Thursday, July 06, 2006

I have thought that the Dutch tried to fight the English at the Battle of the Gabbard (or Nieuwpoort), with the English tactics

In Vol.I of Peter Padfield's book The Tide of Empires, he has a diagram of the Battle of the Gabbard on 12 and 13 June 1653 (new style). That diagram shows both the Dutch and English in informal line of battle. The entries in De Ruyter's journal, as excerpted in The First Dutch War, Vol.V, pages 137 and 138 do not really tell that sort of story, although elsewhere in the volume, I had the impression that the Dutch were in a rather disorderly line. Both sides broke the other's line, repeatedly, from what I have read. All De Ruyter writes is that the Dutch closed the English, starting at about 3pm. that implies that the Dutch had started with the weather gauge, but lost it "by great disorganization". On the other tack, the English gained the wind, and both sides sailed together doing "each other much damage". It was at sunset that Cornelis van Velsen's ship, the Gelderland, exploded. De Ruyter says that only five men were saved. Both fleets stayed in the general vicinity. The Dutch "drifted in a calm". De Ruyter says that early in the morning, the Dutch got the wind, which was from the southwest, and they sailed to the southeast. The English were about a mile distant. The Dutch had a council of war on the flagship Brederode, and then stood "on the defensive", because they were running low on gunpowder. This was a constant problem for the Dutch. The same thing had happened towards the end of the Three Days Battle (the Battle of Portland). On at about 11am did the Dutch close for a fight. The engagement only started in earnest at noon, when they were both about four miles from Dunkirk, which lay to the south-southeast. De Ruyter writes that the wind was now from the southwest, and that the Dutchs sailed, close-hauled, to the east-northeast. The situation deteriorated in the evening. At about 7pm, Pieter Schellinger's ship, the Stad Medemblik was taken by the English. Elsewhere, there is an indication that the ship was burnt. After that, four ships ran together, supposedly caused by Jan Coenders' jacht, the Prins Willem (12 guns). Only the Prins Willem broke free. The others were taken. De Ruyter does not name the ships in his journal, although we know that something like 13 Dutch warships, one fireship, and one advice jacht were taken, blown up, or sunk. The prizes seen to have been taken to the Thames. Dr. Elias, in notes in Schetsen uit de Geschiedenis van ons Zeewezen, has the details.

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