Battle of Elba, 28 August 1652

The battle of Elba (28 August 1652) was a clear Dutch victory early in the First Anglo-Dutch War that gave them control of the Mediterranean. The small English force in the Mediterranean was unwisely split in two, with four warships under Admiral Richard Badiley and four under Henry Appleton. In contrast the Dutch has a strong squadron of eighteen men-at-war, under the command of Joris Catz.

When news of the outbreak of war reached Catz he took fourteen of his ships from Toulon to Livorno (Legnorn), where he easily blockaded Appleton. He then made the mistake of attempting to interfere with the unloading of English merchant ships in the port, and was replaced after a diplomatic protest.

His replacement, Jan van Galen, left four ships to watch Appleton, and then took his remaining ten ships to find Badiley. At this point Badiley's squadron contained four warships (the Paragon, 42, the Constant Warwick, 30, the Elizabeth, 38 and the Phoenix, 38), and he was escorting four merchant ships. On 27 August Badiley found the Dutch fleet blocking his approach to the island of Elba. On that day the wind was too calm to allow for a battle, although the merchant ships managed to escape into Porto Longone.

On 28 August battle was joined. Badiley decided to form up with his flagship (the Paragon) at the front of a short line, with the remaining three ships behind him. The Constant Warwick and Elizabeth were able to take up their positions, but the Phoenixfound herself between the two fleets.

The three Dutch flagships all attacked the Paragon, which suffered the most damage of any English ship, losing twenty-six dead and fifty-seven wounded. The Phoenixwas rather unluckily taken by the Dutch. One of the ships attacking the Paragon lost her mast and was forced out of the fight. The captain of the Phoenixdecided to board her, leaving his own ship virtually empty. A second Dutch ship boarded and captured the empty Phoenix, while her crew were captured or killed on the damaged Dutch ship (the Phoenixwas recaptured in a daring raid on 20 November, a move that alienated the previously friendly Ferdinando II Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

At the end of the day the three surviving battered English ships were towed into Porto Longone. The Dutch had also suffered heavy damage, but only the resistance of the port's governor prevented them from attacking the English in the port. The defeat off Elba left both English fleets blockaded in port, and gave the Dutch command of the Mediterranean, their only clear success of the war. Their dominance was reinforced by a second victory at Leghorn in March 1653.

Subject Index: Anglo-Dutch Wars

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 August 2009), Battle of Elba, 28 August 1652 ,

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