Esmeralda (1791)

For other ships with the same name, see Esmeralda (disambiguation).
Capture of the Esmeralda in Callao, by L, Colet, Club Naval, Valparaíso
Name: Esmeralda
Operator: Spanish Navy
Builder: Puerto Mahón, Baleares
Launched: 1791
Captured: 5. to 6. November 1820
Fate: Captured in Callao by the Chilean Navy
Name: Valdivia (15. November 1820)
Namesake: to honour of Cochrane's Capture of Valdivia
Operator: Chilean Navy
Commissioned: 6. November 1820
Honours and
expedition to Acapulco after the Spanish frigaten Prueba and Venganza
Fate: beached in Valparaíso 1825
General characteristics
Class and type: Frigate
Tons burthen: 950 t
Propulsion: sail
Armament: 44 guns

The Spanish Esmeralda was a 44 gun frigate built in Port Mahón, Balearic Islands in 1791.[1] The First Chilean Navy Squadron under the command of Thomas Cochrane captured her in the night from 5 to 6 November 1820. She was renamed Valdivia in Chilean service. She was beached in Valparaíso in June 1825.

Spanish career

The ship was 950 ton burthen frigate designed by engineer Bouyón[2] in the Balearic Islands. After the defeat in the Battle of Chacabuco the Spanish government ordered the Esmeralda to set sail from Cadiz on 6 May 1817 under the command of Captain Luis Goic with a convoy that included the ships Reina de los Ángeles, San José, San Juan, Castilla, Tagle and Primorosa Mariana. The convoy arrived in Callao on 30 September 1817, except Tagle, which had arrived 21 August.[2](p96)

On 31 March 1818 Esmeralda, the most powerful Spanish warship on the Pacific coast joined the Pezuela and Potrillo in the blockade of Valparaíso until 27 April 1818. On that day the Chilean ship Lautaro come alongside the Esmeralda, but she made such poor contact that fewer than twenty of men from Lautaro were able to get on board Esmeralda. The boarders were unable to capture Esmeralda but the Spanish ships abandoned the blockade.

Chilean career

On the night of November 5, 1820, during the Expedition to Freeing of Perú, two silent columns of boats under command of Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald entered Callao Bay and captured the Esmeralda under the guns of Callao's fortifications. The demoralization of his crews helped dissipate the naval power of the Viceroy. Later she was renamed Valdivia to commemorate Cochrane's capture of Valdivia.

The squadron was forced to move up and down the coast on supply gathering excursions, challenging shore fortifications.

As the intensity of the quarreling between San Martín and Cochrane increased, Cochrane sailed north with the O'Higgins, Independencia and Valdivia, (former Esmeralda) in search of the last two Spanish frigates in the Pacific: Venganza and Prueba. The Chilean ships sailed as far as the Gulf of Cortez off Mexico without finding a trace of the missing frigates.[3]


  1. Gerardo Etcheverry, Principales naves de guerra a vela hispanoamericanas, retrieved 10. Januar 2011
  2. 1 2 Gaspar Pérez Turrado, Las Marinas realista y Patriota en la independencia de Chile y Perú, Ministerio de Defensa, Madrid, España, 1996, ISBN 84-7823-496-9
  3. Robert L. Scheina, Latin America's Wars: The age of the caudillo, 1791-1899, 2003, ISBN 1-57488-449-2, url
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