Admiral Vernon, Porto Bello Taken,
As a result of the Convention of Prado in 1739, Spain agreed to pay £95,000 compensation for damages to British shipping by Spanish coastal patrol vessels. However, it soon became obvious that Spain had no intention of paying this compensation. As a result of this, and the continuing attacks on British shipping, war was declared on 19th October 1739. Vernon had announced to Parliament that he could take Porto Bello with six ships only. These events were all part of a larger action known as the "War of Jenkins Ear."
Admiral Vernon arrived at Porto Bello in Panama on 20th November 1739. After a severe bombardment the troops were landed and the fort surrendered.
Before leaving England, Vernon had made it clear that his two prime targets were to be firstly Porto Bello and then the much stronger Carthagena. Although, initially he showed no inclination to carry out the second part of the campaign an insolent letter from the Spanish Admiral Don Blas de Leso spurred him into further action. However, unfavourable weather put off his first attempt and he turned his attention to Fort Chagre which he took on 24th March 1740.
After this success, Vernon appears to have remained inactive for nearly 12 months until he was joined by Sir Chaloner Ogle. On 9th March 1741 the bombardment of the forts and batteries at the mouth of Carthagena harbour began and for the next few weeks they proceeded to take control of the outer harbour. At this point, Vernon dispatched Captain Laws in the Spence with news of his victory which was received with great rejoicing in London on 17th May. However, British luck had started to run out. Vernon returned to Jamaica and any further thought of attack on Carthagena was abandoned. The medals produced were no doubt the result of reports brought back to England by Captain Laws. The profusion of medals portraying Don Blas kneeling in front of Vernon is purely in the artist's imagination.
Similarly, the medals issued for the proposed attack on Havana were produced in anticipation.
The wave of patriotic fervour that these events produced spread even to the British Colonies. In 1743, Lawrence Washington named his estate on the Potomac "Mount Vernon" in recognition of his naval hero.
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