REVOLUTIONARY WAR, ‘Moonlight Battle’ of Cape St. Vincent. - after Sir Joshua REYNOLDS PRA (1723 - 1792, artist). - William DICKINSON (1746 – 1823, engraver).
Original mezzotint portrait, titled ‘Sir George Brydges Rodney Bart. Admiral of the White’, London: ‘Published May 15 1780 by Dickinson & Watson’, sheet size: 20 x 15in; 508 x 382mm. Condition: spotted, toned, small marginal tears, tape to upper blank margin.
George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, (1718-1792) “was a British naval officer. He is best known for his commands in the American War of Independence, particularly [his victory over the Spanish at the battle of Cape St. Vincent in January 1780, and] his victory over the French at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782. It is often claimed that he was the commander to have pioneered the tactic of ‘breaking the line’.
Rodney came from a distinguished but [relatively] poor background, and went to sea at the age of fourteen. His first major action was the Second Battle of Cape Finisterre in 1747. He made a large amount of prize money during the 1740s, allowing him to purchase a large country estate and a seat in the House of Commons of Great Britain. During the Seven Years' War, Rodney was involved in a number of amphibious operations such as the raids on Rochefort and Le Havre and the Siege of Louisbourg. He became well known for his role in the capture of Martinique in 1762. Following the Peace of Paris, Rodney's financial situation stagnated. He spent large sums of money pursuing his political ambitions. By 1774 he had run up large debts and was forced to flee Britain to avoid his creditors. He was in a French jail when war was declared in 1778. Thanks to a benefactor, Rodney was able to secure his release and return to Britain where he was appointed to a new command.
Rodney successfully relieved Gibraltar during the Great Siege and defeated a Spanish fleet during the 1780 Battle of Cape St. Vincent, known as the "Moonlight Battle" because it took place at night. He then was posted to the Jamaica Station, where he became involved in the controversial 1781 capture of Sint Eustatius. Later that year he briefly returned home suffering from ill health. During his absence the British lost the crucial Battle of the Chesapeake leading to the surrender at Yorktown.
To some Rodney was a controversial figure, accused of an obsession with prize money and nepotism. This was brought to a head in the wake of his taking of Saint Eustatius for which he was heavily criticised in Britain. Orders for his recall had been sent when Rodney won a decisive victory at the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782, ending the French threat to Jamaica. On his return to Britain, Rodney was made a peer and was awarded an annual pension of £2,000. He lived in retirement until his death in 1792.” (Wikipedia).