Commodore Anson

THE expedition under Commodore Anson was fitted out by the English government in the year 1740, to attack the Spanish settlements in America. The squadron consisted of six vessels of war, and two victuallers. These were the:

Ships. Commanders. Guns. Men.
       
Centurion George Anson 60 400
Gloucester Richard Norris 50 300
Severn Edward Legge 50 300
Pearl Matt. Mitchell 40 250
Wager Dandy Kidd 28 160
Trial Sloop John Murray 8 100

On the 18th of September, 1740, the squadron weighed from St. Helens, and reached Madeira the 25th of October. Having sailed hence, they discovered the land of Brazil, on the 16th of December, and on the evening of the 19th cast anchor at the island of St. Catherines. Having repaired their vessels, they quitted this place on the 18th of January, and on the same day of the following month came to anchor in the Bay of St. Julian. The squadron again stood to sea on the 28th of February, when the Gloucester not being able to purchase her anchor, was obliged to cut her cable, and leave her best bower behind. Having reached the southern extremity of the straits of Le Maire, the wind shifted and blew in violent squalls, and the tide turned furiously against them, driving to the eastward with such rapidity, that the two sternmost vessels, the Wager and the Anna Pink, with the utmost difficulty escaped being dashed in pieces on the shore of Staten Island.

For above three months they struggled with severe gales and terrific waves, and on the 1st of April, the weather, after having been a little more moderate, returned to its former violence; the sky looked dark and gloomy, and the wind began to freshen and blow in squalls; and there were all the appearances of an approaching tempest. Accordingly, on the 3d, there came or a storm, which exceeded in violence and duration all they had hitherto encountered. On the 14th in the morning the weather clearing up a little and the moon shining out on a sudden, the Anna Pink made a signal for seeing land right a-head; and it being then only two miles distant, they were under great apprehensions of running on shore; and had not the wind suddenly shifted, or the moon shone out, every ship must have perished. They found this land, to their disappointment, to be Cape Noir, though they imagined they were ten degrees more to the west. On the evening of the 24th of April, the wind increased to a prodigious storm, and, about midnight, the weather became so thick that the whole squadron separated, nor met again till they reached the island of Juan Fernandez. To add to their misfortunes, the scurvy began to make such havoc, that on board the Centurion only, it carried off forty-three men in the month of April, and twice that number in May.

On the 22d of May the Centurion encountered the severest storm it had yet experienced. Almost all the sails were split; the rigging was destroyed, and a mountainous wave breaking over them on the starboard quarter, gave the vessel such a shock, that several of the shrouds were broke, and the ballast and stores so strangely shifted, that she lay on her larboard side. The wind at length abating a little, they began to exert themselves to stirrup the shrouds, reeve new lanyards, and mend the sails; during which they ran great risk of being driven on the island of Chiloe. After many difficulties they at length reached the island of Juan Fernandez, in a most desponding condition. Here many of the crew died of weariness and disease.

A few days after the Centurion had arrived, the Trial Sloop appeared in sight, and on the 21st of June the Gloucester was discovered to leeward. The Anna Pink arrived about the middle of August, which, with the Trial and Gloucester, mentioned above, were the only vessels that ever joined the squadron; for the Severn and Pearl, having parted from the commodore off Cape Horn, with difficulty reached Brazil, whence they made the best of their way back to Europe, while the Wager was wrecked on the coast. The Anna Pink being judged unfit for service, was taken for the use of the squadron, and her men were sent on board the Gloucester.

About eleven in the morning of the 8th of September, they discovered a sail; when the Centurion, being in the greatest forwardness, made after her as fast as possible. Night coming on they lost sight of the chase. About three in the morning of the 12th, a brisk gale springing up at W. S. W. obliged them to lie upon a N. W. tack, which at break of day, brought them within sight of a sail, at about five leagues distant. She appeared to be a large vessel, and upon hoisting Spanish colors, and bearing towards the Centurion, the commodore ordered everything ready for an engagement; but upon coming nearer, she appeared to be a merchantman, without a single tier of guns, and hail mistaken the Centurion for her conwort. She soon surrendered, and was found to be a valuable prize.