Dispatches from Martin Garcia -William Brown and his first battle by Santiago L Aversa
This neat little 100 page book is based on the reports of the later admiral Browne’s naval battle which gained him his reputation and played such a prominent part in the independence of Argentina. Admiral Brown was born in Foxford in Mayo which generates a specific Irish interest. Indeed the book acknowledges the interest of the late JJ O’Hara of the Mayo Admiral Brown society.
The author is a lawyer based in Argentina and is also a naval reservist currently involved in naval transport and SAR. This background gives him an insight into the tactics employed in the action and allows interpretation of the importance of the strategy employed in the battle.
The story begins with the revolution of 1810 against Spanish rule in Argentina. Browne came to prominence raiding the Spanish fleet and pursuing the war vigorously. Montevideo was under siege and he developed the idea that the only effective way of augmenting the siege was to blockade the city by sea as well. The authorities thought this ambitious but when he persisted with his plan they appointed him Lieutenant colonel and made him commodore of a small squadron of vessels harrying Spanish blockade runners. The series of letters reproduced in this book describe the events in 1814 when the fleets clashed. Brown’s superior tactics and use of the shallows brought an Argentinean victory. The Battle in the River Plate with William Browne aboard his frigate the Hercules transferring to other smaller vessels as his flagship was disabled are the stuff of legend. His exploits are compared to his contemporary Nelson for daring and tactical cunning. The extensive footnotes are particularly helpful explaining the historical context of the narrative.
An irritating error “Eire independence from 1916” takes from the accuracy of the book and casts unnecessary doubt or other facts. The bibliography makes no reference to de Courcy’s book on Admiral Brown published some 10 years ago. A misprint “chocking blackate” suggests an error in translation and lack of spell check on the computer.
Overall this is a good readable account with transcripts of the contemporary documents of the naval battle in the River Plate which was so important in the history of Argentina.
The maps and illustrations are excellent and clarify the complex detail of the naval engagement.
ISBN 978 0557 161560 Published in Argentina
reviewed by Dr Edward Bourke