The English supposed that in Santa Cruz de Tenerife they were going to find large volumes of money, or shipments from the Philippines, from the Treasury or even private wealth...
They knew that this port was not a fortified parade ground and that it was easy to attack it without having enough troops.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife had at that time for its defense the Castles of Paso Alto, San Pedro, San Cristóbal , San Andrés , San Juan and San Francisco, El Fuerte de San Miguel and the Batteries of Santa Isabel, San Antonio, La Altura, El Pilar, Los Melones, El Muelle, La Concepción , San Telmo and Las Cruces.
The army was practically made up of the Canary Islands Militias. Canarian soldiers who mostly derived from the field or their professional tasks and who went solicitously into combat when their services were required in case of alarm. In addition, there were infantry and artillery militias , some men from Cuba and Havana, and some French soldiers under the command of Commander Ponné . In total the forces that Tenerife had were around 1700 men.
The English squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Nelson, had the ships Theseus (captain ship), Cullodon, Zealons, and Leander; the frigates Emerald, Seahorse and Terpsichore, the cutter Fox and the bombardment Rayo, captured from the Spanish. Among all those who sailed there would be about 2000 men.
On July 22, at dawn, the English squadron was in sight of Santa Cruz, bringing 39 boats that they divided into two divisions, one heading towards the Bufadero Valley and the other, of 16, towards Santa Cruz.
A cannon shot of alarm set the population in motion.
In a number of 1,200 men they disembarked in Valleseco and seized La Jurada mountain, where they made themselves strong.
On the 23rd it was observed that the English had finally re-embarked, thanks to the opposition of the Canarian troops on the cliff of La Altura, and that the squadron had raised anchor, heading towards the South arriving in the afternoon at Barranco Hondo and Candelaria, where he spent the night on the Chimisay coast.
On July 24 , it was seen that the ships were trying to gain the windward direction instead of following the course they had started. At six in the evening, the squadron was again in the same place as the previous day , giving indications of attacking Paso Alto, firing 43 bombs at nightfall that did not cause any havoc.
At dawn on the 25th , the final assault was unleashed with 1,500 men led by their chiefs and officers and headed by Rear Admiral Nelson himself.
The frigate ” Reina Luisa ” is the first to raise the alarm and the batteries of the castles fire, rejecting the boats and sinking the Fox cutter , badly wounding Nelson and killing, among others, officers Bowen, Thorpe and Weterhead, at the same time the surf scattered the boats, crashing them against the rocks, where they had to endure artillery fire.
However, a launch that led Captain Toubridge was able to disembark through the area of La Caleta, at the same time that the bulk of the rest disembarked at other points in Barranquillo del Aceite, Las Carnicerías and the Barranco de Santos. to the English They entered the town and headed towards the convent of Santo Domingo and towards the main castle of San Cristóbal with the intention of seizing it. When they are rejected, they end up taking possession of the convent.
General D. Antonio Gutiérrez, General Commander of the Canary Islands, promptly moved his forces and fixed the British in their positions. It occupied the dock to prevent the arrival of reinforcements and increased the intensity of the siege around the church of Santo Domingo. All of Nelson’s attempts to help his encircled men were unsuccessful.
The Santo Domingo convent was the last redoubt to be recovered from English hands and from where Captain Samuel Hood offered the bases for a capitulation accepted by D. Antonio Gutiérrez , and that ended that bloody day. Said capitulation was ratified by Captain Toubridge and after it, the procedures for the re-embarkation of the English troops began , parading with unfurled flags before the Canarian troops formed in the Plaza de la Pila.
The English soldiers were embarked with all the honours, having been presented with rations of bread and wine in charity by the Canarian population, a fact recognized by Toubridge in a letter sent to Nelson.
On July 25 , the entire English squadron was embarked, with the exception of the wounded, who were treated at the Royal Hospital and the act of capitulation was sent to Nelson.
The following day on the 26th, and from the hands of Toubridge himself, the letter that Nelson had sent him was delivered to General Gutiérrez.
“The Theseus. In front of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, July 26, 1797.
I cannot leave this island without giving Your Excellency the most sincere thanks for your kind attention to me, for the humanity you have shown to our wounded who were under your power or under your care, and for your generosity to with all those who were disembarked, which I will not fail to present to my Sovereign and I hope with time to assure Your Excellency personally how much I am Your obedient humble servant.
PS I beg your Excellency to do me the honor of admitting a barrel of English beer and a cheese.”
General Gutiérrez ordered the transfer of the English wounded to his squadron and invited some officers to eat at his own table.
Later he wrote the reply letter to Nelson.
“Dear sir of my greatest attention :
With great pleasure I have received the appreciable effect of Your generosity and good way of thinking, because for my part I consider that no laurel deserves the man who only complies with what humanity dictates, and this is reduced to what that I have done for the wounded and for the others who disembarked, whom I must consider as brothers, from the moment the combat ended.
If, in the state in which you have been led by the always uncertain fate of war, I, or any of the effects that this island produces, could be of any use or relief to you, this would be a true pleasure for me and I hope admit to VS a couple of lemons of wine, which I think are not the worst that is produced.
It will give me great satisfaction to treat personally when circumstances permit, a subject with such dignified and recommendable garments as VS manifests. And in the meantime, I pray God save your life for many happy years .
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, July 26, 1797. BLM to VS your most reliable and attentive servant
D. Antonio Gutiérrez.
PS I received and appreciate the beer and cheese that VS has served me favorably with. I recommend to Your Excellency the request of the French, which Commander Toubridge will have presented to you on my behalf.”
General Gutiérrez sent the first report dated July 25 to the Minister of War, where he recounted the defeat of the English squadron, through Nelson himself, who offered himself as carrier for that purpose, arriving in Cá he said, and being handed over by Admiral Jarvis and later transferred to the court of Madrid.
More historical information
Aside from the content that you can read on our website, we have at your disposal more historical information that may be of interest to you:
Uniform of the Canary Islands Infantry Battalion during the English attack of 1797 on Santa Cruz de Tenerife (ES)
Uniforms of the Provincial Militias of the Canary Islands during the English attack of 1797 on Santa Cruz de Tenerife (ES)