Protégé Jorge Juan
Juan Cayetano de Langara and Huarte was born in 1736 into a noble Basque family who lived in La Coruña but came from Andalusia. His father, Juan de Langara and Aritsmundi, was also a sailor, a representative of the first "Bourbon" generations of Armada officers, fought at Passaro under the command of Admiral Gastagneta and rose to the rank of captain general fleet. The son decided to follow in his father's footsteps, and at the age of 14 he received the title of midshipman, undergoing training in Cadiz. There, he was immediately noticed by the recent return from England of Jorge Juan, who was surprised by the talents shown in Langara in the field of mathematics and the exact sciences. As a result of this, Juan Caetano got the opportunity to continue his studies in Paris, which he also completed with success. During this time, he already managed to build up a certain reputation for himself as a learned husband, humble, but quite active and brave. After completing his studies in Paris, the time began for active maritime practice and gaining real experience of a sailor.
Initially, Langara participated in sailing along the coasts of Spain and Africa, improving his skills as a junior officer, but by the 30 years he was considered an experienced and reliable veteran, especially skilled in navigation. In 1766-1771 years, he made a number of voyages to the Philippines, where he confirmed his reputation, and also began to gradually improve his skills in cartography. In 1773, Langara made the fourth voyage to Manila, this time along with another future celebrity of Armada, Jose de Masarreda. Together they dealt with issues of astronavigation and determining distances from stars. This was followed by a new voyage, already in the 1774 year, with a new special task - to map the exact outlines of the Atlantic coast of Spain and America. This time, in addition to Masarreda, other outstanding Armada sailors sailed on board the frigate Rosalia with Langara - Juan Jose Ruiz de Apodaka (future father-in-law of Cosme Damian Churruka), Jose Varela Uloa, Diego de Alvear and Ponce de Leon.
Like many other bright figures of the navy of that time, Langara began his career with scientific work, where he achieved significant success and wide enough recognition, although not such as, for example, Jorge Juan. But, like many other scientists associated with the Armada, he also had to carry out military missions. For the first time, he entered full service in the 1776 year, becoming the commander of the battleship Poderoso under the command of Admiral Marquis de Casatilla (Casa-Tilly). There he took an active part in the capture of the Sacramento colony, the capture of the Assension fortress on the island of Santa Catalina (where he met Federico Gravina), and during the defense of the island of Martin Garcia. Acting on land and at sea, Langara was noted in dozens of minor skirmishes, and is now known not only as a scientist, but also as a brave soldier who does not lose his temper in any situation, even in a marine position unusual for him. This quickly nominated him from among other officers, and in the 1779 year, when the war with Great Britain began, he received under his command a whole division in the West Indies, consisting of two battleships (Poderoso and Leandro) and two frigates. At the same time, fate decided to try out Langara, because due to the stormy weather the Poderoso soon sat down on the stones, and only thanks to the organizational abilities of its commander it was possible to avoid great casualties and losses - the crew was saved and transferred to the Leandro. The rest of the ships meanwhile acted quite effectively, driving away the English privateers, and soon a major success followed - the capture of the English frigate "Vincheon" off the island of Santa Maria. For these successes, Langar was promoted to brigadier and transferred to the metropolis, having received a whole squadron under his command.
The most important event of the 1779-1783 war of the year for the metropolis was the Great Siege of Gibraltar, which turned into an impressive action involving great forces, stretching over all four years and becoming a clear illustration of all the strengths and weaknesses of Spain at that time. Langara received under his command a squadron consisting of 9 battleships and 2 frigates, which was supposed to provide a distant blockade of the British stronghold. Appointed on December 11 1779 of the year, just a month later, on January 14 of 1780 of the year, he had to fight the British in a very disadvantageous situation. Just at that time, a large supply convoy led by Admiral George Rodney was going to Gibraltar. 18 battleships and 6 frigates were guarded, but their numerical advantage was not their trump card. Langara, seeing superior enemy forces, immediately turned his ships towards the base, but the British gradually began to catch up with them. The reason for this was that most of Rodney’s ships had an innovation in the technology of that time — copper lining of the bottom, due to which fouling was minimized, while the Spanish ships did not have such lining, the bottom was not cleaned for a long time, as a result of which lost in speed.
On a clear moonlit night, a battle broke out in which the twice-superior British forces piled on the Spanish squadron. It was almost the only night battle for the entire XVIII century, which ended in the complete defeat of the Langara squadron. Both frigates and two battleships of the Spaniards fled; one ship, Santo Domingo, exploded. The remaining six battleships were captured by the British, but two (“San Eugenio” and “San Julian”) somehow “disappeared” from history - the Spaniards insist that after the battle, when the British had already towed trophies to themselves, severely beaten and lagging behind the general order, the ships were blown away by the wind and current to the coastal cliffs, and the British on board were forced to free the Spanish crews in order to save their lives, as a result of which the parties quickly changed places, and the ships returned to the beginning of the Spanish crown. Among the four trophies that Admiral Rodney nevertheless brought to his base, there was also the badly beaten flagship Real Phoenix (launched in the 1749 year, Royal Navy was commissioned as Gibraltar, and served until the 1836 year). The foreman Langara fought bravely, but received three severe wounds, his ship suffered heavy losses, lost all its masts and was forced to surrender. The British were very respectful of the captured brigadier and soon even released back to Spain. This defeat had no effect on Langara’s career - the battle conditions were too unequal, and the fact that the British sheathed the bottom of their ships with copper was known even from the time of the spying history of Jorge Juan, but no reaction from the highest ranks of Armada to this was followed. Moreover - he was kindly courted at the court, promoted to the rank of vice admiral.
Already in 1783, Langara was appointed to command the detachment, which, as part of the allied Franco-Spanish squadron, was to carry out an invasion of Jamaica, but the end of the war led to the cancellation of the expedition. The next ten years he spent in routine, dealing with the organization of the fleet, cartography and much more. In the 1793 year, when the war with the Revolutionary France began, he turned out to be one of those who were popular both in the court and in the navy, as a result of which Juan de Langara became the commander of the Spanish squadron of 18 pennants, which begins to operate together with the Allied British in the Mediterranean. Here, Langar, who raised the flag on the 112 cannon of Reina Louise, had to act not only as a naval commander, but also as a diplomat, and even as a politician. Together with his younger flagship, Federico Gravina, he took part in the defense of the royalist Toulon from the Republican army. When it became clear that the matter was rubbish and the city would soon fall, the British Admiral Hood rushed to rob the city (according to the Spaniards) and burn the French ships that were in port in order to eliminate the danger from the republic to the sea in the future. Langara, on the other hand, defended the French fleet, for he understood that the war with France was a temporary phenomenon, and the preservation of the French fleet was in the interests of Spain. Because he, acting through diplomacy and threats, reduced damage to a minimum - only 9 ships were burned by the British, and 12 left Toulon with the allies, and in fact passed under their command. 25 more ships remained in Toulon, and were as a result captured by the Republicans.
After that, the allied relations between the Spaniards and the British significantly deteriorated, and Langara withdrew his ships to Catalonia, where he provided widespread support for the army, which at that time was fighting the French on land. In particular, his ships helped defend the coastal city of Roses, and also prevented the support of the French courts, capturing the frigate Iphigenia during a short-lived battle. However, the war was already nullifying, and peace was soon signed at San Ildefonso. First, Langara was promoted to Captain-General of the Department of Cadiz, then appointed Minister of Armada, and from 1797 of the year - Captain-General of Armada and its director (the way the Spanish Ministry of the Sea was often reformed at that time was worthy of separate sarcastic applause), having received a post in the State advice. This was a logical result of all his activities, everyone saw him as a worthy head of the Ministry of the Sea, but he did not stay with them for a long time, having retired in 1799. The reasons for this are not entirely clear - on the one hand, Langara was already at a fairly respectable age (63 of the year), had health problems that could just cause a completely deliberate resignation. At the same time, as a naval sailor and patriot, he could not observe how Godoy’s government acted with Armada, and the resignation could be a sign of protest - and, if so, it was not a unique case. Be that as it may, Juan de Langara, a knight of the orders of Santiago and Carlos III, then retired, did not interfere in politics, lived a private life for his pleasure, and died in the year 1806. I could not find information about his children, but he definitely had a wife, and not a simple one - and the Marquise Maria Lutgarda de Ulloa herself, the daughter of the famous don Antonio de Ulloa.
Separately, it is worth telling about how this person was perceived by contemporaries, how much he is known in our time, and what trace he left in history. With all this, it’s both difficult and simple. So, in modern Spain, the name of Langara is well known, but not so widely - ships, streets, schools are not named in his honor, monuments are not erected to him. Outside the borders of Spain, the situation is even more modest - even many flotophiles and history buffs from the times of the 18th century may simply not be aware of the existence of such a person as Juan Caetano de Langara and Huarte. Meanwhile, during his lifetime, he was quite a popular person abroad, having earned a respectful reputation among enemies, and in Spain itself was one of the figures of the Armada of the foreground. First of all, he was one of the heirs to the ideas of Jorge Juan, his protege and assistant. During his voyages to the Philippines and America, Langara repeatedly tested his ideas in practice, in fact led the movement of Spanish cartographers after Juan’s death, making an invaluable contribution to the development of this business. Langara himself more than once contacted with other outstanding sailors of Spain of his time, was friends with Masarreda and was a relative of Don Antonio de Ulloa.
Under his wing, many officers of the new generation of Armada, the last generation of Spain from the time of its greatness, were brought up before it collapsed into a deep crisis and lost the status of one of the leading powers in the world. Among his students, for example, is Federico Gravina, who acted under his command during the war with the Revolutionary France, who became a kind of heir to the manner of battle of his teacher - courageously and with maximum efficiency, even in case of defeat, in order to earn at least respect from the winners . Not having any outstanding achievements on a global scale, Juan de Langara became the "workhorse" of Armada both as an officer and as a naval commander, achieving the task in almost all cases - the failure with the Battle in the moonlight was almost the only such his career. Finally, when the time came again in 1804 to fight the British, he was one of two “old men” (besides Masarreda) whom Armada prophesied as his commanders-in-chief, with whom one could go to hell with the hell. But Langara was already old, and the “Francophile” Gravina was politically more profitable, as a result of which he was no longer destined to lead the fleet and lead him into battle in the almost hopeless conditions of the decline of the country, the fleet and the French dominance. Well, what not so many people remember about him today is the matter of those who are now living, and not of Juan de Langara, who until recently fulfilled his duty to the king and Spain, although he did not win over the eternal glory of great victories or the great bitterness of devastating defeats.
To be continued ....