Balearic in Armada
Antonio Barcelo and Pont de la Terra was one of the few Armada officers who did not come from the Basque Country. He was born in Palma de Mallorca, on the first day of the 1717 of the year, in the family of Onofre Barcelo, the owner of a shopping mall, carrying goods between the Baleares and Catalonia. His mother was a representative of one of the most outstanding families of the island - Pont de la Terra. As soon as Antonio reached the right age, he began to make trading flights between the islands and the mainland with his father. This was not an easy occupation - at the beginning of the 18th century, Berber pirates were still strong, who raided the Spanish coast and robbed merchant ships, threatening shipping and the Christian population. Even ordinary merchants had to master not only the maritime and commercial sciences, but also the military.
When Antonio was 18 years old, his father died, and the young man assumed command of the shebek. A year later, he had to face the Berbers for the first time at sea, and the battle was won, after which such skirmishes rained down from a cornucopia. Barcelo won all battles with pirates of the shebek, and her captain began to earn fame and recognition among both civilian and military sailors in Spain. The battle with two Berber galleys that took place in the 1738 year brought him great fame, in which, despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, he won a landslide victory. Having learned about this battle, King Felipe V immediately made Barcelo the lieutenant of the Armada frigate (teniente de fragata), without any study or special training - the necessary skills 21-year-old Balearican already successfully demonstrated. From that moment, he became an active participant in military operations against the corsairs, while not forgetting the native islands - when famine erupted on them, Barcelo did his best to buy and deliver grain to Mallorca, which saved many lives.
In 1748, the Berbers captured the Spanish Shebek with 200 passengers on board, including 13 Royal Army officers. Enraged by this event, King Fernando VI ordered Antonio Barcelo to assemble a squad and carry out a punitive raid. This raid was successful, the Berbers suffered great damage, but the war did not end. In 1753, when he was in Mallorca, the coastal alarm went off, and Barcelo, without thinking twice, put the grenadier company on his shbeke and set sail. There, he had to encounter an 30-fun 4-gun galliot, accompanied by several small cheeks. Ignoring the numerical superiority of the enemy, Barcelot attacked the squadron of corsairs, and gave her a real pogrom - the wisps fled, the galliot was captured after boarding. For this, the Balearic was promoted to the rank of ship lieutenant (teniente de navio).
In the 1756 year, following from Palma de Mallorca to Barcelona, he met two Algerian galliots on his shebek. And again, despising the enemy and ignoring the numerical superiority, Barcelot rushed to the attack and won - one galliot was sunk by artillery fire, the second fled, and this despite the fact that they had to fight on both sides, which obviously reduced the capabilities of the Spanish ship! In this battle, the ship's lieutenant himself received two injuries, from which, however, he quickly recovered. In 1761, Barcelo was already the captain of the frigate (capitano de fragata) and commanded a division of three shebeks. In one of the battles, he happened to fight seven Algerian ships, all of which were captured. The next year, the irrepressible Balearic player got a rich, albeit a peculiar prize - he managed to board the Algerian frigate and capture his commander, the legendary (at that time) Berber corsair Selim. In this battle, he was injured, which disfigured his face for life - a bullet passed through his left cheek, tearing it, and leaving a large scar.
The same battle of Shebeki Barcelo with two Berber galleys
Despite all the wounds, the fight against the Berbers continued, and the battles took place almost every day. In many of them, the division of Antonio Barcelo was noted. When the French and Austrians tried to increase the onslaught against the pirates, he was chosen as one of the "allied commanders." And although nothing came of this venture (the matter was stalled at the very beginning), the choice in favor of the Balearic man spoke for himself: he saw one of the main fighters with the corsairs of the Mediterranean Sea. From 1760 to 1769, he captured 19 Berber ships, captured 1600 Muslims and freed more than a thousand Christian prisoners, for which he received the title of captain of the ship (capitano de navio) under a royal patent. Acting in the new position of commander of a small sailing and rowing flotillaconsisting of galliots and shebeks, Barcelo became one of those thanks to whom the Spaniards managed in 1775 to keep the Peñón de Alhusemas fortress, located on the island of the same name. The flotilla itself suffered losses, but the Berber squadron besieging the fortress was forced to lift the siege. Once again, Barcelo established himself in the best possible way, which enabled him to soon take part in a major expedition to Algeria.
Expeditions to Algeria and the Siege of Gibraltar
In the same 1775 year, Barcelot's rowing flotilla became part of the expeditionary forces, which were sent on a punitive campaign against the Berbers. A large number of outstanding army officers fell into it — the army was commanded by General O'Reilly, the fleet by Pedro González de Castejón, and his chief of staff was Jose de Masarredo. However, the expedition as a result of a series of accidents and errors ended in complete failure, the troops had to land in another place, inconvenient for deployment, the Algerians constantly exerted pressure from land and sea, the army suffered heavy losses, and it soon had to be evacuated in a difficult situation. This история it could have ended in defeat and carnage, if it had not been for the rowing flotilla of Antonio Barcelo - acting near the shore, driving away the Berber ships and supporting fire of their light cannons of the evacuating army, the Shebeks and Galiots of the Balearians saved the situation and allowed to complete the evacuation more or less successfully. Even a large-scale cavalry attack by the Berbers with a mass of horsemen with a total number of about 10-12 thousand people did not help - the troops, having received the support of naval artillery, stubbornly repelled the attacks and gained time to evacuate the wounded. The losses were heavy, but not fatal - 500 killed and 2000 prisoners from the entire 20-thousandth army. Barcelot’s actions in difficult conditions were highly appreciated by all, and ground officers, and the command of the fleet. His merits were recognized by the king, who shortly after the expedition returned home, promoted the Balear to the rank of brigadier. At this time, the illness of Barcelo was already beginning to affect - a progressing deafness that developed due to his very close acquaintance with naval artillery: many times in battles, he, despising safety, was too close with the guns firing, which could not but lead to sad consequences.
Model of the armored gunboat Antonio Barcelo
In 1779, Spain entered the war with Great Britain on the side of the USA and France, and the so-called Great Siege of Gibraltar began. Due to the geographical conditions and the fortifications erected by the British, it was probably the most inaccessible fortress in the world, and having an unsuccessful experience of sieges, the Spaniards decided to rely primarily on the blockade. The blockade fleet, which was supposed to operate directly at the fortress, was appointed team leader Antonio Barcelo. He approached the task creatively, and was engaged not only in the blockade, but also constantly pestering the British with night actions of his light forces. According to the design of the admiral, special gunboats of a new design were built in Cadiz, with two cannons of caliber up to 24 pounds, placed on installations with a central pin or complex swivel, more characteristic of ships of the mid-19th century. The guns were located at the ends, in the middle were rowers, providing them with a course in any direction. The boats had a low profile and low visibility, which was especially beneficial for the night. Finally, according to Barcelo’s decree, part of the boats were sheathed with a streamlined wooden frame, on top of which they launched a thick oak paneling and iron plates - i.e. in fact, the ships turned into rowing armored gunboats, where the armor was used in combination with streamlined forms to withdraw shells into a ricochet, and to prevent incandescent shells used by the British to combustible materials. To increase buoyancy from the outside, the casing was sheathed with a cork, and also made a binder from it to absorb the attacks of enemy shells on the armor. Having first appeared near Gibraltar, these gunboats aroused laughter among the British, but not for long - very soon these awkward ships, about which the Spaniards said that they would not survive the first shot from their heavy guns, turned the garrison’s night service into hell. One of the British officers, Captain Sayer, wrote later (approximate translation, Sayer himself may be Sayer, i.e., German in the British service):
The first appearance in front of the English garrison of gunboats of the “new model” of Barcelot’s design caused general laughter, but not for long. At first, no one realized that they were the most formidable and invincible enemy that had appeared before the English fleet. Barcelo always attacked at night, choosing the darkest directions and sections of defense where it was impossible to detect his small squat boats. During the night, his gunboats literally bombarded us with their shells throughout the fortress. These bombings tired the British much more than a day service. At first they tried to get rid of the Barcelo gunboats with the help of coastal batteries firing at flashes in the dark, but in the end, the British realized that this was just a waste of ammunition.
In parallel with the struggle with the British, the Balearians also had to fight with their colleagues, most of whom simply hated him because of their low origin, considering Barcelo to be an upstart. Barcelot himself was a rather rude and sharp-tongued man, which only aggravated the situation. The case almost reached the court due to the insult of some other officer of Armada, but the case was hushed up. Even the attempt to “remove” the Balearic from Armada did not help, justifying his writing off to the shore with almost complete deafness and respectable age. The new siege commander of Gibraltar, the Duke de Crillon, tried to push this resignation away - but when he arrived at the siege camp and met Barcelot personally, he immediately cut off any encroachments on the valuable commander of the rowing forces: he was a genius of a small war, and lose this because of intrigue de Crillon was not about to. The subordinates adored their commander, including due to the careful and thrifty attitude to the personnel, which always easily won the hearts and souls of sailors, regardless of their nationality. In Andalusia, where a large number of sailors came from, the poem very soon spread that if the king had at least four naval commanders like Barcelo, Gibraltar would never become English. However, the king no longer had people like Antonio, and the siege, together with the general assault, ended in failure. At the end of the general assault, Barcelo was wounded, but soon returned to duty.
In general, the gunboats were very different
In the 1783 year, commanding a squadron of 78 pennants, Barcelo for the second time in his life appeared under the walls of the fortress of Algeria, trying to finally stop the Berber piracy in the Mediterranean Sea. To do this, the city was taken "on the cannon", and later subjected to bombing for 8 days. Alas, this time luck did not favor the Spaniards - despite the enormous consumption of ammunition, Algerians managed to inflict only small losses, caused several fires in the city itself, destroying 562 buildings (a little more than 10%) and sinking the gunboat. The results were more than modest, albeit achieved, they turned out to be at the cost of very small losses. The next year, the expedition was repeated, this time with the involvement of the allied fleets of Naples-Sicily, Malta and Portugal. The command was carried out by the same Antonio Barcelo, and this time luck was smiling at him. For 9 days, allied ships bombarded Algeria, sinking almost the entire Berber fleet and destroying a significant part of the fortifications and the city. Even taking into account the prematurely interrupted campaign due to adverse winds, the results were quite sufficient. Leaving the African waters, Barcelo did everything to get information about his intentions to return to Algerians next year, with even greater strength, as a result of which the Algerian Bey was forced to negotiate peace with Spain, stopping the pirate raids on its shipping and coast. Tunisia followed the example of Algerians, impressed by the actions of Barcelo. Until the start of the Napoleonic Wars, piracy in the Mediterranean was stopped.
After solving the Algerian question, Antonio Barcelo returned home, being already a deaf old man with a wounded body and a set of old sores. In 1790, in the light of the siege by the Moroccans of Ceuta, they remembered him and appointed him to command a squadron designed to bombard Tangier. However, by the time he took over command of the squadron, peace talks had already begun, with the result that the bombing was canceled. Barcelo, knowing the volatile nature of the Moors, considered that they only took time to gather strength, and went as a private person to reconnaissance in Ceuta and its environs, where the new Moroccan army was really gathering. Soon, negotiations broke down, and the war began in full growth - but unexpectedly Barcelo was removed from the post of squadron commander due to intrigue. He personally addressed to King Carlos IV, and achieved his return as commander of a squadron intended for war with the Moroccans, but she did not go to sea due to incessant storms, and after some time she was completely disbanded. Intrigues again began against the tall Balearic man, and he was finally sent home. Offended and humiliated by this, Antonio Barcelo for some time tried to achieve the organization of a punitive expedition to Morocco, but he was simply ignored. In the end, he died in the 1797 year, at the age of 80 years, without returning to the fleet anymore. His remains are buried in Mallorca, but in the Pantheon of outstanding sailors in San Fernando there is a memorial plate with his name - that there was no doubt that this famous Balearic was there in the 19th century.
Antonio Barcelo is one of the most prominent Armada officers of his generation. The unsurpassed master of the “small war” at sea, acting by the forces of rowing and sailing-rowing vessels, he always achieved victory, even in the most difficult and hopeless situations. Slightly less successfully, he also acted as commander of mixed squadrons. His actions during the siege of Gibraltar, along with gunboats of his own design, became a model and subject of discussion throughout Europe at that time. The sailors adored him, the kings loved, he had friends in high society, the population of the Spanish Levant idolized him as a defender against the Berber threat - but alas, he did not fully fit into the structure of the Armada. The reason for this was both the complex character of the Balearic man and the peculiarities of his origin - according to the concepts of his time, he was too small a nobleman, an upstart, and even did not have a system of naval education, speaking in everything literally self-taught. Because of the latter, he was considered to be completely illiterate, unable to write and read, although it was he who knew how to do it, and even excellent, constantly holding next to him his beloved book - Don Quixote by Cervantes. Being a noble, honest and kind man, he could not fight intrigues, as a result of which he could not prove himself as a naval commander. Only colossal patience and endurance allowed him to bear the tricks of his colleagues, who constantly teased him about the lack of education and low origin. Nevertheless, history has already forgotten the names of its ill-wishers, but Antonio Barcelo is remembered (albeit not everywhere) as an outstanding sailor, naval commander, defender of Christians from Berber corsairs and slavery, and even a designer who created one of the first examples of armored ships in Europe and used such ships in practice with great success.