Battle of Camperdown - Aftermath

Aftermath

De Winter was immediately taken to see Duncan, the Dutch officer holding out his sword as a token of surrender. Duncan refused the weapon, instead shaking De Winter's hand and insisting "I would much rather take a brave man's hand than his sword". In addition to the losses in the rear, five ships of the Dutch van had been captured as well as the frigate Ambuscade that had attacked from the second line. The remainder of the Dutch ships had fled, making rapid progress towards the coastal shallows. Duncan did not follow them: the Dutch coast between Kamperduin and Egmond was only 5 nautical miles (9.3 km) away, his ship lay in just 9 fathoms (18 yards (16 m)) of water and the weather was too fierce and his ships too battered to risk combat in shoal waters. Instead he ordered his ships to ensure control of their prizes and to return to Britain. Many ships were now undermanned due to the terrible casualties they had suffered: surgeon Robert Young of Ardent, the worst hit of the British ships, worked for more than twelve hours without a break and later wrote:

"Melancholy cries for assistance were addressed to me from every side by wounded and dying, and piteous moans and bewailing from pain and despair. In the midst of these agonising scenes I was able to preserve myself firm and collected . . . Many of the worst wounded were stoical beyond belief; they were determined not to flinch and, when news of the shattering victory was brought down to them, they raised a cheer and declared they regretted not the loss of their limbs." —Quoted in Peter Padfield, Nelson's War, 1976,

Casualties in the battle were very heavy on both sides, and historians such as William James have noted that the losses among the British ships were proportionally much higher than when British fleets met French or Spanish opposition. This was attributed to the Dutch tactics, mirrored by the British, of firing at the enemy hulls rather than attempting to disable their masts and rigging as in other continental navies. The worst hit of the British ships were those in the first wave, such as Ardent with 148 casualties, Monarch with 136 and Belliqueux with 103, while both Adamant and Agincourt escaped without a single man killed or wounded. Among the dead were Captain Burges of Ardent and two lieutenants, while the wounded included Captain Essington of Triumph and twelve lieutenants. In total, British losses were recorded after the battle as 203 killed and 622 wounded, although later assessments based on charitable requirements of those wounded or killed gave the higher figures of 228 killed and 812 wounded, including 16 of the latter who subsequently died. Many of the British ships were badly damaged, taking on large quantities of water through damaged hulls. One of the worst hit was Venerable, which had to be completely dismantled and reconstructed after returning to Britain before the ship was ready for active service again.

Dutch casualty returns, particularly on the captured ships, were vague, and only partially complete. Among the losses were Captain Hinxt of Beschermer and Captain Holland of Wassenaar, both of whom were killed early in the battle. Also lost were Captain Van Rossum of Vrijheid, who was struck in the thigh by a cannonball and died shortly afterwards from the effects of the wound, and Admiral Reijntjes who died while a prisoner in England as a result of the wounds he suffered aboard Jupiter. His remains were subsequently returned to the Netherlands with full military honours. There were also large numbers of wounded among the Dutch fleet, including Rear-Admirals Bloys van Treslong and Story; one of the few Dutch officers to escape injury or death was De Winter himself, who later commented "It is a matter of marvel that two such gigantic objects as Admiral Duncan and myself should have escaped the general carnage of this day." In total, Dutch losses were later reported as 540 men killed and 620 wounded, with Vrijheid the worst hit with the loss of almost half of its total complement.

Read more about this topic:  Battle Of Camperdown

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