Basic Books, New York. ISBN 978-0-465-03764-3
  • San Juan, Víctor (2005). Trafalgar: Tres armadas en combate. Silex Ediciones. ISBN 84-7737-121-0.
  • Barker Henry, Matthew (1836). The life of Nelson revised and illustrated, by the Old Sailor, General Books, London. ISBN 1-4589-2623-0
  • Fernández Duro, Cesáreo (1902). Armada española desde la unión de los reinos de Castilla y de León, Vol. VI. Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, Madrid. (in Spanish)
  • O'Flanagan, Patrick (2008). Port cities of Atlantic Iberia, c. 1500-1900. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7546-6109-2.
  • Pelham Brenton, Edward (1837). The naval History of Great Britain, from the Year MDCCLXXXIII to MDCCCXXXVI Vol II. London.
  • Fisher, John Robert (1997). The economic aspects of Spanish imperialism in America, 1492-1810. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0-85323-552-X.

Coordinates: 28°28′N 16°15′W / 28.467°N 16.250°W

George Rooke

Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Rooke (1650 – 24 January 1709) was an English naval officer. As a junior officer he saw action at the Battle of Solebay and again at the Battle of Schooneveld during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. As a captain, he conveyed Prince William of Orange to England and took part in the Battle of Bantry Bay during the Williamite War in Ireland.

As a flag officer, Rooke commanded a division of the Royal Navy during their defeat at the Battle of Beachy Head. He also commanded a division at the Battle of Barfleur and distinguished himself at the Battle of La Hogue. He was later defeated while escorting a convoy at the Battle of Lagos.

Rooke commanded the unsuccessful allied expedition against Cádiz but on the passage home he destroyed the Spanish treasure fleet at the Battle of Vigo Bay in the opening stages of the War of the Spanish Succession. He also commanded the allied naval forces at the capture of Gibraltar and attacked the French fleet at the Battle of Málaga.

John Glanville

Sir John Glanville the younger (1586 – 2 October 1661), was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1614 and 1644. He was Speaker of the English House of Commons during the Short Parliament. He supported the Royalist cause in the English Civil War.

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 campaign began early in the War of the First Coalition, with an unsuccessful French attack on the neutral island of Sardinia in December 1792. In February 1793, France declared war on Great Britain, and Britain dispatched a fleet to the Mediterranean under Admiral Lord Hood to protect its trade routes in the region. The French Navy was in a state of disorder due to the ongoing social upheaval, and was initially unable to oppose the British and their allies. In August 1793, Hood and his Spanish and Italian allies were able to seize Toulon and the entire French fleet after a Royalist uprising in the town, followed by a four month siege by French Republican armies which included a young Napoleon Bonaparte. The allies were eventually driven out and the French fleet recaptured, although nearly half had been destroyed by the retreating British.

While the French repaired, Hood devoted 1794 to capturing the island of Corsica, intending to use it as a forward base for the blockade of Toulon. This took longer than expected, and by 1795 Hood had retired, replaced by William Hotham. Hotham faced the repaired French fleet under Pierre Martin, who led several sorties from Toulon, leading to two inconclusive British victories at the battles of Genoa and the Hyères Islands. Martin then deployed smaller squadrons on destructive operations against British commerce. Due to military success in Italy and diplomatic negotiations with Spain, by 1796 Britain's allies had broken away; Spain declared war on Britain in September, leaving the British fleet exposed between two powerful enemies. Unwilling to risk destruction of their fleet in the Mediterranean, the Admiralty withdrew the British, now under the command of Sir John Jervis, to the Tagus, abandoning the Mediterranean.

Sir Charles Ogle, 2nd Baronet

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Ogle, 2nd Baronet (24 May 1775 – 16 June 1858) was a Royal Navy officer. As a junior officer, he saw action leading storming parties at the capture of Martinique and at the capture of Guadeloupe during the French Revolutionary Wars. He also took part in the landings in Egypt in the later stages of the French Revolutionary Wars.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Ogle commanded of the fifth-rate HMS Unite in the Mediterranean Fleet. He went on to be Commander-in-Chief, North American Station and then Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. He also briefly served as Tory Member of Parliament for the rotten borough of Portarlington.

Timeline of Cádiz

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Cádiz, Spain.

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