Irish Ships and Shipping
National ceremony for Admiral William Browne Founder of the Argentine navy.
Admiral William Browne
A ceremony to honour Admiral Browne was
held in Dublin on Friday the 22nd. June 2007.
Irish and Argentinean naval personnel from the Argentine sail training Brig the ARA Libertad and the Irish navy ship LE Roisin formed a guard of honour at the ceremony as both national anthems were played. Wreaths were laid by Defence Minister Tom Kitt, diplomatic personnel and senior naval commanders from both countries.
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William Brown was born in Foxford, Co. Mayo, in 1777. At the age of nine he was taken to Philadelphia, and on his father's death, went to sea as a cabin boy on an American ship. He worked his way up from fo'castle to quarter deck and arrived in Buenos Aires in the year 1812 as captain of his own ship.
For the next two years he
carried on trading ventures there. In 1814 the Patriot Government asked him to
fit out his squadron to fight the Spanish Navy which was then in complete
mastery of the seas of South America. Arming three old whaling ships he
surprised and defeated a Spanish Squadron of nine vessels and then, reinforced
by three other armed merchant ships, he forced the main Spanish Fleet of
thirteen warships into action. He sank or captured them and returned to seal the
fate of Montevideo, the last stronghold of Spain on the Atlantic seaboard.
Subsequently he organised and commanded the Navy of the infant Republic of the Argentine. Working in close cooperation with General San Martin, the Liberator of the Argentine, Chile and Peru, he routed the naval forces of the enemy in the Pacific as well as in the Atlantic, while San Martin defeated their forces on land.
These two, San Martin and
Brown, established, by their victories, the liberty of Argentina. After his
defeat of the Spanish Fleet in Rio de la Plata, he brought his ship around Cape
Horn to the Pacific Coast where he bombarded Callao and captured several Spanish
ships off the coast of Peru.
He attacked the fortified sea port of Guayaquil almost single handed and it was here his ship went aground and he was boarded by Spanish Infantry. Brown, however sat over his powder magazine with a lighted torch in his hand and gave the Spanish a choice of going shoreward or skyward. The Spaniards took the safer course and Brown got away safely.
In 1826 the Republic was threatened by Brazil, and Brown won the decisive battle of Juncal against heavy odds. He broke the Brazilian blockade of Buenos Aires and destroyed the enemy in the Harbour of Montevideo with only two ships. He entered the Harbour of Rio de Janiero and disorganised the enemy defences and shipping.
In 1842 in the war between Argentina and Uruguay Brown, now over sixty years of age, destroyed the enemy's navy. It was during this battle that he destroyed a naval detachment at Costa Brava, commanded by Garibaldi, who afterwards won fame in Italy.
For nearly forty years he kept the flag of Argentina flying, winning notable victories for his adopted country both in 1826 and 1842. In his old age he paid a visit to his birthplace in Foxford, and to the home in which he was born. William Brown died in Argentina in 1857 and was buried in the Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires.
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