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to screen themselves behind the sands; but observing some of the English vessels stranded in the pursuit, and a partial confusion occasioned in the rear by an unexpected signal to haul off, De Witte again ventured forward, and made show for a second fight. The offer was promptly accepted by Bourne, and resolutely contested by the other ships. The Dutch received orders to board, and the first vessel that made the attempt was sunk by a single broadside; two others soon after shared the same fate, a fourth blew up, their Rear-admiral was taken prisoner, and De Witte was forced to push for his own coast in a most shattered condition. The English gave him chase into the very harbour, and after sailing about the Downs in easy victory, returned unmolested to their ports.
The winter now set in, and Blake was necessitated to reduce his strength: some ships were detained at home for repairs; and others stationed apart in small squadrons; so that he retained possession of the Downs with only thirty-seven sail of the line. News of this altered state was quickly carried over into Holland, and the States were fortunate enough to be able to put Van Tromp out to sea, at the head of seventy-six ships of war, in the middle of November. On the morning of the 29th, the Dutch came in sight of the English, who lay at their anchors in the Downs; and Blake, incapable of a thought of flight, resolved to give battle, notwithstanding the double force opposed to him. A sudden storm sprung up, and suspended hostilities for that day; but on the 30th, the fleets found themselves still in sight, though removed a little more to the westward. This change gave Blake the advantage of the wind, with which he commenced the contest at eleven o'clock. Nothing could surpass the energy displayed on both sides ; admirals, officers and men, fought side by side, and the only distinction recognised in their fury was the rank of foremost valour: that was equal; but nothing could compensate for the great difference of numbers ; and the English soon felt their disadvantage in this respect most heavily. Blake, in the Triumph, was surrounded at one time by twenty ships : he narrowly escaped capture, and was severely wounded ; his captain, secretary, and a hundred men, fell dead before him ; not one of the crew remained unhurt; and at last, the damage was so dreadful, that his vessel became unmanageable. In this distress, the Garland and Bonaventure were taken ; two more ships were burned, and two sunk; and at last, darkness came on opportunely, and under that protection the English were enabled to retire into the Thames. Van Tromp, elated with this achievement, fixed a broom on his main-top-mast head, and sailed down the Channel in bravado, as if he had swept all his enemies from off the sea.
Signal the defeat certainly 100 yet the defence was so intrepid, that the conquered were received in London not only without reproaches, but with every respectful demonstration of that sympathy which their gallanit sufferings sa eminently entitled them to. The only care au parently entertained by thie nation was to make sufficient prep" Fions for wiping off the disgrace in the coming year; and so vigursus Were the exertions urged on by the government, that a noble fleet of eighty sail was fitted out for sea in the beginning of February 1653. Monk was ordered express from Scotland to share the command with Blake; and at day-break on the 18th instant, the two warriors descried Van Tromp and De Ruyter convoying three hundred merchantmen with seventy-six men of war, off the Isle of Portland. The combat that now ensued was not only the most furious that had been as yet fought between these great rival powers, but one of a gigantic obstinacy, such as no other modern nations can boastingly refer to. The condition of the English navy had never before been so admirable; the ships were built to an unusual size, and effected ruin like so many floating fortresses; the sailors were trained with the greatest skill, and exercised in bravery; and the admirals were qualified for victory by a peculiar temperament of heroism. For three days a running fight was fiercely maintained along the Channel, until the Dutch gained the sounds of Calais, where they deemed it prudent to anchor for safety. Blake's triumph was now decisive ; he took and sunk eleven sail of the line, and made prizes of thirty of the merchant vessels; while of his own force, though many ships were heavily injured, but one was lost, and that by sinking. The sacrifice of men on both sides was immense ; the Dutch counted 2000 killed, and 1500 taken prisoners; and the English had nearly 1600 slain. But the misfortunes sustained by the States of Holland in this engagement were inconsiderable when compared to
those which the vigilance of the victorious Blake now inflicted on them. He cut off their whole commerce from the Channel ; infested them by means of privateers, even in the Baltic; swept their fisheries from the North, and before the end of the year obtained possession of no less than 1600 vessels of one description or another. How melancholy is the recollection, that all this immolation of blood and ruin of wealth and happiness was suffered for no other consideration, thter he empty honour of not lowering a flag, and not discharging a harmless cannon!
The history of the year 1653, was signalized by Cromwell's usurpation of the sovereignty of England. In the violent measures by which this event was accomplished, Blake had no participation; but when the new authty was established, he issued a declaration conjointly with his brother admirals, stating, that no changes in the government should prevent them from faithfully performing their duty to the country. The sternness of his principles, and an evident partiality to republicanism, induced a belief that he by no means derived satisfaction from the Protectorship. His character was too blunt and honest to admit of any insight into those schemes and maneuvres by which such re. volutions are either happily accomplished, or successfully defeated; so that, in point of fact, he was left without any alternative but submission. Cromwell treated him with considerable respect; and, as the infirmity of his health compelled him to forsake the sea for some time, appointed him one of the commissioners of the admiralty. It was about this period that he was again voted into parliament for Bridgewater ; but there is nothing of interest recorded with his name in a capacity, for which the general tenor of his life supplied no means of distinction.
In 1654, however, his health was sufficiently re-established to admit of his resuming more active occupations, and upon the equipment of an expedition to punish the piratical states in the Mediterranean, for the injuries they had inflicted upon the commerce of England, Cromwell, was in all probability, well pleased to invest him with the command of the fleet. Sailing, therefore, direct for Algiers, he received a ready compromise ; but upon advancing to Tunis, was opposed with a defiance. “Here,” exclaimed the Dey, in reply to his demands, “are our castles of Goletta and Porto Ferino: we fear you not; do your worst.”
Blake took him at his word; and immediately bringing his squadron within musket-shot of the fort, opened so brisk a cannonade, that he soon reduced the fortification to an inoffensive condition. He then manned his boats, rowed gallantly into the harbour, and with a trifling loss, burnt nine ships of the first rate. The rapidity of these measures quickly assured the barbarian of his mistake; he made an humble submission, and signed a peace with the English upon the most advantageous terms. The celebrity of Blake's name was now sufficient to bring the state of Tripoli and the Knights of Malta to acquiesce in his proposals without contradiction; and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and the Republic of Venice, influenced by similar feelings, sent forward magnificent embassies to the Protector. All Italy was paralized with terror at his exploits; and to add the pompous description of a former biographer, even the Pope himself trembled in the Vatican.
In 1656, Cromwell made an unprovoked attack upon the West Indies: a mighty equipment was manned, and the command entrusted to Admiral Penn and General Venables. But although great expectations were raised, the expedition failed in every quarter except Jamaica, and the Protector was obliged to carry on the war, without having gained the advantages for which he took up arms. Blake, with whom upon this occasion was associated Montague, afterwards Earl of Sandwich, instantly received the command of a fleet of forty sail, and was instructed to distress the commerce, and destroy the marine of Spain. Proceeding to the Mediterranean, he blocked up Cadiz for several months, and detached a squadron under Commodore Stayner, to surprise the Plate fleet upon its return from the West. This duty was ably performed, and Montague returned to England with the prizes, while Blake remained at his post, languishing under the last pains of exhausted nature. Receiving intelligence, however, that a second Plate fleet had put into the harbour of Santa Cruz, in the Island of Teneriffe, he resolved to strike another blow for the good and honour of his country, before he expired. Accordingly in April 1657, he appeared once again before an armament, consisting of six galleons and ten war ships. No vessels could be more advantageously stationed, or more securely protected ; yet Blake did not hesitate to resolve on an attack, though the action was highly condemned for rashness-a species of censure which may also be applied to many of
those exploits which have raised the navy of Britain to a superiority over all the world. The harbour of Santa Cruz was at this period in an admirable state of defence. In the centre stood a castle, well furnished with cannon, from which seven forts extended at either side, with a line of communication ably manned by musqueters. Close 'under these fortifications the shipping was disposed in a semicircular form, with the additional security of a boom thrown across the entrance. Blake divided his force, amounting to twenty-five sail, into two squadrons, the one of which, under Commodore Stayner, was directed to steer boldly into the bay, while the other was engaged in silencing the castle and forts. The wind blew fresh on shore, and facilitated an approach ; the boom was broken, the enemy beaten from every position, and the fleet captured to a vessel. The labour of bringing it off, however, was found impracticable; it was therefore set on fire, and every vestige of property was destroyed along the shore. The action, and its desperate consequences, had no sooner ceased, than the wind veered a few points, and Blake was enabled by a second stroke of fortune to withdraw at his ease, without the loss of a ship.
The glory of this enterprize, so hazardous and so triumphant, was no sooner conveyed to England, than the parliament voted a unanimous resolution of thanks to their noble commander, and a sum of 5001. to buy him a ring in commemoration of his last victory. But the present never reached his hand; the weight of his years overpowered him with a dropsy, the length of his residence at sea superadded a scurvy, and life was all but consumed within him, when he allowed himself to be conducted home. During the passage he expressed but one wish-that he might die in England ; and consequently reiterated but one enquiry, and that was—land. He survived to gain a sight of his native shores, but expired in Plymouth Sound, on the 17th of August, 1657. His obsequies were performed with a magnificence extraordinary for the age: the body lay in state for several days at Greenwich, and was removed by water to Westminster. A sumptuous procession, in mourning, profusely enriched with banners, pendants, and escutcheons, covered the river in boats clothed with velvet. Foremost with the state barge, containing the corpse, appeared Cromwell's privy council ; they were followed by the lord mayor and aldermen of London; the com