Exhibit - War! Neptune! Horses?

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Catbert, Dec 30, 2008.

  1. Catbert

    Catbert Evil Cat

    I am very excited about my new piece received for XMAS and want to share with you some of the interesting history and images regarding this 1797 Conder token. First a little history lesson that I think you’ll enjoy! Reading this will further your appreciation for the token pics at the end of this post.

    The Larger War

    The Anglo-Spanish War between 1796 and 1808 was a part of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. In the War of the First Coalition, Spain had fought against Revolutionary France and had been defeated. In 1796 Prime Minister Godoy faced a decision: whether to continue to fight Revolutionary France or to join the French side and hope for better times. He chose the latter and signed a treaty allying with the French.

    In response, the British blockaded Spain in 1797 and separated her colonial empire from the mother country. By the end of 1798, the Spanish fleet had been defeated by the British.

    A Key Battle – The Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797)


    A Spanish fleet of between 27 ships left Cartagena on the Mediterranean Sea, with the intention of sailing to Cadizto join the French fleet.

    On February 11, a ship captained by Horatio Nelson, came across the Spanish fleet and passed through them unseen thanks to heavy fog. Nelson reached the British squadron of 15 ships off Spain on February 13, and passed the location of the Spanish fleet to Admiral John Jervis (the hero shown on my token), commanding the squadron from his flagship HMS Victor. Want to see the Admiral’s quarters?


    Unaware of the size of his opponent's fleet -- in the fog, Nelson had been unable to count them -- Jervis' squadron immediately sailed to intercept.

    As dawn broke on the 14th, Jervis' ships were in position to engage the Spanish, and vice versa. On the quarter-deck of Victory, Jervis, Captain Calder and Captain Hallowell counted the ships. It was at this point Jervis discovered that he was outnumbered nearly two-to-one:

    "There are eight sail of the line, Sir John"
    "Very well, sir"
    "There are twenty sail of the line, Sir John"
    "Very well, sir"
    "There are twenty five sail of the line, Sir John"
    "Very well, sir"
    "There are twenty seven sail of the line, Sir John"
    "Enough, sir, no more of that; the die is cast, and if there are fifty sail I will go through them"

    It would have been difficult to withdraw, however, and Jervis also decided that the situation would only worsen were the Spanish fleet to meet with the French, so he decided to continue onward.

    To the British advantage, the Spanish fleet was gathered into two groups and unprepared for battle, while the British were already in line. Jervis ordered the British fleet to pass between the two groups, minimizing the fire they could apply to him, while letting him fire in both directions simultaneously.

    A “Sail of the Line”

    A sail-of-the-line or ship-of-the-line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th century through the mid-19th century, to take part in the the naval tactic known as the “line of battle”, in which two columns of opposing warships would maneuver to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear. The line-of-battle tactic required ships to form long single-file lines, and close with the enemy fleet on the same tack, battering the other fleet until one side had had enough and retreated. Any maneuvers would be carried out with the ships remaining in line for mutual protection. Since these engagements were almost invariably won by the heaviest ships carrying the most powerful guns, the natural order was to build sailing vessels that were the largest and most powerful of their time.

    Although Spain, the Netherlands and France built huge fleets, and even in France's case with better ships, they were rarely able to match the skill of British naval crews. British crews excelled, in part, because they spent much more time at sea, were generally better fed, were well trained in gunnery (allowing a faster rate of fire), and were generally more competent as the Royal Navey based promotion much more on merit rather than securing leadership positions by purchase. Traditionally neglecting the British Army, which, historically, has usually been smaller than the armies of comparably prominent continental countries, Britain devoted more resources to her prized navy.


    Due to the skill of one of Jervis’ captains, Horatio Nelson, during the battle and Jervis’ commitment to engage, a great victory was obtained for the Royal Navy - 15 British ships had defeated a Spanish fleet of 27, and the Spanish ships had a greater number of guns and men. But, Admiral Jervis had trained a highly disciplined force and this was pitted against a Spanish navy under Don José Córdoba that was little more than a panic stricken mob. Of 600-900 men on board his ships, only some 60 to 80 were trained seamen, the others being soldiers or inexperienced landsmen. The Spanish men fought courageously but without direction. After the San José was captured it was found that some of her guns still had their tompions (a plug or cover for a cannon “mouth” to keep out dust and moisture) in place. The confusion amongst the Spanish fleet was so great that they were unable to use their guns without causing more damage to their own ships than to the British.

    My New Token!

    And so, the circumstances and outcome of this key battle is recounted in my new token. This copper piece in uncirculated condition was used as a general trade token. These tokens were created by merchants who needed small change since the crown was unwilling to mint sufficient copper pieces for commerce during the industrial revolution in Britain. It is catalogued as a Hampshire Portsmouth 61 – Rare with < 75 made with an edge inscription of “PORTSMOUTH HALFPENNY PAYABLE AT THOS SHARPS. Thomas Sharp (1770- 1841), was a hatter, antiquarian and numismatist.

    The obverse shows the mythical Neptune - King of the Sea commending Admiral Jervis for his victory. Check out Neptune’s chariot with horses that are very compelling to me. Neptune’s horses were known as hippocamps – half horse and half fish or commonly known as sea horses!


    The reverse recounts Jervis’ accomplishment. Note the misspelling of “pursued”. I love these imperfections on old coins.


    Hopefully, your patience in reading the above history before you saw my token pictures has helped you better enjoy this piece. I am thrilled to add it to my collection.

    * The history given above was obtained from various internet sources including Wikipedia and Answers among others.
    cplradar likes this.
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  3. Smaugy

    Smaugy Peg Leg Surfing

    Nice token! And thanks for the history lesson....

  4. RickieB

    RickieB Expert Plunger Sniper

    Very interesting Catbert!
    Cool token and excellent Historical content!


  5. Catbert

    Catbert Evil Cat

    Wow - you read that in less than 2 minutes, despite my bumbling in the text size changing. Thanks for your comments.
    cplradar likes this.
  6. De Orc

    De Orc Well-Known Member

    Have to say that it is rather lovely :hail: and a great write up as well, I realy like things that are to do with ships of the line and naval battles :) One of the things about the British fleet was its ability to fire about three broadsides to there opponents one, that makes quite a difference LOL
  7. acanthite

    acanthite ALIIS DIVES

    Great post Catbert, you're certainly getting together a killer set of tokens. Thanks for the history, it certainly was during this period of history that the English showed their capacity to revolutionize sea warfare and in doing so brought about the modern concept of a navy. As for the reference to horses, Neptune/Posidon, as well as being god of the seas, was also god of horses.
  8. mark_h

    mark_h Somewhere over the rainbow

    Great post catbert!
  9. TheNoost

    TheNoost huldufolk

    great read and awesome token! Thanks.
  10. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  11. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    I don't even know what a line is...

  12. De Orc

    De Orc Well-Known Member

    If you read Catberts post you will see what it is :smile
  13. mralexanderb

    mralexanderb Coin Collector

    Verrry itersting. Great looking token and nice story.

  14. Drusus

    Drusus Pecunia non olet

    very lovely token...grats on the acquisition of such a great piece!
  15. Catbert

    Catbert Evil Cat

    Ruben - can you put this post into your Exhibition picture thread?
  16. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    I didn't know it was a contest entry. I did read this, it was fascinating and great. I opened up a google search on the material and studied a ton of stuff. I'll add it right away, although it should have the title changed to conform to the contest standard.

  17. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    Really cool.
  18. eddiespin

    eddiespin Fast Eddie

    Captain Catbert, get back out that Brownie Starmite II :)D) and get us a partial shot of that edge inscription, I'd like to see it. If you think about it, it explains the reason businesses can mint these tokens; i.e., the owner is standing behind their commercial value, at his place of business. So, the customer comes in, purchases something, and the owner uses these, which he agrees to honor, as fractional currency, to make the change (at least, that's how I figger it ;))...

    EDIT: BTW, I agree...enjoyable read!
  19. AdamL

    AdamL Likes Silver

    Great post, and great token.
  20. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder Supporter

    A fun read, and looks like a great token.. congrats!
  21. 4largecents

    4largecents Goldpan Man

    Very interesting Catbert :) I have never checked out tokens, but after reading your post, as well as checking out your pic., I think I will have to check out the world of tokens. :D
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