The presence of the admiral Horatio Nelson
can only be understood as an invasion move.
This is what happened…
In the first part of this text we talked about the historic background which provoked the presence of the admiral Horatio Nelson in Tenerife. The Anglo-Spanish War had started, so many attacks over territories controlled by the enemy took place. One of these was the Canary Islands, a valued geostrategic enclave of the Atlantic Ocean.
This situation did not go unnoticed by the British Crown. Therefore, an invasion was prepared. The idea was to obtain, at least, a free port in this archipelago. It was a mission of vital importance for the British. As a result, they invested a lot of resources, including the human ones. It is the only way we can explain the presence of such an important admiral as Horatio Nelson in Tenerife, for he was one of the most important servicemen of England.
Everything was ready to initiate the attack, which was splitted in two halves. The first one consisted of the landing of 900 men in a beach near to the urban core. This would be done by night, in order to surprise the Spanish defenses. If this incursion was not enough, the second part of the plan would take place. It consisted of a massive arrival of the British army to the port of Santa Cruz, which they would try to take by force. They did so in the first attack, but anybody expected that there would be more than one…
The first landing that the admiral Horatio Nelson had planned started as expected. During the night of the 22nd of July, three English frigates rolled out the disembarking boats, in which the 900 men cited would arrive to the beach. They expected to do it by surprise. This landing was developed in two rounds: the first one was formed by 23 boats and went to the Bufadero ravine; the second one, directly to the city, in order to accomplish the second part of the plan, in case that the first stage would not be successful.
But this first attempt was a complete failure. On the one hand, it was no surprise, for the Spanish defense knew that the British army was there. On the other hand, the English did not have good luck with the wind, which provoked the abortion of the mission.
This failure provoked that, during the morning of the 22nd of July, they decided to disembark in Tenerife with all the resources they have, for they had lost the surprise factor. They had an intelligent strategy, but it failed, so the admiral Horatio Nelson needed a new plan. They established their frigates as near as possible to the Valleseco beach and the whole army, more than 1000 men, disembarked there. But the Spanish defenses stopped them by using firearms. They were in the Paso Alto castle, a strategic spot which provided the Spanish defenses some advantage.
As it was previously commented, one of the ideas that the admiral Horatio Nelson had prepared was the conquest of the cited castle. But, with the new plan, this was impossible. In fact, they could not move forward, for the battle was established in the beach itself. Because of that, the lieutenant Gutiérrez strengthened these defenses, in order to block any possible British incursion in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This battle lasted until the 23rd of July, when the British army assumed that they would not be able to move forward. They were in disadvantage, because they did not have a strategic position and the Spanish defenses were too strong to beat them in this situation. As a result, during the night of the 23rd of July, they decided to retreat.
The British crafts left the coast. Meanwhile, the lieutenant Gutiérrez reestablished the Spanish forces. At that moment, he knew he needed to defend the city of Santa Cruz. The British army would not try to enter by the beach again, so the alternative option was to enter directly through the port.
The admiral Horatio Nelson was having many more problems than what he expected. Because of that, he decided that it was time to attack the city. The disembark was planned to be developed during the night of the 24th of July. He formed 6 groups of boats, which carried 700 men to the por of Santa Cruz. It is believed that this night had very poor visibility, and the British wanted to use this aspect as an advantage to surprise, again, the Spanish forces. The idea was to go absolutely unnoticed and let the sea transport the boats to the coast, which were covered with canvas to try to hide them.
But all these tricks were unsuccessful. A Spanish frigate was able to find the boats and warned the rest of the army. An intense battle started, and the British army was extremely unprotected, so lots of servicemen died, and many of the boats sank. The few English men that reached the port were shot there, so almost anybody survived.
The most remembered historic event is about to come…
One of the people that reached the coast was the admiral Horatio Nelson. But, before he landed, one of the most remembered events of the History of the Canary Islands happened. The Tiger Cannon shot a bullet that hit the arm of the admiral and provoked the dismemberment. Nelson was evacuated immediately and survived, but he had lost the battle.
Some of the British servicemen landed and tried to accomplish the invasion, even though they were only a few. As it was expected, they failed. The survivors were cornered in Santo Domingo Square, so they took refuge in the convent. The lieutenant Gutiérrez blocked the entry to the port, in order to avoid new British disembarks. At that time, Nelson was able to make new plans, but he was not able to help their men. Because of that, a few days later they signed the surrender and went back to their ships. The British army abandoned the canary coast and returned to England. The lieutenant Gutiérrez, with his small militia forces, was able to defend the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife from the British army, which was considered the most powerful of the world.
In order to write this text, the Wikipedia post Ataque a Santa Cruz de Tenerife (1797) was taken as reference.
Featured imagen: Painting of Esteban García.
Imagen 1: Portrait of the admiral Nelson, by Lemuel Francis Abbott.
Imagen 2: Painting of Pedro de Guezala.
Imagen 3: Painting of Richard Westall.