History of the Spanish Squadron commanded by Don Joseph Pizarro.
The squadron fitted out by the court of Spain, to attend our motions, and traverse our projects, we supposed to have been the ships seen off Madeira. As this force was sent out particularly against our expedition, I cannot but imagine that the following history of its casualties, so far as has come to my knowledge, by intercepted letters and other information, is an essential part of the present work. For it will from hence appear, that we were the occasion of a considerable part of the Spanish naval power being diverted from prosecuting the ambitious views of that court in Europe; and whatever men and ships were lost by the enemy in this undertaking, were lost in consequence of the precautions they took to secure themselves against our expedition.
This squadron, besides two ships bound for the West Indies, which did not part company till after they left Madeira, was composed of the following men-of-war, commanded by Don Joseph Pizarro. The Asia of 66 guns and 700 men, the admiral’s ship; the Guipuscoa of 74 guns and 700 men; the Hermiona of 54 guns and 500 men; the Esperanza of 50 guns and 450 men; the St Estevan of 40 guns and 350 men; and a patache of 20 guns.
Over and above their complements of sailors and marines, these ships had on board an old Spanish regiment of foot, intended to reinforce the garrisons on the coast of the South-Sea. Having cruised some days to leeward of Madeira, as formerly mentioned, they left that station in the beginning of November, and steered for the Rio de la Plata, where they arrived on the 5th of January O.S. and coming to anchor in the bay of Maldonado, at the mouth of that river, their admiral sent immediately to Buenos Ayres for a supply of provisions, having left Spain with only four months provisions on board. While waiting this supply, they received intelligence, by the treachery of the Portuguese governor of St Catharines, of Mr Anson having arrived at that island on the 21st December preceding, and that he was preparing to put to sea again with the utmost expedition. Notwithstanding his superior force, Pizarro had his reasons, and some say his orders, for avoiding our squadron any where short of the South-Sea. He was, besides, extremely desirous of getting round Cape Horn before us, imagining that alone would effectually baffle all our designs; wherefore, hearing that we were in his neighbourhood, and that we should be soon ready to proceed for Cape Horn, he weighed anchor with his five large ships, the Patache being disabled and condemned, and the men taken out of her; and, after a stay of seventeen days only, got under sail without his provisions, which arrived at Maldonado within a day or two after his departure. Notwithstanding this precipitation, we put to sea from St Catharines four days before he did from Maldonado; and at one part of our passage to Cape Horn the two squadrons were so near, that the Pearl, one of our ships, being separated from the rest, fell in with the Spanish fleet, and, mistaking the Asia for the Centurion, got within gun-shot of the Asia before the mistake was discovered, and narrowly escaped being taken.