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Don Jose de Mazarredo y Salazar de Muñatones Cortázar

From Openwaterpedia
Portrait by Jean François-Marie Bellie of Vice Admiral Don José de Mazarredo y Salazar de Muñatones Cortázar

Don José de Mazarredo y Salazar de Muñatones Cortázar (born 8 March 1745 in Bilbao, Spain; died 29 July 1812 in Madrid, Spain, nickname El Bilbaíno) fought in the American Revolutionary War, Armada of 1779, Action of 9 August 1780, Capture of the Merchant Quebec fleet, Battle of Cape Spartel, French Revolutionary Wars, Siege of Roses (1794–1795), Blockade of Cádiz (1797), Action of 7 July 1799, and the Napoleonic Wars.

Don José de Mazarredo y Salazar de Muñatones Cortázar of the Order of Santiago was a Spanish naval commander, cartographer, ambassador, astronomer, and professor of naval tactics. He is considered to be one of the best Spanish naval commanders of all time.

Early life[edit]

His inclination toward the sea began at a young age; at 14 he enlisted himself aboard the sloop Andaluz. After 12 years of service in the Spanish navy, and by the good concept his superiors had to him, he was made assistant of the maritime department of Cartagena.

In 1772 Don Mazarredo went to the Philippines aboard the Frigate Venus, but in 1774 he was transferred to the frigate Rosalía and took part in a hydrographic campaign South America.

In 1775 he took part of the Spanish attack on Algiers. The plans of navigation, anchorage and disembarkation of the 20,000 men of the Spanish army were made by him. Shortly after, Don Mazarredo developed a tabular system for the use of the Spanish Navy. In 1778, as commander of the ship of the line San Juan Bautista, he realised hydrographic surveys in the Iberian Peninsula, contributing to the creation of a Maritime Atlas.


Mazarredo was an original theorist. The Spanish Navy entered the American Revolutionary War with a system of tactics devised by him, Teniente de navío de la Real Armada, and expounded in Rudimentos de Táctica Naval para Instruction de los Officiales Subalternos de Marina, printed at Madrid in 1776, dedicated to King Charles III. Despite bearing some evidence of the influence of Paul Hoste and Sébastien Bigot de Morogues, this is a text book for junior officers, though it could clearly have been read with profit by all alike. In common with the French writers, Mazarredo said very little about fighting the enemy. Broadly speaking, his tone was sophisticated and undogmatic.

Mazarredo did introduce a new sea-warfare idea, the use of fireships by the windward fleet, if threatened with doubling as a means of covering its retreat to windward. Salazar also showed himself an innovator in his treatment of breaking the enemy line. He poroposed that, when the fleet was to windward, the centre should break through the enemy centre. In the process of breaking through, the enemy's centre ships immediately astern of the break would be forced away to leeward, so disorganising the neemy rear and isolating it. Meanwhile, the enemy van would have no choice but to stand on to avoid being put between two fires, and it would thus become completely separated from the remaineder of the fleet.

Exactly the same movement might be executed from leeward, though in that case the enemy's rear would be forced to give way to windawrd, thus exposing itself to the fire of the centre and rear ships of the attacking fleet. Mazarredo also drew up a signal book, specifically for Luis de Córdova y Córdova fleet, which was printed in 1781. It was used in the operations against Minorca and Gibraltar, and it does not seem unreasonable that Córdova's signalling system was somewhat similar when he first joined Louis Guillouet, comte d'Orvilliers in 1778. Mazarredo's signal book of 1781 is an improvement on Jean-François Du Cheyron. Like the latter, it employed a tabular system, but much less complex. It employed tables 20 yby 20, each permitting 400 signals.

This signal book was prepared for Franco-Spanish cooperation, as it begins with special signals for indicating Spanish and French squadrons, divisions, frigates, the reserve corps, etc. The 400 signals for use at anchor covered not only every feature of fleet administration, as in the manner of Morogues, but also shore bombardments and landings. Twenty special signals allowed for reporting the movements of ships, to be made by privateers. The signals for use under sail by day, made with a combination of 'cornets', which were swallow-tail flags, other flags, and flags from the table, included a series of battle signals. No-one studying this book could criticise the Spanish either for a lack of useful signals for battle and general purposes, or for over elaboration of signalling technique. Although still tied to the tabular system, their arrangement waas brilliantly simple compard with that of the French.

American Revolutionary War[edit]

As Cordova's Chief of staff, he obtained his greatest military achievement. Thanks to his naval knowledge and proposal of a bold manoeuvre, which his colleagues considered reckless, Cordova's fleet of 31 ships of the line and 6 frigates overcame the 55 British ships to Florida in the Action of 9 August 1780, the British ships with 80.000 muskets, many artillery, 300 barrels of gunpowder, more than 1.000.000 pounds in gold and silver, uniforms to more than a dozen regiments, 3000 soldiers and sailors captured, thanks to the secret service of Floridablanca in London, the new troops will desestabilize the war in favor to England.<ref>Newspaper El Confidencial: Two years later he took part in the indecisive Battle of Cape Spartel. At the end of the American Revolutionary War, he was sent to Algiers as ambassador in order to negotiate peace after the Bombardment of Algiers (1784).

French Revolutionary Wars[edit]

In 1793 Mazarredo received the military Order of Santiago. During the French Revolutionary Wars, Mazarredo's fleet from Cadiz joined Juan de Lángara's Squadron in the Mediterrenean. During those months Don Mazarredo, who had relieved Juan de Lángara did several operations in the Mediterranean Sea, one of them was the evacuation of soldiers and civilians from Roses, Girona, a city in the Catalan coast that was being besieged by the French.

Shorty after, Don Mazarredo had written to warn Manuel de Godoy, Prince of the Peace of the dangers of a Spanish naval decline, accusing the government of bad administration. This cost him to lose his rank, being dismissed and sent to Ferrol, Spain weeks later. But after the Spanish defeat in Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797), the admiralty requested his reinstatement. Mazarredo then took command at Cadiz, where a British fleet appeared on 5 July. But Admiral Mazarredo had already organised its defences for such an attack. The Spanish garrison and naval forces put up such a spirited resistance that the British fleet failed to produce any significant loses to the Spanish and went away two days later.

In 1799 Mazarredo left Cadiz and sailed to Cartagena, Spain.

Among the news that Napoleon I of France learned that the French Atlantic Ocean Fleet, commanded by the Minister of Marine Admiral Étienne Eustache Bruix, had entered the Mediterranean and was at Toulon, Bonaparte learned that a Spanish squadron under Admiral Mazarredo had left Cadiz and was at Cartagena. This last bit of news, which presaged a joint Franco-Spanish action in the Mediterranean, should perhaps have induced Bonaparte to remain in Egypt in order to await its issue. Bruix instructions were to co-operate with the Spanish fleet supplying beleaguered Malta and Corfu and then to bring supplies and several thousand reinforcements to Alexandria.

On 21 June 1799, after Bruix helped to evacuate the French from various Italian ports, he joined Mazarredo at Cartagena. The combined Franco-Spanish fleet comprised forty-two battleships. Since the sixty British ships of the line in the Mediterranean were scattered among several squadrons, Bruix had a unique opportunity to expel the British from that sea and take his fleet to Egypt. Mazarredo refused to co-operate with the French in any enterprise save the reconquest of Minorca from Britain. On 30 March the Franco-Spanish fleet sailed from Cartagena to Cadiz. In June 1799, the French and Spanish fleets under Mazarredo and Bruix, amounting to forty sail of the line, and upwards of thirty frigates and smaller vessels, formed a junction at Cartagena, and on 7 July 1799 after an order sent by him, the chasing ships of his Spanish squadron captured the 18-gun hired cutter of the Royal navy Penelope, commanded by Flag Lieutenant Frederick Lewis Maitland (Royal Navy rear-admiral). After this short action, he proceed from Cadiz to Brest, France without opposition.

Later years[edit]

In 1804 he was sent as ambassador from Spain to France having previously given up the command of the Squadron at Brest to Don Federico Carlos Gravina y Nápoli in 1801. His frank bearing and firmness of character were little agreeable to the First consul, who required more flexibility in the agents employed by other powers, with greater difference to his own views and pretensions. It was imperative upon the Spanish court to conciliate the rising power of Napoleon, and Mazarredo soon heard of his recall. Mazarredo had greatly displeased Napoleon by his outspokenness and lack of flexibility, thus he was dismissed to soothe the angry Napoleon, and the subordination of Spanish interest to those of France was complete.

Don Mazarredo called Napoleon's plans "imperialistic and despoistic".

Despite his open criticism of the naval systems at the end of his career, Mazarredo had a well-rounded record of sea time, ship command, commander-in-chief of the corps of marines, and responsible posts as aide to senior Spanish commanders at sea. He conducted several comparative sea trials to perfect ship-handling methods and ships' signalling routines in the San Ildefonso-class. Don Mazarredo is considered to be one of the best Spanish naval commanders of all time.


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