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Battle of Mar de Plata (1744) Author Johnathan O' Reilly Illustrator None Publication date November 30, 1744 Published by Royal Publishing Company Publication Order Preceded by The Battle of Foggy Rock Followed by None
Publishing Order and PrologueEdit
This is the eye-witness account of the Battle of Mar de Plata, occuring in the year 1744. It was a battle between the flagship of the Royal Navy Caribbean Squadron and a Spanish Armada. This is the last battle of the First Anglo-Saxon War.
NOTE: This battle is told from the eyes of Johnathan O' Reilly, taking on the duties of a Royal Navy commander.
On November 28, 1744 (2011) the H.M.S. Essex, of 124 guns, was patrolling Mar de Plata, under orders from the First Lord of the Admiralty Matthew Faye to keep on the watch for rebels under the command of a Spanish traitor, Frederico Martinez. Second Sea Lord Johnathan O' Reilly was slowly pacing the quarterdeck of his flagship, looking across the water at the tranquil sea, untouched except for the small wake left by the Essex. "Deck there, it looks like a Spaniard, that it looks, sir! Heading nor... noreast by the looks of it, off the Starboard bow!" came the hail from the main top.
"Mr. Vincent, my glass, if you please." Lord O' Reilly requested of the signal midshipman. Vincent scrambled across the quarterdeck, handing the telescope to Lord O' Reilly. Lord O' Reilly steadied the glass, focusing his eyes on the small white dot, miles distant. He quickly shut the lid, handed the glass back to Vincent, and began giving orders to his crew. "Mr. Garland, clear for action. Mr. Beckett, I need the marines lined up on the starboard rail. Have the drummers and fifer stationed on the foc'sle, I want a lively tune struck up. Keep the morale high. Mr. Rogers! Get your tools set below on the orlop, get ready to tend to the wounded." Lord O' Reilly then caught a grip on the ratlines, swinging himself around to the outside. He climbed 45 feet up the mast, locked his arms around the rigging, and observed the Spanish ship. "Masthead there, what do you make of her?" shouted Lord O' Reilly.
"Looks like, uh, a first rate! She's cleared for action and coming up fast!" came the reply. Lord Coaleaston glanced back across the water, and began to climb down. Upon reaching the deck, he opened his mouth to explain the situation to his officers, when the lookout shouted again. "God, sir! There's another! Dear Lord, there's three more!" a panicked cry came.
"Well, gentlemen, it looks like we have the pleasure of serving our shot to those Dagoe bastards, eh?" Lord O' Reilly shouted. This remark brought a laugh from the crew, rousing their spirits as they beat to quarters.
The Enemy FlagshipEdit
As Lord O' Reilly looked ahead, he noticed the leading ship was unlike the others. She was a three decker, to which the officers argued of her amount of guns. "Blast, she's 98 guns! Look at her build! Can't be more than that!" exclaimed Mr. Garland.
"No, no, she must be at least 112!" shouted Vincent.
"More like 104. She must be!" Beckett shouted. Lord O' Reilly stared at them, and they returned to their duties. The enemy ship was sailing much faster now, and was within range of the Essex. The chattering of the crew had died down, the tension had filled the air. A faint explosion was heard, and seconds later the shot splashed into the water 20 yards off the port bow. Lord O' Reilly leaned far over the taffrail, training his eyes on the enemy. They were so close he could read the name in gold writing on the bow, the Estrella del Mar. The two ships seemed to glide toward each other, neither making a move.
"Helmsman, put her hard a starboard! Run up the colours! Steady now, and fire! Lord O' Reilly shouted. As the ship burst into action, the Spanish ship sailed on, awestruck. The Essex came to bear, and her broadside ripped through the bow of the Estrella del Mar, tearing the bow into splinters. The Spanish crew struggled to return fire, but were beaten by the highly trained crew of the Essex. As a second broadside tore through the hull of the Estrella del Mar, musket shots were heard from the maintop of the Essex. A small party of marines had climbed aloft, and were now firing into the puzzled crew of the Spanish ship. The Estrella del Mar suddenly veered to port, and boarding parties lined up on the decks, waving their weapons and screaming. "Prepare to repel boarders! Prepare to repel boarders, dammit!" Beckett screamed. Lord O' Reilly drew his sword, and cocked his pistol. The Estrella rammed into the Essex just left of the marines, who stood steady through the encounter.
"Ready! Aim! And, fire!" shouted the marine captain, and a crashing volley of lead poured into the enemy boarding parties, killing the first row, and wounding several others. The remaining boarders flew onto the deck of the Essex, swinging their swords into the marines. Their discipline held the marines together, but many were wounded. Lord O' Reilly charged forward, swinging his sabre through a Spanish sailor, and then shot two Spanish marines with one shot from his pistol. A boarder jumped from the deckrail onto Lord O' Reilly's back, who thrusted his sword through the attacker's chest. The front most carronade on the fore castle of the Estrella went off with a deafening boom, leaving a cloud of smoke where the marines had stood. When it cleared, not a single marine was standing, and the few survivors moaned in agony. Lord O' Reilly heard a lively tune still being played on the forecastle, and noticed the marine musicians dutifully playing. Shortly after, four more carronades loaded with grapeshot were fired onto the forecastle of the Essex, killing every man on that deck, and destroying all six guns mounted there. Lord O' Reilly looked at the Estrella, which had received even worse damage than the Essex. She had lost her mizzen and foremast, and was inching towards shore, with gaping holes in her hull. A fire on the deck was being put out, and faint cries of the Spanish wounded were heard.
The Main BattleEdit
As the Estrella del Mar sailed away, the four other ships of the line began to close in on the Essex. "Mr. Washington, run aloft with your glass and tell me their every action!" Lord O' Reilly screamed at the young midshipman.
"Aye aye, sir!" he replied. He shoved his glass into his jacket, and scrambled to the topmast. "Sir, there running out their guns on the starboard side! No, wait, thats both! They're cleared for action!" Washington shouted.
"Damn... Where is the rest of the fleet?!" Lord O' Reilly nearly screamed. "Mr. Vincent, send No. 27, 'Request assistance' to shore. Why don't they help us?" At that, the midshipman hoisted the said flag, and they waited for a response from shore. No reply. "Blast them!" shouted Lord O' Reilly, leaning back over the taffrail to realize the rudder was shot away. "Two points to starboard, Mr. Garland!" he ordered his first lieutenant's sun, Sven. The steering didn't answer, and the ship continued on its course.
"Enemy ships, heading at us! Wait, I'll be damned! They are turning! No, just the first! They are going to surround us!" Washington shouted from the topmast. As Lord O' Reilly looked, he noticed a small cutter swinging around the stern of the ship with a 42-pounder at her bow. The cutter's crew began loading the gun, and lowering it to hit below the waterline, when two of the Essex's stern chasers aimed down at the cutter. The cutter's crew brought the gun to bear, but were just outshot by the sternchasers. Two simultaneous "thuds" rang out, and the cutter disappeared into a heap of wood. Cheering erupted from the lower deck, but was quickly settled due to the Bosun's orders. The San Ferdinand, one of the enemy ships, was now crossing across the bow of the Essex, running out her guns.
"San Ferdinand is running out sir! Rapido and Patriota swinging round on our port and starboard! The Hermione is coming round our stern! God help us!" screamed Washington from the topmast. Lord O' Reilly ran to the helm, knocking Garland aside. He desperately tried to bring the ship about, but the ship wouldn't answer. As if all Hell had been unleashed, the three ships opened fire on the Essex, fully utilizing their broadsides. Guns were destroyed, crew members fell, and fires expanded. The quarterdeck was swept with gunfire from enemy sharpshooters, and cannonfire knocked three guns out of action just near Lord O' Reilly.
"Fire! Fire, damn you!" Lord O' Reilly screamed. The Essex responded to the enemy with a crashing broadside, and as the ship recoiled, was hit hard from an enemy broadisde on the starboard, but was then jerked back to its position. A large crack was heard, and the mizzen mast fell on the main deck in front of Lord O' Reilly, splintering on impact with the deck. The sails draped over the deck, and collapsed over Lord O' Reilly, who drew his knife and cut himself out. Midshipman Washington was sprawled across the deck with a gash across his face, and his coat ripped off. He had miraculously been caught in the sail as it fell, and dropped on the rubble. He slowly moved forward, but was imperilled with a large splinter from the falling mast. Another broadside fired from the Essex, impacting on the Rapido with an explosion. The shots had hit her stern magazine, causing her to light aflame and explode.
The burning frame of the ship headed to a hard port, heading on a direct course for the Essex. "Stand by to fend her off! Use anything you find! Mr. Garland, get a team back here to clear this wreck!" screamed Lord O' Reilly over the thunderous roar of another salvo of broadsided. The burning frame of the Rapido slowly drifted towards the Essex, which was holed below the waterline already from an enemy broadside. The crew on the main deck jammed their oars against the hull of the Rapido, sending the ship off aground on a rocky spit of an island. When the Essex responded, Lord O' Reilly realized that more than half of the guns had been silenced. Another shot hit home on the mainmast, causing it to fall forward, crashing over the foremast. All splinters and ropes fell, and a main spar landed on five more main deck guns. Two powder boys sprinted past Lord O' Reilly, but were smashed with a single cannonball. Their blood flew over Lord O' Reilly, who fell backward.
Another ship soon crossed the stern of the Essex, firing a broadside, which was noticably larger than the others. The Estrella del Mar had returned with a small mast set up on her deck, and rammed into the stern gallery of the Essex. Boarders leaped through the broken glass windows of the stern cabin, chargin with axes and muskets firing. Two marines on the taffrail shot down as they boarded, but a cannon ball struck the stern lantern, throwing the glass over the marines, who fell to the deck covered in blood. Three more enemy broadsides crashed through the gun decks, killing nearly half of the men in reach. The Patriota'turned course towards the Estrella del Mar, which was pulling off of the Essex. The Patriota veered back on her port into the Essex, which caught the enemy in her fallen rigging. The Patriota had stuck itslef in between the fire of the Estrella del Mar, San Ferdinand, and the Hermione. The three remaining Spanish ships fired on the Essex, but instead hit the Patriota which had rammed itself into the Essex. The Patriota was torn to splinters, and any chance of her crew boarding the Essex was eliminated by the wreckage on the Essex's deck.
"Sir! Sir!" shouted the surgeon, Jack Rogers, "Of the 950 men aboard, 800 are dead, 50 wounded or missing, and the other 100 are so bloody confused that this ship can't even be sailed!" Lord O' Reilly stared in shock listening to the butcher's bill, while the carpenter ran up beside Rogers.
"Rudder's shot away, all three masts are down, including the bowspirt. We are holed below in six different areas, and the water is rising to six feet seven inches, and rising fast. Two of the three pumps are down, and every gun on the lower gun deck is shot away!" came the carpeneter's report.
"Sir, we can't take anymore! There isn't even enough men to fire 12 of the 124 guns we have! It's no use, sir!" shouted Lieutenant Garland. Lord O' Reilly looked at his four lieutenants, the only remaining midshipmen, the marine captain, and the sailing master.
"Well, gentlemen, we are through. It's been an honor serving with you, men. The time has come, we have fought hard and long, and I asked for your efforts, and well, dammit I got them. Thank you for that. Gentlmen, good luck." Lord O' Reilly said, and saluted his comrades. His fellow officers saluted back, and Lord O' Reilly noticed tears from the young midshipmen next to him. He bent down, and said "It's alright, boys, it's alright..."
Lord O' Reilly shouted to the Spanish ships that he wished to surrender, but the thunder of another broadside drowned his voice. He looked to the mizzenmast, which was on the deck, British colours laying across the wreckage. He ran over to them, picked them up, and raised them in his hands. "For God's sake, we surrender!" he screamed again. The firing stopped, and a call was heard from the Estrella del Mar. Not understanding, Lord O' Reilly merely shouted back "Yes, yes!" assuming it was a call for surrender. His answer was three more broadsides, that impacted the stern so largely that Lord O' Reilly fell. He ran to the back of the ship, tore off his shirt and waved it over the taffrail.
The Estrella del Mar began lowering their cutter to the water, with marines on board, and an officer in the stern. The officer began shouting something, but from the Essex it still could not be heard. To Lord O' Reilly's great thankfulness, no enemy broadisde was fired. As the cutter drew closer, the words came more clearly. To the officers' expectancy, it was Spanish. "Es usted entrega?! Es usted entrega?! (English: Do you surrender?! Do you surrender?!) Lord O' Reilly gathered his few skills in Spanish, and shouted his reply back to the cutter.
"Si, si! Nos rendimos! (English: Yes, yes! We surrender!) Lord O' Reilly shouted back, waving his shirt. The Spanish officer directed the cutter to the Essex and, accompanied by two of his marines, climbed aboard. "Welcome aboard, sir." Lord O' Reilly muttered in contempt, "And who do I have the honor of surrendering too?"
"Vice Admiral Diego Santiago Ramierez, Second in Command of Admiral Frederico Martinez's Spanish fleet. And you?" he asked. Lord O' Reilly stared at the man in shock. He had never been so improperly addressed in his life. Lord O' Reilly looked at Garland, who merely shook his head.
"Second Sea Lord Johnathan Francis Anthony O' Reilly, Third in Command of His Majesty's Royal British Navy. This is my flag captain, Captain Jeremiah Garland." Lord O' Reilly said quietly. He slowly drew his sword, (thankfully not full dress sword, which meant much to Lord O' Reilly) and spun it around so that the handle faced Ramierez.
The Battle of Foggy Rock | The Battle of Mar de Plata