Friday, May 20, 2005

The whole Maarten Tromp-WItte de With rivalry was unfortunate

Maarten Tromp and Witte de With were only about a year apart in age. Tromp was the year older of the two. I have had the good fortune to read a paper yesterday that summarized the life of Witte de With. Tromp was the more favored of the two, and he continued to receive the plum jobs, up until his untimely demise in 1653. Tromp was made Lieutenant-Admiral and was the fleet commander for the campaign leading up to the Battle of the Downs in 1639. The outcome was successful, so it added further to Tromp's fame. Witte de With's criticism of Tromp's performance in the battle may have been simply due to jealousy, although I'm not so sure that there couldn't have been some validity to it. Witte de With had the credibility that when difficult assignments came up, he was given the task to execute them. In 1645, he pushed a fleet of merchant ships into the Sound without paying the toll to the Danes. When Brazil needed rescue, but the Dutch were not willing to put the resources needed into the operation, Witte de With was sent. If Prins Willem II had not died, Witte de With might have been in trouble, but instead, he was rehabilitated in time for the First Anglo-Dutch War, where he performed credibly. Late in the war, he led the fleet to Norway and back in the winter, and survived a storm, with considerable damage. He had warned the authorities that the voyage was risky, due to weather, but he was despatched inspite of that. The most trusted naval leaders in late 1653 were Witte de With and Michiel De Ruyter. For political reasons, Jacob van Wassenaer van Obdam was put in charge instead. The situation was too politically charged.

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