Friday, May 27, 2005

From Charles Boxer's biographical sketch of Witte de With

This is from Charles Boxer's book about Tromp's journal from 1639. The book is not as useful as it should be, due to an inadequate index. I have supplemented and corrected Boxer's account. Apparently, at the time of the Battle of the Downs, Witte de With flew his Vice-Admiral's flag on the Prins Frederick Hendrick, whose captain was Pieter Pieterszoon de Wint. Charles Boxer gives his dates as 1599-1658. He served in the East Indies in 1616. There were operations in 1619 involving Batavia (which is the modern Jakarta). In 1623, he served with the West India Company. He returned to the East India Company (VOC), and took part in the around-the-world voyage of "the Nassau fleet". He served under Piet Hein at Matanzas (in the capture of the Spanish silver fleet, where he was Piet Hein's flag captain, apparently) and Maarten Tromp at the Battle of the Downs. He captured Matthijs Rombout, the Dunkirk privateer, in June 1640. In 1645, Witte de With, in the newly completed Rotterdam flagship Brederode, commanded a fleet that convoyed a large number of merchant ships pass the Sound without paying the toll to the Danes. Next, he was given the thankless task of commanding a relief force to Brazil. His small squadron had insufficient resources and was totally unsupported from the Netherlands. He left, without orders, to preserve what was left of his squadron, and was imprisoned by Prince Willem II. As teh situation had deteriorated, some of his crews had mutinied and set sail for home. He was restored to the service in time for the First Anglo-Dutch War. He commanded at the Battle of the Kentish Knock and fought in the Battles of the Gabbard and Scheveningen. With Michiel De Ruyter serving under him, he conducted an operation to Norway to bring home returning merchant ships. The fleet was caught in a winter storm, and sustained considerable losses. Witte de With had warned against such a voyage, but was dispatched anyway. He was killed at the Battle of the Sound on 8 November 1658, when his flagship, the Brederode, ran aground while fighting the Swedes, and the Brederode was mercilessly raked by Swedish ships. Boxer says that he was hated my most of those serving with him and under him, as he was very rigid and had a bad temper. Interestingly enough, Michiel De Ruyter is credited with a bad temper as well. Witte de With had the added issue that he was strong Republican, in a service where most officers were Orangists.

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