Luis Vicente de Velasco
Luis Vicente de Velasco
Luis Vicente de Velasco, Jose Nicolas de la Escalera
|Born||February 9, 1711|
|Died||31 July 1762 (aged 51)|
|Years of service||1732–1762|
|Commands held||La Reina|
|Battles/wars||Spanish conquest of Oran |
|Relations||Iñigo José de Velasco (Brother)|
Luis Vicente de Velasco e Isla (February 9, 1711 - July 31, 1762) was a Spanish officer and naval commander in the Royal Spanish Navy. He is known for his valiant defense during the Siege of Havana in 1762, during which he was killed in action.
Luis Vicente de Velasco was born in Noja, Cantabria, in Spain. He enlisted in the Spanish navy and became a sailor at the age of 15 and saw his first action in an engagement at against a Barbary corsair. He participated in the Conquest of Oran in 1732.
Battle of Havana and death
During the Seven Years' War the British sent an expedition against Cuba in 1762 with a fleet of 23 ships of the line, 11 frigates, 4 sloops, 3 bomb ketches, 1 cutter alongside 160 troop transports, consisting of 31,000 men in total. The Spanish forces opposing them had 11,670 men, 10 ships of the line, 2 frigates, 2 sloops and hundreds of cannons mounted on Havana's extensive fortifications. 10,000 soldiers disembarked under the command of George Keppel, 3rd Earl of Albemarle and captured the heights, which the governor of Cuba, Juan de Prado had left undefended.
Velasco defended the vital Morro Castle with 64 cannons and a garrison of 700 men. On July 1, the British launched a combined land and naval attack on the Morro. The fleet detached four ships of the line for this purpose: HMS Stirling Castle, HMS Dragon, HMS Marlborough and HMS Cambridge. The naval and land artilleries simultaneously opened fire on the Morro. However, the naval bombardment proved to be ineffective as the elevation of the fort proved too high for the cannons of the ships to effectively target the batteries, and the attack was called off.
The fortress held out for another two months despite daily shelling, thanks to the effective leadership of Velasco. The resistance came to an end when Velasco died after being hit by a bullet in the chest. The Earl of Albemarle allowed the transfer of the heavily wounded Velasco to Havana, where British surgeons tried to save his life, but in vain; he died on July 31, 1762. The British and Spanish concluded a temporary truce to allow for his burial. Two weeks later, Havana was captured. The capture proved to be a humiliating Spanish defeat, as the entire garrison present were either killed or captured, alongside the fleet in the harbour (which the Spanish had neglected to burn) and one hundred merchantmen.
Velasco was honoured by the Spanish for his bravery. King Charles III of Spain had a statue of him erected in Meruelo, ordered a navy ship to be named in his honour, and gave his brother Iñigo José de Velasco the title of Marquess of Velasco.
- Pocock, Tom: Battle for Empire: The very first world war 1756-63. Chapter Six
- Thomas, Hugh: Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom 2nd edition. Chapter One