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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

If Porto Farina had been regarded as safe from naval attack


In

April (1657) he learned that another large plate fleet had arrived at Santa Cruz, Teneriffe. Immediately he sailed thither to take or destroy it. If Porto Farina had been regarded as safe from naval attack, Santa Cruz was far more so. A deep harbor, with a narrow, funnel entrance, and backed by mountains, it is liable to dead calms or squally bursts of wind from the land. In addition to its natural defenses it was heavily fortified. Blake, however, reckoned on coming in with a flowing tide and a sea breeze that, as at Porto Farina, would blow his smoke upon the defenses. He rightly guessed that if he sailed close enough under the castles at the harbor entrance their guns could not be sufficiently depressed to hit his ships, and as he saw the galleons and their escorts lined up along the shore he perceived also that they were masking the fire of their own shore batteries. For the most difficult part of his undertaking, the exit from the harbor, he trusted to the ebbing tide with the chance of a shift in the wind in his favor.

Early on the morning of April 20th (1657) he sailed in. As he had judged, the fire of the forts did little damage. By eight o'clock the English ships were all at their appointed stations and fighting. During the entire day Blake continued his work of destruction till it was complete, and at dusk drifted out on the ebb. Some writers mention a favoring land breeze that helped to extricate the English, but according to Blake's

own words, "the wind blew right into the bay." In spite of this head wind the ships that were crippled were warped or towed out and not one was lost. The English suffered in the entire action only 50 killed and 120 wounded, and repairs were so easily made that Blake returned to his blockading station at once.

This was the greatest of Blake's feats as it also was his last. All who heard of it--friend or enemy--pronounced it as without parallel in the history of ships. A few months later Blake was given leave to return home. He had long been a sick man, but his name alone was worth a fleet and Cromwell had not been able to spare him. As it happened, he did not live long enough to see England again. Cromwell, who knew the worth of his faithful admiral, gave him a funeral of royal dignity and interment in Westminster Abbey.

Blake never showed, perhaps, great strategic insight--Tromp and de Ruyter were his superiors there, as was also Nelson--but he, more than any other, won for England her mastery of the sea, and no other can boast his record of great victories. These he won partly by skill and forethought but chiefly by intrepidity. We can do no better than leave his fame in the words of the Royalist historian, Clarendon--a political enemy--who says: "He quickly made himself signal there (on the sea) and was the first man who declined the old track ... and disproved those rules that had long been in practice, to keep his ships and men out of danger, which had been held in former times a point of great ability and circumspection, as if the principal requisite in the captain of a ship had been to come home safe again. He was the first man who brought ships to contemn castles on shore, which had been thought ever very formidable.... He was the first that infused that proportion of courage into the seamen by making them see what mighty things they could do if they were resolved, and taught them to fight in fire as well as on water. And though he hath been very well imitated and followed, he was the first that drew the copy of naval courage and bold resolute achievement."


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