The battle of Cape Ortegal 1691

Battle of Cape Ortegal
Map of the Battle of Cape Ortegal 1691
Date:6-12 April 1691
Location:Cape Ortegal
Outcome:French Victory
United Provinces
Camille de DigoinJoseph Waters

1 Multiple Bilbao Convoys

1.1 The 1691 English homeward Bilbao convoy

The battle of Cape Ortegal (Spain) was 'fought' between a squadron of French warships and the 'English' homeward Bilbao convoy and its escorts. This description sheds some light on the composition of the 'English' Bilbao convoy, which was not that English as one would expect.

1.2 The 1691 Dutch homeward Bilbao convoy

The Dutch homeward Bilbao convoy was quite Dutch. It left earlier than its English counterpart, but adding its description here kind of completes the picture. The convoys left not far apart, and some ships from the Dutch convoy finally sailed with the English convoy.

1.3 Late 1690 and early 1691 convoys towards Bilbao

The ships in the homeward convoys were of diverse origin. At least 3 Dutch and 1 English convoys had brought the ships to Bilbao.

1.4 Failing warships

From a military point of view the 'battle' had a strange outcome. The French side was way more powerful, but achieved very little. It seems that it was not able to properly bring the convoy to battle because of the direction of the wind, and/or the weight of their ships.

2 Towards Bilbao

2.1 From England to Bilbao

It seems that the English Convoy from Plymouth first arrived in Coruna, at least that's what was thought in Bilbao on or before 8 February OHC 27 February 1691 One hoped that a missing Dutch ship was with them. On 8 February the English convoy was finally spotted before Santona OHC 27 February 1691. On 22 February 1691 the English escort was reported in Santona and the merchant ships of the convoy in Bilbao OHC 13 March 1691

2.2 From Holland behind England to Bilbao

Dutch Merchants sailing to circumvent England on 4 sep 1690
Ship Captain Destination Notes
St Clara Pieter Reyne Bilbao At Bilbao 28 Oct.
Elizabeth Pieter Grande Bilbao At Bilbao 28 Oct.
St Nicolaes Jan de Dood Bilbao At Bilbao 28 Oct.
Sacra Familia Ignatio de Harpido Bilbao At Bilbao 28 Oct.
De Hoop Robert Mulder Bilbao
Joris Sincklaer Bilbao At Bilbao 28 Oct.
Roomse Keizer Wylof Adrianensz. Cadiz In Cadiz 28 Oct. Falsely reported as taken by Algerines
Pieter en PaulusEgbert Aker Cadiz In Cadiz 1 Nov.
Jesus Maria Paulus Barendsz Cadiz In Cadiz 4 Nov. Oostende ship
? Cornelis Klaesz Malaga
De Zalm Adriaen Cornelisz Spek Canaries 3 Nov. reported as taken by Algerines
Christina Cornelis Pyl Curaçao Back in Texel June 1691 OHC 9 June 1691
A Buys San Sebastian*
Other ships
This Buys sailed 2 days later
Amsterdamsche Courant 7 September 1690

On 4 September 1690 a group of 20 ships left Texel for Bilbao, Cadiz, Malaga, the Canaries and Curaçao. The ships would circumvent England and thus The English Channel and all the privateers that were there.

In order to determine what happened next, we do have to solve a source conflict. On 12 November the ships the Vluchteling under Captain Daniel Fugeron had arrived in 5 days from Bilboa through the Channel AC 14 November 1690. The skipper declared that the St Clara of Reyne had arrived in Santona on 2 November.

The AC for 21 Nov 1690 has letters dated Bilboa 2 October. The OHC for 21 November 1690 has the same, but dated 2 November. Probably a mistake in the original dating of the letters, because the editors ordered them per the date they perceived. Logically the letters should date from 2 November. That is a sensible date for them to have been written, and we have a preceding OHC for 2 November 1690 that contain Letters from San Sebastian of 15 October.

The letters from San Sebastian of 15 October stated that a Portuguese ship had arrived from Bilboa on the 14th. Its captain said that on the afternoon that he left Santona, the ships of Reyne and Sincklaer (therefore added to the above table) had already crossed the 'Baer', while that of Grande and another were coming before it. Cryptic, but probably meaning the skipper saw this happening on his trip to San Sebastian, and was able to identify the ships.

The letters from Bilbao of 2 November state: That Sincklaer had entered Bilbao on 28 October, and on 29 October the Sacra Familia did. On the 2nd the ships of Reyne, Grande and De Dood had been cruising before the 'Baer', but had returned to Santona. In the AC version, the Sacra Familia came over the Baer with 20 sloops, and reached Santander!(sic). Later on it became clear that the St Clara of Pieter Reyne had entered Santander OHC 14 November 1690

We then continue with Fugeron's report in the OHC for 16 November 1690 where the captain stated that while he left Bilbao on 3 November he saw the Elizabeth of Pieter Grande with 4 sloops trying to cross the Baer. Fugeron did not know the Sacra Familia or its skipper.

Finally on 16 November letters from Bilbao OHC 5 December 1690 stated that Reyne, Grande and others had succeeded in coming in. Reyne having been stuck some days.

On 8 December 1690 letters from Bilboa had that Grande, Jan Aldertsz. Schuyt and Jan de Dood had most of their cargo loaded, and that Reyne was embarking his OHC 28 December 1690. The Sacra Familia continued to San Sebastian, because letters from there of 1 January 1690 stated it had taken in cargo and was ready to sail to Amsterdam OHC 20 January 1691

2.3 From Holland to Setúbal

Dutch Ships sailing to Bilbao with the Setúbal convoy
Ship Commander Destination Notes
Warship Cap. Hendrick de Veer Bilboa At Bilbao 14 Oct., left for Setúbal
St. Pieter Jan Aldertsz. Schuyt Bilboa At Bilbao 14 Oct.
De Hoop Jochem de Lange Bilboa At Bilbao 14 Oct. sailed back early

The next convoy that contributed to the ships that would sail from Bilbao was the late 1690 Amsterdam convoy to Setúbal. The convoy had sailed from Texel on 29 September. It was called a Setúbal and Lisbon convoy. It also contained 2 ships to Bilbao: The St. Pieter of Jan Aldertsz. Schuyt, and the De Hoop under Jochem de Lange, as well as some ships to other destinations OHC 3 October 1690.

In fact the Bilbao part of the Setúbal and Lisbon convoy was rather more significant than advertised. Of the two escorts, the warship of Captain de Veer would escort the few ships to Bilbao, while the Catharina(46) under Van Genderen sailed to Setúbal with dozens of merchants. The OHC 7 November 1690 had that on 14 October the Frigate de Hoop under Jochem de Lange and the St Pieter of Jan A Schuyt as well as some others, arrived in Bilbao with their escort (i.e. De Veer) in order to load chestnuts.

Captain de Veer next went to escort a Fluyt from Santander to Setúbal AC 21 November 1690 . He then got the news that Van Genderen had been captured by French warships, and that parts of the Setúbal convoy had escaped these, and bad weather and found refuge in North-West Spain. De Veer was therefore ordered to pick these up, and also escort these to Lisbon and Setúbal. On 3 December 1690 Captain de Veer was reported as in Coruna OHC 2 January 1691.

The frigate De Hoop would return quickly. On 9 January 1691 Jochem de Lange wrote from Plymouth, that he had arrived there safely in company with some English ships from Bilbao OHC 16 January 1691. On 14 February De Hoop entered the Nieuwe Diep near Rotterdam.

The St. Peter would continue in Spain. That there were two skippers called Schuyt in Biskay at the time becomes evident during the arrival of the next convoy.

2.4 Count van Benthem's convoy

Dutch Ships sailing to Bilbao with the Setúbal convoy
Ship Commander Destination Notes
Wapen van Nimwegen Graef van Benthem Bilboa
Geertruyd Adriaen Fransz Bilbao
Lammerenberg Claes Adriaensz MosterdmanBilbao
De Schuyt Jacob Schuyt Bilbao sailed with some Setúbal ships
De Kroon Sipke Pietersz BlaeuBilbao
Stad Pamplona Cornelis Nebbes Bilbao strayed
Koopman van CorieljeJacob Barendsz Wiege Bilbao Zeeland ship arr. Santander
Frigate Vrijheid Balthasar van Lier Bilbao Sunk near Guernsey
Star Bilbao Sunk near Guernsey
Dutch Ships sailing to Cadiz with the Setúbal convoy
Beschermer van der Saen Cadiz
HerderinAdriaen Martinsen Sevilla
De PostillionCornelis du Pon Sevilla

The convoy of Count of Bentheim (Graef van Benthem) was also a convoy to Setúbal, Cadiz, Bilbao etc., but had a far heavier escort. There were 2 warships for Setúbal and Cadiz, and at least one for Bilbao. The first mention is that on 13 November the Beschermer for Captain van der Saen had been brought across Pampus, while the Wapen van Nijmegen for Captain the Count of Bentheim was to be brought over OHC 14 November 1690. These were only 2 escorts, but these would be joined in the Channel by 2-3 escorts under Swaen, Gijsen and Hoogenhoeck.

On 27 December the skippers of the convoy went aboard the escorts in order to organize themselves. The penalty for leaving the convoy was determined to be 2000 guilders OHC 28 December 1690 and OHC 30 December 1690 On 3 January 1691 the convoy to Setúbal, Lisbon, Cadiz and the Straits sailed from Texel, and reached open sea at 11 AM OHC 6 January 1691.

The convoy would sail fast due to a rough wind from the NNE, but this wind also caused some accidents. The 2 escorts from Texel were few in regard to the about 200 ships they escorted. The convoy then became disorganized when it had to change course before the Strait of Dover. Finally Captain Joost Jillesz. (probably on Juffr. Maria(48)) and Captain Cornelis van Beveren (probably on st Rochus) (note that these merchants were called captain) took the lead and led most Setúbal and Cadiz ships on their course AC 18 January 1691. The main part of the convoy was next reported as having passed Plymouth on Sunday 7 January OHC 16 January 1691.

So the main part of the convoy would pass Plymouth without entering a harbor. It did however succeed in picking up the escort to Setúbal: Captain Swaen left Portsmouth on 2 January together with two other warships. They were expected to join the ships from Texel and escort them to the south AC 18 January 1691. That this was indeed the case became clear when Captains Hoogenhoeck and Van der Gijsen were mentioned as having joined the convoy OHC 18 January 1691. This was confirmed by statements that the ships to Portugal and Spain had passed Plymouth, while the English where still there, and the expecatation that some ships that had visited Whight had sailed too OHC 27 January 1691

These ships that visited the Isle of Whight were the few ships to Bilboa with their escort Graef van Benthem, and a few ships to Cadiz with their escort under Van der Saen. On 6 January Skipper Adriaen France had arrived in Whight, and on 7 Skipper Mosterdman. And so did both escorts, and the ships of Adriaen Marsse and Cornelis du Pon to Seville. On 7 January Du Pon wrote that he had asked Commander van der Saen for a day to change his bowsprit that he had lost in a collission AC 18 January 1691. On 8 January the ships that arrived in Whight were sailing again OHC 18 January 1691

A third far smaller squadron lost both main parts of the convoy. Skipper Jacob Schuyt was destined to Biscay, but lost contact with the convoy. He was not the only one, because he found 10 others south of Plymouth. Among these were the Vergulde Hoed and Den Otter AC 1 March 1691. Later on in Setúbal, these 7 ships from Hoorn were noted as still missing: Vergulde Hart, Pieter (2 ships), Slot Koningbergen, Velthoen, Otter, Ooievaer OHC 27 February 1691. Later on 10 ships of the 3 January convoy were noted as having arrived in SetúbalAC 24 March 1691

There were some other consequences of the harsh winds. The Frigat of Van Lier sunk near GuernseyOHC 20 February 1691, together with the Ship the Star also destined to Bilbao. On board the Star one man drowned, and on board the Vrijheid 5. In the same incident 4 ships destined to Setúbal sunk with all hands OHC 24 February 1691

Finally the Bilbao and Cadiz groups would separate when it was no longer practical to follow the same course. The Beschermer under Willem van der Saen would enter Cadiz on 6 February, while the Herderin and the ship of Cornelis du Pon both reached SanLucar on the 6thOHC 13 March 1691

On 10 January Skipper Jan Reus of Hamburg arrived in Bilbao after spending 1.5 year in The Downs. Jacob Schuyt (cf. above a second skipper in the area called 'Schuyt') and Robbert Robbertsz had arrived in San Sebastian by 11 January. In fact, 4 ships of Benthem's convoy had arrived in San Sebastian by 15 January OHC 30 January 1691 On 11 January the Stad Pamplona of Cornelis Nebbes, who lost the escort near Whight, reached Bilbao alone. These events led skippers Grande, Jan Aldertsz. Schuyt and Reyne to hope to sail homewards in 8 days. OHC 30 January 1691.

Of Count of Bentheim's convoy the Lammerenberg of Mosterdman and the Geertruyd under Adriaen Fransz first arrived at Santona. The Kroon of skipper Sipke Pietersz Blaeu first went to Santander. On 25 January these all came before Bilbao, and the Vrijheid of Balthasar van Lier was reported as missing. The Zealand ship Koopman van Corielje also went to Santander first OHC 13 February 1691. There is every reason to believe that the Zealand Jacob Barnedsz Wiege was skipper of the Koopman van Corielje, just like he was when it returned from Bilbao in May 1690 OHC 20 May 1690

On 8 February the Zeeland ships of Jan Barendsz Wiege and one other ship from Zeeland were reported to have arrived OHC 27 February 1691

3 February: leaving Bilbao

3.1 The Dutch homeward convoy

Ships sailing from Bilbao with Van Benthem's Dutch convoy
Ship Commander Notes
Wapen van Nimwegen Graef van Benthem
St Pieter Jan Aldertsz Schuyt
St Nicolaes Jan de Dood
Elizabeth Pieter Symonsz Grande
Gidion Bartel Bartelsz.
Andries Robbertsz.
Adriaen Sayman
Wapen van CopenhagenPieter Eylander
St. Jacob Ary Kroon Strayed

Graef van Benthem had orders to return to Amsterdam quickly after reaching Bilbao. The most logical candidates to join him on his return voyage were skippers Grande, Jan Aldertsz Schuyt and Reyne, who had been waiting for an escort OHC 30 January 1691. On 8 February the low water level before Bilbao delayed Pieter Reyne in joining the ships at Santona OHC 27 February 1691, but he would succceed not much later.

On 22 Feb skippers Reyne, Grande, de Dood, Jan Aldertsz Schuyt and Sincklaer (all from the 1690 convoys) were waiting for convoy in Santona. Skippers Jan Reus, Adriaen Fransz, Cornelis Nebbes (all from 1691 convoys) and two smal frigates were to sail to Santona in 3 days. The English escort Hannibal was in Santona, and the Wapen van Nimwegen under Count of Bentheim was most probably also there. The merchant ships of the English convoy were in Bilbao, and hastily loading. They hoped to return with the Hannibal, that was due to sail again in 8 days. Captain Benthem showed order that he had to sail in 14 days OHC 13 March 1691. In early March three English ships with wool and iron for Ireland sailed without convoy, and were taken by a French privateer with 30 guns OHC 27 March 1691

On 7 March both the English and the Dutch convoy were noted as not having sailed because of low water. Reyne, Mostertman, Fransz, Nebbens, Reus and Wiege and others were to sail OHC 27 March 1691

13 March letters from San Sebastian over France had that the Gidion of skipper Bartel Bartelsz and the Wapen van Copenhagen of skipper Pieter Eylander as well as others had reached Santona from there AC 29 March 1691.

Finally the Dutch convoy under Van Benthem sailed from Santona on 16 March 10 April 1691 with 11 Dutch and 2 other ships. It left a number of Dutch and English ships on the river, i.e. in Bilbao. It would take a course behind England. Mist would scatter parts of it. The St. Jacob of Ary Kroon sailed alone through the Channel and reached Texel on 2 April OHC 3 April 1691.

We get more particulars about which ships sailed with Van Benthem by looking at which Bilbao and San Sebastian ships it contained when it reached Texel on 25 April: St Pieter Jan Aldertsz Schuyt; Jan de Dood; Pieter Symonsz Grande; Bartel Bartelsz; Andries Robbertsz; Adriaen Sayman; Pieter Eylander OHC 26 April 1691.

3.2 The English homeward convoy

Ships sailing from Bilbao with Captain Walters' English convoy
Ship Commander Notes
Hannibal Cap. Waters A 'hired' ship
Heldenburg A Dutch privateer
Lammerenberg Mosterdman
Geertruyd France
Stad Pamplona Nebbes Taken
Kroon Sipke Pietersz Blaeu
Koopman van CorieljeJacob Barendsz Wiege Mentioned from Bilboa in Zeeland 25 April
De Son Mentioned from Bilboa in Zeeland 25 April
St. Jan Mentioned from Bilboa still missing on 25 April
Jan Reus A Hamburg ship
Schuyt Jacob Schuyt Mentioned in Holland 25 April
Elenor John Steel
Bilboa Arms Edward Ruther
Saumers of Plymouth
small ship from Bristol
Cap. Foreland Taken

Now it's time to determine the composition of the 'English' homeward convoy. We'll start with the escort(s). This was the Hannibal under Captain Waters, and the Dutch privateer 'Heldenburg" as well as another Dutch privateer both could probably also be considered as escorts LG 9 April 1691. The Hannibal was a hired ship of war. Its commander Captain Joseph Waters had been appointed 29 May 1689, and died 25 January 1694. The Dutch Mercury for 1691 has under April, p 38 the Hannibal(40) with 160 men under Captain John Waters.

The privateer 'Heldenburg' is named as 'Helderenberg' arriving in Middelburg with a prize in January 1692 AC 15 January 1692. It was probably the same as the frigate Heldenberg(24) of Hendrik Hinderson, taken in October 1693 OHC 22 October 1693

For the merchants we have '40 sail of Merchant Men, English, Dutch and Spanish' 15 English and 15 Dutch merchants LG 9 April 1691. For the names of the Dutch ships that while the Dutch convoy had sailed, Skippers Mosterdman, France, Nebbes, the Kroon, Koopman van Corielje, the Hamburg ship of Jan Reus as well as 6 ships for London, were left in Bilbao and were said to sail with the English convoy OHC 3 April 1691. The Schuyt of skipper Jacob Schuyt, was later reported as having returned with the English Convoy from Bilbao, and arriving to Amsterdam c 24 April 1691 OHC 26 April 1691

The after action account by the escort speaks of: the Elenor of John Steel, Bilboa Arms Edward Ruther, the Crown Dutch, Saumers of Plymouth, and a small ship from Bristol. The ship of Cap. Foreland taken, and 3-4 English ships missing.

The 'English' convoy finally sailed from Santona on 3 April 1691 LG 9 April 1691 (beware of Old Style dates in London Gazette).

4 The French

4.1 The French Squadron

The French Squadron
Ship gunsCommander Notes
Téméraire 54 De Digoin chévalier du Palais
Courageux 60 Armand des Herbiers
Fleuron 58 Montgon
Hardi 58 Antoine de La Haye-Montbault
La Légère 24 Boscal de Réals Next: Joanes de Suhigaraychipi a.k.a. Crosic

The names of the ships on the French side and their commanders are taken from Guérin. The Téméraire(54), Courageux(60), Fleuron(58) and Hardi(58) would also be present in the May convoy to Limerick, from which list we took the number of guns for the ships.

The frigate Le Léger / La Légère is a bit more difficult. Guérin has Boscal de Reals as captain, but the famous corsair Joanes de Suhigaraychipi a.k.a. Crosic or Coursic also had a ship La Légère. We can wonder why Boscal de Réals, who commanded the Fendant(54) in the battle of Bantry Bay, got demoted with the appointment on a fregat that was no longer suitable for the line of battle in 1691? We have an obscure mention of 1 february 1691: Permission accordée au Capitaine Suygaraychypy Croisic, de faire armer et équiper en guerre la frégate du Roy la Légère de 300 tonneaux ou environ, de l'arsenal de Rochefort. Now note below that this is were Digoine was sailing from, and 1 February is only shortly before.

Next the career of Boscal de Reals seemed to pick up again when he held the command of the Laurier(64) in the 1691 Campagne du Large. It all becomes a logical scenario when one supposes that Boscal de Réals was on the Légère with crew for the Laurier of 64 guns, constructed in Bayonne in 1691, and which ship he would command in the 1691 campaign! So I'd say that it was the Légère of 24 guns under de Réals which was transferred to Coursic, while the crew of De Réals picked up the Laurier. Also think about how Coursic and De Réals would otherwise get hundreds of sailors to their destination? Some other notes below will also make sense in this scenario.

What's left is some doubt about the identity of the ship. The site Threedecks has two ships called Le/La Légèr(e). A Légère of 40 guns and 410 ton and a Légère of 24 guns 130 ton. Dangeau has a Le Léger of 44 under Rouvray in 1690.

From the Dutch side the Légère would be described as a ship of 28 guns and 8 swivel guns AC 3 May 1691, and this points to La Légère. The site threedecks has Coursic on this ship. The tons mentioned in the appointment of Coursic are the one thing that makes this doubtful. 'La frégate du Roy la Légère de 300 tonneaux' is a bit at odds with the 130 ton given for La Légère. For the moment I assume that there is some mistake in (system of) measurement.

4.2 French objectives

From Guérin we have that the French squadron under Digoine sailed from Île-d'Aix (west of Rochefort). Digoine's orders were to pick up some new ships of the line of 64 guns, that had been constructed in Bayonne. Letters from the area noted that 4 French warships were cruising before the coast, waiting for 2 ships with ammunition that were to sail from Bayonne to Brest OHC 24 April 1691. A logical explanation would be that 2 new warships able to mount 64 guns had been loaded with ammunition, and were to be armed in Brest.

5 The Battle

5.1 Taking an opportunity

Nothing in the above suggests that Digoine brought his warships south to do commerce raiding. On the contrary, the fight that ensued seems totally opportunistic. One can imagine that local privateers had rather accurate information about the movements of the Dutch and English convoys, and convinced Digoine to join in an attack on the English Convoy that could still be in Santona. The scenario that Coursic takes possession of the Légère, and De Réals mans the Laurier (whether he sailed directly or not) makes this even more likely. Therefore Digoine decided to grasp an opportunity, that was probably presented by Coursic, and set course to Spain.

5.2 Discovery and initial pursuit

According to Guérin Digoine discovered the English Bilbao fleet on 6 April 1691. This must have been significantly east of Cape Ortegal. The wind and the bad weather however prevented Digoine from initiating battle on the 6th. Captain Waters saw the French on 28March/7April, but noted that they did not reach him till 31 March / 10 April. This is in line with Guérin: 'both sides kept on the defensive and continued to attempt to gain the wind'. It's hard to believe that Digoine had reasons to stay on the defensive. What's more likely is that the wind blew from the north or north west, and that for days both fleets were struggling against the wind while trying not to hit the Spanish coast.

During this time Guérin has the convoy losing only an escort(cf. below) and one merchant ship. This probably refers to the Stad Pamplona of Cornelis Nebbens, who would later write from Bayonne. He was taken on 8 April 6-7 AM while 12-13 miles from Cape Ortegal by a French corsair or royal ship of 28 guns and 8 swivel guns, no doubt the Légère. Nebbens noted that the corsair was a very good sailor, and that was how it had gained the wind on him AC 3 May 1691. We also have the note 26/04/1691: Contestation de la prise de la "Ville de Pampelune" par le Capitaine Suigaraychipy dit Croisicq commandant la frégate du Roy "la Légère".

5.3 Ships of the line reach the convoy

In the evening of 31 March / 10 April the French warships finally succeeded in getting near the convoy. This was probably way west of Cape Ortegal, and might have been due to a change in the wind. According to a Dutch merchant who later arrived in Plymouth LG 9 April 1691 Captain Waters and 2 Dutch privateers kept between the enemy and the convoy as long as it kept together, but at about 6 PM most merchants fled. Literally 'set their sails', probably meaning to take a course before the wind. At about 7 PM Waters gave the usual sign and tacked. He was followed by John Steele in the Elanor, Edward Ruther of the Bilbao Arms, The Crown of Sipke Blaeu, Saumers of Plymouth, and a small Bristol ship. At about this time the ship whereof Mr. Foreland was master, was taken, but his men got in their boat and on board the Bilbao Arms.

Guérin has that on 12 April Montgon, Herbiers and Monbault, as well as the officers Saint-Atre and De la Borde succeeded in taking a significant part of the convoy. This was probably the phase of the battle that later led to a statement that '7' English ships had been brought to Brest. Amongst these that of Captain Daeres and Manual Poke OHC 10 May 1691. Note that the number of 7 ships is not certain, and some further investigation could be done to determine exactly which ships were taken.

6 Results

After the battle the Hannibal arrived in Rye (East Sussex) on 21 April with the Elanor of John Steele, the Bilbao Arms under Edward Ruther and the Crown of Sipke Blaeu LG 9 April 1691. It's interesting that on the Dutch side, the Crown was noted as having gone missing from the English convoy. This probably meant 'missing' from the perspective of the Lammerenberg and the ship of Jan Reus, and others that had fled and arrived in south-west England first OHC 10 May 1691. At least one Dutch merchant and one ship from Topsham arrived in Plymouth.

From the French side there is a note by Dangeau on 1 May that speaks of 9 merchants taken, and blaming a sudden gust of wind for not having an even better success.

A more direct note had that the Duc de Gramont had equipped a privateer on his cost and that together with 4 warships it had pursued the Anglo-Dutch convoy from Bilbao. They had taken some ships, but fewer than had first been stated. On one of the ships were a Spanish and an English gentleman, who had been brought to Bayonne castle. Furthermore some valuables, including some very small dogs, had been captured OHC 17 May 1691.

All in all I think that in addition to the certain capture of the Stad Pamplona of Cornelis Nebbens loaded with wool, and the ship of which Foreland was master, and that of Captain Daeres and Manuel Poke some other English ships were taken. So in total 1 Dutch and 4-5 English.

7 Analysis

The capture of 5-9 merchant ships sailing from Bilbao was significant. One can imagine that these were ocean-going ships, meaning they were not small. One can also suppose that the alliance provided escorts because of the value of the trade in these ships. Taken together this probably meant that the loss of these ships was more significant than the loss of some ships sailing to Setúbal or the Baltic.

A most interesting aspect of the battle is that after sighting their target, the French warships literally took days to reach the merchants. According to Captain Waters this took 4 days. According to Guérin it took 6 days. The simple conclusion is that the ships that the French thought fit for the line of battle in 1691, were not able to reliably pursue and take merchant ships.

The capture of the Stad Pamplona seems to underscore this. It had already strayed from the escorts on the voyage towards Bilbao, and the logical conclusion is that it was captured because it could not keep up with the rest of the convoy. Even so; it was captured by the Légère, not by the ships of the line that the French employed in this battle.

8 Sources

OHC stands for Oprechte Haerlemsche courant. AC means Amsterdamsche Courant both have been digitized to some extent by Delpher an organization led by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek or Royal Library of the Netherlands.

LG stands for the London Gazette which also has a digitized archive.

Guérin means Histoire Maritime de France volume 4, describing this battle at page 4