The Battle of Cape Santa Maria the H.M.S. Indefatigable and her consorts H.M.S. Lively, H.M.S. Medusa and H.M.S. Amphion capturing the Spanish squadron and their treasure off Cape Santa Maria on October 5th 1804. oil on canvas 36-1/2 x 55 in. (92.7 x 139.7 cm.)
The Battle of Cape Santa Maria took place off the southern Portuguese coast, in which a British squadron under the command of Commodore Graham Moore attacked a Spanish squadron commanded by Brigadier Don José de Bustamante y Guerra, without declaration of war between the Britain and Spain. Under the terms of a secret convention Spain had to pay 72 million francs annually to France, until it declared war on Britain. The British had learned of the treaty, and knew it was likely that Spain would declare war soon. Bustamante set sail from Montevideo on 9 August 1804 with four frigates loaded with gold and silver, as well as other valuable cargo. On 22 September Vice Admiral Lord Collingwood ordered Captain Graham Moore, commanding the 44-gun frigate HMS Indefatigable, to intercept and detain the Spanish ships, peacefully, if possible. At dawn on 5 October, the Spanish frigates were sighted off the coast of Portugal. At 7 a.m. they sighted the four British frigates. Bustamante ordered his ships into line of battle, and within an hour the British came up in line, to windward of the Spaniards. Commodore Moore, sent Lieutenant Ascott to the Spanish flagship Medea, to explain his orders. Bustamante naturally refused to surrender, and impatient of delays, at 10 a.m. Commodore Moore ordered a shot be fired ahead over the bow of Medea. Almost immediately a general exchange of fire broke out. Within ten minutes the magazine of the Mercedes exploded destroying the ship (the moment depicted in this painting), and killing all but 40 of her 240 crew. Within half an hour the Santa Clara and the Medea had surrendered, and the Fama broke away trying to flee, the H.M.S. Medusa quickly followed. However, Moore ordered the faster H.M.S. Lively to pursue, capturing the Fama a few hours later. Spain declared war on Great Britain on 14 December 1804, only to suffer a catastrophic defeat less than a year later at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805.
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