Anglo-Dutch War in the Mediterranean, 1652-3
When the Anglo-Dutch war broke out, two small English squadrons were in the Mediterranean convoying merchantmen from the Levant: one commanded by Blake's former vice-admiral Richard Badiley, the other by Henry Appleton. The Dutch also had a naval presence in the Mediterranean to protect their commerce, under the command of Johan van Galen, a veteran of the wars against Spain and the Barbary corsairs.
In August 1652, Badiley sailed from the eastern Mediterranean with four warships convoying four merchantmen towards Leghorn (Livorno) in Tuscany. Badiley hoped to evade van Galen's squadron of fourteen ships and join forces with Appleton. However, Appleton was blockaded in Leghorn by four of van Galen's ships while the other ten patrolled the approaches to the port.
On 27 August, van Galen's ships were eighty miles south of Leghorn, between Elba and the island of Monte Cristo. During the afternoon, the frigate Constant Warwick (32 guns) was sighted, scouting ahead of the English convoy. The Dutch squadron advanced to sight the main convoy in the late afternoon, but the wind was too light to engage. A few shots were exchanged at long range until darkness fell, with no action overnight. Next morning, the Dutch closed in to attack. The four merchant ships made for Port Longone on Elba, leaving Badiley's four warships to face van Galen's ten ships. Badiley stationed his flagship, the Paragon (52), in the van of the English squadron as she was the most powerful of his ships. With the continuing light winds, the Dutch ships were slow to engage and came under heavy fire as they approached. Van Galen's flagship the Jaarsveld (44) suffered too much damage to her sails and rigging to engage. The Maan (40) and Zeven Provincien (40) closed with the Paragon but were driven off after fierce close-range fighting; the captains of both Dutch ships were killed, as was the captain of the Prinses Royal (34). Eventually, the Paragon, Constant Warwick and Elizabeth broke clear of their opponents. The fourth English ship, the Phoenix, was captured. All the ships in the battle were badly damaged.
On 28 August, the survivors of the battered English squadron escaped into the neutral Spanish port of Porto Longone (now Porto Azzurro) on Elba where they were blockaded by part of van Galen's squadron. Henry Appleton made no attempt to support Badiley; his explanation that he had been ill was dismissed with contempt.
Richard Badiley's blockaded squadron was protected by the Spanish governor of Porto Longone who forbade the Dutch from attacking the English ships in the neutral harbour and resisted an attempt to bribe him to change his mind. The Dutch withdrew after the governor gave Badiley permission to bring guns ashore to make batteries for the protection of the English squadron. Early in November 1652, Badiley received a commission from London appointing him commander of English naval forces in the Mediterranean. He crossed to the mainland from Elba and made his way overland to join Henry Appleton at Leghorn.
Badiley pressed two merchant ships at Leghorn into the service of the Commonwealth navy and arranged for others to be hired at Venice. He also backed a plan formulated by Captain Owen Cox to recapture the Phoenix, which the Dutch had captured at the battle of Monte Cristo and subsequently incorporated into the squadron blockading Leghorn. Appleton had opposed Cox's plan and tried to dismiss him, but Badiley reversed the order. On 20 November, Cox led three boatloads of volunteers in a dawn raid to board the Phoenix and overpower her Dutch crew. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting continued below decks while Cox put to sea and sailed the Phoenix away to Naples. The Dutch captain Cornelis Tromp, son of Maarten Tromp, shot an English lieutenant and dived through a cabin window into the harbour to escape, from where he was rescued by a Dutch boat.
Cox evaded two pursuing Dutch ships and arrived in Naples on 30 November. However, the capture of the Phoenix in a neutral port angered the Grand Duke of Tuscany and worsened his already strained relations with Badiley. Early in 1653, the Duke told Badiley that the English were no longer welcome in Leghorn and gave him until 8 March to remove his ships from the port. In anticipation of attacking the English squadron as it left Leghorn, Johan van Galen gathered a force of eight warships and eight armed merchantmen to await its departure.
Badiley also gathered all available ships and sailed to help Henry Appleton break out of Leghorn. Appleton's squadron comprised two warships: the Bonaventure (44 guns) and Leopard (48), and four armed merchantmen. Badiley had four warships: the Paragon (52), the Phoenix (36), the Elizabeth (36), the Constant Warwick (32), four merchantmen and a fireship. Badiley and Appleton had a pre-arranged plan to overwhelm van Galen's squadron. If the wind was blowing onshore when Badiley arrived off Leghorn, then Appleton was to set sail immediately to attack the Dutch. As soon as Appleton made contact with the enemy, Badiley would use the wind to attack and break through to join him. Conversely, if the wind was offshore, Appleton was to wait until Badiley had engaged, then use the wind to join the battle.
When Badiley's ships arrived off Leghorn on 4 March, the wind was offshore. Van Galen immediately got under way and sailed towards Badiley, which apparently caused Appleton to miscalculate his departure and set out too soon. When Appleton's ships were out of the harbour and running before the wind, the Dutch turned about and sailed towards them with Badiley still several miles away to leeward. Early in the battle, Appleton's leading ship, the Bonaventure, was hit by a lucky shot from van Galen's flagship, the Vereenigde Provincien, which penetrated her magazine and caused a massive explosion. Only five of the ship's company survived. At the same time, a shot from the Bonaventure hit van Galen and shattered his leg.
Outnumbered three-to-one, the five remaining English ships fought stubbornly against the odds, but were gradually overwhelmed. The Sampson was engaged by Cornelis Tromp in the Maan until a Dutch fireship came up on her disengaged side and burnt her. The Peregrine, with her mainmast shot away, fought off two opponents before being captured by the Zwarte Arend. The Levant Merchant forced the Madonna della Vigna to run aground, but was then attacked and captured by the Maagd van Enkhuysen. Appleton's flagship the Leopard was engaged and boarded by the Eendracht. All but fifty of her 200-man crew were killed or wounded before Appleton surrendered, claiming that he wanted to blow up the ship, but was forced to surrender by his men. Only one of Appleton's squadron, the Mary, broke through to join Badiley.
By the time Badiley's squadron arrived, the battle was over. Badiley withdrew after a half-hearted exchange of gunfire. The Dutch ships were too badly damaged to pursue. Badiley returned to England with his remaining ships while Appleton spent two months as a prisoner of the Dutch before he was released on license to return home. Although Johan van Galen died of his wounds, his victory at Leghorn secured Dutch control of the Mediterranean and crippled England's trade with the Levant.
John Barratt, Cromwell's Wars at Sea, (Barnsley 2006)
Sir William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy, a history from the earliest times to the present, vol.ii (London 1898)
Sir J.S. Corbett, England in the Mediterranean 1603-1713 vol.i (London 1904)
Bernard Capp, Richard Badiley (c.1616-1657), Oxford DNB, 2004
S.R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate vol. ii (London 1903)