|Capture of the El Mosquito|
|Part of West Indies Anti-Piracy Operations, Piracy in the Caribbean|
Capture of the El Mosquito
|Roberto Cofresí's Pirates|
|Commanders and leaders|
John D. Sloat|
|Casualties and losses|
1 schooner damaged
1 schooner captured
The Capture of the El Mosquito refers to the defeat of Roberto Cofresí and his pirate ship off the port town of Boca Del Infierno, Puerto Rico by American and Spanish forces in March 1825. United States Navy ships of the West Indies Squadron, with help from the Spanish Military, heavily damaged Cofresi's vessel and forced him to abandon her and escape to shore where he was later captured by Puerto Rican authorities and executed.
Confresi was one of the last pirates to be successful in Caribbean Sea and after his death piracy in the region once again declined. He commanded at least three different vessels during his career, most famous was the fast six gun schooner El Mosquito which was crewed by sixteen men in all. Late in 1824 Cofresi made his most successful attack on a fleet of eight merchant ships, one of which was American-flagged. In response the United States Navy ordered the USS Grampus under Captain John D. Sloat to search the pirates out and destroy them. Two small sloops from Puerto Rico accompanied Grampus during the battle. They were the San Jose and Las Animas, San Jose held six guns and twenty-three officers and marines under the command of Captain Francis Storer. The Las Animas carried one gun and twenty-seven officers and men under Captain Garrett. Grampus was specifically designed for fighting piracy, she was armed with two 12-pounders (5.4 kg) and sixteen 24-pounder (11 kg) carronades and had a crew of 142 officers and enlisted. She was already a veteran ship that defeated a pirate brig from Puerto Rico in 1822.
The American and Spanish flotilla searched several Puerto Rican ports before finding the pirates on March 2, cruising off Boca del Infierno near Ponce, on the island's southern coast. Cofresi, on deck of the El Mosquito, first thought USS Grampus was a merchantman so he ordered an attack and when his schooner closed the range, the Americans raised the Navy Jack and fired a broadside at the incoming pirates. The broadside was followed by additional shots from the sloops and the pirates took to evasive maneuvers and returned fire at the Grampus. After forty-five minutes of dueling, resisting the attack proved to be pointless so Captain Cofresi decided to disengage and try to flee along the coast. The Americans, and Spanish troops on land, closely pursued the El Mosquito until the schooner was too heavily damaged. Her masts, sails and rigging were all torn to pieces by cannon fire. Cofresi then chose to abandon ship and swim to shore, all while under fire from the chasing squadron. Eventually the El Mosquito was seized and at least three pirates were killed and six others were wounded, including the captain. USS Grampus sustained only slight damage and a couple wounded.
The remaining thirteen pirates escaped to shore and headed for the jungle, American sailors landed to search for the pirates and inform the Puerto Ricans of the matter. Six pirates were captured by American forces that same night and later at about 10:30 pm, Cofresi and a few more pirates were taken by Spanish forces after a skirmish along a road leading away from the area. The Americans handed their prisoners over to the Spanish garrison of El Morro Castle and they were executed by firing squad on March 29, 1825. John Sloat later became a commodore in the United States Navy and served during the California and Pacific Coast Campaigns of the Mexican-American War.
Order of Battle
United States Navy:
- San Jose, sloop-of-war
- Las Animas, sloop-of-war
- El Mosquito, schooner
- Duany, Jorge, The Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States, University of North Carolina Press (2002) ISBN 0-8078-5372-0
- Roberto Fernández Valledor, "The Capture of Roberto Cofresi" University Editorial, University of Puerto Rico (1978) ISBN 0-8477-0556-0
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
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