The Treasure of the San José
Death at Sea in the War of the Spanish Succession
2007 Award for Excellence in World History and Biography/Autobiography, Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers
Sunk in a British ambush in 1708, the Spanish galleon San José was rumored to have one of the richest cargos ever lost at sea. Though treasure hunters have searched for the wreck's legendary bounty, no one knows exactly how much went down with the ship or exactly where it sank. Here, Carla Rahn Phillips confronts the legend of lost treasure with documentary records of the San José's final voyage and suggests that the loss of silver and gold en route to Spain paled in comparison to the loss of the six hundred men who went down with the ship.
Drawing from rich archival records, Phillips presents a biography of the ship and its crew. With vivid detail and meticulous scholarship, the author tells the stories of the officers, sailors, apprentices, and pages who manned the ship and explains the historical context in which the San José became prey to the British squadron.
But the story does not end with the sinking of the San José. While Phillips addresses the persistent question of how much treasure was on board when the ship went down, she focuses on the human dimensions of the tragedy as well. She recovers the accounts of British naval officers involved in the battle, and examines the impact of the ship's loss on the Spanish government, the survivors, and the families of the men who perished. Original, comprehensive, and compelling, The Treasure of the San José separates popular myth from history and sheds light on the human lives associated with a "treasure" ship.