|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||Light Squadrons and Single Ships
The Medea was a fine frigate of 1046 tons, and mounted 42 guns, 18-pounders on the main deck, and eights on the quarterdeck and forecastle, with a complement of 300 men ; of whom two were killed and 10 wounded. The three remaining frigates were each armed similar to the Mahonesa, except perhaps in having an additional pair of 6-pounders. * The Fama, out of her 280 men and boys, had 11 killed and 50 wounded ; the Clara, out of her 300, seven killed and 20 wounded ; and the Mercedes lost, by the fatal explosion, the whole of her 280 in crew and passengers, except the second captain and about 40 men, who were taken off the ship's forecastle after it had separated from the remainder of the hull, and except two passengers, who happened to be on board the Medea.
It is therefore quite clear, that the Indefatigable and any two of her three consorts would have been a match, even in a time of notorious war, for these four Spanish frigates. As it was, the latter defended themselves with the characteristic bravery of Spaniards, notwithstanding that they could have been in no state of preparation, and that the melancholy loss of one of their number so early in the action increased the odds against them.
Two more circumstances conspired to invest this transaction with more odium than perhaps would otherwise have attached to it. One of those circumstances was the miserable fate of so many poor souls at the explosion of the frigate, and the heartrending misfortune it entailed upon one, in particular, who had been a passenger on board. This gentleman, a Captain Alvear, of the Spanish navy, with his wife, four amiable daughters, and five sons grown up to manhood, had embarked in the Mercedes, carrying with him a fortune, estimated at about 30,000l. sterling, the gradual savings of 30 years' industry as a merchant in South America. Not many minutes before the engagement began, the captain and his eldest son had gone on board the Medea ; and there, in a very little while, did he witness the catastrophe that hurled his wife, his daughters, and his remaining sons to destruction, and sent that treasure, which was mere dross in the comparison, to the bottomless deep.
The second circumstance alluded to was the tempting nature of the lading on board these vessels. The cargoes of the three captured frigates, consisted of Vidona wool, cascarilla, ratinia, seal-skins, seal-oil, bars of tin, pigs of copper, dollars, and ingots of gold, and netted very little short of a million sterling. Therefore, as the Mercedes was similarly freighted, the total value of what had been shipped on board the squadron probably amounted to nearly a third of a million more. We must not omit to state, that the British government restored to Captain Alvear, out of the proceeds of the three cargoes, the 30,000l. sterling, which he had lost in the Mercedes.
* See vol. i., p. 358.
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