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Battle of Porto Bello

Unit/ Formation: Marine Regiments


Location: Panama


Period/ Conflict: The War of Jenkins' Ear


Year: 1739


Date/s: 20 November 1739


Vernon's force appeared off Portobello on 20 November 1739. The British ships entered the bay prepared for a general attack, but a wind coming from the east obliged Vernon to concentrate his ships on the Todo Fierro harbour fort. The Spanish garrison was caught unprepared. When some Spaniards began to flee from several parts of the fort, several landing parties were sent inshore.

The bombardment of Porto Bello, by Samuel Scott

The British sailors and marines scaled the walls of the fort, struck the Spanish colours in the lower battery and hoisted an English ensign. The Spaniards surrendered then at discretion. Of the 300-man Spanish garrison, only 40 soldiers led by Lieutenant Don Juan Francisco Garganta had remained in the fort.

Once captured Todo Fierro, Vernon shifted his ships against Santiago Fortress, sinking a Spanish sloop and causing other damages. At dawn on the following morning, the Spaniards requested terms. Governor Francisco Javier Martínez de la Vega y Retes surrendered at the afternoon.


Portobello was occupied by the British at the cost of three dead and seven injured. Three prizes were taken: an armed snow which was renamed Triumph and two coastguards of 20 guns each one. The British occupied the town for three weeks, destroying the fortress and other key buildings and ending the settlement's main function as a major Spanish maritime base, before withdrawing.


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