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The Pirate Hunters free pdf Chapter OneThe French Fleet"A Squadron of stout Ships...
-- A NEW VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD
William DampierMay 11, 1678
One Hundred Miles North of the Venezuelan CoastThey came from the east, running before the steady trade winds that blew along Venezuela's north coast and the islands of the Netherlands Antilles. Ponderous and beautiful, graceful in their heavy and slow way, the ships drove along under deep topsails and fully bellied courses. The French West Indies fleet -- great engines of war, like Hannibal's elephants, but vastly more powerful.Indeed, those ships, "Le Terrible of seventy guns and five hundred men, "Le Bellseodur of seventy guns and four hundred fifty men, "Le Tormant of sixty-six guns and four hundred men, and the fifteen other battleships of the fleet were among the most deadly fighting machines on earth. On May 11, 1678, they were on their way to Curac ao, the last Dutch outpost in the West Indies, to drive out the Dutch and conquer that island for France and her king, Louis XIV.The events of the night of May 11, 1678, are described in official reports and memoirs, but perhaps the best account comes from William Dampier. Dampier was a sometime Royal Navy officer who circumnavigated the globe three times, sailed with the pirates of the Caribbean and the Pacific, and chronicled his adventures in the best-selling book "A New Voyage Round the World. What Dampier did not witness himself he heard firsthand from men who were there. In Dampier's words, the fleet of French admiral Jean Comte d'Estre es was "a Squadron of stout Ships, very well mann'd...."By the time the fleet sailed for the Netherlands Antilles, the Franco-Dutch War had technically beenongoing for six years. In reality, the previous century of European history had been little more than one long, protracted war between the major powers -- France, Spain, England, the Netherlands -- interrupted now and again by shaky peace.The last of those wars, known as the War of Devolution, had ended in 1668, just four years before the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle concluded the conflict between France and Spain, which had led to the creation of the anti-French Triple Alliance, composed of the United Provinces, now known as the Netherlands, England, and Sweden. Four years of peace, and now they were at it again.The French fleet that descended on Curac ao had been preparing for action in the Caribbean for a month. Their preparations were well known in the region and caused no end of anxiety, since no one knew for certain where they were bound or on what unhappy island they might bring their force to bear.By April 26, Governor William Stapleton on the British island of Nevis could actually watch the fleet gathering in the harbor at Basseterre, the chief town on the neighboring island of St. Kitts. The sight did not please him. He later reported to the Lords of Trade and Plantations that he "was forced by the clamors and cries of the people to secure the helpless sex, old men and children."That Governor Stapleton should have been so uncertain about whom the French intended to attack is hardly surprising. Ten years before, England and France had been enemies. Four years before, they had been allies against the Dutch. Who knew where they stood now?At daybreak on the 27th of April, the French were under way. Their actions indicated that perhapsGovernor Stapleton's fears were well-founded. All day long the fleet tacked, back and forth, trying to make headway against a southerly wind, appearing to close on Nevis.Fortunately for that island, those unweatherly seventeenth-century men-of-war could make no progress. Though they worked to windward for better than twelve hours, the French fleet simply could not sail the few miles between St. Kitts and Nevis.To the great relief of the English colonists, the French fleet finally gave up trying. Governor Stapleton reported that "about sunset they bore away. [I am] Apprehensive they have gone to Martinique to wait for further orders or to take in men to attack some part of this government..." The target of the French fleet was still a mystery.There is only one man who we can say with certainty knew the destination of the fleet, and that was Admiral Jean Comte d'Estre es. Fifty-four years old in 1678, d'Estre es had been in military service since he was twenty.D'Estre es was born in Soleure, in present-day Switzerland. He was of impeccable lineage, like any officer destined for high command. He also had the good fortune to be born during an era of almost constant warfare, when military men could count on regular employment, and the opportunity for distinction and promotion was high.Comte d'Estre es' first interest was not the navy. He entered the French army in 1644 and fought in Flanders for the next three years, being promoted to colonel of the elite Navarre Regiment by the age of twenty-three. By the time he was thirty-one, he had achieved the rank of lieutenant general.For all of his rapid promotion, Comte d'Estre es was not the ideal soldier. His courage wasnever questioned- it was demonstrated amply on many occasions. He was a proud and arrogant man (hardly an anomaly among the aristocracy of France), unpleasant to those who served under him, difficult with his superiors. He was described as "a brave man, but a bad leader, and a worse subordinate."Not until 1668, after quarreling with his senior commander in the army and subsequently quitting the service, did d'Estre es join the French navy. He had never sailed as anything but a passenger before, but thanks to his years of military service, his connections, and his noble birth, he was made vice admiral of the West Indies only three years after entering the navy.D'Estre es...

About Barry Clifford

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Details Book

Author : Barry Clifford
Publisher : HarperCollins (USA)
Data Published : 01 January 1900
ISBN : 0060198184
EAN : 9780060198183
Format Book : PDF, Epub, DOCx, TXT
Number of Pages : 287 pages
Age + : 15 years
Language : English
Rating :

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  • The Pirate Hunters free pdfThe Pirate Hunters

    Book Online Free. Chapter OneThe French Fleet"A Squadron of stout Ships...
    -- A NEW VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD
    William DampierMay 11, 1678
    One Hundred Miles North of the Venezuelan CoastThey came