St. James's Day Battle - First Day

First Day

In the early morning of 25 July, the Dutch fleet of 88 ships discovered the English fleet of 89 ships near North Foreland, sailing to the north, and pursued it from the southeast in a leeward position, as the wind blew from the northwest. Suddenly, the wind turned to the northeast. The commander of the English fleet, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, then turned sharply east to regain the weather gauge and De Ruyter followed to keep it. This proved to be a fatal manoeuvre for the Dutch. They now sailed right into the core of a high-pressure area. The Dutch van, commanded by Lieutenant-Admiral Johan Evertsen, lost all speed and couldn't maintain a line of battle. This awkward situation lasted for hours; then, again, a soft breeze began to blow from the northeast. Immediately, the English van, commanded by Thomas Allin, and part of the centre formed a line of battle and sailed right to the Dutch van, still in disarray and basically defenseless. Ship after ship of the Frisian fleet was mauled by the combined firepower of the English line. Vice-Admiral Rudolf Coenders was killed. Lieutenant-Admiral Tjerk Hiddes de Vries had an arm and a leg shot off, yet still tried to bring cohesion to his forces, but to no avail. Unable to reach them with his centre, the horrified De Ruyter saw the Frisian ships drifting to the south, now no more than floating wrecks full of dead, the moans of the dying clearly audible above the other sounds of battle.

Now Rupert combined his full van and centre to deliver the coup-de-grâce to the Dutch centre. George Monck, accompanying Rupert, predicted that De Ruyter would give two broadsides and run, but the latter put up a furious fight on the Dutch flagship De Zeven Provinciën. He withstood a combined attack by Sovereign of the Seas and Royal Charles and forced Rupert to leave the damaged Royal Charles for Royal James. This way, De Ruyter managed to cover the retreat of the Dutch van.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Admiral Cornelis Tromp, commanding the Dutch rear, had seen the sad events evolve from a great distance. Annoyed by the lack of competence shown, he decided to give the correct example. He turned sharply to the west, crossed the line of the English rear, commanded by Jeremiah Smith, separating it from the rest of the English fleet and then, having the weather gauge, kept on attacking it rabidly until, at last, the English were routed and fled to the west. He pursued well into the night, destroying Resolution with a fireship. After Tromp thrice shot the entire crew from its rigging, Smith's flagship Loyal London had to be towed home. The vice commander of the English rear was Edward Spragge, who felt so humiliated by the course of events that he became a personal enemy of Tromp, dying himself while trying to kill his foe in the Battle of Texel.

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