On 10 March 1814 the Hercules, joined by the Julieta,
the Tortugas, the Fortunata and the felucca San Luis,
faced the strong
Spanish naval fleet commanded by Captain Jacinto de Romarate. The
Spanish armada had
six war ships, brigs, gunboats and a land battery with four cannons.
There was a fierce combat after which the Hercules was stranded.
American-born officer Benjamin Franklin Seaver, commander of
the Julieta, was killed in action. The Hercules defended herself
until 12 March at 10 AM. As a result of this combat Commander Elias
Smith, Lieutenant Robert Stacy and forty-five sailors were killed
by grapeshot. There were about fifty wounded, which imposed a heavy
task for the surgeon Bernard Campbell. The flagship received no
less than eighty-two cannon blows and was repaired in the same war
zone. Plumb plates were placed under the water line and the hull
covered with leathers and tar. Henceforth it was nicknamed as 'the
Black Frigate'. Richard Baxter, an English-born officer, was appointed
as the new commander. On 17 March 1814 Brown attacked the island
Martín García together with the Julieta and the Zephir. The
engaged in combat with the Spanish warships Esperanza and
land attack was organized and at that moment William Brown ordered
the fife and the drum to play 'Saint Patrick’s Day in the
Morning', which acted as a real booster among the troops.
20 April 1814 Montevideo was blocked by Argentine forces. There
were no other major engagements until 14 May, when a combat started
but the sea conditions stopped a full attack.
Combat of Buceo
16 May 1814 the Hercules, the Belfast, the Zephir
and the small
coasting schooner Itatí, backboned by the Agreeable, engaged in fight
with the Spanish warships Neptuno, San José and
La Paloma in front of Buceo. On 17 May, during the persecution, Admiral Brown
received a cannon shot which broke one of his legs. The Spanish
warship Maria was seized and brought to Buenos Aires just like
Paloma and San José. The Mercurio was chased up to the very
port of Montevideo. By June 1814 the Spanish crown had lost Montevideo.
Hercules returned to Buenos Aires leaving Captain Russell to command
the blockade of Montevideo. On 23 June 1814 Montevideo surrendered
as well as the whole Spanish squad.
August 1814, the Argentine fleet was auctioned but the Hercules
was bestowed to Admiral Brown by the government of United Provinces
of the Rio de la Plata.
frigate was then lined up with copper and armed with twenty-nine
cannons of twenty-four, twelve and eight pounds. The letter of marque
was issued on 1 September 1815. She departed from Buenos Aires on
15 September 1815 commanded by Michael Brown, since William Brown
was not to get involved in privateer actions. Notwithstanding, once
in the River Plate William Brown took the command, his second in
chief being David Chitty. Michael Brown took command of the Trinidad.
Hercules navigated around Cape Horn and in front of Chiloé
the Argentines seized the schooner Mercedes. Later, in front of Morro Quemado, they captured the frigate
Gobernadora, which was
sailing from Guayaquil to Lima. On 16 January 1816 the brig San
Pablo was captured and became Brown’s hospital ship. On 18
January, they captured a pilot’s boat and the following day,
a místico (small coasting vessel) that was sailing from Pisco
20 January the Argentine naval forces arrived to Callao and, on
21 January they started bombarding the castles of Rimac. During
twenty days the biggest Spanish stronghold was blocked by five ships
waving the flag of Buenos Aires.
21 January the frigate Fuente Hermosa was sunk. On 23 January, after
a fierce combat, the frigate Consecuencia was captured when sailing
from Cadiz. Among the passengers was brigadier Juan M. Mendiburu.
The Consecuencia became later La Argentina, which was to be commanded
by French naval officer Hipólito Bouchard. On 25 January
the warship La Candelaria was captured.
- The Attack to Guayaquil
29 January 1816 Admiral Brown set sail in the Trinidad for Guayaquil,
and on 18 February he attacked the batteries of Punta Piedras, which
he captured after a long struggle. Brown captured the schooner Carmen
and attacked the battery Elizalde. Then he attacked de San Carlos
castle but the Trinidad got stranded as a consequence of the quick
ebb of the Guayas river.
a result of this, Brown was captured by the Spanish forces but was
rescued by the gallant action of the Consecuencia and the
Miguel Brown and Chitty
took part in the exchange of prisoners. Our forces released the
Spanish prisoners and their mail and set free the Candelaria, the
Gobernadora, a mistico and two small vessels. The Trinidad was lost
and William Brown returned to the Hercules.
Hercules set sails to the Galapagos islands where the prizes were
shared out. Admiral Brown obtained the Halcon and Bouchard the
the pilot’s boat Carmen went to Pedro Dautant. The Hercules
and the Halcon navigated then to Colombia in a painful journey as
most of the crew was suffering of scurvy. A fifty-five men crew
departed on June 1816 from San Buenaventura, visited the Isle
of Pascua and then sailed around Cape Horn. They had to feed themselves
mostly of turtle, maize and rum. The cargo was lightened in the
Gulf of Penas and then they set sailed to the Falkland/Malvinas Islands.
A maelstrom forced them to stop in Brazil near the Cabo Frío.
In this last place they met the British brig Jane, which updated
them on the last political news at the River Plate.
25 September 1818, William Brown, following his officer’s
advice entered in Carlisle Bay near Barbuda, located in the middle
of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean. According to the
Gentleman’s Magazine (1816, Vol. 11, p. 552) and the
(22 April 1818) this was what happened thereafter. The 'Black Frigate'
was mounting at that time twenty-two guns and had a fifty-six-men
crew, with a valuable cargo of quicksilver, silks, steel, dry goods
and spice estimated on one million dollars, which was the produce
of plundered towns and vessels in the Pacific Ocean
Hercules was seized a day or two later but released upon Brown consenting
to accompany captain Sterling from the sloop of war HMS Brazen to
Antigua and report to the Admiral there. She was seized a second
time while at sea under the Navigation Laws, and condemned on 13
November by the Vice Admiralty court of Antigua.
1817 an appeal was made to the high court of Admiralty in England.
Also, a claim was brought by John Garcias, Esq. on behalf of his Catholic
Majesty Ferdinand VII. The seizer refused to give an issue to the
libel in this claim until the issue between him and William Brown
was disposed of, on the ground that the King of Spain was no party
to the original proceedings, and it would only embarrass the question;
i.e., the sentence of the court should be reversed. The different
claimants might settle their disputes inter se, with which the seizer
could have nothing to do. Sir William Scott said it was impossible
for the court to receive any claim for the independent government
of Buenos Aires, which had never been recognized by the British
government. Therefore there was no reason whatever for refusing
to answer the claim on behalf of the Spanish government, that he
had no hesitation in directing an issue to be given to the libel
the claimants withdrew, and in December 1820 the court made a decree
in Brown’s favour. Brown and his men were released but they
lost the frigate and the cargo.
The Black Frigate´s Final Days
hypotheses were made about the final days of the Black Frigate:
According to the Courier of London (4 April 1817) the ship was auctioned
in Antigua and became part of Venezuelan Admiral Brion's fleet.
This story was reproduced by Le Moniteur Universel of Paris (10
According to the Evening Post of New York (5 August 1818) the
arrived to Havana from Antigua and was sold there.
have been at least twenty drawings of the Hercules painted by renowned
artists like commodore José Murature, Eduardo De Martino
(a former Austrian naval officer) and captain Emilio Biggeri. This
is an evidence of the appreciation for this ship among naval officers.
On May 1970, the Argentine Navy received a Type 42-Class frigate
named Hercules (D-1) built at Barrow-in-Furness (UK).
lacks an original man-o-war like the HMS Victory berthed in No.
2 Dock, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, or even a replica
like the Dutch East Indiaman Amsterdam at the Scheepvaart Museum
in Amsterdam. However,
there’s John Joseph O’Hara's project in Foxford,
by which a real size replica of the Hercules would be built
and installed in a dry dock near river Moy. J.J. O’Hara, owner
of a supermarket in Foxford, is the President and founder of the 'Foxford
Admiral Brown Society'. Many Irish-Argentine societies are supporting this project,
as did Mary Robinson, former President
of Ireland 1990-1997.
the misty depths of history, the story of the Black Frigate touches
our deep feelings and continues inspiring the best traditions among
worldwide seafaring lovers.
Dr. Eduardo C. Gerding. Received his high school diploma in 1967
from the Cardinal Newman College, a Christian Brothers’ school in
Buenos Aires. He graduated as Medicine Doctor (1974) in the Jesuit
Universidad del Salvador. Retired from the Navy as Lieutenant
Commander, former chief of Gastroenterology at the Buenos Aires
Naval Hospital. Works at the Health Division of the Argentine Naval
Hydrographical Service. Life Member of the US Naval Institute. His
ancestor Eduard Gerding of the Kingdom of Hanover arrived in
Argentina in 1830, and was a partner of William MacCann and one of
the founders of 'The Strangers Club', the oldest club in South