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Capture of the Rosily Squadron
Part of the Peninsular War
Vista de Cádiz y sus contornos hacia 1813.jpg
Map of Cádiz
Date9–14 June 1808.
LocationCádiz, Spain
Result Spanish victory, French squadron surrenders to Spain
France French Empire Spain Spain
Commanders and leaders
France François Rosily  (POW) Spain Juan Ruiz de Apodaca
Spain Tomás de Morla y Pacheco
5 ships of the line,
1 frigate,
4,000 sailors
5 ships of the line,
1 frigate
At least 2,000 sailors and militia,
Numerous gunboats
Casualties and losses
13 dead,
46 wounded,
3,676 captured,
6 ships captured[1][2]
Total: 3,735
4 dead,
50 wounded,
15 gunboats sunk
Total: 54

The Capture of the Rosily Squadron took place on 14 June 1808, in Cadiz, Spain, nearly three years after the Battle of Trafalgar, when the Spanish had risen against the French invaders. Five French ships of the line and a frigate were also still in the port and had remained there since that British victory. Admiral Rosily, after an engagement with the Spanish lasting five days, surrendered his entire squadron with the four thousand seamen then on board.[3]


Under difficult circumstances, Rear-Admiral Rosily acted in the manner that was most suitable to his situation, endeavouring to gain enough time for the arrival at Cadiz of those troops which had been dispatched from Madrid to Andalusia. He took up defensive positions, beyond the reach of the land batteries, in the channel which leads to the Caracas. While anchored there, he first offered to quit the bay, in order to quiet the multitude; he next proposed to the British, who were blockading the port, to send his cannon ashore, to keep his crews on board and to conceal his flag. In exchange, he required hostages for the safety of his sick, the French inhabitants of Cadiz and a pledge that he should be secured from attack. The British would not consent to this.

Spanish governor of Cadiz Tomás Morla, refused to comply with the propositions of the French Admiral and required that the French squadron should surrender. On his refusal, the Spaniards sited batteries on the Isle of Leon and near Fort Louis.

The French ships were:

Neptune 80
Héros 74
Pluton 74
Algesiras 80
Argonaute[4] 74
Cornélie 44


On 9 June, at 3 PM, a division of Spanish gun and mortar boats and the batteries erected on the Isle of Leon and at Fort Louis commenced hostilities against the French ships with steady fire, which was kept up until nightfall. The Spaniards had even requested that two ships of the line, the Principe de Asturias (112) and the Terrible (74), help them.

On the following morning, the 10th, the cannonade recommenced and continued until 2 PM, when the French flagship, the Héros, hoisted a flag of truce. Shortly afterwards Vice-Admiral Rosily addressed a letter to Spanish governor Morla, offering to disembark his guns and ammunition, but to retain his men and not hoist any colours. These terms were considered unacceptable, the Spaniards prepared to renew the attack upon the French squadron with an increase of force. On the 14th, at 7 AM, an additional battery of 30 long 24-pounders were ready to act and numerous gun and mortar vessels took up their stations. The French ships struck their colours, which in the course of the forenoon, were replaced by those of Spain.

The British were impatient spectators of this action. Admiral Collingwood, who commanded the blockade of Cadiz, made an offer of co-operation, but his offer was refused by the Spanish. It was enough for them that the British should prevent the fleet from escaping; they were not disposed to give them any claim to a prey which would be captured without their aid.[5][6]

The French suffered little human loss, the Spaniards had only four men killed. It being impossible for the French to offer much resistance, and certain of the success of his attack, the Spanish governor, Tomás Morla, did not wish to employ more violent means of destruction, such as heated shot.


Immediately after the surrender of the French fleet, the Spanish Supreme Junta requested the British Admiral give passage in one of his vessels to the commissioners whom it wished to send for the purpose of negotiating with the Government of his Britannic Majesty for an alliance against Napoleon.

Mr George Canning, His Majesty's Foreign Secretary, stated:

"No longer remember that war has existed between Spain and Great Britain. Every nation which resists the exorbitant power of France becomes immediately, and whatever may have been its previous relations with us, the natural ally of Great Britain".[7]

During the journey of 4 July, the British government emitted an order, declaring that all hostilities between Great Britain and Spain would cease with immediate effect.

See also


  1. Alfred Thayer Mahan, p. 195
  2. 3,676 was the correct number of prisoners according to the Gazette of Madrid
  3. Thayer Mahan, p. 195
  4. (Argonaute of 1806)
  5. Maximilien p. 210
  6. James p. 14
  7. Maximilien, p 213


  • Alfred Thayer Mahan. (1912). The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812. Little, Brown, and Company.
  • Foy, Maximilien, comte; Foy, Elisabeth Augustine, comtesse (1827). History of the war in the Peninsula, under Napoleon : to which is prefixed, a view of the political and military state of the four belligerent powers, Vol 1; London : Treuttel and Würtz.
  • James, William. Naval History of Great Britain 1793-1820 (1826) Applegath, London.

External links

Coordinates: 36°37′N 6°21′W / 36.617°N 6.35°W / 36.617; -6.35

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