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of the greatest of these old Admirals, Jacob van Heemskerk. But what do you know of John Kant, Joost de Moor, Jacob Michelzoon, Van der Hagen, Matelieff or the hero of all heroes, Vice Admiral Regnier Klasszoon? As the old Dutch names have been stripped from cape, bay and island, first discovered by the hardy Dutch explorers, so have their names been omitted from the works of the English and American historian. Motley, however, in his noble volumes tells their story and it is to him that I am indebted for the greater part of my facts. I consider it a privilege and an honor to be able to bring back again the memories of these great seamen, to whom I reverently give my homage, as will you also, when you have read.
I. WOLFERT HERMANN IN THE EAST INDIES In the year 1602, a Dutch sea captain, Wolfert Hermann, arrived in the East Indies with five small merchant vessels, whose crews in all totalled about 300 men. He proceeded to the city of Bantam on the Island of Java and commenced trading with the natives.
You may remember that about a century before this a pope had divided the oceans between Spain and Portugal. The East Indies were in that portion which fell to Portugal. The merchants of all other countries were warned solemnly against trading there. But frequent warnings were not apt to prove sufficient to keep out the Netherland seaman of that time. Therefore, Admiral Mendoza set out for these waters with a grand fleet of 25 galleons and smaller vessels of war to punish the native rulers who had been trading with the Dutch merchants. This great fleet suddenly appeared off Bantam, where Wolfert Hermann was lying peacefully at anchor.
The Dutchman could probably have escaped from the slower Portuguese galleons, but this would be deserting his native friends in their hour of peril. Wolfert was not a man who would do this. Therefore, although his entire force was inferior in fighting power to the Portuguese flagship alone, he resolved to stand by his friends and offer battle to the enemy.
The Dutch merchantmen of those days—as our merchantmen to-day-were prepared to fight as well as trade, and no Dutchman ever cared for odds as far as Spaniards and Portuguese were con
cerned. Wolfert, however, did not intend to rush wildly into action, but drew up his plans in a way which showed an excellent knowledge of naval tactics. He decided to repeat the tactics which the British had used so successfully against the Spanish Armada. The lightness and speed of his ships, the skill and seamanship of
their captains, and the accurate gunnery of their crews suited perfectly a careful and deliberate engagement at long range, which, when coupled with rapid maneuvering, left Mendoza without any effective course of action for his huge floating castles. These tactics, used so long ago by the Scithian cavalry against Cyrus and Alexander and by the Parthian horsemen against the Roman Legions of Crassus, have often proved effective. They were so in this case. After almost continuous fighting for two
days the Portuguese Armada made off in disorder, having lost two ships captured, several sunk and others beached. The gallant Wolfert returned to Bantam in triumph. There he established a permanent trading station, the cornerstone of the great Dutch Empire in the East.
The Dutch squadron then proceeded to the island of Banda, where Wolfert made in the name of the Dutch Republic a treaty with the native one there. The treaty contained the clause, remarkable considering the religious intolerance of those days, that neither nation should interfere with the religious affairs of the other but that God should judge over them all.
The next treaty was made with the king of the chief city of Sumatra, who expressed a desire to send a native embassy to visit Holland. The little squadron, therefore, set out for home with the envoys on board. Off the island of St. Helena a huge Portuguese carrack was attacked and captured and her very valuable cargo divided among the Dutch crews. Finally Wolfert arrived in Holland and the Sumatran ambassadors were presented to Prince Maurice in his entrenchments before the city of Gravs. Greatly astonished and pleased with what they had learned of the first modern republic in Europe, they returned to the East Indies, spreading their story throughout the islands to the great advantage of the Dutch merchants. The eventful and audacious cruise of Wolfert Hermann had laid the foundations of the Great Dutch Empire in the East, possessions which Holland retains even to-day.
II. JOHN KANT AND THE SPANISH GALLEYS In 1602, the Spaniards began during the siege of Ostend the use of large rowing galleys off the Flanders coast. This type of craft had been used in the Mediterranean since the beginning of naval history, but had not been employed in the Atlantic for a long time. As with nearly every new type of craft they were used at first with success and even the Dutch decided to try out this new kind of war vessel.
One of the first of the Dutch galleys was built at Dort, and to test it out her captain resolved upon a most daring expedition. The galley proceeded up the Scheldt, ran past the Spanish forts and ran alongside a large Spanish galley tied up to the verv
wharves of Antwerp. After a short but obstinate fight this ship was captured and in addition no less than seven smaller vessels of
As the Spanish garrison rushed to the scene the single Dutch ship started down the river with her eight prizes while the Dutch bugler played that fine old tune: “Wilhelmus van Nassau.”
In those days the wealthy Spinola family, of Genoa, provided the leaders for the Spanish forces in the low countries. One brother commanded the Spanish Army which was carrying on the famous siege of Ostend. Another, Frederic, commanded with good effect the small Spanish galleys based on Sluys. Not satisfied with this command, he obtained permission to use the eight great galleys which were building in Spain for the Spanish Navy. These huge ships were rowed by 250 galley slaves and carried 400 fighting men. In the autumn of 1602, Spinola set out from Spain with this large but unwieldy force. These ships would have an advantage over sailing ships in calm weather, but in a heavy sea would be practically at their mercy. In a light breeze the two classes of ships would fight under about equal conditions, each being able to maneuver. Off the Portuguese coast Spinola had the misfortune to run into Sir Robert Manzell with a squadron of English frigates. In the rough weather the Spaniards had little chance, and two of their ships were quickly sunk, but then the English squadron drew off to attack a Portuguese carrack which gave more opportunity for obtaining booty.
With his remaining six ships Spinola kept on for the Flanders coast. The Dutch patrolling force in the Straits of Dover then consisted of seven small war-galleots, commanded by Vice Admiral John Kant. One evening at twilight the Spanish galleys were sighted stealing along the English coast by two Dutch patrols—Tiger, commanded by the famous Captain Peter Mol, and Pelican, commanded by Captain Lubbertson. These two ships quickly sent on information to the vice admiral, who flew his flag from Half-moon, and was accompanied by three other galleots. The order was given to concentrate on the enemy.
At first it was dead calm and the galleys gained on the Dutch sailing ships, but later a light breeze sprang up and the galleots began to close in. Taken all together they did not carry as many fighting men as did a single enemy galley, but Dutchmen in those days cared little for odds when Spaniards were met, whether on
land or sea. Just as they were coming in range, another Dutch ship-Mackerel-coming from the opposite direction, ran into their midst and poured an effective volley into the galley St. Philip, killing 50 men. As St. Philip made off, the Dutch admiral in Half-moon came up with her and running down with all sail set, rammed her amidships. The galley's main mast and poop were carried away and as Half-moon drew clear she fired a tremendous raking broadside into her. To cap the climax another galleon rammed St. Philip and she sank with all hands.
The Dutch concentrated their efforts now on the galley Morning Star. A galleon, commanded by Captain Sael, commenced the attack by ramming her full speed. In the shock the bowsprit and bulwarks of the Dutch vessel were carried away, but the entire stern of Morning Star was destroyed and most of her galley slaves killed. Before the Spaniard could recover, Admiral Kant had rammed him again. Under this second blow the Morning Star sank, all her crew being lost.
The remaining galleys fled in disorder for the Flanders coast. St. John, Hyacinth and Padilla were wrecked. The flagship St. Lewis alone succeeded in making Dunkirk in a badly crippled condition. Over 3000 men in the Spanish squadron, soldiers, sailors and galley-slaves, were lost. The Dutch made every effort to save the lives of their enemy, but only about 200 were rescued. The Spanish Squadron had been almost completely destroyed and Spinola's plan had been ruined.
It would be impossible to praise too highly the daring and efficient work of Admiral Kant and his brave comrades. You will notice the great difference in the battle tactics of Admiral Kant and Skipper Wolfert. This very difference shows the sagacity of the Dutch seamen; in each case they considered the situation and adopted the plan of battle which best suited the occasion. Wolfert knew that it was best for him to engage carefully at long range; Kant realized that his best measure was to come to close quarters and ram, an attack very like our night destroyer attacks of to-day. In one thing, however, these old seamen were agreed. Then never considered the odds which were against them, but were eager to force a decision upon their greatly superior foe.
Let us think often of old Vice Admiral John Kant. It is true that he is very dimly discernible back across three long centuries, but we can at least keep one majestic picture in our minds. There