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The Capture of Minorca or the Siege of Minorca was a successful British landing on the island of Minorcamarker in November 1798. A large force under General John Stuart landed on the island and forced it to surrender in eight days without a single British soldier being killed. The British occupied the island for four years, using it as a major naval base, before handing it back to Spainmarker following the Treaty of Amiens.

Background

The island had traditionally belonged to Spain, had been captured in 1708 by the British and owned by them until 1783 when it was returned to Spain at the Treaty of Paris. During their occupation the British had used it as a naval base, but it was extremely vulnerable to capture by Spanish or French forces as shown by two separate sieges in 1756 and 1781.

While Britain and Spain had initially entered the French Revolutionary War as allies, in 1796 Spain had switched to supporting France and had gone to war with Britain. The British attempted to assert their authority over the Mediterranean but had a shortage of usable bases. After the failure to establish a British presence in Corsicamarker, other targets such as Minorcamarker, Maltamarker and Elbamarker were considered. At the end of October Earl St Vincent decided to send an expedition against Minorcamarker, which departed on 19 October 1798.

Landing

Bay of Fornells
On 7 November 1798 a large British naval force under the command of John Thomas Duckworth arrived off Minorca carrying a detachment of troops under General Charles Stuart. A force was put ashore at the Addya Creek and destroyed a Spanish artillery position before proceeding inland towards Fournellamarker and then onto Mercadal. A number of Marines and Sailors were put ashore to augment Stuart's army.

The remainder of the British fleet had sailed around to threaten Port Mahonmarker. On 9 November a force of 300 men under Colonel Paget managed to gain control of Fort Charles allowing the British fleet to enter the harbour and anchor there. The presence of four Spanish warships remained a concern to the British, and they sent out a force to intercept them. Faced with superior numbers the Spanish fled, but were forced to abandon a British prize of war, a sloop, they had captured recently.

Stuart had moved his army to harass Ciudadella and on 14 November the town surrendered to him, followed by the entire island the following day. Around 4,000 Spanish troops fell into British hands, as well as a large amount of supplies and weaponry.

Occupation

The British converted the island into once of their principal bases in the Mediterranean. Many expeditions were launched from the island. Thomas Cochrane, in particular, utilised the island as a base for his operations along the Spanish Coast. Charles Stuart served as the Governor of Minorca between 1798 and 1800, with Henry Edward Fox taking over the post thereafter.

Aftermath

The Treaty of Amiens agreed in 1802, called for the return of Minorcamarker to Spain as a condition as what was hoped for a lasting peace in Europe. The return of Minorca and other Mediterranean bases was bitterly opposed by many officers, including Horatio Nelson who appeared in the House of Lordsmarker to speak against the prospect. In spite of this opposition, the Treaty was concluded, and the British commander Richard Bickerton oversaw the British evacuation.

The peace rapidly broke down, but no effort was made to recover Minorca as major bases had been established in other ports.

References



Bibliography

  • Harvey, Robert.Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain. Constable & Robinson, 2000.
  • Knight, Roger.The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievements of Horatio Nelson. Penguin Books, 2006.


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