General History of Gibraltar since it was first noticed.— Fortified
under the Saracen empire.—Reduction of the fortress by Ferdinand of
Castile.—Re taken by the Moors. —Finally recovered by the
Christians.—Taken by the English.—Besieged by the Spaniards m 1705;
afterwards in 1727.—Succession of Governors to the present time.
GIBRALTAR is situated in Andalusia, the most southern province of Spain.
The rock is seven miles in circumference, forming a promontory three
miles long; and is joined to the continent by an isthmus of low sand:
the southern extremity lies in 36° 2' 30" N. lat. and in 5° \& W. long,
from the meridian of London.
Historians, from very early periods, hare noticed Gibraltar, or Mons
Calpe, by a well known mythological fiction, denominating it, and Mons
Abyla, on the opposite coast of Africa, the Pillars of Hercules. It does
not, however, appear that the hill was ever inhabited by the
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, or Romans, who in the first ages of
navigation visited the bay, and built cities in its neighbourhood ; or
that it ever engaged the attention of those intrepid and successful
barbarians who so violently subverted the Roman empire, and established
a new government in Spain. The period when it began to be remarkable for
the natural strength of its situation, seems well ascertained to be in
the beginning of the eighth century, when the Saracens (then become a
powerful nation in the East, and along the coast of Africa) invaded
Spain, and soon after made themselves masters of the whole country.
The Gothic kingdom, which had existed in Spain for 300 years, was,
previous to the invasion of the Saracens, distracted with intestine
divisions: the nation in general were become effeminate, totally
neglecting the military discipline of their ancestors: and their monarch
Roderic, a profligate prince, not a little accelerated their ruin, by
ravishing the daughter of Count Julian, a nobleman of great wealth and
influence, and governor of Ceuta, in Africa. Count Julian, to avenge the
dishonour done to his family, combined with other discontented chiefs,
who had long complained, and were ripe for a revolt. The tyrant was
however too powerful for whatever opposition they alone could raise ;
the Count therefore secretly retired with his family into Africa, and
acquainting Mousa (the Saracen governor of the western provinces), with
the divided state of the empire, promised, if he would attempt to
dethrone Roderic, to assist him with his own interest, and that of his
Mousa, cautious and prudent, communicated the project to his sovereign tho Caliph Al Walid Ebn Abdalmalic, who agreed to try the practicability of it: and, to inspect more accurately the state of affairs, sent over a small detachment. One hundred horse, and four hundred foot, were accordingly embarked in the year 711, under the command of Tarif Ebn Zarca, attended by Count Julian, and other Gothic noblemen: this small force soon passed the Herculean Straits, and landed on the coast near the present town of Algeciras, Iwhere, finding no opposition, and the country almost defenceless, the Saracen general ravaged the neighbouring towns, and returned laden with spoils, to report the success of his first expedition. Mousa, elated with the flattering prospect, the following year assembled an army of 12,000 men, and Tarif was appointed to the chief command. Having supplied himself with provisions and stores, Tarif once more embarked on the rapid Strait, and landed on the isthmus between Mons Calpe and the continent. The object of this invasion being of a more serious nature than that of the former, he determined to secure an intercourse with Africa, by establishing a post on the coast; and, preferring the strong natural situation of Mons Calpe, gave orders to erect a castle on the face of the hill, which might answer the original purpose, and also cover his retreat, in case he should be unfortunate in his future operations. The superior part of this once magnificent pile at present remains; and, from an inscription discovered over the principal gate, before it was pulled down, the period of its being finished is ascertained to be about the year of our Lord 725.
Tarif, leaving a garrison at the foot of Mons Calpe (which was now called by the Saracens, in compliment to their general, GibeLTarif, or the mountain of Tarif, and thence Gibraltar) marched into the country, and surprised many towns, amongst which was Heraclea, or Carteia, situated on the coast of the bay, about four miles distant from GibelTarif.
King Roderic, receiving intelligence of Tarif s approach, assembled a numerous body of troops to oppose his progress. Both armies met, after several skirmishes, near Jerez, in Andalusia, and a bloody conflict ensued. The victory was for a long time doubtful; but the Gothic army being raw and undisciplined, and part disaffected and joining the Saracens, Tarif at length prevailed, and by this victory was left in possession of the whole kingdom.
The Goths, or Spaniards as we will now call them, were driven by the rapid conquests of the invaders into the provinces of Asturias, Biscay, &c, where, like the ancient Britons, they maintained a strenuous and respectable opposition. By degrees, they reassumed their former discipline and valour, while their conquerors declined into luxury and effeminacy: they made several excursions from the mountains, recovering, after many obstinate actions, great part of the northern provinces. This success encouraged them to attempt the total rejection of the Arabic yoke. Measures were concerted among the chiefs, to act with union and with vigour. The Infidels were attacked and routed in successive engagements; and the kingdoms of Asturias, Galicia, Leon, Navarre, and Castile, erected under different monarchs.
Gibraltar, during these transactions, increased in importance, though not in an equal degree with the neighbouring city of Algeciras, which had been built posterior to Gibraltar, on the opposite shore of the bay, and was then become a fortress of great magnificence and strength. This celebrated city seems totally to have obscured Gibraltar in the histories of those times, since very trifling mention is made of the latter, till the beginning of the fourteenth century, when we learn, that Ferdinand, king of Castile, in the course of his conquests, first took it (with a small detachment) from the Infidels.
Gibraltar could not at this period be very strong, as it fell so easy a prey to the Christians, whose army had been, and at that time was employed in the siege of Algeciras. It does not however appear that Ferdinand was equally successful in his operations against that city ; for we find, in the year 1316, the Moors of Grenada applying to the Emperor of Fez for succour: and, to facilitate their reception, Algeciras, and other cities on the coast, were put into the hands of the Africans. We may therefore conclude, that Ferdinand was obliged to withdraw from before Algeciras, and that he afterwards directed his force against the Infidels in a more vulnerable part, which induced them to apply for the assistance just mentioned.
Gibraltar continued in the possession of the Spaniards till 1333, when Abomelique, son of the Emperor of Fez, was dispatched with further assistance to the Moorish king of Grenada, and landing at Algeciras, immediately laid siege to Gibraltar, whilst the Grenadians were making diversions elsewhere. Alonzo XI. was then on the throne of Castile; and intelligence was immediately sent to inform him of the descent of the Africans. He was, however, prevented from marching to the relief of Gibraltar by a rebellion in his kingdom, and by the approach of Mahomet, king of Grenada, towards his frontiers. Abomelique commenced his attack on the castle with great judgment and bravery, and the Spanish Governor Vasco Perez de Meyra defended it with equal obstinacy ; but Perez having embezzled the money which was advanced to victual the garrison, the troops and inhabitants suffered great distress ; and no prospect of relief offering, he was compelled, after five months siege, to surrender.
Alonzo haying quelled the rebellion, and obliged Mahomet to retire, was
then marching to his assistance, and was advanced within a short
distance of Gibraltar, when he was informed of the capitulation. He was
resolved, nevertheless, to attempt its recovery before the Moors could
victual and repair it: he accordingly proceeded on his route, and
encamped before the town five days after it had surrendered. Alonzo
parted his army into three divisions; the main body occupied the
isthmus, the second he sent by boats to the red sands, and the third
climbed up the north of the hill above the town. Several serious attacks
had been made on the castle, when Mahomet, king of Grenada, joining
AbomeKque's forces, their combined army encamped in the rear of the
Spaniards, extending across the isthmus from the bay to the
Mediterranean. This position hemmed in the besiegers, debarred them from
foraging, and cut off their communication with the country. Alonzo,
though thus critically situated, still maintained the siege; but at
length, driven to great difficulties for want of provisions, and hearing
that some of his disaffected subjects, taking advantage of his absence,
were again in arms, he hearkened to an accommodation, and was permitted
to retire with his army.
To be thus disgracefully compelled to raise the siege, did not agree with the ambitious and impatient temper of Alonzo: he secretly meditated a new attack, whenever an opportunity should occur; and this intention was not a little strengthened by his success in the year 13434, when Algeciras was taken, after a most memorable siege. In 1349, the tumults and civil wars ir Africa afforded him the opportunity he waited fort great preparations were therefore made for this expedition, which was not esteemed of inferior consequence to the preceding siege of Algeciras, as the Moors, since the loss of that city, had paid great attention to the completion of the works, and to the rendering of the place considerably stronger, by additional fortifications : the garrison was also numerous and well provided, and of their choicest troops.
Alonzo encamped before Gibraltar in the beginning of 1349, and
immediately laid waste the delightful groves, gardens, and houses of
pleasure, which were erected in its neighbourhood. The siege was
commenced with great bravery ; and though the camp of the Castilians was
much harassed by the flying squadrons of Grenadian horse, yet the
castle, in the course of several months, was almost reduced to a
capitulation. at this critical period, a pestilential disorder swept
away numbers of the besiegers, and, among the rest, Alonzo, who died,
much lamented, on the 26th of March, 1350 ; and the Spaniards
immediately afterwards raised the siege.
The descendants of Abomelique continued in quiet possession of Gibraltar till 1410, when Jusaf III. king of Grenada, availing himself of the intestine divisions which prevailed among the African Moors, took possession of the place. The inhabitants, however, not relishing the government of their new masters, unanimously revolted the following year against the Grenadian alcaide, drove him with his garrison out of the town, and wrote to the Emperor of Morocco, to be taken again under his protection. The Emperor dispatched his brother Sayd, with 1000 horse and 2000 foot, to their assistance. The king of Grenada, being informed that Sayd had garrisoned the castle, marched with an army, and sending his fleet round to the bay, appeared before the place in 1411. Sayd advanced to meet him, but, being worsted in several skirmishes, was obliged to retreat within the castle, and being closely besieged, and reduced to great distress for want of provisions, was at last compelled to submit.
In 1435, Henry de Guzman Count de Niebla formed a design of attacking
Gibraltar by land and sea; but, imprudently skirmishing with the
garrison, from his gallies, before his son John de Guzman arrived with
the land forces, he was defeated, and forced to a precipitate retreat; in
which confusion he himself lost his life, and many of his followers were
killed and drowned.
In 1462, a civil war breaking out in Grenada, great part of the garrison
of Gibraltar was withdrawn, to assist one of the competitors for the
crown: the governor of Tarifa had intelligence of this by a Moor, who
had left the town, and embraced the Christian faith. An army was
accordingly assembled from the neighbouring garrisons, and Gibraltar was
besieged. The inhabitants defended it with great resolution ; but fresh
troops joining the besiegers, the garrison surrendered to John de
Guzman, Duke de Medina Sidonia, (son of the unfortunate Count de Niebla)
who, hearing that the place was reduced to great distress, hasted to the
camp, and arrived just in time to be present when the Moors capitulated.
From this period it has remained in the hands of the Christians, after
having been in the possession of the Mahometans 748 years. The news of
this conquest was so acceptable to Henry^ IV. of Castile and Leon, that
he added it to his royal titles, and gave it for arms, Gules, a castle,
proper, with a key pendent to the gate, or, (alluding to its being the
key to the Mediterranean) ; which arms have ever since been continued.
Pedro de Porras was appointed governor ; but the succeeding year King
Henry made a journey to Gibraltar, and superseded him, giving the
command to Don Bertrand de la Cueva, Count Lederma, who placed the trust
in the hands of Stephano Villacreces: the Duke de Medina Sidonia,
however, afterwards recovered, and enjoyed it, till the reign of
Ferdinand and Isabella in 1502, when it was annexed to the crown.
In the year 1540, Piali Hamet, one of Barbarossa's captains, surprised
and pillaged Gibraltar, making prisoners many of the principal
inhabitants; but being met on his return by some gallies from Sicily,
the Corsairs were all killed or taken, and the prisoners redeemed.
In the reign of Charles V. the fortifications of the town were
modernised, and several additions made by Daniel Speckel, the Emperor's
engineer ; after which the garrison was thought to be impregnable.—From
this time there appears a chasm in the garrison till the year
1704, when Gibraltar was wrested (most probably for ever) from the
dominion of Spain, by the English, under Sir George Rooke. This Admiral
had been sent into the Mediterranean, with a strong fleet, in the spring
of 1704, to assist Charles archduke of Austria in obtaining the crown of
Spain ; but, his instructions being limited, nothing of importance was
done. Sensible of the reflections that would fall on him, for being
inactive with so powerful a fleet, he held a council of war, on the 17th
of July, 1704, near Tetuan, where several schemes were proposed,
particularly a second attack upon Cadiz, which, however, was found
impracticable for want of a sufficient body of land forces. At length it
was resolved to make a sudden and vigorous attempt on Gibraltar.
The 21st of the same month, the fleet arrived in the Bay; and 1800 men
English and Dutch, commanded by the Prince of Hesse d'Armstadt, were
landed on the isthmus. The Prince then summoned the garrison ; but the
Governor refusing to surrender, preparations were made for the attack.
By daybreak on the 23d, the ships appointed to cannonade the town, under
Admirals Byng and Vanderdussen, with those that were destined to batter
the New mole, commanded by Captain Hicks, were at their several
stations. The Admiral made the signal to begin the cannonade, which was
performed with great vivacity and effect, so that the enemy, in five or
six hours, were driven from their guns, especially from the Newmole
head. The Admiral, considering that by gaining that fortification the
town might sooner be reduced, ordered Captain Whitaker, with the armed
boats, to possess himself of it; but Captains Hicks and Jumper, who lay
next the mole, pushed ashore with their pinnaces, before the rest came
up; whereupon the Spaniards sprung a mine, which blew up the
fortifications, killed 2 lieutenants and 40 men, and wounded 60. The
assailants nevertheless kept possession of the work, and being joined by
Captain Whitaker, advanced and took a small bastion, halfway between the
mole and the town. The Marquis de Salines, who was governor, being again
summoned, thought proper to capitulate: hostages were therefore
exchanged, and the Prince of Hesse, on the 24th, took possession of the
Notwithstanding the works were very strong, mounting 100 pieces of
ordnance, well appointed with ammunition and stores; yet the garrison,
at most, consisted only of 150 men, exclusive of the inhabitants. The
Marquis marched out with all the honours of war, and the Spaniards who
chose to remain were allowed the same privileges they had enjoyed under
King Charles II. The loss of the English in this attack was, 2
lieutenants, 1 master, 57 sailors, killed ; 1 captain, 7 lieutenants, 1
boatswain, 207 sailors, wounded.
The Prince of Hesse remained governor; and as many men as could well be
spared from the fleet, were left as a garrison. Sir George afterwards
sailed for retuan, to wood and water. This being performed, he steered
up the Mediterranean, and on the 13th of August, off Malaga, engaged the
French fleet, under the command of Count de Toulouse. The action was
long and warm; but many of the English ships, having expended a great
quantity of ammunition in taking Gibraltar, were soon obliged to quit
the line ; which gave the enemy a decided superiority. The engagement
ended in a drawn battle; and Sir George returned to Gibraltar, where he
stayed eight days to refit ; and then supplying the Prince with what men
and provisions he could spare, sailed thence on the 4th of September, N.
S. on his way home, leaving 18 men of war, under the command of Sir John
Leake, at Lisbon, to be in readiness to succour the garrison, if there
should be occasion.
The Courts of Madrid and Paris were greatly concerned at the loss of so
important a fortress as Gibraltar, and, considering its recovery of the
last consequence to the [cause, the Marquis de Yilladarias, a grandee of
Spain, was ordered to besiege, and endeavour to retake it. The Prince,
apprised of their intentions, and being further informed that they were
to be assisted by a naval force from Toulon, sent advice to Sir John
Leake, requesting assistance and supplies. Sir John prepared for this
duty ; but in the mean time a fleet of French ships arrived, and landed
six battalions, which joined the Spanish army. After disembarking their
reinforcements, the French squadron proceeded to the westward, leaving
only six frigates in the Bay.
On the 11th of October, the Marquis opened his trenches against the town
; and soon after Sir John arrived with 20 sail of English and Dutch
ships: hearing, however, that the enemy were preparing to attack him
with a superior force, he thought it most eligible immediately to return
and refit, that he might be in a better condition to supply and assist
the garrison, in a second expedition, for which he had very prudently
directed preparations to be made at Lisbon in his absence. The 22th Sir
John again put to sea; and on the 29th unexpectedly entering the Bay,
surprised three frigates, a fireship, two English prizes, a tartan, and
a storeship. He then landed the reinforcements, and supplied the
garrison with six months provisions and ammunition, at the same time
detaching on shore a body of 500 sailors to assist in repairing the
breaches which had been made by the enemy's fire. The arrival of the
Admiral was very opportune and critical; for that very night the
Marquis had resolved to attack the place by sea and land at five
different points; for which purpose he had assembled 200 boats from
Though disappointed in their designs, the Spaniards still entertained
hopes of taking the fortress ; and supposing the troops would be less on
their guard while the fleet was in the Bay, they formed the desperate
scheme of surprising the garrison, though the British Admiral was before
the town. The 31st of October, 500 volunteers took the sacrament, never
to return till they had taken Gibraltar. This forlorn party was
conducted by a goatherd to the south side of the rock, near the
caveguard (at that time called the pass of locust trees). Fortune, in
the beginning, so far favoured the enterprise, that they mounted the
rock, and lodged themselves unperceived the first night in St. Michael's
cave; the succeeding night they scaled Charles the Vth's wall; surprised
and put to death the guard at Middlehill, where afterwards, by ropes and
ladders, they got up several hundreds of the party who had been ordered
to sustain them; but being discovered, a strong detachment of grenadiers
marched up immediately from the town, and attacked them with such
spirit, that 160 of them were killed, or driven over the precipice, and
a colonel and 30 officers, with the remainder, taken prisoners. These
brave, but unfortunate adventurers, were to have been supported by a
body of French troops, and some feints were to have been made below to
engage the attention of the garrison ; but the commanding officers
disagreeing, they were left to their fortune. Sir John Leake, was not
idle whilst he remained in the Bay, but was continually alarming the
enemy on their coasts. The 22d of November he had information, by one of
his cruisers, that a strong squadron was fitting out at Cadiz, which
would be soon ready for sea, and receiving further intelligence, that a
convoy, fitted out from Lisbon for the relief of Gibraltar, was on their
way, he prepared to join them off Lagos, in order to protect them past
Cadiz; but was confined within the Straits by a westerly wind. The
Prince, in the mean time, redoubled his exertions to prevent the enemy's
designs, who flattered themselves, that on the arrival of their fleet
from Cadiz, Sir John would be obliged to retire, and the garrison
surrender to their united attacks. Their fire was continued with
additional vivacity, many cannon in the place were dismounted, and the
works were materially injured in different parts.
Affairs were in this situation, when part of the long wished for
succours arrived on the 7th of September; and two days following, the
remainder came in with near 2000 men, with proportionable ammunition and
provisions. They sailed from Lisbon under convoy of four frigates, and
thought themselves safe on discovering, off Cape SparteL, a fleet of men
of war, under English and Dutch colours: expecting to meet Sir John with
the combined fleet, at the entrance of the Straits, they endeavoured to
join them, but fortunately were becalmed: they then hoisted out their
boats to tow the ships, when perceiving the men of war extend themselves
in form of a half moon, in order to surround them, they began to suspect
some deception, and accordingly made a private signal, which totally
frustrated the enemy's measures, who were thereby discovered, and,
striking their false colours, endeavoured to fall upon the transports;
but these latter, being lighter vessels, escaped by their oars, and,
night coming on, steered for the Bay, with the loss only of two
transports. It was now thought no longer necessary to detain the fleet
in the Bay, or on the coast; especially when Monsieur Poinds was so
near, with a superior force. Sir John accordingly arrived at Lisbon the
latter end of the year.
The Spanish General being reinforced with a considerable body of
infantry, on the 11th of January 1705, made an attack with 60 grenadiers
on the works at the extremity of the King's lines; but two officers and
several others being killed, the rest retreated. v This repulse did not,
however, discourage him; for early the succeeding day, the attack was
renewed by 5 or 600 grenadiers, French and Waloons, supported by 1000
Spaniards, under Lieut. Gen. Tuy. Their disposition was to storm a
breach which had been made in the Round tower, at the extremity of the
King's lines, and another in the entrenchment on the hill.
The retrenchment which covered the latter breach, with part of the
entrenchment joining the precipice of the rock, was defended at night by
a captain, three subalterns, and 90 men; but it was customary for the
captain to withdraw, with two subalterns and 60 men, at daybreak.
The Round tower was defended by 180 men, commanded by a lieutenant
colonel. The Marquis, by deserters from the garrison,
had obtained intelligence of the strength of these posts, and concerted
his attack accordingly. The detachment for the upper
breach mounted the rock at dead of night, and concealed themselves in
the clefts till the captain had withdrawn. They then advanced to the
point of the intrenchment, and throwing grenades on the subaltern and
his party, obliged them to retreat. At the same time
300 men stormed the Round tower, where Lieut. Col. Barrmade a vigorous
defence, though the enemy, having passed the breach above, annoyed him
on the flank with great stones and grenades: observing, however, the
Spaniards marching down to cut off his retreat from the town, he retired,
and by getting over the parapet of the King's lines, descended into the
covert way, where the English guards where posted. By
this time the garrison was alarmed; all the regiments assembled at their
proper posts; and Captain Fisher endeavoured to stop the progress of the
enemy with 17 men, but was repulsed, and himself taken prisoner.
Lieut. Col. Moncal, at last, with 4 or 500 men, charged them
with such bravery, that they were repulsed, and the tower was retaken
after it had been in their possession upwards of an hour. Soon after
this attack, six companies of Dutch troops, and 200 English soldiers,
were received by the garrison, with provisions and stores.
The Spaniards and French were still obstinately bent on the recovery of
Gibraltar. The Marquis de Villadarias was superseded by the Marshal
Tesse, a French general; and Monsieur Pointis was directed to cooperate
with the Marshal, in blocking up the port with his fleet. The Marshal
joined the army with four fresh battalions, besides eight companies
which had been sent before. The ordnance, which from constant use had
been greatly injured, were totally exchanged; and the works, as they
then stood, were put in the best repair.
The English Ministry had been informed of the enemy's new arrangements ;
and, sensible of the importance of Gibraltar, ordered a reinforcement,
under Sir Thomas Dilkes and Sir John Hardy, to join Admiral Sir John
Leake, at Lisbon. The junction being effected, and his own fleet
refitted, Sir John, on the 6th of March, sailed with 28 English, 4
Dutch, and 8 Portuguese men of war, having on board two battalions.
Happily for the besieged, the incessant rains about this period had
retarded the Marshal's operations, and greatly distressed Monsieur
Pointis, eight of whose ships were forced from their anchors by the
strong westerly wind, and obliged, on the 9th to drive aloft. Thus were
they situated when the British Admiral entered the Straits, and about
halfpast five, on the morning of the 10th, was almost abreast of Cabrita
Point. The few remaining ships of the French fleet on his approach put
to sea; and Sir John, discovering five sail making out of the Bay, and a
gun fired at them from the garrison, concluded that the town was safe,
and immediately gave chase. Three French ships of the line were taken,
and the Admiral's ship, and another, run ashore, and burnt. Sir John
afterwards looked into Malaga, where the ships that had been driven from
the harbour had taken shelter; but, hearing the report of the guns, they
had made the best of their way to Toulon. Sir John, finding the pursuit
of them in vain, returned to Gibraltar, which was now so well supplied,
that Marshal Tesse withdrew his troops from the trenches, and formed a
blockade; drawing an intrenchment across the isthmus, to prevent the
garrison from ravaging the country.
In the course of this siege, the enemy did not lose fewer than 10,000
men, including those who died of sickness, &c. The
garrison lost about 400.
The Prince of Hesse remained in the place while the batteries were
repaired: he made also some additions to the fortifications, and left
the garrison much stronger than it was before the siege. The Prince then
joined the Archduke Charles at Lisbon, where the combined fleet of
England and Holland were assembled, to support that Prince in obtaining
the crown of Spain.
As the Archduke was resolved to try his fortune with the Earl of
Peterborough, in Valencia and Catalonia, the Prince of Hesse was sent
back to Gibraltar, to prepare part of the garrison to embark, and soon
after was followed by the fleet; upon whose arrival, the Archduke was
received by the garrison as lawful sovereign of Spain. Having taken on
board the English guards, and three old regiments, leaving only two new
battalions in the town (as there was no danger to be apprehended from
the enemy), they proceeded, on the 5th of August, for Valencia. His
Majesty then appointed Major General Ramos, who had been present during
the siege, governor of Gibraltar; and sent with him about 400 men for
its greater security. General Ramos afterwards resigned his government,
and was succeeded by Colonel Roger Elliot; during whose government,
Gibraltar was made a free port, by a special order from her Majesty,
The following was the Governor's manifesto on the occasion:—
" By the Hon. Roger Elliot, Colonel of one of her Majesty's regiments of foot, and Governor of the city and garrison of Gibraltar.
" Whereas Her Majesty of Great Britain, &c. hath been graciously
pleased, by Her warrant to me, dated 19th February last, to confirm her
former declarations for the freedom of this port, and to regulate and
command me, not to permit any duty or imposition whatsoever to be laid
or received for any ship or vessel, or for any goods, wares,
merchandise, or provisions, imported or exported out of this port; but
that the same be free and open for all ships and vessels, goods, wares,
merchandise, and provisions : These are to make known and publish Her
said Majesty's Royal will and pleasure ; and all persons concerned are
hereby strictly required to take notice thereof, not presuming to demand
or receive any duty or imposition whatsoever for any ship or vessel, or
for any goods, wares, merchandise, or provisions, as they will answer
the contrary at their peril. Given at Gibraltar, April 1706."
Colonel Congreve was commandant before 1714. He was succeeded by Colonel
Cotton. In 1720 Gibraltar seems to have been threatened by the
Spaniards. Ceuta, a Spanish fortress in Barbary, had then been besieged
many years by the Moors ; and a formidable force, commanded by the
Marquis de Leda, was assembled in Gibraltar Bay, under pretence of
relieving it, but with a secret intention of first surprising Gibraltar;
for which purpose they had procured scaling ladders, &c. &c. This
armament was not fitted out so secretly, but the British Ministry had
timely notice, and, suspecting some finesse, dispatched orders to
Colonel Kane, governor of Minorca, immediately to embark a part of his
garrison, and repair to Gibraltar, under convoy of the fleet in the
Mediterranean. On his arrival he found Gibraltar in a very critical
situation; the garrison consisting only of three weak battalions,
commanded by Major Hetherington, who, except Major Batteroux, was the
only field officer in the place. Many officers were absent, only
fourteen days' provisions in the stores, and many Spaniards in the town,
with a fleet before its walls. Such was the feeble posture of affairs
when he opportunely arrived with 500 men, provisions, and ammunition.
The British Commodore acted afterwards in so spirited a manner, that the
Marquis de Leda was obliged to sail for Ceuta, though he continued of
opinion that the garrison might have been taken by a general assault.
This scheme proving abortive, Gibraltar remained unmolested till the
latter end of the year 1726, when the Spaniards, who had kept a watchful
eye on the garrison, assembled an army in the neighbourhood of Algeciras.
The 20th of January following, they encamped on the plain below St.
Roque, and began to erect a battery on the beach to protect their camp.
Admiral Hopson was then at anchor in the Bay, with a very formidable
fleet; but, as he had not received any intelligence of hostilities
having commenced between the Courts of Great Britain and Madrid, he was
with reluctance compelled to overlook the transporting of provisions,
artillery, and ammunition, from Algeciras, (where they had formed their
depots), to the camp. Brigadier Kane, who had been a second time ordered
from Minorca to Gibraltar, lay also under similar embarrassments with
the Admiral. The operations of the enemy, however, tending towards a
direct attack upon the garrison, he thought it prudent to order the
Spaniards out of the town, and forbid their gallies anchoring under his
It must be understood that Gibraltar had undergone considerable
alterations since the siege of 1705 : several works had been erected on
the heights above the lines, which were distinguished by the name of
Willis's batteries ; the Prince's lines were also extended to the
extremity of the rock ; and an inundation was formed out of the morass
that was in front of the grand battery.
The Count de Las Torres commanded the Spanish forces, amounting to
nearly 20,000 men ; and sqon after his camp was formed, he advanced
within reach of the garrison. The Brigadier thereupon dispatched a
parley, to desire " That he would withdraw from the " range of his guns,
otherwise he should do his utmost " to force him.'' The Count answered,
" That, as " the garrison could command no more than they had 44 power
to maintain, he should obey his Catholic Majesty's orders, and encroach
as ffcr as he was able." Notwithstanding this insult, the Brigadier
waved commencing hostilities, till the Spaniards, by their proceedings,
should oblige him, in defence of his command.
In the beginning of February, Brigadier Clayton, the lieutenant governor, arrived with reinforcements, on board Sir Charles Wager's fleet; and a council of war was immediately summoned, but the result was a determination not to fire upon the Spaniards. The 10th of February, the enemy brought materials for batteries, to the old windmill, on the neutral ground ; upon which the lieutenant governor again collected the sense of the Admirals and Field officers; when, in the second council it was unanimously agreed, that the Spanish General had made open war, in encroaching so far on the liberties of the garrison. This being their opinion, Brigadier Clayton sent a parley to the Count, to know the reason of his breaking ground: to which the Count replied, that u he was on his master's u ground, and was not answerable to any other person " for his conduct." As this answer directly indicated the hostile intentions of the Spaniards, the Lieutenant governor, in the evening, withdrew the outguard, and the succeeding day, in the afternoon, opened the Old mole and Willis's batteries on their workmen. They persisted, nevertheless, in carrying on the work; and at night a large party marched down to the Devil's tower, where they immediately broke ground, and began a communication with their other work. This party were greatly annoyed in marching to their post, but were soon under cover of the rock, where the guns could not be depressed to bear upon them.
Numbers of the enemy deserted to the garrison, by whom, on the
seventeenth, the Lieutenant governor was informed that they were
constructing a mine, in a cave under Willis's, with an intention, if
possible, to blow up that battery. The engineers, on this intelligence,
reconnoitred the cave ; which, after some difficulty, they discovered,
with a sentry at the entrance ; and a party was immediately stationed to
annoy the communication with musquetry. On the morning of the 22d, the
Count opened on the garrison, with 17 pieces of cannon, besides mortars.
The day following, Brigadier Kane left the garrison, to detach a
reinforcement from Minorca. In the mean time Sir Charles Wager and
Admiral Hopson, with the fleet under their command, were constantly
distressing the enemy, by intercepting their homeward bound ships; and
the prizes which were brought into the bay, greatly benefitted the
besieged. The 3d of March, the enemy opened a new battery of 22 guns on
the Old mole and town ; and on the 8th, another of 15 guns, bearing also
upon the Old mole, which, it seems, proved a troublesome battery to the
western flank of their approaches.
The Lieutenant Governor continued a constant and well directed fire from
all the batteries that bore upon their works; but the ordnance in
general, being old, were bursting daily on the batteries ; by which
accidents the garrison experienced more casualties than from all the
fire of the enemy. The 27th, Col. Middleton's regiment arrived, also six
companies and a half of Col. Hay's, with two engineers, a captain of
artillery, and several bombardiers, gunners, and matrosses ; with
140 recruits for the other regiments.
The Admirals, the 2d of April, formed the design of bombarding Algeciras,
whence the enemy were constantly supplied with various articles of
ammunition ; but the ships, after getting under way, were becalmed, and
obliged to come to anchor; after which the navy never gave themselves
any further concern about annoying them in that quarter. On the 10th,
Colonel Cosby arrived in the Solebay, with 500 men, from Minorca, and
two days following, the Admirals sailed to the westward, leaving
Commodore Davies behind, with six men of war and the sloops. Sir Charles
did not return during the siege. The 16th, the Lieutenant Governor
ordered two Serjeants, with ten men each, to advance from the spurguard,
under the rock, and along the causeway, and alarm the enemy in the
trenches ; giving them directions to retire when they found their guards
sufficiently alarmed, when he intended to salute them with grape, &c.
from Willis's, and the lines. These orders were executed, and the enemy
instantly beat to arms ; but the bombardier appointed to give the signal
to the batteries, firing too soon, the enemy saw through the design, and
retired without any considerable loss.
Lord Portmore, the governor, arrived, the 21st, with a battalion of
Guards, and another of the line ; also Colonel Watson, of the artillery,
with several Noblemen as volunteers. The 26th, the Count opened a new
battery, against Willis's, and the extremity of Prince's lines. Their
batteries now mounted 60 cannon, besides mortars. In the beginning of
May, the garrison had intelligence that the enemy designed an assault:
precautions were accordingly taken, and the guns on the lower defences
loaded with grape. The Spaniards added still to their approaches, and
raised various communications to and from their advanced batteries.
Towards the 16th and 20th, their firing abated; but their engineers
proceeded in advancing their trenches. On the 31st, a vessel arrived
with 375 barrels of powder from Lisbon. June the 3d, the Solebay came
in, with a further supply of 980 barrels of powder, and 500 thirteen
inch shells, from Mahon. The firing continued till the 12th, when, about
ten at night, Colonel Fitzgerald, of the Irish brigade, beat a parley,
and, being admitted into the garrison, delivered letters to Lord
Portmore, from the Dutch Minister at the Court of Madrid, with a copy of
the preliminaries of a general peace; whereupon a suspension of arms
took place, and all hostilities ceased on both sides.
The garrison lost, in the whole about 300 killed and wounded ; and 70
cannon, with 30 mortars, burst during the siege. The enemy's casuals
could never be ascertained. In killed, wounded, &c. it was computed they
lost near 3000 men.
When Lord Portmore and the Count agreed to a cessation, the Spaniards of
course were compelled to forsake the mine under Willis's: their parties,
however, taking possession of it a second time, his Lordship considered
it as a breach of the articles of cessation, and represented it
accordingly. The Count afterwards withdrew: the works were dismantled
and levelled, and the troops retreated to their different cantonments.
The Spaniards during this siege never made the least attempt to cut off the communication by sea; so that the garrison was regularly supplied with provisions and fascines from Barbary, and had a regular correspondence with England.
In 1728, the Parliament of Great Britain addressed his Majesty King
George II. to take effectual care, in the treaty then pending, to
preserve his undoubted right to Gibraltar, and the Island of Minorca.
Overtures had been made by his Majesty George I. to restore the former
to Spain, if the Parliament would have consented to such restitution;
but the Minister finding an opposition, declined the business. In 1730,
Lieut. Gen. Sabine was governor of Gibraltar. The Spaniards during his
government erected the forts and lines across the isthmus, about a mile
from the garrison, which effectually prevent any communication with the
country, and, as we have experienced, are of considerable advantage in
case of a siege. The western fort, called St. Philip's, entirely
commands the best anchorage on the side of the Bay next the garrison.
Lieut. ^ Gen. Columbine succeeded General Sabine, and he was succeeded
by Lieut. Gen. Hargrave.
General Bland was appointed governor in 1749, at which time a general
relief of troops took place. The establishment at that period was, four
battalions of infantry, and a company of artillery. Lord George
Beauclerk, and the Hon. General Herbert, were severally
commandants in the absence of General Bland; and
in 1753 Lieut. Gen. Fowkes was deputed governor. Lord Tyrawley succeeded
him, in whose absence the Earl of Panmure was commandant. Earl Home was
afterwards governor, and died there in 1761. During the government of
this nobleman, about the year 1760, an incident occured, which, as it
alarmed the garrison very much at that time, is deserving of notice. Two
British regiments had been a very considerable time on that station,
and, from the continuance of the war, saw little prospect of being
relieved. Amongst these a conspiracy was formed, by some disaffected
persons, to surprise, plunder, and massacre the officers, and in short
all whom they judged to be averse to their designs. After securing the
money which was intended for the payment of the troops, they meant to
purchase for themselves a secure retreat, by surrendering this so much
wished for fortress into the hands of Spain. The numbers who joined the
conspirators where not fewer than 730. An accidental quarrel, in a
winehouse, defeated this dangerous project, and produced a discovery.
Reed, a private in the seventh regiment, was executed on the grand
parade, as the ringleader; and ten others wertj condemned. After the
death of Lord Home, Colonel Tovey and Majorgeneral Parflow were each
command ants, till the Hon. Lieutenantgeneral Cornwallis was appointed
governor. During this General's absence from the garrison, Colonel Irwin
was commandant; and on General Cornwallis leaving Gibraltar a second
time, Majorgeneral Boyd, Lieutenant Governor, commanded. In this
General's government, the garrison was considerably strengthened with
three new bastions on the sealine, and additional improvements at the
In 1776, the Right Hon. General George Augustus c Eliott was appointed
Governor of that important fortress, and joined his command in 1777.
In 1787, General Elliot, who had been honoured in 1783 with the Order of the Bath for his glorious defence of Gibraltar, returned to England; and Majorgeneral O'Hara was appointed commandant during his absence.