Wager's Action, 1708

The galleon San José explodes in this painting of the battle by Samuel Scott. Original in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Location Cartegena, Columbia

During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), the Franco-Spanish alliance was funded partly by treasure imported from the Spanish colonies in the Americas. In 1708, a British squadron under Captain Charles Wager caught word of a Spanish treasure fleet about to depart the Caribbean for Spain. The Spanish were alerted by the governor of Cartagena in Columbia to the presence of the British, but they were forced to head out anyway, due to the approaching hurricane season. On 8 June, 1704 (old style date 28 May), the Spanish fleet of three galleons and fourteen merchant ships was intercepted by the small British squadron of three ships of the line and a fire ship. There was only a light wind, but the Spanish were able to get most of their ships away. The galleon San José, with between 7 and 11 million pesos worth of treasure aboard put up a stubborn fight for an hour and a half before her magazines blew, taking the ship down with few survivors. The galleon Santa Cruz was taken late in the evening after a short fight, but she had comparatively little treasure on board. The third galleon, San Joaquín, escaped the British and made Cartagena the next day, along with thirteen of the merchants. The final one was beached and burned by the crew, denying the prize to the British.