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Attack on the Spanish Treasure ships at Virgo

1702. Wednesday 11th - 12th October. The Attack on the Treasure ships at Virgo, during the War of the Spanish Succession.

The English and Dutch forces surprised and captured the Spanish defended harbour and shared part of the silver from a treasure fleet that was being unloaded.

However, the Spanish sailors had already unloaded most of its cargo.

The Battle of Vigo Bay, also known as the Battle of Rande, was a naval engagement fought on 23 October 1702 during the opening years of the War of the Spanish Succession. The engagement followed an Anglo-Dutch attempt to capture the Spanish port of Cádiz in September in an effort to secure a naval base in the Iberian Peninsula.

From this station the Allies had hoped to conduct operations in the western Mediterranean Sea, particularly against the French at Toulon. The amphibious assault, however, had proved a disaster, but as Admiral George Rooke retreated home in early October, he received news that the Spanish treasure fleet from America, laden with silver and merchandise, had entered Vigo Bay in northern Spain. Philips van Almonde convinced Rooke to attack the treasure ships, despite the lateness of the year and the fact that the vessels were protected by French ships-of-the-line.

The Battle of Vigo Bay. Anonymous

The French and Spanish fleet sought safety behind a boom with twin batteries. However, Allied marines captured the harbour defenses and defeated the boom. The main Anglo-Dutch fleet then attacked the outnumbered and immobilized French fleet. The French surrendered six ships-of-the-line, and others were destroyed.

The engagement was an overwhelming naval success for the Allies: the entire French escort fleet, under the command of Château-Renault, together with the Spanish galleons and transports under Manuel de Velasco, had either been captured or destroyed. Yet because most of the treasure had been off-loaded before the attack, capturing the bulk of the silver cargo had eluded Rooke. Nevertheless, the victory was a welcome boost to Allied morale and had helped persuade the Portuguese King, Peter II, to abandon his earlier treaty with the French, and join the Grand Alliance.

References/ Further reading

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