THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 71.
Royal Instructions to hold a Council of War upon the actions of the
leaders in the Island of Trinidad sent to His Excellency the
Minister of Marine.
8th August, 1797.
Source : Armada Espanola by Fernandez C. Duro, 1895-1903.
VOL. 8, CHAPTER VI APPENDIX
Translated from the Spanish
YOUR EXCELLENCY :
His Majesty the King has decided that a Council of War
shall examine with meticulous care the conduct of Brigadicr
Don Jose Maria Chacon who was Governor in the Island of
Trinidad de Barlovento and surrendered this Island to the
English and that of the Chief of Squadron Don Sebastian Ruiz
de Apodaca who was also in this Island and took the course
of burning the ships which he commanded in the Bay of
His Majesty has nominated as President of this Council,
the Governor of Cadiz, the Conde de Cumbre Hermoso and
as members Don Ildefonso de Arias, Lieutenant General of
the Royal Forces, Don Jacinto Taboada, Field Marshal
(Mariscal de Campo) and Don Francisco Solano, Field
They are required to assemble in Cadiz at the beginning
of the month of September with the Marquis de Arellano,
Lieutenant General and Don Basco Morales, Lieutenant
General of the Royal Fleet and Don Pedro Antran, Chief of
Squadron nominated by the Minister of War and to form
Lieutenant Colonel Don Francisco de la Torre,
Commandant of the third battalion of the Military Orders
is appointed to frame and lead the process with
Don EstanislaoJuez, Capitan de Navio to assist in the process
In order that these officers may carry out their duties in a
regular manner and may form correct estimates of the state of
the respective forces and their supplies at the time of the
attack (which documents have been produced by the aforesaid
Don Jose Maria Chacon) all the papers relating to these
affairs which have been received and preserved, have been
forwarded to the Conde de Cumbre Hermosa.
When this enquiry has been completed in due form and
the Council is ready to form its decision, His Majesty requires
the Council to determine whether the aforesaid Governor and
the Commandant of the Squadron did everything himself and
in union with the other, which was possible with the means
at their disposal for defence, including in the latter the other
individuals who by their advice or by their vote have contri-
buted to the surrender of the Island or to the burning of
This is forwarded to Your Excellency so that you may issue
the orders which are necessary to the General Officers of the
Navy whom His Majesty has been pleased to nominate on the
Council as well as to Brigadier Don Jose Serrano Valdenebro
who has been appointed in place of Don Estanislao Juez,
Capitan de Navio.
Furthermore in order that this Council may have the
fullest information, there have been sent by Senor Don Juan
de Langara two letters, one from Don Sebastian Ruiz de
Apodaca on the 23rd of May last and the other from the
Brigadier Don Jose Maria Chacon on the 4th of November
of the preceding year. The first deals with the surrender of
the Island of Trinidad, the burning of the ships and
proceedings previous to this and the second from Chacon
which relates the reasons for urging Apodaca to detain the
the ships Gallardo and Arrogante which should have sailed on
to Cartagena de Indias.
ANTONIO DE ARCE.
8th August, 1797.
The Report of the Council of War, Cadiz, 26th May, 1798.
The process having been duly formed by Senores Don Jose
Serrano Valdenebro, Brigadier of the Royal Fleet and
Don Francisco Latorre, Commandant of the Regiment of
Infantry of the Military Orders against the Brigadier Don Jose
Maria Chacon formerly Governor of the Island of Trinidad
de Barlovento for surrendering the Island to the English and
against the Chief of Squadron Don Sebastian Ruiz de Apodaca
for burning the ships which he commanded in the Bay of
In pursuance of the Royal Instructions duly forwarded to
His Excellency the Conde de Cumbre Hermosa, Lieutenant
General and Governor of Cadiz, the Council has examined
the said officers in respect to their proceedings at that time
and this Council of War of General Officers assembled in the
office of the aforesaid Excellency, the Conde de Cumbre
Hermosa and which according to the Royal Instructions is
constituted by their Excellencies the Marquis de Arellano,
Lieutenant General of the Royal Navy, Don Basco Morales,
Lieutenant General of the Royal Navy, Don Ildefonso Arias
de Saavcdra, Lieutenant General of the Royal Army and
Don Pedro Autran, Chief of Squadron of the Royal Navy,
Don Francisco Solano, Field Marshal of the Royal Army and
Don Jacinto Taboada, Field Marshal of the Royal Army with
Don Juan de Moro y Morales, the Juzgado de Guerra for
His Majesty in Cadiz, as Legal Assessor.
Having heard the evidence of the accused and the
submissions of their Counsel and having carefully examined
everything brought before it, after full discussion the Council
unanimously agrees that both these officers fully justified their
actions and that they should forthwith be liberated.
The Council recommends that His Majesty be pleased to
direct the proclamation of their innocence in all the Royal
Dominions of both Europe and America and especially in the
Province of Caracas and in the Islands as a justification of
their zeal and care in the Royal Service by their mutual efforts.
In consideration of the above may His Majesty be pleased
to consider some recompense as may be suitable for their
loyal service and good conduct so as to dispel erroneous
impressions which have resulted from their prolonged and
rigorous imprisonment. In this way any misunderstanding
would be avoided when liberty is granted and their hard
fate best compensated.
The Council also entirely acquits the Commandants of the
ship San Damaso and of the bergantine Galgo, the former of not
having burnt his ship and the latter of having been captured
by the English. They have been simply sufferers from
misfortune and unavoidable accident and neither Commandant
is in any way culpable.
Finally the Commandants who advised in favour of
burning the ships of the squadron are exonerated from any
blame and in the same degree are entirely justified.
EL CONDE DE CUMBRE HERMOSA.
FRANCISCO MARIA SOLANO.
ILDEFONSO ARIAS SAAVEDRA.
JACINTO DE TABOADA.
EL MARUQIS DE ARELLANO
BASCO MORALES Y SOUSA.
26th May, 1798.
Hiis. Majresty /t. King does not accept the decisions of the Council of
War. Royal Instructions to the Director General of the Royal
20th Alarch, 1801.
YOUR EXCELLENCE :
The surrender of the Island of Trinidad de Barlovento to
the English forces by Don Jose Maria Chiacon Brigadier of the
Royal Navy and Governor of this Island and the burning of
the four ships and one frigate by Don Sebastian Ruiz de
Apodaca, Chief of Squadron in the Bay of Chaguaramas in
the same Island are two deeds which have impaired the credit
of the Royal Arms and which are due to these leaders who
forgetful of their duty and their honour, failed to comply
fully with their obligations in a position so highly important
to His Majesty's service.
Repeated occurrences of this nature have convinced
His M\ajesty that however repugnant to His Majesty's Royal
and innate mercy, it is necessary to avoid even the least
appearance of sympathy with such culpable and shameful
divergence from the true military spirit which knows no other
path to follow save that leading to a cloud of glory the result
of exact performance of duty and of rigid and intrepid valour
which would enforce respect for the rights of the Crown and
tor the Royal Arms,
Although His Majesty might feel disposed to regard this
affair as already settled by the terms of his instructions, he
considers himself obliged to revise the affair in view of the
many irregularities arising in the defence which resulted in a
decision by the Council of War which is contrary to justice
and to the public interest.
However having consulted his Council of Ministers
His Majesty has been able to find sufficient extenuating
circumstances, such as influenced the proceedings of the
Council of WVar, to mitigate the necessity of providing a
punishment which notwithstanding all this, would have
corresponded to their offences and would have served as an
encouragement to those who find themselves in a similar
position, to comply with all that their honour and their
obligations to the Service require.
In consequence His Majesty has been pleased to decide
that Don Jose Maria Chacon had not defended the Island of
Trinidad as far as his circumstances allowed and that
Don Sebastian Ruiz de Apodaca had decided prematurely to
burn the ships under his command and without strict
observance of the orders provided for such circumstances.
And therefore His Majesty has condemned the one and
the other to deprivation of their respective posts from which
they shall be forthwith recalled and also the first to perpetual
banishment from all the Royal Dominions.
And in so far as the Commandants of the burnt ships,
Brigadier Don Jeronimo Gonzalez de Mendoza, Capitan
de Navio Don Jose Jordan, Capitan de Navio Don Gabriel
Soronda, Capitan de Navio Don Rafael Bennazer and Capitan
de Navio DonManuel Urtizabal at the last Council held by
Apodaca approved of the decision to burn these ships,
His Majesty has decided that they should be suspended from
their duties for four years in view of the fact that their opinions
were given contrary to the requirements of their orders.
It is further ordered that in no case, neither to Chacon
nor to Apodaca nor to the others is any appeal allowed and
to this end His Majesty enjoins perpetual silence on these
The Royal Instructions require Your Excellency to enforce
these decisions at once and to report to me when they have
been completed for His Majesty's information.
JOSE ANTONIO CABALLERO.
2oth March, 18o1.
The Director-general of the Royal Navy.
The rehabilitation of Apodaca.
To DON SEBASTIAN RUIZ DE APODACA.
7th July, 1809.
The Supreme Central and Administrative Council of the
Kingdom in the name of King Fernando VII (May Our Lord
preserve him) has decided to restore you to your former rank
of Chief of Squadron in the Royal Navy and to your place on
At the same time in conformity with the decision of the
Council of War which examined this matter, you are declared
free of all consequences of the proceedings maintained against
you on the grounds of burning the squadron under your
command in the Island of Trinidad.
This has been directed by His Majesty after considering
the opinions expressed by the Committee of Ministers of the
Supreme Council of War and of the General Officers of the
Army and Navy appointed to examine this affair.
This Royal Order is forwarded to you for your information
and satisfaction and in due course it will be published
throughout the Royal Navy.
REAL ALCAZAR DE SEVILLE.
ANTONIO DE ESCANO.
SR. SEBASTIAN RUIZ DE APODACA.