Thursday, April 15, 2004

The Battle of Portland

I know a little bit more about the start to the Battle of Portland than I had previously understood. As I have said, this was another case where Blake was in a rush to engage the Dutch, and allowed himself and a few others to be confronted by great odds. The Dutch had the weather gauge, while the English were all down wind, some as far as four miles away. George Monck, with the less weatherly ships, were strung out to the Southeast. When Blake saw the Dutch approaching, the leading English ships, including the Triumph and others, formed a sort of hedgehog, and were able to keep the Dutch at bay, despite repeated assaults by Tromp and his seconds.

This gave time for the other English ships to beat their way upwind. While this was happening, several English ships were boarded and taken. Michiel De Ruyter had taken the 42-gun hired merchantman, the Proserperous of London, while the Dutch prize, the Oak and a 4th Rate frigate were taken, as well. The Dutch prize Sampson (26 guns) was sunk.

The assaulting Dutch ships were badly damaged. De Ruyter's flagship, the Witte Lam (40 guns) was dismasted and had to be towed for the remainder of the battle by Jan Duym's ship, the Zon. The Dutch also fired off a lot of ammunition, so that even by the end of the first day, some ships were running low. Their situation only deteriorated, as the battle progressed. They were only saved by what almost seems like Blake's loss of nerve at the end of the third day.

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