Battle in Celtic Sea 1692

Battle in the Celtic Sea
Map of the Battle of Mount's Bay 1692
Date: 15 December 1692
Location:Celtic Sea
Outcome:French Victory
FranceUnited Provinces
ForbinVan der Colck
Chev. d'Amfreville

1 A small convoy battle

1.1 A rather insignificant battle

The battle Celtic Sea was fought between two French warships and the escort of a Dutch outward Lisbon and Setúbal convoy from the Meuse. By itself the fight was rather insignificant, but on a higher level it once again confirmed that Dutch escorts were willing to fight so the merchants could get away safely.

1.2 Interest

There are two aspects that make a description worthwhile. We complete one more of the stories described by Forbin, completing in the sense that it gets confirmed by Dutch sources and the names of the ships involved.

The other point of interest is to investigate what generally happened after a successful attack on the escorts of a merchant fleet. This will be one more story to add.

2 The Setúbal Convoy

Dutch Convoy to Setúbal December 1692
Ship Captain Notes:Source
Warship Orange(56) Arent van der Colck Sunk250 men OHC 30/12/92
Marcus* 250t to Lisbon taken by the Mary of PontchartrainOHC 06/01/93
Paradijs* 400t to Port. in ballast taken by the PontalOHC 06/01/93
A Fluyt Brought to Barfleur by a St. Malo privateerOHC 13/01/93
Vliegende Arent(12)Hein Boon From Dordrecht 16 m. arrived alone in SetúbalOHC 29/01/93
Unknown ship Pieter J. Pruyck From Dordrecht captured Port. coastOHC 29/01/93
Unknown ship captured Port. coastOHC 27/01/93
Vrede Jacob Adriaensz 300t in Plymouth to SetúbalLG 08 Dec 1692
Peter Willem Knop in Plymouth to SetúbalLG 08 Dec 1692
Nieuwe Eendracht(34)Anthony Adriaensz. To Spain left 11 Dec.OHC 09/12/92, 30/12
Stad Porto(24) To Spain left 11 Dec.OHC 30/12/92
Franciscus* 80t to Cadiz taken by the Revel of St. MaloOHC 06/01/93
Jacob Jacob Knop in Plymouth to LisbonLG 08 Dec 1692
Jacob In Falmouth in ballast to SanlucarLG 12 Dec 1692
Hope Johan Symonsz Driven ashore in Falmouth 17 DecemberLG 12-15 Dec 1692
*From Rotterdam and supposed to have been part of the convoy.
Note that in total there were about 50 ships in the convoy.

2.1 Setúbal Convoys

Each year the Admiralty of Rotterdam organized multiple convoys to Setúbal. This would be the last for 1692, and was planned to sail before ice would make it impossible or to dangerous to sail the Meuse. The convoys from the Meuse to Setubal typically consisted of a few dozen merchant ships and 1 escort.

2.2 Warship Orange

The ships that the Meuse Admiralty used to escort the ships to Setúbal were comparable to 4th rate ships of the line. In this convoy the well known 'Orange' was used. From 1687-1689 it had been in the Mediterranean under Pieterson. In March 1691 the Orange had sailed to the Mediterranean under Cornelis Verhoeven in order to pick up the Smyrna fleet1. From November 1691 - 17 March 1692 the Orange went to the Channel under J. Zas van den Bossche Meuse Admiralty ship journals.

So how do we know the Orange was the escort ship for this fleet? We have a mention that (Arend) van der Kolck was captain of the escort ship when it was sunk AC 8 January 1693. Next we have a mention that Jan Reincking died as scribe of Captain van der Colck on the ship Oranje. ORA Borculo 92 Stadsgerichtsignaat 1692-1697 This Jan Rinckinck earlier was the scribe of Arend van der Colck on the Briel from 1 March to 28 July 1690 Het oorlogsschip als varend bedrijf.

2.3 The Merchant ships

The merchant ships in the convoy were dozens. Those we find we'll list here.

3 Trip to Setúbal

3.1 Departure from Rotterdam

The Convoy of ships to Setúbal, Lisbon and Porto with some ships to Cadiz had been ready on the Meuse for some time OHC 6 December 1692 when it finally sailed out of the Meuse on 5 December 1692 OHC 9 December 1692. The convoy had a very favorable wind.

3.2 Swift passage through the Channel

The convoy indeed had a fast voyage to the west. By 16 December news reached Holland that the convoy that 'recently came from the Meuse' had passed Plymouth OHC 18 December 1692. On 8 December the convoy passed Falmouth with strong winds OHC 20 December 1692

4 The French

4.1 Nesmond's squadron

French Warships December 1692
Ship Guns Men Captain Notes:
Marquise 58 Forbin
Trident 54 330 Chévalier d'Amfreville

While there were a lot of privateers at sea, the French also tried to use their regular warships to attack alliance commerce. While Jean Bart used ships of the line to attack the Dutch in the North Sea, Nesmond was to do the same in the approaches of The Channel. On 8 November Nesmond was reported as having arrived in Brest and making ready to sail out again with 4 ships of the line and 2 frigates AC 20 November 1692 On 21 November Nesmond was reported as having returned to sea AC 27 November 1692. In England one believed he was cruising with 6 big ships of the line, and feared for the safety of 5-6 ships that had sailed for Cadiz on 9 November, among them the Berckley Castle OHC 4 December 1692. Dealaval was said to go and look for him with 20 ships AC 4 December 1692. On 30 November Nesmond was said to be hunting a convoy of about 40 ships, probably the Hamburg convoy to Cadiz AC 11 December 1692. On 6 December a squadron of 6 ships reached Berthaume, possibly that of Nesmond AC 18 December 1692.

4.2 Forbin leaves Nesmond

As Forbin would later write (Mercure Galant for December 1692) he left Nesmond on 14 December because his ship held too much water. Forbin commanded the Marquis, and was accompanied by the Trident under Chévalier d'Amfreville (brother of). On 14 December a Danzig ship came into Plymouth and reported to have been searched by 3 French navy ships of 60 and 70 guns while 20 miles from Ouessant OHC 30 December 1692.

5 The Fight

5.1 Encounter

The convoy met the two French ships arriving from the west on 15 December. According to the merchants this was 16-18 Dutch miles outside of the Channel. They were only together for a short time before a fog came up, and all merchants made their escape, hearing gunfire for some hours afterwards OHC 30 December 1692 page 4!. Forbin noted the encounter 25 leagues west of Scilly, and saw 34 merchant ships (Mercure Galant).

5.2 Fighting

Because the source for the fight is only from one side, it might be best to simply cite what Forbin worte about it in the Mercure Galant.

I've told you that the Marquis de Nesmond had ordered me to go to Brest. I was ordered to repair the king's ship the Marquis which had 5 leaks, and that I commanded. I was accompanied by the Trident commanded by the Chévalier d'Amfreville, brother of the recently deceased lieutenant-general. The day after we separated from Nesmond, on 15 December, we saw a Dutch fleet of 34 merchants escorted by a ship of 60 guns, 25 leagues west of Scilly. Even though the weather was terrible, and I had two pumps manned the whole time, I could not bring myself to let that vessel go without attacking it.

I sailed to the warship in order to enter it, not firing and only throwing grenades. I was lucky not to succeed in entering, but keeping some distance, because otherwise we would both have sunk, me sooner than him, because of the problems of my ship. We exchanged several broadsides and musket fire. The Trident then came in musket range. After recovering from some dangerous shots I rejoined the fight.

After a while the enemy only had his mizzen mast standing, but that had no sail left. In that circumstance the determined Dutchman called for quarter. The night and the bad weather prevented me from coming aboard and saving the crew. I kept up wind of him almost the whole night, and as close as I dared. He kept many fires, so he could be seen, and fired a gun now and then. However, at four in the morning the ship sunk with all hands.

In this fight I lost 12 dead and 18-20 wounded. My second Mr de Flamicourt was killed by a cannon ball.

That the Orange sunk with all hands because the French were not able to help due to the bad weather was also in the OHC 6 January 1693

5.3 Most merchants reach safe harbour

Forbin certainly did not take any of the merchant ships. If he did, he would have certainly mentioned it in his letter.

After the fight 5 ships were reported in Plymouth and about 50 Fluyts were reported in Falmouth OHC 30 December 1692, so most ships came to safety.

After the fight some scattered ships were taken. These were about a handful, some were taken directly after the fight, and two on the Portuguese coast.

6 Results and Analysis

6.1 Results

The result for the French navy was that it had again sunk a nice small ship of the line.

A Dutch captain had again saved most of the merchant ships under his care. Though not a well known captain, the death of a captain Arent van der Colck and a crew willing to fight in these circumstances was more serious than that of the ship itself.

6.2 Analysis

High over this fight again showed that a small escorting warship that put up a prolonged resistance to a superior force could most of the time ensure that most of the ships under its care would get to safety.

7 Sources

Quincy volume II page 595 has the story. The story is also in the Mercure Galant for December 1692.

8 Notes

1) In May 1692 Verhoeven commanded the warship Rotterdam, sailing from London to the Meuse OHC 22 May 1692