The long-anticipated war between England and Spain, known as the War of Jenkins' Ear, was declared on 23 October 1739. In advance of the formal declaration, a squadron of nine ships commanded by Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon was detached from the fleet at Spithead and sent to the West Indies. After two weeks' preparation, Vernon and his six ships left Port Royal on 5 November and anchored off Porto Bello on the 20th. The next day, 21 November, Vernon began his assault by bombarding the 'Iron' Fort and then landed his marines who soon subdued it. The other two garrisons, particularly the larger force in Gloria Castle, proved more troublesome and their guns pounded Vernon's ships for most of the day. What Vernon did not realize, however, was the poor caliber of all the defending forces who clearly regarded their situation as desperate. Early the following morning, and much to Vernon's surprise, the Spaniards hoisted a white flag and surrendered without further bloodshed. It was a brilliant tactical victory - as much due to Vernon's audacity as to the weakness of his opponents - and in England he was celebrated as a hero.
There is a version of this composition in the collection of H.M.S. Vernon at Portsmouth (see R. Kingzett, A Catalogue of the Works of Samuel Scott, Walpole Society, XLVIII, p. 26, no. 7b); another version was sold at Christie's, London, on 12 April 1991, lot 72. Another interpretation of the battle by Scott is in the National Maritime Museum, London.