Saturday, January 14, 2006

Blake's capture of a French squadron near Calais

Cromwell had been coveting the port of Dunkirk and hoped to take it from the French. In France, Prince Conde had "revived the Fronde". Prince Conde had asked for help from both Spain and England. Cromwell was reluctant to get involved. Cromwell's emissary, Fitzjames, proposed to the governor of Dunkirk, Estrades, that Dunkirk be "ceded to England". Estrades had communicated with his government, which gave their consent to Estrades to continue negotiations, hoping that Dunkirk might receive an English garrison. Cardinal Mazarin was now back in charge in France, and he took steps to supply Dunkirk, which was beseiged by Spain. The French garrison had munitied, however, as they had not received their pay. In March, when Estrades was ready to bring in the English, they balked. Cardinal Mazarin had also reservations that caused him to be opposed to the plan. They had suppressed the mutiny, and a relief expedition with supplies was being prepared.

The squadron consisted of 8 ships and 6 fireships:

Triton         31 guns   flagship  Captain Du Menillet  captured
"Shepherd"     29 guns             Captain Boismorand   csptured
"Gift of God"  30 guns             Captain La Carte     captured
"Duchess"      22 guns             Captain La Roche     captured
"Crescent"     26 guns             Captain Villedot     captured
"Hunter"       28 guns             Captain Verdille
St. Louis      28 guns             Captain De Gorris    captured
Le Fort                            Captain Verger

6 fireships

The "Caesar", "Virgin", and "Anna", along with fireships, stayed at Dieppe.
There is less information about the English fleet, but we know that they had the Sovereign (86 guns) and Resolution (68 guns), Blake's flagship. The Sovereign led the attack, which took 14 ships, including the 6 fireships and an 8-gun Calais frigate. The supply ships for Dunkirk were dispersed. Another report included the "Hunter" in the list of ships captured. A French report says that only the "Shepherd" escaped to Le Havre.

The list prepared by Pierre Le Conte includes mention of ships taken by the English in 1652. This list omits the article (l', le, la). The ship list includes the following:

Fort        26 guns     Built in Holland in 1646               400-500 tons
Triton      26-30 guns  Built in Holland in 1638 and purchased 400-500 tons
Duchesse    16 guns     Built at Brest in 1644                 200 tons
Don de Dieu 26 guns     hired in 1652                          480 tons
Chasseur de Saint Malo
This list may include a ship or two taken at some other time.

  1. Pierre Le Conte, Lists of Men of War, Part II: French Ships, 1648-1700, 1935.
  2. J. R. Powell, "Blake's Capture of the French Fleet before Calais, 4 September 1652", Mariner's Mirror 48 (1962), pp.192-201.

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