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Juan de Lángara
Juan Francisco de Lángara y Huarte, La Coruña, c. 1736-Madrid, 1806) Spanish naval officer who fought Rodney at the Moonlight Battle or Cabo Santa María, off Gibraltar Spain, 16 January, 1780. Having entered the royal Spanish navy at a young age, Lángara quickly distinguished himself in various wars; participating as lieutenant (Teniente de Navío) at the victorious battle off Menorca in 1756, against the British under Byng. From 1766 until 1771 he several times made scientifical expeditions and made several important contributions in cartography. By 1778 he was a Brigadier or Commodore and participated with distinction in the 1779 naval campaign in the Narrows against Britain. When the Combined fleet wintered at Brest and Cadiz respectively, during the winter 1779/80, Lángara was left in command of a small squadron of 11, mostly smaller ships-of-the-line and with this, unbeknownst to him, due to clerical errors in the Allied high command, he faced the entire naval might of 21 battleships and 11 frigates under Sir George Rodney off the stormy, dark cliffs of Cape Santa María , in the afternoon of 16 January, 1780. He and his crews fought remarkably well and with outmost bravery, but could not prevent the British from capturing five of their own numbers while the 70-gun Santo Domingo blew up during the early evening. Lángara himself only surrendered at 4 am with a flagship (El Fénix, 80 guns) completely battered. Released soon afterwards from imprisonment, Lángara's career did not suffer; by 1793 he was a Capitán General of the Spanish fleet, after having served a stint as a most effective naval minister. In 1793 he joined Sir Samuel Hood in capturing the French naval arsenal of Toulon (August-December). The relationship between the two sides was, however, marked by tension and suspicion. When the arsenal had to be evacuated in December that year, it was Lángara who conducted a brilliant rear-guard action, his men blowing up the arsenal and refloating a number of warships, later sent to Britain. For a short while, after the alliance between France and Spain had been concluded, in 1795, Lángara co-operated with Napoléon Bonaparte during his Italian campain (1796). The same year he, again was appointed Secretary of State for the Navy and made a Councellor of State . In 1797 he was appointed Inspector-General of the navy. Retiring in 1799, he died in 1806, having had the sad misfortune of witnessing the final eclipse of his proud navy at the Battle of Trafalgar, a few month before his death. By all accounts, Lángara was a highly skilled, brave and scientific and conscientious officer, dedicated to his duty. He was, however, also a proud and rather aloft man, treating, especially his later British allies with a visible contempt, bordering to disgust. His wife, Doña María Lutgarda, the 2nd Marquésa del Real Transporte y de la Victoria, whom he had married in 1758 was the grand-daughter of Don Juan Joséf de Navarro , 1st Marqués de la Victoria (for his victory over Sir John Byng at Cape Sicié, in 1756) and daughter of the renowned explorer and naval officer Don Antonio de Úlloa .
See: Francisco José Díaz y Díaz y Luis Alberto Gómez Muñoz, Biografías de los Grandes Marinos al servicio de España (1999), A. Saarinen, The Moonlight Battle or Battle off Cabo Santa María – 16 January 1780 (2003, TBA), John D. Harbron Trafalgar and the Spanish Navy(1988)
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