Action of 13 October 1796

Action of 13 October 1796
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars

Print by Thomas Whitcombe depicting HMS Terpsichore capturing the Mahonesa on 13 October 1796
Date13 October 1796
Locationoff Cape Gata, Mediterranean Sea
Result British victory
 Great Britain  Spain
Commanders and leaders
Captain Richard Bowen Captain Don Tomás de Ayalde
frigate HMS Terpsichore frigate Mahonesa
Casualties and losses
4 men wounded 1 Frigate captured
12 killed & 20 wounded
250 sailors & marines captured.

The Action of 13 October 1796 was a minor naval battle of the French Revolutionary Wars, fought off the coast of Spain between the 32-gun HMS Terpsichore under Captain Richard Bowen and the Spanish 34-gun frigate Mahonesa under Don Tomás de Ayalde. The Mahonesa was captured after a fight lasting an hour and forty minutes.

Bowen and the Terpsichore spent some time in the North Sea, until December 1795, when his old patron, Sir John Jervis, replaced Admiral William Hotham as commander of the Mediterranean Fleet.[1] Jervis requested Bowen to come out and take command of a squadron of small vessels operating around Gibraltar in defence of British trade and the garrison there. In early October 1796 the British squadron under Sir John Man was chased into Gibraltar by a Spanish fleet. Spain having declared war against Great Britain and allied with Revolutionary France after both signed the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1796. Bowen set out in Terpsichore to report this to Jervis, and having rendezvoused with HMS Pallas of Jervis's fleet on 10 October, began the return voyage to Gibraltar.[1]

While off Cartagena on 13 October, a frigate was spotted under full sail which was the Mahonesa''. Bowen's crew had been reduced by sickness, but he decided to chase down the mysterious sail. After closing on her, and determining that she was attempting to manoeuvre into a position to better fight the Terpsichore, Bowen ordered a gun be fired to test her intent.[2] This was instantly met with a broadside, and a general action began. After an hour and forty minutes the frigate surrendered, after being outmanoeuvred and was discovered to be the Spanish Mahonesa.[3]

Terpsichore had four men wounded during the battle and none killed.[4] Mahonesa had around 12 men killed and 20 wounded the rest being taken prisoner. She was towed into Gibraltar was taken into service with the British as HMS Mahonesa.[5] Bowen received a piece of plate valued at 100 guineas.[6] Bowen refitted Terpsichore and departed on another cruise, capturing several small Spanish vessels on 12 and 13 November, sending them to Gibraltar.


  1. 1 2 Campbell pg. 79
  2. Campbell. Naval history of Great Britain. p. 80.
  3. Campbell. Naval history of Great Britain. p. 81.
  4. Winfeild pg 206
  5. Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 212.
  6. Campbell. Naval history of Great Britain. p. 82.
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