Yesterday, September the 7th, but in 1741, Spanish Admiral Blas de Lezo died in Cartagena de Indias (today Colombia).
Despite inflicting on the British Navy its most humiliating defeat ever, he received no honors and was even charged with “destruction of Royal Property” and threatened with prosecution. No one knows where he is buried.
Admiral Vernon, his opponent at Cartagena, was so sure he could defeat Lezo that upon a first victory at Portobello, he dispatched triumphant news to king George II of England. And coins were minted in England, showing Lezo on his knees before Vernon.
They read: “THE PRIDE OF SPAIN HUMBLED BEFORE ADML VERNON”
“A contemporary song was composed by a sailor from the Shrewsbury that prematurely celebrated the victory:
VERNON’S GLORY; OR, THE SPANIARDS DEFEAT.
Being an account of the taking of Carthagena by Vice-Admiral Vernon…
“…and the town surrender[ed]
To Admiral Vernon, the scourge of Spain” -Wikipedia
But it was not to be.
Lezo knew the place, the climate. And though he was outnumbered ten to 1 and facing the largest fleet ever till Normandy in WWII, he had a plan…
His against-all-odds victory denied King George II of England access to the mainland of Spanish America. Jamaica was all they got. When the real news of the catastrophe reached the king, the stock market crashed in London, investors lost everything. Orders were given to never speak or write about the battle ever again.
Hollywood, historians..they all implemented such orders well. To this day. We Spaniards, were never taught about this in school either…
Wikipedia in English even denies this exchange of letters took place:
“We have decided to retreat, but we will return to Cartagena after we take reinforcements in Jamaica”, to which Blas de Lezo supposedly responded: “In order to come to Cartagena, the English King must build a better and larger fleet, because yours now is only suitable to transport coal from Ireland to London”. Note that coal was not transported from Ireland to England, the reverse being the case.”
True or not that they exchanged such messages, true or not that Vernon once exclaimed: “God damn you, Lezo!” when he retreated, the undeniable truth is that England was not able to capture Cartagena, the Gate to the Americas. And the coins celebrating the “victory” do exist. Some are in the Museo Naval of the Armada Española. America would remain mostly Spanish.
Even worse, 35 years later, in 1776, England would lose its 13 colonies, its very own pride. And Spain lent a very strong and willing helping hand, since most of today’s USA (and of course South America) was under her control…
Note: This article in Wikipedia keeps changing. A few months ago, there was a whole section dedicated to “Lezomania”, indicating the current interest in Lezo and somehow demeaning his achievement. This section has disappeared. Expect further developments. But the glory of Lezo, can never be denied.
To top it all, Vernon, responsible for the catastrophe of his fleet, does have a monument in his honor. And it reads:
“He subdued Chagre, and at Carthagena conquered as far as naval forces could carry victory”
Holly shit! Talk about silver lining… And manipulation of History…
And Colombians today still will not have none of it English stuff.
“A 69-year-old Colombian engineer smashed a plaque commemorating the death in 1741 of thousands of English soldiers in the coastal city of Cartagena just days after it was inaugurated by Prince Charles. The mayor of the city has now ordered its removal. During an official visit, Charles unveiled the black marble plaque last week with a text in Spanish that pays tribute to the bravery of soldiers led by Admiral Edward Vernon, who tried to wrest the city from Spanish colonists. Although it was the idea of Cartagena’s Corporacion Centro Historico historical society, the plaque quickly caused a stir in the city proud of the victory by the far-outnumbered Spanish over the English invaders.”
One minor correction, Spain did not have “colonies”. It had provinces. Same rights and obligations as mainland Spain. That’s why Colombia was not willing to leave Spain. They had rights. Unlike the 13 American colonies that rebelled 35 years later against a crown who would not recognize them as equals.
Cosas que pasan.
Y que ya nunca más nos ocultarán: