Naval Songs & Ballads - online book

3 Centuries Of Naval History In Shanties & Sea Songs With Lyrics & Notes

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Before this capture took place Vernon, on-November 21, 1739, had taken Porto Bello. No event in our naval history called forth more in­different verse. On p. 177 will be found a ballad, entitled English Courage Displayed, said to be written by a seaman on board the Burford, Vernon's flagship. Hosiers Ghost (p. 179), which is the most famous of all the celebrations of Vernon's victory, was an attempt to turn it to political profit, and to assist in the attack which the ' Patriots' were making on Walpole's policy by recalling Vice-Admiral Francis Hosier's blockade of Porto Bello in 1726-7 and the heavy losses which it entailed. 'It is doubtful,' says Clowes, ' whether any other British fleet ever suffered from disease so severely as that of Hosier suffered in 1726-7. Its horrible ex­periences made a deep and lasting impression upon the nation; and it may be hoped that they have had the effect of impressing upon all later British admirals the supreme importance of taking systematic and rigorous measures for preserving the health of their men. During the two years immediately following Hosier's first arrival off the Bastimentos, the fleet, the nominal complement of which never, roughly speaking, exceeded 4,750 persons, lost, in addition to a flag officer and 7 or 8 captains, about 50 lieutenants and 4,000 subordinate officers and men, by various forms of sickness ' (The Royal Navy, iii. 45).
Vernon attempted to follow up the capture of Porto Bello by taking Cartagena. He bombarded that city for three days in March 1740, but without producing much effect, and made a more serious attack upon it by sea and land in March 1741. The attack began on March 9. Fort San Luis was taken on the night of March 25 and Fort San Jose followed. But quarrels broke out between the