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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Having destroyed the entire Tunisian navy


Although

details about the great battles of the First Dutch War are scanty, there is enough recorded to show that both sides used the line ahead as the normal battle line. It is equally clear, however, that they repeatedly broke through each other's lines and aimed at concentration, or destroying in detail. These two related principles, which had to be rediscovered toward the end of the 18th century, were practiced by Tromp, de Ruyter, and Blake. Their work has not the advantage of being as near our day as the easy, one-sided victories over the demoralized French navy in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era, but the day may come when the British will regard the age of Blake as the naval epoch of which they have the most reason to be proud. Then England met the greatest seamen of the day led by one of the greatest admirals of history and won a bitterly fought contest by virtue of better ships and the spirit of Cromwell's "Ironsides."

_Porto Farina and Santa Cruz_

Nor did the age of Blake end with the First Dutch War. As soon as the admiral was able to go aboard ship, Cromwell sent him with a squadron into the Mediterranean to enforce respect for the Commonwealth from the Italian governments and the Barbary states. He conducted his mission with eminent success. Although the Barbary pirates did not course the sea in great fleets as in the palmy days of Barbarossa, they were still a source of peril to Christian traders.

Blake was received civilly by the Dey of Algiers but negotiations did not result satisfactorily. At Tunis he was openly flouted. The Pasha drew up his nine cruisers inside Porto Farina and defied the English admiral to do his worst. Blake left for a few days to gain the effect of surprise and replenish provisions. On April 4, 1655, he suddenly reappeared and stood in to the attack.

The harbor of Porto Farina was regarded as impregnable. The entrance was narrow and the shores lined with castles and batteries. As Blake foresaw, the wind that took him in would roll the battle smoke upon the enemy. In a short time he had silenced the fire of the forts and then sent boarding parties against the Tunisian ships, which were speedily taken and burnt. Then he took his squadron out again, having destroyed the entire Tunisian navy, shattered the forts, and suffered only a trifling loss. This exploit resounded throughout the Mediterranean. Algiers was quick to follow Tunis in yielding to Blake's demands. It is characteristic of this officer that he should have made the attack on Tunis entirely without orders from Cromwell, and it is equally characteristic of the latter that he was heartily pleased with the initiative of his admiral in carrying out the spirit rather than the letter of his instructions.

Meanwhile Cromwell had been wavering between a war against France or Spain. The need of a capture of money perhaps influenced him to turn against Spain, for this country still drew from her western colonies a tribute of gold and silver, which naturally would fall a prey to the power that controlled the sea. One month after Blake's exploit at Tunis, another English naval expedition set out to the West Indies to take Santo Domingo. Although Jamaica was seized and thereafter became an English possession, the expedition as a whole was a disgraceful failure, and the leaders, Penn and Venables, were promptly clapped by Cromwell into the Tower on their return. This stroke against Spain amounted to a declaration of war, and on Blake's return to England he was ordered to blockade Cadiz. One detachment of the plate fleet fell into the hands of his blockading ships and the silver ingots were dispatched to London. Blake continued his blockade in an open roadstead for six months, through autumn and winter, an unheard of thing in those days and exceedingly difficult. Blake was himself ill, his ships were not the copper-bottomed ones of a hundred years later, and there was not, as in later days, an English base at Gibraltar. But he never relaxed his vigilance.


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