1762 - British expedition against Havana – Capture of Havana

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1762 - British expedition against Cuba >> 1762 - British expedition against Havana – Capture of Havana

The campaign lasted from March to August 1762. This article describes the first phase of the campaign from July 31 to August 14, 1762.

Introduction

The Spanish preparations in 1761, the British preparations in 1762, the concentration of the British expeditionary forces in the West Indies and their arrival in front of Havana are described in our article 1762 - British expedition against Havana – Preparations and Arrival.

The initial British operations, the preparations for the siege of Morro Castle and the failed naval bombardment of this castle are described in our article 1762 - British expedition against Havana – Siege till the naval attack on Morro Castle.

The long siege of Morro Castle and its capture are described in our article 1762 - British expedition against Havana – Siege till the capture of Morro Castle.

Map of Havana

Map of Havana - Source: "History of the British Army" volume II by J. W. Fortescue

In these days, Havana probably had the the best harbour of the West Indies. It could easily accommodate up to 100 ships of the line. A 180 m wide and 800 m long entrance channel gave access to the harbour. Furthermore, Havana housed important shipyards building first rate men of war.

Two strong fortress defended the entrance channel. One the north side of the channel stood the very strong Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro on the rocky Cavannos ridge. It had 64 heavy guns and was garrisoned by 700 men (300 infantry, 50 seamen and 50 gunners, with 300 African labourers). The south side was defended by the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta. The channel could also be blocked by a boom chain extending from El Morro to La Punta. Havana itself, lay on the south side along the channel and was surrounded by a 5 km wall.

Preparations for the siege of Havana

At 9:00 PM on July 31, Velasco, the heroic defender of the Morro died of his wound. In honour of his defence, there has ever since been a ship named the Velasco in the Spanish navy. The vessels in the harbour took part in the operations, but were of little avail. The British now occupied a position commanding the city as well as the bay. They built batteries along the north side of the entrance channel from the Morro to La Cabana Hill.

Albemarle then went over to reconnoitre the west side, leaving his brother to form heavy batteries on the shore end of La Cabana ridge, which could now be reached from the Morro by water, and to prepare the Morro batteries for bombarding the city and Fort Punta. A road was found leading almost up to the weak defences, and covered, the greater part of the way, from the fire of Fort Punta. Even now it was only stopped by abatis.

On August 5, the second convoy carrying reinforcements from North America arrived, escorted by the Lizard (28), Captain Francis Banks, and Porcupine (16), Commander James Harwood. It consisted of:

On August 8, the remnants of the first convoy also reached Havana.

On August 10, all was ready, and Albemarle sent in his summons.

On August 11 at dawn, after Prado had rejected Albemarle's summon, the British batteries opened fire on Havana. A total of 47 guns (15 x 32-pdrs, 32 x 24-pdrs), 10 mortars and 5 howitzers pounded the city from a distance of 500 to 800 m. By 10:00 AM, Fort Puntal was silenced, and by noon there was scarcely a Spanish gun firing. Shortly afterwards all was silence and flags of truce were hung out on shore and in the Spanish flagship. A little later another flag was sent to the British headquarters and negotiations were entered upon. Prado had no other choice left but to surrender.

Capitulation of Havana

On August 12, negotiations of the articles of capitulation went on.

On August 13, the capitulation of Havana was signed, Prado and his army obtaining the honours of war. Hevia neglected to burn his fleet who fell intact in the hands of the British.

On August 14, the British entered the city. They had obtained possession of the most important harbour of the West Indies along with military equipment, 1,828,116 Spanish Pesos and merchandise valued around 1,000,000 Spanish Pesos. Furthermore, they had seized 20% of the ships of the line of the Spanish Navy, namely the Aquilón (74), Conquistador (74), Reina (70), San Antonio (64), Tigre (70), San Jenaro (60), América (60), Infante (74) and Soberano (74), together with 3 frigates, 9 smaller vessels and some armed vessels belonging to trading companies (Compañía de La Habana and Compañía de Caracas). However, the two new almost completed ships of the line in the dockyards: the San Carlos (80) and the Santiago (60 or 80), had been burnt.

During the siege several Spanish vessels were taken on the coast. The prize money divided amounted to about ₤736,000. Its division caused much heart-burning, the shares of the admiral and general being each ₤122,697; while the share of a captain of the Royal Navy was but ₤1,600, of a petty officer only ₤17, and of a seaman or Marine not more than ₤3 14 s. 9 d. It was felt, and perhaps with reason, that the administration permitted the commanding officers to appropriate far too large a share of the spoils to themselves.

During the siege of Havana, the British lost 1,790 killed, wounded, and missing. However, by October 18, they had lost a total of 5,000 men from sickness. One of the most depleted brigade was transferred to North America where it lost a further 360 men within a month of his arrival.

The naval dispatches were sent to Great Britain by Captain Augustus John Hervey, in the Dragon (74), which on her passage had the good fortune to capture a French ship valued at ₤30,000.

On November 3, Sir George Pocock delivered up the command of the fleet to Augustus Keppel, who by that time had been promoted to be a Rear-admiral of the Blue; and, with the Namur (90), Culloden (74), Temple (70), Devonshire (74), Marlborough (68), Infante (74), San Jenaro (60), Asuncion (a prize merchantman), several other Spanish prizes and about 50 transports, sailed for Great Britain.

About 960 km west of Land's End, Pocock 's squadron was dispersed by a very violent gale from the eastward. Twelve of the transports foundered, though their crews were happily saved. The Temple (70) came to a similar end. The Culloden (74) and Devonshire (74) would probably have fared likewise, had they not thrown overboard many of their guns. Part of the fleet made Kinsale. The other part, which kept the sea, suffered terrible privations from famine, thirst and sickness. So anxious did the Admiralty become, that it sent out several frigates to search for Sir George.

On January 13 1763, Sir George Pocock safely reached Spithead. The San Jenaro (60), one of the ships which had put into Kinsale, came to grief when at length she anchored in the Downs. She was overtaken by another storm, and was cast away. The Marlborough (68) lost company with the admiral early on the voyage; but she, too, met with very heavy weather, and, owing to leaks, was obliged to put before the wind, throw her guns overboard, and keep her crew at the pumps until November 20, when her people were taken off by the Antelope (54), Captain Thomas Graves, which was on her voyage home from Newfoundland. The Marlborough, after having been abandoned, was destroyed.

On their return to Spain, Prado and Hevia were court-martialed and convicted.

Rear-admiral Keppel sent home the rest of the Spanish prizes under Captain Arbuthnot of the Orford (70), together with the Centaur (74), Dublin (74), Alcide (64), Hampton Court (70), Edgar (60) and some frigates; and, after having acted with energy upon the station until the peace, he remained to deliver up Havana on July 7, 1763, in accordance with the provisions of the treaty. Some of his vessels then proceeded to Florida to take over that province and Keppel himself went to Jamaica, where he was presently relieved by Rear-admiral Sir William Burnaby.

References

This article is mostly a compilation of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Clowes, Wm. Laird: The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 238-239, 245-250
  • Corbett, Julian S.; England in the Seven Years' War – A Study in Combined Strategy, Vol II; New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907; pp. 250-284
  • Fortescue, J. W.: A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, pp. 541-544

Other sources

Greentree, David; A Far-Flung Gamble - Havana 1762, Osprey Publishing

Sanchez-Galarraga, Jorge, Luis de Velasco - Siege of Havana, 1762, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. XII No. 2

Acknowledgments

Andy Francis, Jean-Pierre Loriot and Juan for the information provided