Monday 4 June 1666

Up, and with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Pen to White Hall in the latter’s coach, where, when we come, we find the Duke at St. James’s, whither he is lately gone to lodge. So walking through the Parke we saw hundreds of people listening at the Gravel-pits, —[Kensington]— and to and again in the Parke to hear the guns, and I saw a letter, dated last night, from Strowd, Governor of Dover Castle, which says that the Prince come thither the night before with his fleete, but that for the guns which we writ that we heard, it is only a mistake for thunder;1 and so far as to yesterday it is a miraculous thing that we all Friday, and Saturday and yesterday, did hear every where most plainly the guns go off, and yet at Deale and Dover to last night they did not hear one word of a fight, nor think they heard one gun. This, added to what I have set down before the other day about the Katharine, makes room for a great dispute in philosophy, how we should hear it and they not, the same wind that brought it to us being the same that should bring it to them: but so it is. Major Halsey, however (he was sent down on purpose to hear newes), did bring newes this morning that he did see the Prince and his fleete at nine of the clock yesterday morning, four or five leagues to sea behind the Goodwin, so that by the hearing of the guns this morning we conclude he is come to the fleete. After wayting upon the Duke, Sir W. Pen (who was commanded to go to-night by water down to Harwich, to dispatch away all the ships he can) and I home, drinking two bottles of Cocke ale in the streete in his new fine coach, where no sooner come, but newes is brought me of a couple of men come to speak with me from the fleete; so I down, and who should it be but Mr. Daniel, all muffled up, and his face as black as the chimney, and covered with dirt, pitch, and tarr, and powder, and muffled with dirty clouts, and his right eye stopped with okum. He is come last night at five o’clock from the fleete, with a comrade of his that hath endangered another eye. They were set on shore at Harwich this morning, and at two o’clock, in a catch with about twenty more wounded men from the Royall Charles. They being able to ride, took post about three this morning, and were here between eleven and twelve. I went presently into the coach with them, and carried them to Somerset-House-stairs, and there took water (all the world gazing upon us, and concluding it to be newes from the fleete, and every body’s face appeared expecting of newes) to the Privy-stairs, and left them at Mr. Coventry’s lodging (he, though, not being there); and so I into the Parke to the King, and told him my Lord Generall was well the last night at five o’clock, and the Prince come with his fleete and joyned with his about seven. The King was mightily pleased with this newes, and so took me by the hand and talked a little of it. Giving him the best account I could; and then he bid me to fetch the two seamen to him, he walking into the house. So I went and fetched the seamen into the Vane room to him, and there he heard the whole account.

THE FIGHT.

How we found the Dutch fleete at anchor on Friday half seas over, between Dunkirke and Ostend, and made them let slip their anchors. They about ninety, and we less than sixty. We fought them, and put them to the run, till they met with about sixteen sail of fresh ships, and so bore up again. The fight continued till night, and then again the next morning from five till seven at night. And so, too, yesterday morning they begun again, and continued till about four o’clock, they chasing us for the most part of Saturday and yesterday, we flying from them. The Duke himself, then those people were put into the catch, and by and by spied the Prince’s fleete coming, upon which De Ruyter called a little council (being in chase at this time of us), and thereupon their fleete divided into two squadrons; forty in one, and about thirty in the other (the fleete being at first about ninety, but by one accident or other, supposed to be lessened to about seventy); the bigger to follow the Duke, the less to meet the Prince. But the Prince come up with the Generall’s fleete, and the Dutch come together again and bore towards their own coast, and we with them; and now what the consequence of this day will be, at that time fighting, we know not. The Duke was forced to come to anchor on Friday, having lost his sails and rigging. No particular person spoken of to be hurt but Sir W. Clerke, who hath lost his leg, and bore it bravely. The Duke himself had a little hurt in his thigh, but signified little. The King did pull out of his pocket about twenty pieces in gold, and did give it Daniel for himself and his companion; and so parted, mightily pleased with the account he did give him of the fight, and the successe it ended with, of the Prince’s coming, though it seems the Duke did give way again and again. The King did give order for care to be had of Mr. Daniel and his companion; and so we parted from him, and then met the Duke [of York], and gave him the same account: and so broke up, and I left them going to the surgeon’s and I myself by water to the ‘Change, and to several people did give account of the business. So home about four o’clock to dinner, and was followed by several people to be told the newes, and good newes it is. God send we may hear a good issue of this day’s business! After I had eat something I walked to Gresham College, where I heard my Lord Bruncker was, and there got a promise of the receipt of the fine varnish, which I shall be glad to have. Thence back with Mr. Hooke to my house and there lent some of my tables of naval matters, the names of rigging and the timbers about a ship, in order to Dr. Wilkins’ book coming out about the Universal Language. Thence, he being gone, to the Crown, behind the ‘Change, and there supped at the club with my Lord Bruncker, Sir G. Ent, and others of Gresham College; and all our discourse is of this fight at sea, and all are doubtful of the successe, and conclude all had been lost if the Prince had not come in, they having chased us the greatest part of Saturday and Sunday. Thence with my Lord Bruncker and Creed by coach to White Hall, where fresh letters are come from Harwich, where the Gloucester, Captain Clerke, is come in, and says that on Sunday night upon coming in of the Prince, the Duke did fly; but all this day they have been fighting; therefore they did face again, to be sure. Captain Bacon of The Bristoll is killed. They cry up Jenings of The Ruby, and Saunders of The Sweepstakes. They condemn mightily Sir Thomas Teddiman for a coward, but with what reason time must shew. Having heard all this Creed and I walked into the Parke till 9 or 10 at night, it being fine moonshine, discoursing of the unhappinesse of our fleete, what it would have been if the Prince had not come in, how much the Duke hath failed of what he was so presumptuous of, how little we deserve of God Almighty to give us better fortune, how much this excuses all that was imputed to my Lord Sandwich, and how much more he is a man fit to be trusted with all those matters than those that now command, who act by nor with any advice, but rashly and without any order. How bad we are at intelligence that should give the Prince no sooner notice of any thing but let him come to Dover without notice of any fight, or where the fleete were, or any thing else, nor give the Duke any notice that he might depend upon the Prince’s reserve; and lastly, of how good use all may be to checke our pride and presumption in adventuring upon hazards upon unequal force against a people that can fight, it seems now, as well as we, and that will not be discouraged by any losses, but that they will rise again. Thence by water home, and to supper (my father, wife, and sister having been at Islington today at Pitt’s) and to bed.

  1. Evelyn was in his garden when he heard the guns, and be at once set off to Rochester and the coast, but he found that nothing had been heard at Deal (see his “Diary,” June 1st, 1666).

22 Annotations

Michael L   Link to this

Wow! What a long, detailed and interesting account, sounding rather breathless and excited at times. I wonder if Sam wrote this the same day, or delayed.

Michael L   Link to this

"The King did pull out of his pocket about twenty pieces in gold, and did give it Daniel for himself and his companion; and so parted, mightily pleased with the account he did give him of the fight."

It pays to be the bearer of good news! I can only wonder what the King might have done if Daniel had given a grimmer account?

Michael Robinson   Link to this

The Four Day’s Battle, Willem van de Velde Sr. & Jr., Day 4

The Four Days' Battle; the Dutch fleet lying-by, probably on the fourth day,
the Dutch fleet lying-by probably on the fourth day, 4 [OS]/14 June 1666 when De Ruyter called a council-of-war. On the right is a starboard bow view of a ship with flag at the main and flag and pendant at the mizzen; this is Cornelis Tromp who transferred his flag into Rear-Admiral Sweers’s ship the ‘Gouda’, when his own ship was damaged. In the foreground is a starboard broadside view of a galjoot with her mainsail brailed. In the centre is a bow view of a ship in the wind, and in the background to the left is the commander-in-chief, De Ruyter in the ‘Zeven Provincien’, surrounded by boats, galjoots and ships.
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/explore/object...

The Four Days' Battle: the fleets engaged on the fourth day
This rapidly drawn distant view of the fleets engaged is annotated with names of some of the ships and their commanders
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/explore/object...

‘Monday afternoon at five or six o’clock’
The drawing depicts the battle on the fourth day showing the ‘Royal Prince’ still burning, the smoke from which is seen in the distance (‘de brant’ and ‘ver de brant’ with notes as to the colour of the smoke: ‘rout’, and sky: ‘blau’). To windward of her can be distinguished Tromp’s flag flying in Sweer’s ship (‘tromp’). In the centre middle distance is a stern view of Meppel’s ship, the ‘Westfriesland’ (‘meppelen’). In the right middle-distance, an English ship cut off by the Dutch (‘engels’). Further to the right is Lieutenant-Admiral Cornelis Evertsen (‘c evers’). On the horizon to the left and right are the retreating English (‘… dere/ [?] engelse wijke’ and ‘het weijckende en …’).
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/explore/object...

Terry Foreman   Link to this

"Cocke ale"

Ale mixed with minced chicken (L&M Select Glossary).

Terry Foreman   Link to this

"dirty clouts"

clout

dialect chiefly British : a piece of cloth or leather : rag http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clout

Daniel E   Link to this

I wonder if this is the first description of 'acoustic shadows', something that was reported in greater detail in American Civil War battles. I think the effect is produced by the refraction of sound waves on the water, creating large shadows on parts of the coastline where nothing can be heard.

Glyn   Link to this

The Four Days’ Battle / Vierdaagse - Day Four (June 4th)

See previous accounts for Days One to Three.

Fighting is heavy, and squadrons on each side break through their enemy’s line. Prince Rupert and Albemarle succeed in doing this independently and appear close to victory but de Ruyter makes a desperate yet successful counter-attack in the afternoon.

By now English ammunition is running out even thought each ship had been issued with an extra 25% before putting to sea (thanks again, Sam). The ships probably couldn’t have physically carried any more gunpowder and cannon balls. The nerves of exhausted captains were failing and then Prince Rupert’s own flagship was dismasted. By evening the English were in full flight and the Dutch had won a great victory.

Durring the battle, 10 English ships were sunk or captured with many more badly damaged, and approximately 4,250 men were killed, wounded or captured (over 20% of total manpower). Ayscue was, and still is, the most senior English sea officer ever to have beeen taken prisoner in action. Two admirals were killed (Sir William Berkeley and Sir Christopher Myngs - both mentioned in the Diary on 18 April 1666) and 10 captains were killed.

(Based on the account in “The Command of the Ocean” by N.A.M. Rodger.)

Usually I find John Evelyn’s diary a little boring compared to Pepys, but I imagine he must have some interesting observations to make this week.

cape henry   Link to this

Such a vivid account I think - to respond to ML - must have been fairly contemporaneous. And if you can put yourself on one of those ships, high tech for the times but very crude by our standards, the effort and endurance required to sail and maneuver while fighting would have been herculean. Most sea battles were more or less set pieces, so to remain locked in combat for four days is incredible to contemplate, much less survive. Astonishing stuff.

cape henry   Link to this

On the other hand, how many of us would even survive "Cocke ale?" Yow.

Michael Robinson   Link to this

" ... English ammunition is running out even thought each ship had been issued with an extra 25% before putting to sea (thanks again, Sam) "

Surprising as it may seem today, the Navy Board and SP had jurisdiction over only the mobile firing platforms; administration, design, manufacturing and supply of canon, powder and shot for Navy, artillery and forts were the independent province of the Board of Ordinance based in the Tower. http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/5016/

Paul Chapin   Link to this

"his right eye stopped with okum"

Oakum: loosely twisted hemp or jute fiber impregnated with tar or a tar derivative and used in caulking seams and packing joints (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

I looked for a while for mentions of its use in eye-patches, but the only one I found linked right back to today's entry. Sounds like an improvisation caused by desperation.

cgs   Link to this

"don't cast a clout 'til May be out"

Jesse   Link to this

"how good use all may be"

Alas, [1672] http://www.tosd.demon.co.uk/battle.htm

Mary   Link to this

cocke ale

If you go to http://www.godecookery.com and enter 'cocke ale' in the Search box, you will find that this 17th century brew was not quite as grim as the short definition of the Glossary suggests.

Dried fruit, spices and sack were included in the recipe, which called for lengthy fermentation before the ale itself was drawn off.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

"The King did give order for care to be had of Mr. Daniel and his companion;"

About time, the poor men having been trotted about since 3am and then kept waiting for Sam to bring them to Charles and finally York. Though it was good of him to get them some water first.

***
"...and lastly, of how good use all may be to checke our pride and presumption in adventuring upon hazards upon unequal force against a people that can fight, it seems now, as well as we, and that will not be discouraged by any losses, but that they will rise again."

Nice nod of the hat to a worthy opponent, Sam... That improvement in intelligence might well start by learning who the Dutch "Sam Pepys" responsible for rebuilding and expanding the fleet is(are). It has been interesting to note Sam's and presumably the Naval Office's apparent lack of interest in Dutch naval administration, at least as recorded in the Diary. He's shown some respect for Dutch commanders and shipbuilding but I would have expected Sam to have a book of top Dutch (and French and Spanish)naval officials and to be actively seeking info on them and their naval administration(s). But perhaps he's simply never mentioned it in the Diary.

***

Phoenix   Link to this

"How bad we are at intelligence that should give the Prince no sooner notice of any thing ... of how good use all may be to checke our pride and presumption in adventuring upon hazards upon unequal force against a people that can fight, it seems now, as well as we, and that will not be discouraged by any losses, but that they will rise again."

How current - seems like this might be the hardest lesson of all to learn.

JWB   Link to this

THE FIGHT

"There is no doubt that the English had much the worst of it..." but, read Mahan p 126 for lessons learned; and, you should note in doing so, that this is the text for US midshipmen. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13529/13529-h/13...

language hat   Link to this

"in order to Dr. Wilkins’ book coming out about the Universal Language":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Essay_towards_a...

Anyone interested in the subject should read In the Land of Invented Languages, by Arika Okrent; I reviewed it here:
http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003501.php

She not only studied Wilkins's Philosophical Language, she translated a Borges passage into it, and she writes about it in a very lively fashion.

Ant   Link to this

Listening at the Gravel Pits

I recall seeing an episode of Coast on BBC, looking at the pre-radar era giant curved concrete structures on the south coast designed to give early warning of approaching enemy aircraft.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

"So you still don't know?"

"No one knows yet, Bess. Though it looks bad...We'd best prepare for trouble. The Office will fall under criticism. What...?"

"You sent him to sea." coldly.

"What? Oh, Balty? Well, those are the risks, me dear."

"He went because of you..."

"Hey? It might well have been me, Bess, think on that. Uh, Bess? Bess, would you mind not waving that cleaver about. Dear, I really could begin to think I might not be loved for myself."

Whack, whack...

cgs   Link to this

Gravel pits be a great place to receive sound and it be amplified , not unlike effect of to-days space antennas for gathering signals from satellites and distant orbs.

Paul Chapin   Link to this

Good point, cgs. A gravel pit would have roughly the shape of a parabolic reflector.

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