Wednesday, 14 July 2021

All at Sea - Revolutionary War Batavian Dutch Frigates & Brig

A stern and side view of a Batavian Dutch frigate, inspiration for my new Batavian Light Squadron

The Batavian Republic was declared on the 19th January 1795,  the successor state to the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands that followed the collapse of the Dutch stadtholder, William V of Orange Nassau's forces together with his allies from Britain and Prussia; following a popular and successful invasion by French Republican forces that included a Dutch contingent, that forced the allies and William to evacuate the country and led to a popular uprising and the creation of the new republic, taking its name from the local ancient Germanic tribe, the Batavi.   

Capture of the Dutch Fleet lying at anchor by French cavalry, 23rd January 1795 - Charles Louis Mozin

The new arrangement effectively changed the Netherlands from a client state of Britain and Prussia to one of the French Republic, conducting its foreign and military policy at the behest of the latter leading in later years to the end of the republic and the creation of the new Kingdom of Holland on the 5th June 1806, and a new King Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, who like the former republican authority strove to maintain a certain level of independence from France that eventually led to his downfall, the kingdom ceasing as a political entity four years later. 

Interestingly the exceptionally cold winter of 1794-95 that accompanied the French invasion would also lead to the capture of the Dutch fleet frozen in in the shallow waters of the Zuiderzee between Den Helder and Texel and the rather unique action between French cavalry charging across the ice to confront and capture the fourteen Dutch warships lying there at anchor.

The first units created for my Batavian Dutch fleet include these two frigates

Thus from 1795 Britain had another enemy at sea to confront in the form of the Batavian Dutch who with ports only a few miles from the southern English coast posed an ongoing invasion threat, allowing as they did the French to amass landing boats which could be combined with a Dutch fleet in the Channel to support any such attempt from East Anglia to Ireland, as well as a threat to British merchants navigating to the port of London.

As well as in home waters the Dutch also had interests around the globe established in support of their own overseas trading network, from islands in the Caribbean, to their Cape Colony and Cape Town and the East Indies and able to provide victualing bases for enemy cruizers operating on British trade routes.

The Battle of Camperdown - Thomas Whitcombe

The threat from the Dutch battle fleet would be comprehensively neutralised on the 11th October 1797 at the Battle of Camperdown or Kamperduin where Admiral Duncan defeated the Dutch fleet under Vice-Admiral Jan de Winter, using tactics that would produce similar results at another naval battle of consequence in 1805.

Warlord Games have announced their intention to add several more models to their age of sail range to include a small third rate 60-64 gunner, and a 4th rate 50-gunner, both of which would be very useful for building a Dutch fleet for a Camperdown refight, but before then I thought I would start things off by putting together a Batavian Dutch light squadron.

The planned Warlord 64-gun model seen here alongside the current 74-gun plastic model makes building a Dutch fleet much easier when it becomes available alongside their planned fourth-rate.

Even after Camperdown the threat from Dutch light forces would persist and for the naval wargamer the period offers some interesting scenarios with forces other than the French and Spanish and I have a plan to build a sufficient number of frigates, brigs and sloops to enable them to be brought to the table.

As with the larger fleet units I like to build my collection around historical encounters and so my first force composes two frigates and a brig, soon to be joined by a ship-rigged sloop and cutter, with three specific actions in mind that these models will facilitate.

Scenario 1. - 22nd August 1795, 1615, near Eigerøya, off the Norwegian Coast 

British Frigate Stag 32-guns versus Dutch Frigate Alliante (Alliance) 36-guns
William James in 'The Naval History of Great Britain - Volume One described the action;

'On the 22nd of August, at 1 p.m., as a British squadron under the orders of Captain James Alms of the 36-gun frigate Reunion, composed of, besides that frigate, the 50-gun ship Isis, Captain Robert Watson, 18-pounder 32-gun frigate Stag, Captain Joseph Sydney York, and 28-gun frigate Vestal, Captain Charles White, was cruising in the North Sea, off the coast of Norway, the two Dutch 36-gun frigates Alliance and Argo, and the 16-gun cutter Vlugheld (Nelly, in the Gazette account), were discovered to windward, standing towards the shore on the larboard tack.

Chase was given, and a change of wind enabled the Stag, at about 4 h. 15 m. p.m., to close with the Alliance, the stern most vessel. The remaining British ships, meanwhile, devoted their attention to the Argo and Vlugheld, in the hope to cut them off from the harbour of Egeroe (Eigerøya), towards which they were directing their course. 

Defeat of the Dutch Fleet off Egero, 22nd August 1795 - Nicholas Pocock

After about an hour's action with the Stag, the Alliance hauled down her colours; but under what circumstances, as to damage or loss, the official account does not inform us, and, at this late day, we have no means of ascertaining.

The Stag, armed and manned like her sister frigate, the Lively, (26 x 18-pounder, 6 x 6-pounder and 6 x 24-pounder carronades) had four men killed and 13 wounded. The Alliance, whose 36 guns consisted of 26 long 12-pounders, six long 6s, and four brass 24-pounder carronades, with a crew of 240 men and boys, undoubtedly sustained a loss, and, in all probability, to a much greater amount than that of her superior opponent, the Stag; …'

The naval ensigns and pennants of the Batavian Republic. If you are interested in building similar kits then there are Batavian ensigns available on the Warlord Facebook page together with lots of ideas about building these models.

Scenario 2. - 12th May 1796, 0500 near Texel.

British Frigate Phoenix 36-guns versus Dutch Frigate Argo 36-guns
William James in 'The Naval History of Great Britain - Volume One described the action;

'Intelligence having reached Admiral Duncan, the British commander-in-chief in the North Sea, and then cruising off the Texel with a squadron of nine sail of the line, besides 50-gun ships, frigates, and sloops, that the Dutch 36-gun frigate Argo and three national brigs were on their way from Flickerve, in Norway to the first-named port. Captain Lawrence, William Halsted, in the 36-gun frigate Phoenix, accompanied by the 50 gun ship Leopard, 28-gun frigate Pegasus and brig-sloop Sylph, was despatched to intercept them.

The cutter Mary Anne and HMS Sylph c 1795 - Thomas Whitcombe

On the 12th of May, at 5 a.m., just as these ships, in pursuance of their orders, had made sail from the squadron, with the wind at west-north-west, the Argo, the three brigs, and a cutter, all standing upon a wind on the starboard tack, hove in sight in the south-east. Chase was immediately given, both by the detached ships, and by the squadron in the rear. At the approach of the former, the three brigs bore up, and were pursued by the Pegasus and Sylph; while the Phoenix and Leopard, the latter far astern, directed their attention to the Argo.

At 8 a.m., the Phoenix having got close to her weather quarter, the Argo hoisted Dutch colours; whereupon the former fired a shot across her. A few minutes placed the Phoenix alongside of her opponent to windward, and a smart action commenced on both sides, which continued for about 20 minutes; when, having sustained some damage in her masts, rigging, and sails, and seeing no prospect of escaping from the numerous foes surrounding her, the Argo struck her flag.

The Phoenix appears to have mounted eight 32-pounder carronades beyond her establishment as an 18-pounder 36, or 44 guns in all, with a net complement of 271 men and boys. The only damage she sustained was in her rigging and sails, and her only loss was one man killed and three wounded; while the Argo, whose armament was precisely the same as that of the Alliance, with a crew of 237 men and boys, lost six men killed and 28 wounded—a proof that her officers and crew were not deterred from doing their duty by the superiority of the force opposed to them.

Scenario 3. - 24th October 1798, 0800 30 miles north-west of Texel.

British Frigate Sirius 36-guns versus Dutch Frigate Furie 36-guns 
and Dutch Sloop Waakzaamheid 26-guns.
William James in 'The Naval History of Great Britain - Volume Two described the action;

'On the 24th of October, at 8 a.m., the Texel bearing south by east, distant 10 leagues, the British 18-poundcr, 36-gun frigate, Sirius, Captain Richard King, while reconnoitring that port, fell in with two Dutch ships of war, one the 36-gun frigate, Furie, Captain Pletz, the other, the 24-gun corvette, Waakzaamheid, Captain Neirop ; but the ships were not in a situation for mutual support, being about two miles apart. 

HMS Sirius captures the Waakzaamheid and Furie 24th October 1798 - Thomas Whitcombe

Passing within gun-shot of the former, which was the leeward most, the Sirius stood on until she could nearly fetch the Waakzaamheid. At about 9 a.m.. Captain King, having thus, as was his object, prevented the junction of the two ships, fired at and brought to the Waakzaamheid, who immediately discharged a lee gun, and hauled down her colours.

As soon as possession was taken of the Waakzaamheid, the prisoners removed, and a prize-crew put on board, the Sirius made sail alter the Furie: who, the instant she had witnessed the bloodless surrender of her commodore (for Captain Neirop was the senior officer), bore up, and, by the time the Sirius was ready for pursuit, had nearly escaped out of sight. 

By 5 p.m., however, the Sirius had the good fortune to overtake the escaping ship a running action now ensued, at times within musket-shot distance, the Furie returning the heavy fire of the Sirius, with a smart but ill-directed discharge of cannon and musketry. This continued for about half an hour; when the Furie, having her hull, masts, rigging, and sails much cut up, surrendered.

The damage done to the Sirius was but trifling, she having only received a shot through her bowsprit, had her rigging and sails a little injured, and one man wounded by a musket-ball.

The guns of the Sirius. a frigate of 1049 tons, were 44 in number, similar to those of the Phoebe at a preceding page. (26 x 18-pounder, 10 x 9-pounder and 8 x 32-pounder carronades)

The 36 guns of the Furie, a frigate of 827 tons, were long Dutch twelves and sixes; and the 26 guns of the Waakzaamheid, a ship of 504 tons, were all, except two brass sixes, long Dutch eights: two of these also brass, and, we believe, mounted in the bridle ports. Even then, 24 ports, calculated for 8 or 9 pounder guns, appear to be a great many for a ship of 504 tons. It is true, that the Waakzaamheid had two ports of a side on a lower or birth-deck; but the official letter expressly states, that she mounted 24 guns on her main deck.

The Furie, out of a complement, including 165 soldiers, of 28 men and boys, suffered a loss of eight men killed and 14 wounded. The "Waakzaamheid, as we have seen, made no defence; therefore her crew, including 122 French soldiers, of 222 men and boys, escaped unhurt. This renders it unnecessary to exhibit any formal statement of the comparative force of the combatants: suffice it that, could the two Dutch ships have united their strength in defence of their flag, they would still have been hardly a match for the Sirius.

The start of my Batavian Dutch fleet, 'from little acorns mighty oaks do grow'

The two prizes contained on board, between them, 6000 stands of arms, besides other ordnance stores; which, along with the troops, they were carrying to Ireland. Both ships were purchased for the use of the British navy. One, under the name of Wilhelmina (a Fury being already in the service), became a 12-pounder 32-gun frigate: the other, under her own hard name, was, for the short time she reigned as a cruiser, attached to the 20-gun class. As a proof, too, that we had reason to doubt her having mounted, when captured, 24 guns on the main deck, 20 only were established there when the Waakzaamheid was fitted out in the British service.

(Needless to say my next Dutch builds will include a ship rigged sloop or corvette to model the Waakzaamheid).

However the next All at Sea post will be taking a look at my Early French Revolutionary War frigate and brig designed to facilitate small ship French actions prior to 1794.

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