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The Battle of Cape Corvo was a naval engagement of the Ottoman-Habsburg struggle for the control of the Mediterranean. It was fought on August 1613 near the island of Samos between the Spanish squadron of Sicily under Admiral Ottavio d'Aragona and an Ottoman fleet led by Sinari Pasha. The Spanish were victorious and captured 7 galleys and about 600 prisoners, among them the Bey of Alexandria and another 60 important Ottoman nobles. Cape Corvo was the first major victory of the Spanish fleets under Pedro Téllez-Girón, 3rd Duke of Osuna, as Spanish Viceroy of Sicily, as well as the greatest Spanish victory over the Ottoman Empire since Lepanto.[4]

Background[edit | edit source]

File:Embarkation of Spanish Troops.jpg

Embarkation of Spanish Troops in a Meditarranean coast, by Andries van Eertvelt.

When Pedro Téllez-Girón, 3rd Duke of Osuna, was appointed Viceroy of Sicily in 1610, his main goal after the elimination of the widespread banditry of the island became the reconstruction of its naval forces.[5] At his arrival, the Spanish squadron of Sicily had no galley capable to sail, and the fear among the population of an Ottoman attack was great.[5] By July 1612, 8 galleys and several sailing vessels had been built following Osuna's instructions, those latter to transport tasks.[4] Osuna trusted the command of this small force to the Palermitan Ottavio d'Aragona, his favourite naval commander.[4] D'Aragona carried out some raids in Ottoman territory, attacking by surprise La Goulette and Cherchell.[4] Don Antonio Pimentel burnt seven saling ships led by an English renegade in the port of Tunis that same year[6] The major engagement, as well as Osuna's biggest victory of 1612, was the rejection in August of a huge Ottoman fleet which tried to capture Messina.[7] 2 galleys and 3 galliots were captured, and a prize coming from Cartagena was recovered. The Ottoman landing parties, isolated from his ships, surrendered to the Spanish cavalry or attempted to escape inland.[7]

In mid-1613 d'Aragona landed 200 musketeers, 50 arquebusiers and 100 pikemen in Chicheri, where they stormed and demolished an Ottoman castle with the death of over 800 Turks.[7] At his return, Osuna ordered him to prepare a campaign to face the Ottoman fleet in its own waters. The Viceroy had been warned of the departure of a large fleet from Constantinople, and although his informs did not notice the preparation of any attack against the island, he preferred to make sure of it.[7] D'Aragona's galleys were reinforced each one with 100 musketeers, besides 50 spontoons, 20 bucklers and 150 chuzos in case of it was necessary free the rowers to help the galley's soldiers to fight the Ottomans.[1] Osuna's flagship, meanwhile, was reinforced with 160 musketeers and 7 cannons. According to the informs of the Viceroy, the Ottoman fleet was composed of 12 galleys under Mahomet Pasha, lieutenant of Nasauf Pasha, who remained in Constantinople discussing with Sultan Ahmed I issues concerning to the war with Persia.[1]

Battle[edit | edit source]

Spanish Men-of-War Engaging Barbary pirates, painting of 1615 by Cornelis Vroom.

Ottavio d'Aragona set sail to the Aegean Sea waters in command of his 8 galleys. South of Samos, the Spanish Admiral was informed by Greek fishermen of the presence of 10 Ottoman galleys under Sinari Pasha in that waters.[2] The squadron crossed the Mycale Strait thanks to the help of an able Greek and made appearance off Cape Corvo, where the Ottoman fleet was anchored: 5 galleys in vanguard, 2 disposed to the battle, and 3 in rear-guard.[2] D'Aragona, having been warned of the presence of Sinari Pasha's vessels by a felucca previously detached ahead his fleet, ordered the attack, and followed by his squadron, approached the Ottoman formation and rammed its flagship.[2] After three hours of combat, Sinari Pasha surrendered his galley, being imitated by his vice-flagship and 5 other galleys. The 3 remaining managed to escape.[2]

About 400 Ottoman soldiers and sailors were killed, and another 600 captured. Among the most signaled prisoners were Sinari Pasha, who died of sadness shortly after, and Mahamet, Bey of Alexandria and son of Müezzinzade Ali Pasha, who had commanded the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto.[3] Moreover, 1,200 Christian galley slaves were freed. The casualties on the Spanish side had been low and consisted of 6 men killed and 30 wounded. They soon returned to Sicily with his 7 prizes, which were incorporated to their fleet at their arrival at Messina.[8] Another prize was taken during the cruise: a brigantine crewed by 17 Turks.[8] The whole fleet was, however, about to be lost in a storm off Cape Solanto, 10 leagues of Messina.[8] Thanks to the help of about 70 barges, all the ships managed to enter the port.[8]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

Engraving of Pedro Téllez-Girón y Velasco, 3rd Duke of Osuna.

On 27 September Osuna organized in Palermo a triumphal procession in honour to Ottavio d'Aragona.[4] The Spanish Viceroy, d'Aragona, Cardinal Doria, the captains and knights of the galleys, the freed slaves, the 600 Ottoman prisoners and the 900 soldiers which had participated in the battle, marched through the streets of the city; Osuna's pennant and the captured flags opening the march.[4] The recovery of the Sicilian squadron continued the following years, achieving its most important victories at the battles of Cape Celidonia and Ragusa under Francisco de Rivera y Medina, one of Spain's most able naval commanders of the time.[9]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Fernández Duro, p. 78
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Fernández Duro, p. 79
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Fernández Duro, p. 81
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Linde, p. 102
  5. 5.0 5.1 Linde, p. 101
  6. Fernández Duro, p. 74
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Fernández Duro, p. 77
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Fernández Duro, p. 80
  9. Rodríguez González, p. 118

References[edit | edit source]

  • (Spanish) Fernández Duro, Cesáreo (2006). El gran duque de Osuna y su marina: jornadas contra turcos y venecianos (1602-1624). Spain: Editorial Renacimiento. ISBN 978-84-8472-126-0. 
  • (Spanish) Linde, Luís M. (2005). Don Pedro Girón, duque de Osuna: la hegemonía española en Europa a comienzos del siglo XVII. Madrid, Spain: Encuentro. ISBN 978-84-7490-762-9. 
  • (Spanish) Rodríguez González, Agustín Ramón (2006). Victorias por Mar de los Españoles. Spain: Grafite Ediciones. ISBN 978-84-96281-38-7. 

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