MEDINA Y TORRES, LUIS DE

c 1754 - after 1815 from Spain


Spanish naval officer, was born in Seville around 1754. After initial training at the Cádiz Naval Academy, Medina was confirmed in the rank of guardiamarina on 21 October 1773 and promoted to alférez de fragata on 2 June 1775. After service in the Mediterranean and Ferrol, in various ships, he was promoted to alférez de navío on 27 May 1778 and to teniente de navío on 7 October 1783, when he was appointed to the Conde de Regla as senior lieutenant. On 3 February 1791 Medina y Torres joined the Mexicano as ayudante (flag lieutenant) to Jefe de Escuadra Francisco de Borja. He was promoted to capitán de fragata on 1 February 1794 and shortly after he was appointed in command of the corvette Atrevida. After she was refitted, Medina y Torres sailed from Cádiz on 18 October 1796 with a cargo of mercury ores bound for Montevideo, accompanied by the corvette Descubierta, under the command of Francisco de VIANA. On arrival in Montevideo, on 12 December 1796, both officers were attached to the naval forces in the River Plate and both served two terms as comandante gobernador of the Spanish settlement at Puerto de la Soledad (Port Louis). In February 1797 Medina y Torres was detached to the Falklands in the Atrevida, taking over from José de ALDANA as governor on 20 February 1797, remaining there until relieved by Viana on 17 March 1798. Medina y Torres took over as governor again during the first days of April 1799, serving there until relieved once again by Viana on 15 March 1800. One of Medina y Torres's first routine duties was to report to Viceroy Pedro Melo de Portugal on the condition of the buildings and batteries. He also reported that the lack of farm hands (peones de campo) posed a considerable human and practical problem because the shortfall of manpower had to be made up by using convicts as labourers. The convicts, however, successfully took on essential farming and cattle ranching tasks, but this deficiency of manpower could, in the governor's opinion, 'bring about the demise of the colony'. In a further submission, dated 25 February 1797, Medina y Torres reported the findings of a junta called by the out-going Aldana at which he, as the incoming governor, had been invited to take part. As a result three convicts who, in spite of commendable conduct, had more than served their terms without receiving any remission to their sentence were being returned to Montevideo with Aldana on board the Santa Escolástica. There were, however, other convicts in the colony whose release was overdue 'but the meeting did not dare to free them until the viceroy decided what should be done'. During his second term as governor, when submitting his requirements for provisions and stores to Viceroy Antonio Olaguer y Feliu, on 9 April 1798, Medina y Torres asked for two spare heavy anchors, a 120-fathom length of 15 inch hemp cable and a 9 inch hawser, which were needed for the safety of the vessels at anchor in Puerto de la Soledad. He explained that these vessels were on station for periods of 12 to 14 months and therefore at risk of being wrecked by the frequent violent storms experienced, if additional anchoring equipment was not available in an emergency.

On his return to Montevideo in 1800, Medina y Torres had expected to serve a third term as governor at Puerto de la Soledad and relieve Viana, but he suffered an attack of epilepsy from which he nearly died. As a result, Teniente de navío Ramón FERNÁNDEZ Y VILLEGAS was appointed in command of the Atrevida and sent to Puerto de la Soledad to relieve Viana. Medina y Torres, with sympathetic support from José BUSTAMANTE, the senior naval officer at Montevideo, was given command of a division of gunboats assigned to Buenos Aires, before eventually taking passage in the brig Paloma and returning to Spain on 17 March 1802. His final promotion was to capitán de navío on 17 October 1809. He retired on 5 August 1815, when he was granted the rank of brigadier de Real Armada.

Authors

Andrew David & Carlos Novi