In the year one Thousand six Hundred seventy two, War being proclaimed with Holland, it was looked upon among Nobility and Gentry, as a Blemish, not to attend the Duke of York aboard the Fleet, who was then declared Admiral. With many others, I, at that Time about twenty Years of Age, enter'd my self a Voluntier on board the London, commanded by Sir Edward Sprage, Vice-Admiral of the Red.
The Fleet set Sail from the Buoy of the Nore about the beginning of May, in order to join the French Fleet, then at Anchor in St. Hellen's Road, under the Command of the Count de Estrée. But in executing this Design we had a very narrow Escape: For De Ruyter, the Admiral of the Dutch Fleet, having Notice of our Intentions, waited to have intercepted us at the Mouth of the River, but by the Assistance of a great Fog we pass'd Dover before he was aware of it; and thus he miscarried, with the poor Advantage of taking only one small Tender.
A Day or two after the joining of the English and French, we sailed directly towards the Dutch Coast, where we soon got sight of their Fleet; a Sand called the Galloper lying between. The Dutch seem'd willing there to expect an Attack from us: But in regard the Charles Man of War had been lost on those Sands the War before; and that our Ships drawing more Water than those of the Enemy, an Engagement might be render'd very disadvantageous; it was resolv'd in a Council of War to avoid coming to a Battle for the present, and to sail direftly for Solebay, which was accordingly put in Execution.
We had not been in Solebay above four or five Days, when De Ruyter, hearing of it, made his Signal for sailing in order to surprize us; and he had certainly had his Aim, had there been any Breeze of Wind to favour him. But though they made use of all their Sails, there was so little Air stirring, that we could see their Fleet making towards us long before they came up; notwithstanding which, our Admirals found difficulty enough to form their Ships into a Line of Battle, so as to be ready to receive the Enemy.
It was about Four in the Morning of the 28th of May, being Tuesday in Whitson Week, when we first made the Discovery; and about Eight the same Morning the Blue Squadron, under the Command of the Earl of Sandwich, began to engage with Admiral Van Ghent, who commanded the Amsterdam Squadron; and about Nine the whole Fleets were under a general Engagement. The Fight lasted till Ten at Night, and with equal Fury on all Sides, the French excepted, who appeared stationed there rather as Spectators than Parties; and as unwilling to be too much upon the Offensive, for fear of offending themselves.
During the Fight the English Admiral had two Ships disabled under him; and was obliged about Four in the Afternoon to remove himself a third Time into the London, where he remain'd all the rest of the Fight, and till next Morning. Nevertheless, on his Entrance upon the London, which was the Ship I was in, and on our Hoisting the Standard, De Ruyter and his Squadron seem'd to double their Fire upon her, as if they resolv'd to blow her out of the Water. Notwithstanding all which, the Duke of York remain'd all the time upon Quarter Deck, and as the Bullets plentifully whizz'd around him, would often rub his Hands, and cry, Sprage, Sprage, they follow us still. I am very sensible later Times have not been over favourable in their Sentiments of that unfortunate Prince's Valour, yet I cannot omit the doing a Piece of Justice to his Memory, in relating a Matter of Fact, of which my own Eyes were Witnesses, and saying, That if Intrepidity, and Undauntedness, may be reckon'd any Parts of Courage, no Man in the Fleet better deserv'd the Title of Couragious, or behav'd himself with more Gallantry than he did.
The English lost the Royal James, commanded by the Earl of Sandwich, which about Twelve (after the strenuous Endeavours of her Sailors to disengage her from two Dutch Fire Ships plac'd on her, one athwart her Hawsers, the other on her Star-board Side) took Fire, blew up, and perish'd; and with her a great many brave Gentlemen, as well as Sailors; and amongst the rest the Earl himself, concerning whom I shall further add, that in my Passage from Harwich to the Brill, a Year or two after, the Master of the Pacquet Boat told me, That having observ'd a great Flock of Gulls hovering in one particular Part of the Sea, he order'd his Boat to make up to it; when discovering a Corpse, the Sailors would have return'd it to the Sea, as the Corpse of a Dutch Man; but keeping it in his Boat, it proved to be that of the Earl of Sandwich. There was found about him between twenty and thirty Guineas, some Silver, and his Gold Watch; restoring which to his Lady, she kept the Watch, but rewarded their Honesty with all the Gold and Silver.
This was the only Ship the English lost in this long Engagement. For although the Katherine was taken, and her Commander, Sir John Chicheley, made Prisoner, her Sailors soon after finding the Opportunity they had watch'd for, seiz'd all the Dutch Sailors, who had been put in upon them, and brought the Ship back to our own Fleet, together with all the Dutch Men Prisoners; for which, as they deserv'd, they were well rewarded. This is the same Ship which the Earl of Mulgrave (afterwards Duke of Buckingham) commanded the next Sea Fight, and has caus'd to be painted in his House in St. James's Park.
I must not omit one very remarkable Occurrence which happened in this Ship, There was a Gentleman aboard her, a Voluntier, of a very fine Estate, generally known by the Name of Hodge Vaughan. This Person receiv'd, in the beginning of the Fight, a considerable Wound, which the great Confusion, during the Battle, would not give them leave to inquire into; so he was carried out of the Way, and disposed of in the Hold. They had some Hogs aboard, which the Sailor, under whose Care they were, had neglected to feed; these Hogs, hungry as they were, found out, and fell upon the wounded Person, and between dead and alive eat him up to his very Scull, which, after the Fight was over, and the Ship retaken, as before, was all that could be found of him.
Another Thing, less to be accounted for, happen'd to a Gentleman Voluntier who was aboard the same Ship with my self. He was of known personal Courage, in the vulgar Notion of it, his Sword never having fail'd him in many private Duels. But notwithstanding all his Land-mettle, it was observ'd of him at Sea, that when ever the Bullets whizz'd over his Head, or any way incommoded his Ears, he immediately quitted the Deck, and ran down into the Hold. At first he was gently reproach'd; but after many Repetitions he was laugh'd at, and began to be despis'd; sensible of which, as a Testimonial of his Valour, he made it his Request to be ty'd to the Main Mast. But had it been granted him, I cannot see any Title he could have pleaded from hence, to true Magnanimity; since to be ty'd from running away can import nothing less, than that he would have still continued these Signs of Cowardice, if he had not been prevented. There is a Bravery of Mind which I fansy few of those Gentlemen Duellists are possess'd of. True Courage cannot proceed from what Sir Walter Raleigh finely calls the Art or Philosophy of Quarrel. No! It must be the Issue of Principle, and can have no other Basis than a steady Tenet of Religion. This will appear more plain, if those Artists in Murder will give themselves leave cooly to consider, and answer me this Question, Why he that had ran so many Risques at his Sword's Point, should be so shamefully intimidated at the Whiz of a Cannon Ball?
The Names of those English Gentlemen who lost their Lives, as I remember, in this Engagement.
Commissioner Cox, Captain of the Royal Prince, under the Command of the Admiral; and Mr. Travanian, Gentleman to the Duke of York; Mr. Digby, Captain of the Henry, second Son to the Earl of Bristol; Sir Fletchvile Hollis, Captain of the Cambridge, who lost one of his Arms in the War before, and his Life in this; Captain Saddleton, of the Dartmouth; the Lord Maidstone, Son to the Earl of Winchelsea, a Voluntier on board the Charles, commanded by Sir John Harman, Vice-Admiral of the Red.
Sir Philip Carteret, Mr. Herbert, Mr. Cotterel, Mr. Peyton, Mr. Gose, with several other Gentlemen unknown to me, lost their Lives with the Earl of Sandwich, on board the Royal James; Mr. Vaughan, on board the Katherine, commanded by Sir John Chicheley.
In this Engagement, Sir George Rook was youngest Lieutenant to Sir Edward Sprage; Mr. Russel, afterwards Earl of Orford, was Captain of a small Fifth Rate, called the Phnix; Mr. Herbert, afterwards Earl of Torrington, was Captain of a small Fourth Rate, called the Monck; Sir Harry Dutton Colt, who was on board the Victory, commanded by the Earl of Offery, is the only Man now living that I can remember was in this Engagement.
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