Harper's was essentially a travel guide book produced for Americans venturing abroad and were mostly written by William Pembroke Fetridge. The one dealt with in this article - in so far as Gibraltar is concerned - is the 1865 edition of Harper's Handbook for Travellers in Europe and the Middle East.
Gibraltar - This is the most singular-looking mountain in the world, and one which a celebrated writer says "can neither be described by pen nor pencil, and at which the eye is never satisfied at gazing.
Gibraltar - "the most singular-looking mountain in the world" ( 1866 - Gibraltar Samuel Colman )
History - The name of this fortress is derived from the Moorish conqueror Gebel Tarik, or the Hill of Tarik, (see LINK) Gebel signifying hill, who contributed considerably to the conquest of Spain, having landed here in 711. It was retaken by the Spaniards under Guzman el Bueno (see LINK) in 1309, and was reconquered by the Moors in 1333, who held it up to the middle of the 15th century, when it was again retaken by the Spaniards under Juan Fetrijo (see LINK) and another of the Guzmans, in whose hands it remained until its conquest by the English in 1704.
It was attacked suddenly by some English forces under Sir George Cooke, who only found eighty men in the garrison, who immediately ran away. George I cared very little for its possession and the English nation thought it but a barren rock not worth the charge. It was secured to England in 1713 by the peace of Utrecht (See LINK)
George I offered it to Spain if she would refuse to sell Florida to Bonaparte. It was blockaded by the Spaniards in 1727 for several months without any success; but its most memorable siege was that which begun in 1779, and lasted four years. Here the whole combined forces of France and Spain, fleet and army, with immense floating batteries invented by Chevalier d'Arcon, were brought into action, but of no avail.
An interesting if error strewn potted history of the Rock. It is interesting in the sense that he makes a rare mention of George I's offer to return the place to Spain - error strewn for a variety of reasons. Juan Fetrique must refer to Enrique IV of Castile, Sir George Cooke should read George Rooke, (see LINK) the Spaniards did not run away, the Great Siege which began in 1779 did not end after the defeat of d'Arcon's batteries, England should read Britain and it might continue to be a bridle in the mouths of the Spaniards but on the whole the French have never really cared less. Curiously the author has something of a change of heart when he returns to the topic a few paragraphs further down.The siege ended with two of the floating batteries being set on fire with red-hot shot. Their magazines blew up, and the garrison of the fort were obliged to rescue their perishing enemies from the flames and waves; since which time Gibraltar has remained not only the brightest gem in the crown of England, but a bridle in the mouths of France and Spain
The "Floating Batteries" fiasco ( 1782 - John Singleton Copley ) (See LINK)
The population of Gibraltar is about 21,000, exclusive of the garrison of 6,000.
Advertisement for the King's Arms Hotel ( 1879 - Gibraltar Directory ) (See LINK)
The fortress stands on the west side of a mountainous rock, projecting into the sea about three miles, being nearly three quarters of a mile in breadth. The north side, which connects it with the land, is perpendicular, and wholly unapproachable. The south and east sides are steep and rugged.
The west side, fronting the bay on which the town is built, is the only one susceptible of access; but here the strength of the fortress is apparently impregnable. The principal batteries are all casemated, and traverses are constructed to prevent mischief from exploding shells. Vast galleries are excavated in the solid rock, and mounted with the latest improvement in the heaviest cannon.
In examining the galleries be certain you go on horseback, else you will discover the exertion too laborious. The sergeant who shows you through expects a fee of not less than an English shilling.
After visiting the galleries, continue the ascent to the signal-house, and then descend to Europa Point. It would be well to take a valet de place for a day: they are very plenty, as the natives, who are called Scorpions, are born couriers.
"Be certain you go on horseback" ( Unknown )
The town is composed of one long street, called Waterport Street, (see LINK) with some very short ones running up the brow of the hill at right angles. The end of the rock toward the Straits is reserved exclusively for military purposes such as barracks, parade-grounds, etc. The principal parade-ground, however, is on the isthmus which separates the rock from the peninsula, adjoining the neutral ground which lies between the English and Spanish outposts: here reviews and sham battles are continually taking place.
There is fine shooting in "Cork woods," in the neighbourhood of St. Roque: wild -fowl, woodcocks, and partridges in abundance; and nearly every evening before the gates are closed, numerous officers on horseback, with their guns slung over their shoulder, may be met slowly returning from the sport, their swollen game-bags testifying to their success.
It is hard to make Englishmen believe to-day, especially those who have not visited Gibraltar, that the Rock is only serviceable to Great Britain as a naval station. They will insist that it commands the entrance to the Mediterranean, a d is a bridle in the mouths of France and Spain
That might have been so before the days of steamers; a never-ending current, setting into the Mediterranean at the rate of two and a half miles an hour, must continually bring sailing vessels under the guns of the forts while endeavouring to beat out with light and baffling winds; but now, even did England possess the fortifications of Ceuta on the African shore, what injury could the forts do steam-vessels passing through a strait thirteen miles wide, every part of which is navigable for ships of the largest tonnage. It is all a myth; while its possession keeps a thorn in the side of Spain, and makes her constantly an ally for every enemy of Great Britain. . .
You must by all means make an excursion to Tangier into the dominions of the Emperor of Morocco, to get a peep at the fine-looking Moors, the former occupants of the Spanish peninsula. Steamers leave every two days, as most of the beef used by the Rock comes from Africa.
As regards couriers, there are several excellent ones in Spain. By addressing a note to the proprietor of the Peninsular Hotel at Madrid, he would send one to meet you at Bayonne or Paris, or, if you did not wish to incur that expense, manage to get through to Madrid and employ one there.
We can recommend a good one in Manuel Bazan, who may be beard from at the Peninsular, Madrid. We employed him during our tour through the south of Spain and Morocco, and found him intelligent, honest, and active ; he was born in Gibraltar, although a Spaniard, has been to the United States, and travelled considerable.