Battle - 1722 - February 07 - Claiming Maracaibo

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Ships in Action:

British Fleet

Captain Lord Viscount James Wilmore - H.M.S. Alnwick, Macedon-class 4th-rate

Captain Sir Nathan Blatchford, 1st Bart. - H.M.S. Dreadnought, Macedon-class 4th-rate

Commodore Sir Roderick Morrow, 1st Bart. - H.M.S. Hades, Macedon-class 4th-rate

Captain Sir Paul Melhuish - H.M.S. Hammerhead, Macedon-class 4th-rate

Captain Alexander Lias - H.M.S. Knucker, Macedon-class 4th-rate

Captain Jack Naseby - H.M.S. Conqueror, Macedon-class 4th-rate

Captain Davis Cole - H.M.S. Resolve, Reason-class 4th-rate


17 other British ships, consisting mostly of heavy frigates, 4th-rates and 3rd-rates.


Spanish Fleet

21 Spanish ships, mostly heavy frigates, 4th-rates and 3rd-rates.

Action Setup:

The battle took place on the Savage Cliffs map, Britain was attacking.

While finishing up my accounts of shot and powder spent aboard the Dreadnought during target practice earlier in the day, I was interrupted by a midshipman carrying a note from the Admiralty. I was informed that a British fleet had just rounded Cape de Vela, and had then headed S to anchor outside Maracaibo to prepare an assault on the town. I was to slip my cable and rendezvous with the Fleet at the anchorage without the loss of a minute: The Spanish land forces was in the process of being reinforced by Spanish fleet of unknown size, and it was imperative that the attack was started before the Spaniards could prepare a full defence.

Reaching the rendezvous I was gladdened to see Lord Wilmore's personal ensign streaming out from the Alnwick, her captain in full dress uniform standing on her quarterdeck, and as I passed the anchored ships I reckognized no fewer than five other ships under the command of SGS captains. What I did not see, however, was an admiral's flag of command. A red pennant broke out above the Hades followed by the signal All captains - S - G - S - repair aboard flag, and presently we found ourselves crammed together in Sir Roderick's captain's cabin. "Gentlemen,", he said while directing our attention to the map weighed down on the table, "The situation is dire. I am afraid the fleet's flagship foundered off the Cape, and the battle will now be commanded by the four Commodores present. I will be leading White Group. If we hold our formation and take the fight to the enemy, we'll be having breakfast with captured Spaniards in the morning. Repair aboard your ships and observe my signals. Good luck, gentlemen." Lord Wilmore, to better dispense the British vessels at hand, joined the Black Group, while the remaining SGS captains formed the White Group.


The Action Itself:

With the wind strong on our larboard quarter we set course E and immediately spotted the enemy dead ahead. In front of us was an inlet between two islands, one to the N and one to the S, and the area between the two islands opened up into a larger bay with a solid land mass to the E. A lone Spanish Chasse-Marée, no doubt carrying dispatches to nearby Spanish ports, were intercepted and sunk by the foremost British ships. The Fleet was now in two lines astern, Black and Green at the front and Red and White at the rear, and as we headed NE out of the inlet the Spanish fleet could be seen hugging the SE shore of the northern island in a strong defensive line from E to W.

The foremost groups wasted no time in taking action, and as the Fleet closed in on the Spaniards, the enemy turned S then E to reverse their line. During this maneuver, the Spaniards made a gap between their foremost ships and the rear of their line, and while Black and Red moved in to engage the westernmost part of the split enemy line, Green sailed on a parallel course of the easternmost Spaniards. As the Dreadnought came within range of the enemy, the great crash of her 22-pounders rang out from her lower ports, and as I tried my best to peer through the thick smoke my signal midshipman came running towards me, saying "Flagship signalling, sir! Flag intends to pass through enemy lines!". Extending my looking glass I aimed it at the Hades sailing at two cable's length ahead of me, confirming the signal. "By God, sir! He intends to sail right into the middle of them!" my First Lieutenant exlaimed, quickly looking to port and starboard as the Spanish line came racing towards us. "And may we profit by it Mr. Bradshaw" I replied, "full sails if you please, stand ready to fire upon the frigate on our starboard bow.", and turning to the waiting midshipman, "Acknowledge, Mr. Peterson."

As White sailed through the gap in the enemy line, pummeling the rear of the easternmost Spaniards, Black and Red sunk or captured the enemy they had managed to engage to the W. White turned to starboard, trying to follow Green on a parallel course with the enemy trapped between the two British lines, but in the chaos of the close engagement the British groups, including White had been split. What followed was a chaotic brawl were both British and Spanish ships barely avoided crashing into eachother as both sides tried to keep fleet cohesion, and the Dreadnought and Hades, now sailing on their own, were firing both sides in a frantic attempt to damage the enemy. A great cheer broke out as the St. Patrick's Cross ran down the flagstaff of the nearest Spanish frigate as it surrendered after a hard pummeling from the Hades. Through the smoke that had just errupted from our starboard battery another enemy frigate could be seen, not five cables away and presenting her stern, her crew busy with throwing their dead overboard and cutting loose the mizzenmast that was hanging down her larboard side. "Aim for her hull, Mr. Bradshaw!" I roared at my First Lieutenant, and presently the guns went off in a great crash, every shot but two striking home. "Good show, Mr. Bradshaw, now I believe we-", a huge deafening din cut off my words as the Spaniard's powder magazine caught a spark and exploded in a violent burst of smoke, fire and flying pieces of wood. "Have that fire put out immediately" I cried as a burning chunck of a spar landed amidships, then, seeing my signal midshipman coming forward to meet me, I asked "Yes, what is it Mr. Peterson?". "Flag signalling sir, All captains to head W, form line astern of flag."

At this point in the battle several Spaniards had sunk or struck, and the remaining Spanish fleet formed a line roughly S to N, just E of the inlet, while the British Fleet formed a line on a praralell course on the opposite tack. White Group had at this time reformed, as it turned out that the ships in the groups had managed to stay within relative range of eachother, while the rest of the Fleet had unfortunately lost its group cohesion. Hades, with White trailing behind, then turned at the first opportunity W to engage the rear of the enemy line, forcing the Spaniards to again head E. Then followed a series of maneuvers where both fleets reversed their lines in an effort to either gain the weather gage or keep it, and the Spaniards, outnumbered though they were, managed to maintain fleet cohesion. It was therefore a united Spanish line that were heading on a western tack just SE of the fort of Maracaibo when the British fleet came within range sailing E. White Group were now at the van of the Fleet, and once again signal for Flag intends to pass through enemy lines broke out aboard the Hades, quickly followed by Engage enemy more closely before Hades set course SSE and snuck in between the fort and the Spanish fleet, wreaking havoc upon the rear of the enemy. The rest of the Fleet took this opportunity to charge, and presently the Spanish line broke. The British Fleet was now in general chase directly aft of the retreating Spaniards, with White just S of the fort. There were still some ten man-o-wars left on the Spanish side, and their captains set course SE along the coast of the southern island to reach the gap on the eastern tip of said island and a long southern inlet leading to their freedom. Sir Roderick would have none of it though.

"Give you joy, sir!" Lieutenant Bradshaw exclaimed as he clapped his glass to, "The Dons will reach the inlet before the Fleet can catch up though, unless we decide to place our very ships in their way, ha!". Straining my eyes on the fleeing Spaniards, now one point of our starboard bow, I replied, "Indeed, we will have to turn to larboard soon to engage them, but with their speed they will round the island before we do, and then we will not be able to catch them." "Truly a shame, sir. That is a considerable sum of prize momey sailing away from us, why, that 3rd-rate at the tip there would give - Heavens! What is Hades doing!" Ahead of us the Hades reduced sails, losing all headway and stopped right in front of the fleeing enemy 3rd-rate. The Spaniard desperately tried to avert his course, but moments later it crashed with full force into the larboard side of the Hades with a loud crack, the shock breaking off the Spaniard's fore and main masts and throwing men overboard on both ships. Presently the starboard batteries of the Hades disappeared in smoke as they fired a full broadside into the bow of the Spaniard, and looking over my starboard quarter I could see the Conqueror, Knucker and Hammerhead moving in to fire upon its rear. "Course SSW, ahead of the Hades." I said to the Master, and turning to my First, "Prepare to fire upon the next Spaniard that presents himself if you please, we may stop them yet." The enemy ships following the Spanish 3rd-rate now tried to weave their way through the mass of British ships that were blocking their way, but to no avail. Straining my glass upon the quarterdeck of the now mastless enemy lineship, I could see a Spanish lieutenant desperately lowering its colours, and only moments later the ensigns of the nearby Spanish frigate were lowered aswell. The thunder of cannonfire still echoed across the bay for some time, but presently all Spaniards had either struck or been mercilessly sunk by the Fleet. "Flag signalling sir, Form line astern of flag, and, beg your pardon sir, here comes another. S - G - S, sir." "Aknowledge, Mr. Peterson." I replied, "Quite fitting."

The Result:

British victory.

The British lost 2 vessels, the Spanish lost 12-15 vessels sunk or struck.

Lessons Learned:

Having an Admiral to lead the Fleet is extremely important, but we must never forget that it is the Group that is the core unit of any battle. If the groups stick together to block and concentrate fire on single targets, and do their outmost to keep line cohesion, any fleet will have a great advantage even without a battle commander.

Battle Schematic:

Maracaibo 070222 chart01.png

"With the wind strong on our larboard quarter we set course E and immediately spotted the enemy dead ahead. In front of us was an inlet between two islands, one to the N and one to the S, and the area between the two islands opened up into a larger bay with a solid land mass to the E. The Fleet was now in two lines astern, Black and Green at the front and Red and White at the rear, and as we headed NE out of the inlet the Spanish fleet could be seen hugging the SE shore of the northern island in a strong defensive line from E to W."


Maracaibo 070222 chart02.png

"The foremost groups wasted no time in taking action, and as the Fleet closed in on the Spaniards, the enemy turned S then E to reverse their line. During this maneuver, the Spaniards made a gap between their foremost ships and the rear of their line, and while Black and Red moved in to engage the westernmost part of the split enemy line, Green sailed on a parallel course of the easternmost Spaniards."


Maracaibo 070222 chart03.png

"White sailed through the gap in the enemy line, pummeling the rear of the easternmost Spaniards. White turned to starboard, trying to follow Green on a parallel course with the enemy trapped between the two British lines..."


Maracaibo 070222 chart04.png

"...but in the chaos of the close engagement the British groups, including White had been split. What followed was a chaotic brawl were both British and Spanish ships barely avoided crashing into eachother as both sides tried to keep fleet cohesion. In the meantime, Black and Red sunk or captured the enemy they had managed to engage to the W."


Maracaibo 070222 chart05.png

"Then followed a series of maneuvers where both fleets reversed their lines in an effort to either gain the weather gage or keep it, and the Spaniards, outnumbered though they were, managed to maintain fleet cohesion."


Maracaibo 070222 chart06.png

"It was therefore a united Spanish line that were heading on a western tack just SE of the fort of Maracaibo when the British fleet came within range sailing E."


Maracaibo 070222 chart07.png

"White engages the rear of the Spanish line while the rest of the Fleet make a charge. The Spaniards retreats to SSE, going for rounding the eastern tip of the southern island."


Maracaibo 070222 chart08.png

"White heads S and manages to block the fleeing enemy. The Spaniards that refuses to lower their colours are sunk."