Five aquatint plates of the battle of Algeciras.

London, Edward Harding, 1801–1802.

600 x 890 mm, five aquatint engravings; occasional very light dust-soiling; tiny stain on one margin but an excellent set with untrimmed edges as originally issued.


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This series illustrates various actions from the battle of Algeciras: the first, the attack on the French ships under the batteries of Algeciras on 6 July 1801; the second, the British squadron, under Sir James Saumarez (to whom each plate is dedicated), retiring from this action; the third, the same leaving Gibraltar Mole on 12 July; the fourth, his squadron, consisting of five two-deckers and two frigates, preparing to pursue the Allied fleet of ten sail of the line, of which two were 112-gun, one 94, three 80, and four 74, as well as frigates and gun boats; and, the fifth plate, shows the capture of the St Antonie, 74-gun, and the explosion of the Real Carlos and the San Hermenegildo, both 112-gun, having accidentally fought each other during the night. The aquatints were engraved by Hubert & Stadler for Harding (who later became Queen Charlotte’s librarian) from drawings by Brenton, captain of the Ceasar, Saumarez’s flagship during the battle. Brenton, ‘an active and zealous officer, whose training of his crews in ship-handling and gunnery illustrates the increasing professionalism of naval officers’ (Oxford DNB), reached the post of rear-admiral of the blue, was promoted lieutenant-governor of Greenwich Hospital, and, in later life, became close friends with William Wiberforce, whose will he witnessed.

The battle of Algeciras came about when a French squadron, detached from Ganteaume’s Toulon fleet and under Rear-Admiral Durand de Linois, had retired into Algeciras having found Cadiz blocked to it. Hearing of this, Saumarez, who was at the time in charge of the Brest blockade, immediately made his way to the Straits of Gibraltar to attack Linois with five ships of the line. ‘Linois had moored his ships inshore under cover of batteries, but the wind dropped as the British approached and the attack failed badly. One ship grounded and was captured, the rest were driven off with damage. On the 12th Vice-Admiral Moreno arrived from Cadiz with five ships of the line to escort Linois, and the allies sailed for Cadiz that afternoon. The forces were now ten ships of the line against Saumarez’s six, but one on each side was too badly damaged to sail. In the ensuing night action, one French ship was captured, two Spanish three-deckers fought one another and both blew up, and another French ship narrowly escaped after fighting off several British attackers. Saumarez had retrieved his reputation with a remarkable victory against odds, which had strategic consequences in confirming Spanish disgust with their French alliance. They demanded their fleet back from Brest, and relaxed the pressure on Portugal . . . . This was one of several factors which propelled Britain and France to negotiate the Peace of Amiens, signed in October 1801 and ratified the following March’ (Rodger, Command of the ocean pp. 471–2).


1. This plate representing the gallant attack of the French squadron under the batteries of Algeciras. 1 Jan 1802.

2. This plate representing the ships under his command returning from the attack of the French squadron warpd aground under the batteries of Algeciras. 1 Jan 1802.

3. This plate, representing the condition of the British squadron, on the morning of the 12 of July 1801, at the time the Ceasar, hauled out of Gibraltar Mole, to pursue the enemy’s fleet, under way off Algeciras. 13 May 1802.

4. This plate, representing the British squadron, consisting of five two deck’d ships, & two frigates preparing to pursue the combined squadron, of France, & Spain, on the afternoon of the 12th of July, 1801, consisting of 10 sail of the line, viz. two of 112 guns, 1 of 94, three of 80, four of 74, frigates, gun boats, &c &c. 19 May 1802.

5. This plate representing the capture of the St Antonie, of 74 guns, under French colours, & the blowing up of the Real Carlos & San Hermenegildo, Spanish, carrying, 112 guns & 1200 men each of whom 30 only were saved on the nigh of the 12 of July 1801. 1 Jan 1801.

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