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Initial Phases of the Battle

On 15 July, Nelson departed from the Mediterranean with eight ships.

In addition to the Theseus, there were the 74- gun Culloden, the 74-gun Zealous,

the 50-gun Leander, the 38-gun Seahorse, the 36-gun Emerald, the 32-gun Terpsichore and the 10-gun Fox.

Nelson’sorders from Jervis were typicall y general for the time, when basic communi cati on could take weeks or months.

The objective was to capture a Spanish treasure ship believed to be in Santa Cru z, and to ” … take, burn, sink or otherwise destroy all enemy vessels of every description.”

 Ne lson’s pl an was straightfo rward, and its success depended heav il y on surprise.

On 22 Jul y, Ne lson arri ved within sight of Tenerife ‘s Mount Te ide.

He intended to keep the ships-of-the-line Theseus, Culloden, Zealous and Leander–out of sight, while the smaller ships-Seahorse,

Emerald, Terpsichore and Fox-would work inshore under the cover of darkness.

The inshore ships would launch an assault on two forts to the northeast of Santa Cruz, where volcanic rock and heavy surf line the coast.

Ne lson planned for the fri gates to disembark the assault force, roughl y 1,000 strong, under Troubridge.

He antic ipated that the assault force would overrun the forts,

and at dawn the shipsof-the-line would enter the harbor and bombard the city’s defenses.

Nelson believed that the combined action would quickly cause the city’s capitulation.

The first problem was the wi nd, which was strong and offshore. As a result, the boats loaded with the seamen and marines were still a mile from shore as dawn broke.

“General” Troubridge returned to Theseus to report to Nelson, and to suggest that the assault force occupy the high ground behind the fort.

In Troubridge’s estimation, that would achieve the same purpose as occupying the forts.

Nelson agreed, and the assault force was finally put ashore at about nine in the morning-at that point, lacking the element of surprise.

The Spanish commander, General Antonio Gutierrez-a tough and resourceful Castilian who had strengthened the Canaries’ defenses since his assignment there–quickly reinforced the position that was Troubridge’s objective.

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