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(Cartagena Expedition)
Attaque de Cartagene depuis la prise des forts jusquau 24 Avril [1741]

small quarto, 2 ½ page manuscript account, neatly and boldly inscribed in ink, in very good clean and legible condition. It is written on laid paper manufactured by Benoid Vimal, a French paper maker active in the first half of the 18th century. See vimal/

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Contemporary manuscript account, written in French, of the Battle for Cartagena in the War of Jenkin’s Ear. The account is probably a letter from a French trader active in Colombia at the time. This trader is most likely one François Hercouët. There exists in the archives of a notaire, named Morel, from Saint-Malo an “acte d’engagement” dated 29 January 1740 to a ship, the Theresa, chartered by the owner and captain, Hercouët, to go to the Americas. There are further traces in the history of Saint-Malo of François Hercouët. He was at the time a slave owner. Most importantly, the newspaper “the Courier” of 14 July 1741 alludes to the account offered here, H. recounts the events of Cartagena in very similar terms. It is cited that the information had come to the journal by way of a Captain Barcouët, who was entrusted by H. to send the report on to the Courier. The paper related that Barcouët, commanding the Marie-Anne, had left Santa Marta on 30 April and arrived at Brest 30 June. There was, by way of further note, a “Captaine Hercouët” who was very active in the slave trade to Saint Domingue in the 1770s.

            In March 1741 a large scale expedition of British and American colonial troops led by Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757) arrived at Cartagena, a city on the northern coast of present day Colombia, in the Caribbean Coast region, with a massive fleet of 186 ships and 23,600 men, including 12,000 infantry. They were opposed by six Spanish ships and fewer than 3,000 men, in an action known as the Battle of Cartagena, part of the War of Jenkin’s Ear. The siege was broken off due to the start of the tropical rainy season, after weeks of intense fighting in which the British landing party was successfully repelled by the Spanish and native forces led by commander General Blas de Lezo y Olvarrieta, a Basque from the Guipuzcoa province in northern Spain. He died in the aftermath of the battle.

           Heavy British and Colonial casualties were compounded by diseases such as yellow fever. The victory prolonged Spain’s control of the Caribbean waters, which helped secure its large Empire until the 19th century. Admiral Vernon’s unsuccessful expedition to Carthagena was the greatest and most expensive that had ever entered the American seas. There was a large force of American colonials, mainly from New England, recruited for the expedition, and this was the first American Expeditionary Force. George Washington’s brother, Lawrence Washington was a member of the force, and was so impressed with Admiral Vernon, that he named his Virginia estate and plantation, Mount Vernon, after him.

      The manuscript, written in French, is here given in our rough English translation:

“The English have established mortars on the nearest fort of the city and fire bombs into Cartagena without effect. They have sent a ship of 70 guns between those which had sunk and led to the northwest of the city and Fort St. Lazare to barrage the said fort whose cannot reach the vessels. The English made their descent under Notre Dame de La Pouppe at night without being sighted and after came by way of the road from Hyhymany [i.e. Imainie, name of the lower city of Cartagena, which means suburb in the native dialect.] into the city where they found 800 militia men and 400 regulars whom they surprised and put to flight and immediately won the road to Bouquille. By this means they were holding the city blocked by sea and land. After being masters of the path to Bouquille … they established a battery and mortars to bombard the city in breach. But M. le Vice-Roy de Sta fe who had come to the rescue of Cartagena made a lively attack with 3,000 Indians who went by the way of Bouquille. They put the English in a crossfire, as they on one side had the sea and on the other the thick trees. Spaniards and Indians killed 2000, made 500 prisoners and seized the path of Bouquille and the battery of cannons and mortars and 850 guns and other weapons. This road was guarded by all of the Indians and all the negro slaves of Cartagena to whom the Vice-Roy had promised freedom if the city was not taken, and that he would pay owners of Negroes a half of their value. The English also wanted to take Fort St. Lazare by scaling the walls, but were repulsed with loss of many people of unknown numbers. M. le Vice-Roy gave a truce to the English to bury their dead. The Spaniards in this action have not lost many men, but they lost 400 men in defence of Boccagica [Fort Bocca Chica]. The Spaniards fortified the suburb of Imanie and they are almost all drawn back, and have people in the city to extinguish fires in case set off by bombs. The English carennent [nautical term unknown to me] many of their ships in the harbor of Bocagica, having up to 17 there at a time. Moreover, their camp is still by Notre Dame de Pouppe, between there and Cartagena’s Fort St. Lazare. After the vessels [of war] and 128 sailing ships there arrived 38 more, and every day more come. There are 180 sailing ships and 60 warships. The vessels and batteaux cross from St. Marta to Cartagena, and from Cartagena to the river. 18 merchant ships are at the coast of Portobello to be dealt with under the control of a warship. The English repair to Fort Bocagica “Le Sieur Hercouet” sortied from Santa Marta April 30 and arrived au Cap on 10 May and gave us the latest news “a la pointe d’avene ou Palmalite.”