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Monday, January 27, 2014

A British Sailor Offering a Sword to an Unarmed Spanish Officer, 1783


A British Sailor offering a Sword to an Unarmed Spanish Officer, engraved by Thronton, 1783, Library of Congress.

This event, from the storming of the fortifications of San Fernando de Omoa in Honduras on October 20, 1779, was widely represented in English prints as a demonstration of the chivalry of British sailors. A Spanish officer, caught unprepared when a small force of British tars opened the gates of his fort, was offered a sword to defend himself by one of his opponents. A similar print on Wikipedia is misidentified as a Spanish officer handing his sword to a British sailor in surrender.


In the upper left, sailors bearing cutlasses mount the parapets. All of them wear short caps, probably Dutch/Monmouth knit caps, though it's difficult to be sure. Rushing up the ladder is a jack in a jacket that ends beneath the waist, it appears to have two vents and is lined in white. His trousers end above the ankle.

Standing atop a Spanish gun and proudly waving a British flag, a sailor wears a patterned bandanna around his head, a black neckcloth at his collar, a single breasted waistcoat with cloth buttons ending at the waist, and an unlined jacket. His trousers are vertically striped. 

The gallant sailor at the front, offering a sword to his enemy, wears a round hat with a very short brim. His neckcloth is striped. Our hero wears a double breasted, lined jacket with slash cuffs. The waistcoat is double breasted, ending at his white slops with their broad fall fly. We get a peek at his breeches beneath, and see that they are fastened with laces! It's not often we see sailor's breeches, much less a good view of how they are closed. White stockings lead down to the pointed toe shoes with oval buckles.

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