Francisco José de Ovando was born in the city of Caceres in Extremadura. In 1710, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Spanish Army as a cadet, and in 1717 he transferred to the naval infantry, as a member of which he participated in the capture of Sicily in July 1718, during the War of the Quadruple Alliance.
After a period of several years in which he returned to administrative work within the Spanish Army, he returned to the navy in 1728 as a lieutenant in charge of the frigate Génova. Two years later, he was commissioned to study naval construction at Cádiz. In 1731, he was given the command of the frigate Guipúzcoa, which as part of the fleet under Admiral Cornejo, took part in the attack to Livorno.
Capture of Brindisi
He was promoted to Captain in 1733 and took command of the frigate Galga, which as part of the fleet of the
Marquis of Clavijo captured Naples during the War of the Polish Succession. In 1734 he was sent to capture the castle of Brindisi near Tarento. In that opportunity, he personally landed and led a force composed of 200 men from his ship and 100 naval infantry to capture the fortress. After the battle he sailed back to Naples, where he was personally congratulated by the Infante Don Carlos for his outstanding valor and performance in battle, and was rewarded with the title of Marquis of Brindisi (in most literature he appears credited as Marquis of Ovando, which is simply a corruption of his title and his last name), was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was given the command of the Man-of-war El León, of seventy cannons.
In 1736, Ovando took command of the frigate San Cayetano, which he sailed to Veracruz to join the Windward Fleet (Spanish: Flota de Barlovento), and was sent to the Antilles to root out smugglers and European traders, mainly British and Dutch, who were violating the monopoly of the Spanish Main. In 1740 he participated, with his ship Dragón, in the defense of Cartagena de Indias from the British attack of Admiral Vernon.
The Spanish Prime Minister Marquis of Ensenada promoted Ovando in 1743 to Fleet Commander, charging him with the inspection of all the fortresses, harbors and arsenals in the Viceroyalty of Peru as inspector and commander-in-chief of the Southern Seas' Fleet (3).