|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||Light Squadrons and Single Ships
judicious perseverance in resisting the attack of a superior force. By conduct so laudable and exemplary, they preserved their vessel, and exalted the character of their country ; and the two navies must continue to view, with very different feelings, the defence of the Centurion in Vizagapatam road.
An action between the single ships of two nations at peace is rare. Still more rare is an action, under similar circumstances, between two squadrons. Should the occurrence happen, it is, usually at night, when the ships find a difficulty in understanding each other's signals ; but, the instant the mistake is discovered the firing ceases, and no breach is made in the amicable relations of the two powers. Unfortunately the next action in order of date was fought between an English and a Spanish squadron, not amidst darkness, but in the open day ; not through any accident, but under express orders from the government of one of the combatants ; and, so far from the matter being afterwards made up, it led to an almost immediate declaration of war by the party who had to complain of the aggression.
Without entering into a consideration of the political connexion which at this time subsisted between France and Spain, it may suffice to state that, towards the latter end of the summer of 1804, the British government received intelligence, through the officer, Rear-admiral the Honourable Alexander Cochrane, in command of the squadron stationed off Ferrol, that an armament was fitting out in that port ; that a considerable Spanish force was already collected there ; and that French troops were then on their march thither, and near at hand. It is true that all this was afterwards disproved by the Spanish government ; but such proof could have no retroactive effect. Immediately on the receipt of Rear-admiral Cochrane's information, the British admiralty despatched a squadron off Cadiz, to intercept and detain, by force or otherwise, the four Spanish frigates, known to be bound to that port with an immense quantity of specie, which they were bringing from Monte-Video, in South America.
On the 3d of October the British squadron sent upon this important service, and which consisted of the 44-gun frigate Indefatigable, Captain Graham Moore, 18-pounder 32-gun frigates Medusa, Captain John Gore, and Amphion, Captain Samuel Sutton, and 38-gun frigate Lively, Captain Graham Eden Hamond, assembled off Cape Santa-Maria. On the 5th, at 6 a.m., that cape bearing north-east distant nine leagues, the Medusa made a signal for four large sail bearing west by south, the wind at this time being about east-north-east. The squadron immediately wore, and made sail in chase. At 8 a.m. the strangers, which were the Spanish 40-gun frigate Medea, Rear-admiral Don Joseph Bustamente, and 34-gun frigates Fama (with a broad pendant), Clara, and Mercedes, formed the line
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