Battle of Elba

Battle of Monti-Christi

28th August 1652
Part of : The First Anglo-Dutch War (1652 - 1654)
Previous action : Battle of Plymouth 16.8.1652
Next action : Battle of Kentish Knock 28.9.1652


Commonwealth of England

Squadron, Richard Badiley (d.1657)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Constant Warwick (32) Owen Cox (d.1653)
Elizabeth (38) Jonas Reeve (d.c.1653)
Paragon (52) Richard Badiley (d.1657)Fleet Flagship 26 killed, 57 Wounded
Phoenix (38) John Wadsworth Captured
Levant Merchantmen under convoy
Ship NameCommanderNotes
William and Thomas (30) John Godolphin
Mary Rose (32) Jonas Poole Hired merchantman - unengaged
Thomas Bonaventure (28) George HughesHired merchantman - unengaged
Richard and William (24) John Wise Hired merchantman - unengaged

Dutch Republic

Squadron, Johan van Galen (1604-1652/53)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Jaarsveld (44) Joris van Cats (1590-1654), Johan van Galen (1604-1652/53)Fleet Flagship
Eendracht (42)  Squadron Flagship Vice-Admiral
Maan (40) David Janszoon Bondt CO Killed
Verenigde Provinciën (40) Hendrik Claeszoon Swart (d.1652) CO Killed
Haarlem (40) Dirck Crijnssen Verveen
Prinses Royaal (40) Cornelis Albertszoon 't Hoen (d.1652) CO Killed
Wapen van Enkhuizen (34) Cornelis Maartenszoon Tromp (1629-1691)
Wapen van Zeeland (34) Joost Willemszoon Block CO Killed
Zeelandia (34) Nicolaes Marrevelt
Jonge Prins (28) Cornelis Barentszoon Slordt

Notes on Action

Prelude to the battleTRN2

This was the Third fleet engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch War between the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

The Battle of Monte Cristo (or the Battle of Elba) was the first battle in the Mediterranean Sea between the Dutch and the English, during the First Anglo-Dutch War. The Dutch out-numbered the English, but they quickly found that they were at a great disadvantage, when facing any of the English "Second Rates", such as the English flagship. Other English ships were faster than any Dutch ship. The frigate Constant Warwick was scouting for the fleet, when first sighted by the Dutch, as they passed the island of Elba.

The English fleet commander was Richard Badiley. He had been a Parliamentarian naval commander from 1649, after having spent time in the Mediterranean, both trading and "fighting Turks." Van Galen had also been active fighting the Barbary pirates, a seemingly never-ending occupation for a Dutch Mediterranean squadron. The first Dutch commander, Joris Cats, had offended the Grand Duke of Tuscany, so Johan van Galen was rushed overland to relieve him.

Description of the battleTRN2

Badiley, on being joined by the Constant Warwick at Cephalonia, made the best of his way towards Leghorn. He hoped that, by touching at no port on the way, he might arrive before the Dutch expected him, and that he might thus avoid the blockading ships and join with Appleton. This was not the case. As he passed Monte Cristo, on August 27th, he found the Dutch squadron, ten strong, lying between that island and Elba.

Badiley had with him, besides his own ship the Paragon, 42, the Constant Warwick, 30, Captain Owen Cox, the Elizabeth, 38, and the Phoenix, 38, with which he was convoying four Levant merchantmen. On the 27th the wind was light, and the squadrons could not come to close action. The merchantmen made no attempt to offer help, considering that their own safety was the point under discussion; and they made the best of their way into Porto Longone. Badiley hoped for some help from Appleton, but Appleton declared that he was too ill to leave port an excuse which Badiley refused to accept, alleging that, even if such were the case, he might at least have sent his vessels. The four ships were thus left to fight it out by themselves; and, as all accounts agree, they made a right gallant defence.

The calm gave the English some little help, by keeping three of the enemy out of action; and, although the odds were still two to one, Badiley did not despair. He decided that, as his ship was the heaviest, it would be best that she should meet the brunt of the attack, and accordingly he bade his consorts take up their stations under his stern. This, he says, the Constant Warwick, and apparently the Elizabeth, did with satisfactory results, but the Phoenix remained too far off to allow of any support being given to her by the others. The manoeuvre may be looked upon as one of the earliest attempts at the formation of a line; but as the ships were so few in number, it is at least likely that Badiley merely intended to collect his squadron into a compact group for mutual support, with a reservation to himself of the post of honour in the van.

The Paragon drew the fire of the three Dutch flagships, which engaged her within pistol-shot; and she continued throughout in the heat of the fight, being always well supported by the Constant Warwick, whose captain, Owen Cox, was, by his record, a man of more than ordinary valour. Little mention is made of the Elizabeth, but she seems to have been somewhat to leeward of, and screened by, the two first-named ships. That she was closely engaged may be taken for granted, in view of the balance of force in favour of the enemy, but though she did not come off by any means free, her loss was slight compared with that sustained by the Paragon.

The Phoenix, wrote Badiley, was taken in a strange and sudden manner, and would not have been thus lost had she fallen astern of the Paragon as ordered. A heavy ship of the enemy's ran her aboard, and, owing to her want of a forecastle, captured her. Badiley, however, declared that he had four ships close aboard him at the time, so that it may reasonably be doubted whether he was in a position to say what happened. The accepted account of the loss has nothing unlikely in it. It shows that a Dutch ship which was closely engaged with Badiley, lost her mainmast, and hauled out of the fight. The Phoenix, seeing this, ran alongside of her, and boarded, but, while she was thus left empty and defenceless, a second Dutch ship in turn boarded the Phoenix, and took her without resistance. The boarding-party from the Phoenix had no means of retreat, and, being overpowered, was killed or taken.

With evening the fight came to an end; and the remaining English ships, torn and shattered, and with all, or nearly all, their ammunition expended, were towed into Porto Longone. The Paragon's loss was twenty-six men killed, including her principal officers, and fifty-seven wounded. She had received fifty great shot in her hull, many between wind and water; and hardly a spar was sound. The other ships had suffered only less heavily. The Dutch loss was represented by three captains killed, besides very many of their men. Two ships also had lost their mainmasts, and the whole squadron was hardly in a position to keep the sea.

The enemy managed, however, to follow Badiley to Porto Longone, where they would have made an attack on him at once had they not met with opposition from the governor. The next expedient tried was to attempt to bribe the governor, but he not only proved incorruptible, but also allowed the English to land guns and make batteries on shore for their protection, whereupon the Dutch withdrew.

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