Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Carlos de Adam y Brusoni, the only Tenerife native who spoke with Horacio Nelson

Friendlier visitors in Santa Cruz port in more recent times

Carlos Francisco de Adam y Brusoni, born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on July 19, 1762, son of Juan de Adam, a native of the island of Skópelos (Greece) and María Ana Brusoni, from Genoa. Married to Manuela España, they had four children at their "military address" on La Marina street.
 
When he was 30 years old, as a frigate lieutenant, he replaced his father in the official job of Alcalde de Mar (Captain of the Port), becoming the first maritime authority in Tenerife. Since this position had been established in 1714, the year in which the Navy Administration was established, we believe that his father must have been the first to hold it.
 
The first relevant mission of his employment was to proceed with the embargo, unloading and storage of the goods and effects that were on board three English ships that were detained in the Santa Cruz roadstead, since on November 3, 1796, General Gutiérrez had signed and had an Edict proclaimed on the declaration of war that King Carlos IV had decreed as an obligatory consequence of the [Second] Treaty of San Ildefonso, signed between Spain and France, establishing an alliance, offensive and defensive, against the Kingdom of Great Britain, its vassals and possessions.
 
Likewise, on May 27, 1797, when the 38-gun English frigate Minerve and 32-gun Lively, under the command of Captain Benjamin Halowell, anchored out of range of the coastal batteries, they unfurled a white flag and put a boat into the water to go to the pier, Carlos de Adam, together with the captain of the Canarian Infantry Battalion Juan Greagh, went out to meet them in a launch to order them not to approach land and to state what their message was. As the English emissaries delivered a letter addressed to General Gutiérrez, in which they proposed the exchange of some Spanish prisoners, and in the British ships there were none to carry out the hypothetical exchange, Carlos de Adam reached the conclusion that such a manoeuvre only intended to recognize the port, locate its facilities and observe the ships anchored in its waters; among them, the French corvette La Mutine that days later would be stolen by the English.
 
During the battle against the English in 1797, commanded by Horacio Nelson, Carlos de Adam would remain in the Castillo de San Cristóbal forming part of the General Staff of General Gutiérrez, meeting in council together with the Royal Mayor, the King's lieutenant, heads of Artillery and Engineers, etc.
 
In the mentioned battle, he elaborated and put into practice the Plan of Violent Cannons [1], instructing in its handling the pilots and sailors of the ships anchored in the roadstead; he had the initiative to unload the 18 English boats that were stranded on the beach, after their occupants had disembarked; Take advantage of the darkness of the night to take weapons from the English and collaborate with Lieutenant Grandi in returning to service the battery located in the "hammer" of the dock, which the enemy had disabled. During this last action he received a severe contusion on his leg, having to be hospitalized.
 
But without a doubt, the most outstanding performance of Carlos Adam Brusoni, as the first Maritime Authority of the Island, was the interview that he had with Horacio Nelson on the morning of July 26, 1797 aboard the Theseus to inform him of the conditions of the Capitulation that had been signed by Captain Samuel Hood, before General Antonio Gutiérrez in the Castillo de San Cristóbal, and which were ratified by Captain Thomas Troubridge, second in command of the English, in which "the honours of war were granted to him", so that the British troops were re-embarked with their weapons and the prisoners returned; General Gutiérrez would agree to this on the condition that the British squadron undertook not to attack Tenerife or any of the other Canary Islands again.
 
General Gutiérrez, aware of the importance of ratifying the terms of the surrender by the Chief Rear Admiral of the enemy squadron, sent Carlos de Adam to the Theseus, accompanied by the captain of the English frigate, Emerald, Thomas Moutray Waller. In this meeting, Nelson would agree to deliver to Cádiz the report of his own defeat, so that a few days later the Spanish Court would have knowledge of the Gesta (Attempt) of July 25, 1797.
 
It is a pity that there is no documentary record of the moment of the interview of the young lieutenant of the Tenerife frigate with English rear admiral, held in Theseus' chamber, where he was convalescing from the amputation of his right arm, because he could have described the physical and psychological state in which Nelson was, as well as the atmosphere that was breathed in the flagship after the resounding disaster suffered by the British squadron. In any case, the young sailor from Tenerife, Carlos de Adam, had the high privilege of notifying the famous Rear Admiral Horacio Nelson of the Act of Capitulation of his troops and requesting from him the knowledge of its terms and conditions.
 
Honours denied
 
In the proposal for promotions that General Gutiérrez sent to the Secretary of War on August 3, 1797, he considered that Carlos de Adam y Brusoni was entitled to the rank of lieutenant of a ship, or failing that, he be granted economic compensation for the unique services provided during the Gesta of July 25.
 
As the ship in which his file was carried was attacked by pirates and would not reach its destination, years later, Adam Brusoni would personally request His Majesty that his participation in the Gesta be taken into account, accompanied by a certification from the Gentleman Administrator and Colonel of the Royal Artillery Corps and the Major Medical Surgeon of the Military Hospital of the Port, where he was admitted. The aforementioned request would also be rejected by the Ministry of War, applying a system of granting pensions.
 
Reincorporated into civilian life, Carlos de Adam would continue to serve the interests of his town and port as Mayor Guard and Visiting Lieutenant of the Real Renta del Tabaco. In 1804 he drew up the project plan for the cemetery of San Rafael and San Roque. Among his hobbies was music, since he played the clarinet. Carlos de Adam died in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on November 28, 1819, being buried in the cemetery of San Rafael and San Roque.

 
[1] The “Violentos” were small calibre cannons - less than 75 millimetres - with a 60 cm tube and very light assembly so that they could be transported by arm. They fired “shrapnel canisters” that did quite a bit of damage at close range.
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