Capture of Santa Catalina
16 March 1782

Admiralty Office, April 2, 1782 1

Copy of a Letter from Captain Pole, of His Majesty’s Ship the Success, of 32 Guns and 220 Men, to Mr. Stephens, dated at Spithead the 30th of March, 1782.

I HAVE the Honor to desire you will inform My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, That on the 16th Instant, at Daylight, in Latitude 35:40 North, Cape Spartel2 bearing E.N.E. Eighteen Leagues, with the Wind at S.W. standing for the Gut, with the Vernon Storeship,3 we discovered a Sail right ahead, close hauled on the Larboard-Tack : As soon as I could discover her Hull from the Masthead, which the Haze and lofty Poop magnified, I made the Vernon’s Signal to haul the Wind on the Starboard Tack, and make all Sail ; soon after hauled our Wind, the strange Sailed tacked and gave Chace ; at Half past Two P.M. finding the Chace gained on the Vernon, I shortened Sail to let her go ahead, and then brought-to, in hopes at least to make him shorten Sail, and divert his Attention from the Ship under my Convoy.  We soon after discovered him to be only a large Frigate with a Poop : At a little after Five he hoisted Spanish Ensign, with a broad Pendant, and fired at Gun : At Six, being within Random Shot astern of me, I wore  and stemmed for his Lee Bow, till we had just Distance sufficient to weather him ; then hauled close athwart his Forefoot, giving him our whole Fire within Half-Pistol Shot ; passed close to Windward engaging, while the Enemy, expecting us to Leeward, were firing their Lee Guns into the Water ; the Disorder our first Fire threw them into they did not recover.  We then wore, and placed ourselves to great Advantage, which our Superiority of sailing allowed us to do, supporting, without Intermission, a most astonishing close and sell-served Fire, at never more than Half Cable Distance, till the Enemy struck, which was about Twenty Minutes past Eight.  She proved to be the Santa Catalina, Twenty-six long Spanish Twelves on the Main deck, and Eight Six-pounders on the Quarter-deck.   The Number of Men I have not been able to ascertain.  We have on Board 286 Prisoners.  The Captain and Officers say they had between 25 and 30 killed, and only 8 wounded.  Don Mig. Jacon is the Captain in the Line, hath a distinguishing Pendant as such, and is senior Officer of the Frigates cruizing the Straits ; had a very particular Description of the Success sent him, whom he was particularly directed to look out for ; had been cruizing Three Weeks for us ; had seen us Four Times, chaced us Twice with a Squadron of Four and Six Sail, from whom he parted Two Days before : He speaks with much Displeasure of the Behaviour of his Ship’s Company.  Lieutenant Oakely,4 whom I had appointed to take Charge of the Prize, was indefatigable in clearing the Wreck.  Her Mizen-mast fell some Time before she struck ; her Main-mast a short Time after, and her Fore-mast must have shared the same Fate, if the Water had not  been remarkably smooth ; in short, without assuming much Presumption, I may add, our Guns  did as  much Execution in little Time as could have been don ; her Hull was like a Sieve, the Shot going through both Sides.  From this State of the Prize, their Lordships may imagine my Hopes of getting her to Port were not very sanguine : Whilst we were endeavouring to secure the Foremast, and had just repaired our own Damages, which were considerable in our Yards, Masts and Sails ; at Day light of the 18th, Six Sail appeared in Sight, Two Frigates from whom had chaced and were reconnoitring us ; I instantly ordered the Vernon to make all Sail, hoisted all my Boats our, sent on Board for Lieutenant Oakely and the Seamen, with Orders to set Fire to the Santa Catalina before he left her.  She blew up in a Quarter of an Hour, the Wind being S.E.  I made all Sail from the Six Sail, and determined on proceeding with the Vernon to Madeira, she being now in want of Provisions and Water.  We had now 286 Prisoners on Board, whose Intention to attempt rising we had fortunately discovered, encouraged by the Superiority of Numbers, which appeared very striking to them.

The spirited Behavior of every Officer, and of the Ship’s Company, is superior to my Praise ; their real Value and Merit upon this Occasion hath shewn itself in much stronger and more expressive Terms than I am Master of ; but it still becomes a Duty incumbent on me, to represent them to their Lordships as deserving theri Favor and Protection ; I have particular Pleasure in so doing.  Lieutenant M‘Kinley, (2d)5 assisted by Mr. James, Master, were very assiduous in getting Success’s Damages repaired as well as they could admit.  Lieutenant Pownall, of the Marines,6 of the Marines,  by the greatest Attention and good Example, formed a Party that would do Honor to Veteran Soldiers.  Indeed, Sir, the Warrant, Petty, Able, &c. did their Duty in so noble a Manner, that I feel myself happy in rendering them my public Thanks.  I shall hope, if their Lordships are please to consider the Conduct of the Success on this Occasion as deferring their Notice, that they will permit me to recommend the First Lieutenant to their Favor.  From the Reports given me since, it adds to my Satisfaction to know, that, had I not been obliged to set Fire to the Catalina, she would not have swam, a Gale of Wind coming on immediately after, which obliged us to lay-to under Storm Stay-sail : She was the largest Frigate in the King of Spain’s Service : Her exact Dimensions I have received from the Captain.  They were taken Three Months since, when she was coppered at Cadiz.  I am sorry to add, that amongst our List of Wounded is Mr. George Hutchinson, Boatswain, who lost his Arm:  The Service will lose a very valuable Man.

Dimensions of the Santa Catalina.



Length of Keel



Length of Deck



Extreme Breadth



Height of Middle Port when Victualled for Four Months



My Thanks are due to Colonel Gladstanes and the other Officers, Passengers on Board the Vernon Store-ship, for their Attention, particularly in assisting to secure the Prisoners.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient humble Servant.

C H A.  M.  P O L E.



The London Gazette, 30 Mar-02 Apr 1782



A promontory in Morocco about 1,000 feet above sea level at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, west of Tangier. It is frequently and wrongly referred as the northernmost point of Africa.



I find no evidence that this Storeship was on the R.N. establishment; perhaps the transport ship Vernon, Francis Hull, Master, 480 tons.



CSCORN lists a Lieut Richard “Oakely” [rank: 16 July 1810] who would be too young but perhaps related to the n=most likely candidate, Lieut Richard “Oakey” [rank: 10 July 1778] who was promoted M&C on 06 July 1782 to HMS Merchant, Armed Vessel {Cripps transcribes the name as Richard “Oakley”].  CSORN also lists two “ancients”,  viz. Lieut: John Oakley [rank: 13 Nov 1762] who died in 1790 and Lieut William Oakley [rank: 13 Aug 1761] who died in 1811.



Per CSORN, this should be Lieutenant George M‘Kinley [rank: 14 Jan 1782] who rose to the rank of Admiral.  He had been appointed to Stormont, Sloop, but that ship was captured (03 Feb 1782) before he reached it, and at the time of this event was on the West Indies, serving on HMS Barfleur..  “Lieutenant M‘Kinley (1st)” probably should be John M‘Kinley [rank: 20 July 1779].  He was commanding HM Armed Galley Comet in North America in 1778-1780.  They were the only two Lieutenant M‘Kinley’s in service at this time; however, it is noted that Patrick “M‘Kinlay” and David “M‘Kinlay” were commissioned Lieutenant in 1783 (Feb 21st & Apr 21St respectively)


1st Lieut of Marines, Philemon Pownall [rank: 25 Aug 1779].

Transcribed and annotated by R. Brooks. Posted 3 September 2010

Revised 6 August 2014 ©