By Pike and Dyke: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic
Part 7 out of 7
"You have well earned your rank," the prince said. "I take some pride
to myself in having so soon discovered that you had good stuff in
you. There are some friends of yours here who will be glad to hear
of the honour that has befallen you. The Countess Von Harp and her
daughter have been here for the last six weeks. I have seen them
several times, and upon each occasion they spoke to me of their
gratitude for the services you have rendered them. One of my pages
will show you where they are lodging. They are about to proceed to
England, and I think their decision is a wise one, for this country
is at present no place for unprotected women."
The countess and her daughter were alike surprised and pleased
when Ned was announced as Sir Edward Martin. And when a fortnight
later Ned sailed for England, they took passage in the same ship.
Ned had sent word to his mother by a vessel that sailed a week
previously that they would arrive with him, and the best room in
the house had been got in readiness for them, and they received
a hearty welcome from Ned's parents and sisters. They stayed a
fortnight there and then established themselves in a pretty little
house in the village of Dulwich. One of Ned's sisters accompanied
them to stay for a time as Gertrude's friend and companion.
Whenever Ned returned home he was a frequent visitor at Dulwich,
and at the end of two years his sisters were delighted but not
surprised when he returned one day and told them that Gertrude
Von Harp had accepted him. The marriage was not to take place for
a time; for Ned was still young, and the countess thought it had
best be delayed. She was now receiving a regular income from her
estates; for it had been a time of comparative peace in Holland,
and that country was increasing fast in wealth and prosperity.
Alexander of Parma had by means of his agents corrupted the greater
part of the nobility of Flanders and Brabant, had laid siege to
Maastricht, and, after a defence even more gallant and desperate
than that of Haarlem, and several terrible repulses of his soldiers,
had captured the city and put the greater part of its inhabitants
-- men and women -- to the sword. After vain entreaties to Elizabeth
to assume the sovereignty of the Netherlands, this had been offered
to the Duke of Anjou, brother of the King of France.
The choice appeared to be a politic one, for Anjou was at the time
the all but accepted suitor of Queen Elizabeth, and it was thought
that the choice would unite both powers in defence of Holland. The
duke, however, speedily proved his incapacity. Irritated at the
smallness of the authority granted him, and the independent attitude
of the great towns, he attempted to capture them by force. He was
successful in several places; but at Antwerp, where the French
thought to repeat the Spanish success and to sack the city, the
burghers gathered so strongly and fiercely that the French troops
employed were for the most part killed, those who survived being
ignominiously taken prisoners.
Anjou retired with his army, losing a large number of men on his
retreat by the bursting of a dyke and the flooding of the country.
By this time the Prince of Orange had accepted the sovereignty of
Holland and Zeeland, which was now completely separated from the
rest of the Netherlands. After the flight of Anjou he received many
invitations from the other provinces to accept their sovereignty;
but he steadily refused, having no personal ambition, and knowing
well that no reliance whatever could be placed upon the nobles of
Brabant and Flanders
THE SIEGE OF ANTWERP
On the 10th of July, 1584, a deep gloom was cast over all Holland
and England, by the assassination of the Prince of Orange. Many
attempts had been made upon his life by paid agents of the King
of Spain. One had been nearly successful, and the prince had lain
for weeks almost at the point of death. At last the hatred of Philip
and Parma gained its end, and the prince fell a victim to the bullet
of an assassin, who came before him disguised as a petitioner. His
murderer was captured, and put to death with horrible tortures,
boasting of his crime to the last. It was proved beyond all
question that he, as well as the authors of the previous attempts,
was acting at the instigation of the Spanish authorities, and had
been promised vast sums in the event of his success.
Thus died the greatest statesman of his age; a pure patriot, a
disinterested politician, a great orator, a man possessing at once
immense talent, unbounded perseverance, a fortitude under misfortunes
beyond proof, and an unshakeable faith in God. But terrible as was
the blow to the Netherlands, it failed to have the effect which
its instigators had hoped from it. On the very day of the murder
the Estates of Holland, then sitting at Delft, passed a resolution
"to maintain the good cause, with God's help, to the uttermost,
without sparing gold or blood." The prince's eldest son had been
kidnapped from school in Leyden by Philip's orders, and had been
a captive in Spain for seventeen years under the tutorship of
the Jesuits. Maurice, the next son, now seventeen years old, was
appointed head of the States Council.
But the position of the Netherlands was still well nigh desperate.
Flanders and Brabant lay at the feet of the Spaniards. A rising
which had lately taken place had been crushed. Bruges had surrendered
without a blow. The Duke of Parma, with 18,000 troops, besides his
garrisons, was threatening Ghent, Mechlin, Brussels, and Antwerp, and
was freely using promises and bribery to induce them to surrender.
Dendermonde and Vilvoorde both opened their gates, the capitulation
of the latter town cutting the communication between Brussels and
Antwerp. Ghent followed the example and surrendered without striking
a blow, and at the moment of the assassination of the Prince of
Orange Parma's army was closing round Antwerp.
Sir Edward Martin was at Antwerp, where he had gone by the queen's
order, when he received the news of the murder of the prince, whom
he had seen a few days before. He was filled with grief and horror
at the loss of one who had been for six years his friend, and whom
he regarded with enthusiastic admiration. It seemed to him at first
that with the death of the prince the cause of the Netherlands was
lost, and had the former attempts of Philip's emissaries upon the
prince's life been successful such a result would no doubt have
followed; but the successful defence of their cities, and the
knowledge they had gained that the sea could be made to fight for
them, had given the people of Holland strength and hope. Their
material resources, too, were larger than before, for great numbers
of the Protestants from the other provinces had emigrated there,
and had added alike to their strength and wealth. At first, however,
the news caused something like despair in Antwerp. Men went about
depressed and sorrowful, as if they had lost their dearest friend;
but Sainte Aldegonde, who had been appointed by the prince to take
charge of the defence of Antwerp, encouraged the citizens, and their
determination to resist returned. Unfortunately there had already
been terrible blundering. William de Blois, Lord of Treslong and
Admiral of the fleet of Holland and Zeeland, had been ordered to
carry up to the city provisions and munitions of war sufficient to
last for a year, the money having been freely voted by the States
General of these provinces.
But Treslong disobeyed the orders, and remained week after week at
Ostend drinking heavily and doing nothing else. At last the States,
enraged at his disobedience, ordered him to be arrested and thrown
into prison; but this was too late to enable the needed stores to
be taken up to Antwerp. The citizens were under no uneasiness. They
believed that it was absolutely impossible to block the river, and
that, therefore, they could at all times receive supplies from the
coast. On both sides of the river below the town the land was low
and could at any time be laid under water, and Sainte Aldegonde
brought the Prince of Orange's instructions that the great dyke,
called Blauwgaren, was to be pierced. This would have laid the
country under water for miles, and even the blocking of the river
would not have prevented the arrival of ships with provisions and
Unfortunately Sainte Aldegonde's power was limited. The Butchers'
Guild rose against the proposal, and their leaders appeared before
the magistrates and protested against the step being carried out.
Twelve thousand cattle grazed upon the pastures which would be
submerged, and the destruction of farms, homesteads, and orchards
would be terrible. As to the blocking up of the river, the idea was
absurd, and the operation far beyond the power of man. The butchers
were supported by the officers of the militia, who declared that
were the authorities to attempt the destruction of the dyke the
municipal soldiery would oppose it by force.
Such was the state of things when the only man whom the democracy
would listen to and obey fell by the assassin's knife, and his
death and the obstinate stupidity of the burghers of Antwerp sealed
the fate of the city. Sainte Aldegonde had hailed the arrival of
Elizabeth's envoy, and consulted with him as to the steps to be
taken for the defence of the city. He himself did not believe in
the possibility of the river being stopped. It was nearly half a
mile in width and sixty feet in depth, with a tidal rise and fall
of eleven feet. Ned agreed with the governor or burgomaster -- for
this was Saint Aldegonde's title -- that the work of blocking this
river seemed impossible, but his reliance upon the opinion of the
prince was so great that he did what he could towards persuading
the populace to permit the plans to be carried out. But Elizabeth
had so often disappointed the people of the Netherlands that her
envoy possessed no authority, and the magistrates, with whom were
the ward masters, the deans of all the guilds, the presidents
of chambers and heads of colleges, squabbled and quarrelled among
themselves, and nothing was done.
The garrison consisted only of a regiment of English under Colonel
Morgan and a Scotch regiment under Colonel Balfour, but these were
in a state of indiscipline, and a mutiny had shortly before broken
out among them. Many of the troops had deserted to Parma and some
had returned home, and it was not until Morgan had beheaded Captain
Lee and Captain Powell that order was restored among them. Beside
these were the burgher militia, who were brave and well trained,
but insubordinate, and ready on every occasion to refuse obedience
The first result of the general confusion which prevailed in Antwerp
was that Herenthals was allowed to fall without assistance. Had
this small but important city been succoured it would have enabled
Antwerp to protract its own defence for some time.
The veteran Mondragon as he took possession remarked, "Now it is easy
to see that the Prince of Orange is dead;" and indeed it was only
under his wise supervision and authority that anything like concerted
action between the cities, which were really small republics, was
Quietly but steadily the Duke of Parma established fortified posts
at various points on both banks of the Lower Scheldt, thereby
rendering its navigation more difficult, and covering in some
degree the spot where he intended to close the river. Nine miles
below the city were two forts -- Lillo and Liefkenshoek -- one on
either side of the stream. The fortifications of Lillo was complete,
but those of Liefkenshoek were not finished when Parma ordered
the Marquis of Richebourg to carry it by assault. It was taken by
surprise, and the eight hundred men who composed its garrison were
all killed or drowned. This first blow took place on the very day
the Prince of Orange was killed.
Lillo was garrisoned by Antwerp volunteers, called the Young Bachelors,
together with a company of French under Captain Gascoigne, and 400
Scotch and Englishmen under Colonel Morgan. Mondragon was ordered
to take the place at any cost. He took up his position with 5000
men at the country house and farm of Lillo a short distance from the
fort, planted his batteries and opened fire. The fort responded
briskly, and finding that the walls were little injured by
his artillery fire Mondragon tried to take it by mining. Teligny,
however, ran counter mines, and for three weeks the siege continued,
the Spaniards gaining no advantage and losing a considerable number
of men. At last Teligny made a sortie, and a determined action took
place without advantage on either side. The defenders were then
recalled to the fort, the sluice gates were opened, and the waters
of the Scheldt, swollen by a high tide, poured over the country.
Swept by the fire of the guns of the fort and surrounded by water,
the Spaniards were forced to make a rapid retreat, struggling breast
high in the waves.
Seeing the uselessness of the siege, the attempt to capture Lillo
was abandoned, having cost the Spaniards no less than two thousand
lives. Parma's own camp was on the opposite side of the river, at
the villages of Beveren, Kalloo, and Borght, and he was thus nearly
opposite to Antwerp, as the river swept round with a sharp curve.
He had with him half his army, while the rest were at Stabroek on
the opposite side of the river, nearly ten miles below Antwerp.
Kallo stood upon rising ground, and was speedily transformed
into a bustling town. From this point an army of men dug a canal
to Steeken, a place on the river above Antwerp twelve miles from
Kalloo, and as soon as Ghent and Dendermonde had fallen, great
rafts of timber, fleets of boats laden with provisions, munitions,
building materials, and every other requisite for the great
undertaking Parma had in view were brought to Kalloo.
To this place was brought also by Parma's orders the shipwrights,
masons, ropemakers, sailors, boatmen, bakers, brewers, and butchers
of Flanders and Brabant, and work went on unceasingly. But while
the autumn wore on the river was still open; and in spite of
the Spanish batteries on the banks the daring sailors of Zeeland
brought up their ships laden with corn to Antwerp, where the price
was already high. Had this traffic been continued Antwerp would
soon have been provisioned for a year's siege; but the folly and
stupidity of the municipal authorities put a stop to it, for they
enacted that, instead of the high prices current for grain, which
had tempted the Zeelanders to run the gauntlet of the Spanish
batteries, a price but little above that obtainable in other places
should be given. The natural result was, the supply of provisions
ceased at once.
"Did you ever see anything like the obstinacy and folly of these
burghers?" Sainte Aldegonde said in despair to Ned, when, in spite
of his entreaties, this suicidal edict had been issued. "What possible
avail is it to endeavour to defend a city which seems bent on its
"The best thing to do," Ned replied in great anger, "would be
to surround the town hall with the companies of Morgan's regiment
remaining here, and to hang every one of these thick headed and
"It would be the best way," Sainte Aldegonde agreed, "if we had
also a sufficient force to keep down the city. These knaves think
vastly more of their own privileges than of the good of the State,
or even of the safety of the town. Here, as in Ghent, the people
are divided into sections and parties, who, when there is no one
else to quarrel with, are ever ready to fly at each other's throats.
Each of these leaders of guilds and presidents of chambers considers
himself a little god, and it is quite enough if anyone else expresses
an opinion for the majority to take up at once the opposite view."
"I looked in at the town hall yesterday," Ned said, "and such an
uproar was going on that no one could be heard to speak. Twenty
men were on their feet at once, shouting and haranguing, and paying
not the slightest attention to each other; while the rest joined
in from time to time with deafening cries and yells. Never did I
see such a scene. And it is upon such men as these that it rests
to decide upon the measures to be taken for the safety of the city!"
"Ah, if we had but the prince here among us again for a few hours
there would be some hope," Sainte Aldegonde said; "for he would be
able to persuade the people that in times like these there is no
safety in many counsellors, but that they must be content for the
time to obey one man."
On the Flemish side of the river the sluices had been opened at
Saftingen. The whole country there, with the exception of the ground
on which Kalloo and the other villages stood, was under water.
Still the Blauwgaren dyke, and an inner dyke called the Kowenstyn,
barred back the water, which, had it free course, would have turned
the country into a sea and given passage to the fleets of Zeeland.
Now that it was too late, those who had so fiercely opposed the plan
at first were eager that these should be cut. But it was now out
of their power to do so. The Lord of Kowenstyn, who had a castle
on the dyke which bore his name, had repeatedly urged upon the
Antwerp magistracy the extreme importance of cutting through this
dyke, even if they deferred the destruction of the outer one. Enraged
at their obstinacy and folly, and having the Spanish armies all
round him, he made terms with Parma, and the Spaniards established
themselves firmly along the bank, built strong redoubts upon it,
and stationed five thousand men there.
As the prince had foreseen, the opening of the Saftingen sluice had
assisted Parma instead of adding to his difficulties; for he was
now no longer confined to the canal, but was able to bring a fleet
of large vessels, laden with cannon and ammunition, from Ghent down
the Scheldt, and in through a breach through the dyke of Borght
to Kalloo. Sainte Aldegonde, in order to bar the Borght passage,
built a work called Fort Teligny upon the dyke, opposite that
thrown up by the Spaniards, and in the narrow passage between them
constant fighting went on between the Spaniards and patriots. Still
the people of Antwerp felt confident, for the Scheldt was still
open, and when food became short the Zeeland fleet could at any
time sail up to their assistance. But before winter closed in Parma
commenced the work for which he had made such mighty preparations.
Between Kalloo and Oordam, on the opposite side, a sand bar had
been discovered, which somewhat diminished the depth of the stream
and rendered pile driving comparatively easy. A strong fort was
erected on each bank and the work of driving in the piles began.
From each side a framework of heavy timber, supported on these
massive piles, was carried out so far that the width of open water
was reduced from twenty-four to thirteen hundred feet, and strong
blockhouses were erected upon each pier to protect them from assault.
Had a concerted attack been made by the Antwerp ships from above,
and the Zeeland fleet from below, the works could at this time
have been easily destroyed. But the fleet had been paralyzed by the
insubordination of Treslong, and there was no plan or concert; so
that although constant skirmishing went on, no serious attack was
The brave Teligny, one night going down in a rowboat to communicate
with the Zeelanders and arrange for joint action, was captured by
the Spanish boats, and remained for six years in prison. His loss
was a very serious blow to Antwerp and to the cause. On the 13th
of November Parma sent in a letter to Antwerp, begging the citizens
to take compassion on their wives and children and make terms.
Parma had none of the natural bloodthirstiness of Alva, and would
have been really glad to have arranged matters without further
fighting; especially as he was almost without funds, and the
attitude of the King of France was so doubtful that he knew that
at any moment his plans might be overthrown.
The States in January attempted to make a diversion in favour of
Antwerp by attacking Bois le Duc, a town from which the Spaniards
drew a large portion of their supplies. Parma, although feeling the
extreme importance of this town, had been able to spare no men for
its defence; and although it was strong, and its burghers notably
brave and warlike, it seemed that it might be readily captured by
surprise. Count Hohenlohe was entrusted with the enterprise, and
with 4000 infantry and 200 cavalry advanced towards the place.
Fifty men, under an officer who knew the town, hid at night near
the gate, and when in the morning the portcullis was lifted, rushed
in, overpowered the guard, and threw open the gate, and Hohenlohe,
with his 200 troopers and 500 pikemen, entered.
These at once, instead of securing the town, scattered to plunder.
It happened that forty Spanish lancers and thirty foot soldiers had
come into the town the night before to form an escort for a convoy
of provisions. They were about starting when the tumult broke out.
As Hohenlohe's troops thought of nothing but pillage, time was
given to the burghers to seize their arms; and they, with the little
body of troops, fell upon the plunderers, who, at the sight of the
Spanish uniforms, were seized with a panic. Hohenlohe galloped to
the gate to bring in the rest of the troops; but while he was away
one of its guards, although desperately wounded at its capture,
crawled to the ropes which held up the portcullis and cut them with
his knife. Thus those within were cut off from their friends. Many
of them were killed, others threw themselves from the walls into
the moat, and very few of those who had entered made their escape.
When Hohenlohe returned with 2000 fresh troops and found the gates
shut in his face, he had nothing to do but to ride away, the enterprise
having failed entirely through his own folly and recklessness; for
it was he himself who had encouraged his followers to plunder. Had
he kept them together until the main force entered, no resistance
could have been offered to him, or had he when he rode out to fetch
reinforcements left a guard at the gate to prevent its being shut,
the town could again have been taken. Parma himself wrote to Philip
acknowledging that "Had the rebels succeeded in their enterprise,
I should have been compelled to have abandoned the siege of Antwerp."
But now the winter, upon which the people in Antwerp had chiefly
depended for preventing the blocking of the stream, was upon the
besiegers. The great river, lashed by storms into fury, and rolling
huge masses of ice up and down with the tide, beat against the piers,
and constantly threatened to carry them away. But the structure
was enormously strong. The piles had been driven fifty feet into
the river bed, and withstood the force of the stream, and on the
25th of February the Scheldt was closed.
Parma had from the first seen that it was absolutely impossible
to drive piles across the deep water between the piers, and had
prepared to connect them with a bridge of boats. For this purpose
he had constructed thirty-two great barges, each sixty-two feet
in length, and twelve in breadth. These were moored in pairs with
massive chains and anchors, the distance between each pair being
twenty-two feet. All were bound together with chains and timbers
and a roadway protected by a parapet of massive beams was formed
across it. Each boat was turned into a fortress by the erection
of solid wooden redoubts at each end, mounting heavy guns, and was
manned by thirty-two soldiers and four sailors. The forts at the
end of the bridge each mounted ten great guns, and twenty armed
vessels with heavy pieces of artillery were moored in front of each
fort. Thus the structure was defended by 170 great guns.
As an additional protection to the bridge, two heavy rafts, each
1250 feet long, composed of empty barrels, heavy timbers, ships'
masts, and woodwork bound solidly together, were moored at some
little distance above and below the bridge of boats. These rafts
were protected by projecting beams of wood tipped with iron, to
catch any vessels floating down upon them. The erection of this
structure was one of the most remarkable military enterprises ever
Now that it was too late the people of Antwerp bitterly bewailed
their past folly, which had permitted an enterprise that could
at any moment have been interrupted to be carried to a successful
But if something like despair seized the citizens at the sight of
the obstacle that cut them off from all hope of succour, the feelings
of the great general whose enterprise and ability had carried out
the work were almost as depressed. His troops had dwindled to the
mere shadow of an army, the cavalry had nearly disappeared, the
garrisons in the various cities were starving, and the burghers
had no food either for the soldiers or themselves.
The troops were two years behindhand in their pay. Parma had long
exhausted every means of credit, and his appeals to his sovereign
for money met with no response. But while in his letters to Philip
he showed the feelings of despair which possessed him, he kept
a smiling countenance to all else. A spy having been captured, he
ordered him to be conducted over every part of the encampment. The
forts and bridge were shown to him, and he was requested to count
the pieces of artillery, and was then sent back to the town to
inform the citizens of what he had seen.
At this moment Brussels, which had long been besieged, was starved
into surrender, and Parma was reinforced by the troops who had
been engaged in the siege of that city. A misfortune now befell him
similar to that which the patriots had suffered at Bois le Duc. He
had experienced great inconvenience from not possessing a port on
the sea coast of Flanders, and consented to a proposal of La Motte,
one of the most experienced of the Walloon generals, to surprise
Ostend. On the night of the 29th of March, La Motte, with 2000 foot
and 1200 cavalry, surprised and carried the old port of the town.
Leaving an officer in charge of the position, he went back to bring
up the rest of his force. In his absence the soldiers scattered to
plunder. The citizens roused themselves, killed many of them, and
put the rest to flight, and by the time La Motte returned with the
fresh troops the panic had become so general that the enterprise
had to be abandoned.
The people of Antwerp now felt that unless some decisive steps were
taken their fate was sealed. A number of armed vessels sailed up
from Zeeland, and, assisted by a detachment from Fort Lillo, suddenly
attacked and carried Fort Liefkenshoek, which had been taken from
them at the commencement of the siege, and also Fort St. Anthony
lower down the river. In advancing towards the latter fort they
disobeyed Sainte Aldegonde's express orders, which were that they
should, after capturing Liefkenshoek, at once follow the dyke up
the river to the point where it was broken near the fort at the
end of the bridge, and should there instantly throw up strong works.
Had they followed out these orders they could from this point have
battered the bridge, and destroyed this barrier over the river. But
the delay caused by the attack on the Fort St. Anthony was fatal,
for at night Parma sent a strong body of soldiers and sappers in
boats from Kalloo to the broken end of the dyke, and these before
morning threw up works upon the very spot where Sainte Aldegonde had
intended the battery for the destruction of the bridge to be erected.
Nevertheless the success was a considerable one. The possession of
Lillo and Liefkenshoek restored to the patriots the command of the
river to within three miles of the bridge, and enabled the Zeeland
fleet to be brought up at that point.
Another blow was now meditated. There was in Antwerp an Italian
named Gianobelli, a man of great science and inventive power. He
had first gone to Spain to offer his inventions to Philip, but had
met with such insolent neglect there that he had betaken himself
in a rage to Flanders, swearing that the Spaniards should repent
their treatment of him. He had laid his plans before the Council
of Antwerp, and had asked from them three ships of a hundred and
fifty, three hundred and fifty, and five hundred tons respectively,
besides these he wanted sixty flat bottomed scows. Had this request
been complied with it is certain that Parma's bridge would have
been utterly destroyed; but the leading men were building a great
ship or floating castle of their own design, from which they
expected such great things that they christened it the End of the
War. Gianobelli had warned them that this ship would certainly turn
out a failure. However, they persisted, and instead of granting
him the ships he wanted, only gave him two small vessels of seventy
and eighty tons.
Although disgusted with their parsimony on so momentous an occasion,
Gianobelli set to work with the aid of two skilful artisans of
Antwerp to fit them up.
In the hold of each vessel a solid flooring of brick and mortar a
foot thick was first laid down. Upon this was built a chamber of
masonry forty feet long, three and a half feet wide, and as many
high, and with side walls five feet thick. This chamber was covered
with a roof six feet thick of tombstones placed edgeways, and was
filled with a powder of Gianobelli's own invention. Above was piled
a pyramid of millstones, cannonballs, chain shot, iron hooks, and
heavy missiles of all kinds, and again over these were laid heavy
marble slabs. The rest of the hold was filled with paving stones.
One ship was christened the Fortune, and on this the mine was to
be exploded by a slow match, cut so as to explode at a calculated
moment. The mine on board the Hope was to be started by a piece
of clockwork, which at the appointed time was to strike fire from
a flint. Planks and woodwork were piled on the decks to give to the
two vessels the appearance of simple fireships. Thirty-two small
craft, saturated with tar and turpentine and filled with inflammable
materials, were to be sent down the river in detachments of eight
every half hour, to clear away if possible the raft above the bridge
and to occupy the attention of the Spaniards.
The 5th of April, the day after the capture of the Liefkenshoek,
was chosen for the attempt. It began badly. Admiral Jacobzoon, who
was in command, instead of sending down the fireboats in batches
as arranged, sent them all off one after another, and started the
two mine ships immediately afterwards. As soon as their approach
was discovered, the Spaniards, who had heard vague rumours that an
attack by water was meditated, at once got under arms and mustered
upon the bridge and forts. Parma himself, with all his principal
officers, superintended the arrangements. As the fleet of small
ships approached they burst into flames. The Spaniards silently
watched the approaching danger, but soon began to take heart
again. Many of the boats grounded on the banks of the river before
reaching their destination, others burned out and sank, while the
rest drifted against the raft, but were kept from touching it by the
long projecting timbers, and burned out without doing any damage.
Then came the two ships. The pilots as they neared the bridge
escaped in boats, and the current carried them down, one on each
side of the raft, towards the solid ends of the bridge. The Fortune
came first, but grounded near the shore without touching the bridge.
Just as it did so the slow match upon deck burnt out. There was a
faint explosion, but no result; and Sir Ronald Yorke, the man who
had handed over Zutphen, sprang on board with a party of volunteers,
extinguished the fire smoldering on deck, and thrusting their
spears down into the hold, endeavoured to ascertain the nature of
its contents. Finding it impossible to do so they returned to the
The Spaniards were now shouting with laughter at the impotent
attempt of the Antwerpers to destroy the bridge, and were watching
the Hope, which was now following her consort. She passed just
clear of the end of the raft, and struck the bridge close to the
blockhouse at the commencement of the floating portion. A fire
was smoldering on her deck, and a party of soldiers at once sprang
on board to extinguish this, as their comrades had done the fire
on board the Fortune. The Marquis of Richebourg, standing on the
bridge, directed the operations. The Prince of Parma was standing
close by, when an officer named Vega, moved by a sudden impulse,
fell on his knees and implored him to leave the place, and not to
risk a life so precious to Spain. Moved by the officer's entreaties
Parma turned and walked along the bridge. He had just reached the
entrance to the fort when a terrific explosion took place.
The clockwork of the Hope had succeeded better than the slow match
in the Fortune. In an instant she disappeared, and with her the
blockhouse against which she had struck, with all of its garrison,
a large portion of the bridge, and all the troops stationed upon
it. The ground was shaken as if by an earthquake, houses fell miles
away, and the air was filled with a rain of mighty blocks of stone,
some of which were afterwards found a league away. A thousand
soldiers were killed in an instant, the rest were dashed to the
ground, stunned and bewildered. The Marquis of Richebourg and most
of Parma's best officers were killed. Parma himself lay for a long
time as if dead, but presently recovered and set to work to do what
he could to repair the disaster.
The Zeeland fleet were lying below, only waiting for the signal
to move up to destroy the rest of the bridge and carry succour to
the city; but the incompetent and cowardly Jacobzoon rowed hastily
away after the explosion, and the rocket that should have summoned
the Zeelanders was never sent up. Parma moved about among his
troops, restoring order and confidence, and as the night went on
and no assault took place he set his men to work to collect drifting
timbers and spars, and make a hasty and temporary restoration, in
appearance at least, of the ruined portion of the bridge.
It was not until three days afterwards that the truth that the
bridge had been partially destroyed, and that the way was open, was
known at Antwerp. But by this time it was too late. The Zeelanders
had retired; the Spaniards had recovered their confidence, and
were hard at work restoring the bridge. From time to time fresh
fireships were sent down; but Parma had now established a patrol
of boats, which went out to meet them and towed them to shore far
above the bridge. In the weeks that followed Parma's army dwindled
away from sickness brought on by starvation, anxiety, and overwork;
while the people of Antwerp were preparing for an attack upon the
dyke of Kowenstyn. If that could be captured and broken, Parma's
bridge would be rendered useless, as the Zeeland fleet could pass
up over the submerged country with aid.
Parma was well aware of the supreme importance of this dyke. He
had fringed both its margins with breastworks of stakes, and had
strengthened the whole body of the dyke with timber work and piles.
Where it touched the great Scheldt dyke a strong fortress called
the Holy Cross had been constructed under the command of Mondragon,
and at the further end, in the neighbourhood of Mansfeldt's
headquarters, was another fort called the Stabroek, which commanded
and raked the whole dyke.
On the body of the dyke itself were three strong forts a mile
apart, called St. James, St. George, and the Fort of the Palisades.
Several attacks had been made from time to time, both upon the
bridge and dyke, and at daybreak on the 7th of May a fleet from
Lillo, under Hohenlohe, landed five hundred Zeelanders upon it
between St. George's and Fort Palisade. But the fleet that was to
have come out from Antwerp to his assistance never arrived; and
the Zeelanders were overpowered by the fire from the two forts and
the attacks of the Spaniards, and retreated, leaving four of their
ships behind them, and more than a fourth of their force.
Upon the 26th of the same month the grand attack, from which the
people of Antwerp hoped so much, took place. Two hundred vessels
were ready. A portion of these were to come up from Zeeland, under
Hohenlohe; the rest to advance from Antwerp, under Sainte Aldegonde.
At two o'clock in the morning the Spanish sentinels saw four
fireships approaching the dyke. They mustered reluctantly, fearing
a repetition of the previous explosion, and retired to the fort.
When the fireships reached the stakes protecting the dyke, they
burned and exploded, but without effecting much damage. But in the
meantime a swarm of vessels of various sizes were seen approaching.
It was the fleet of Hohenlohe, which had been sailing and rowing
from ten o'clock on the previous night.
Guided by the light of the fireships they approached the dyke, and
the Zeelanders sprang ashore and climbed up. They were met by several
hundred Spanish troops, who, as soon as they saw the fireships burn
out harmlessly, sallied out from their forts. The Zeelanders were
beginning to give way when the Antwerp fleet came up on the other
side, headed by Sainte Aldegonde. The new arrivals sprang from
their boats and climbed the dyke. The Spaniards were driven off,
and three thousand men occupied all the space between Fort George
and the Palisade Fort.
With Sainte Aldegonde came all the English and Scotch troops in Antwerp
under Balfour and Morgan, and many volunteers, among whom was Ned
Martin. With Hohenlohe came Prince Maurice, William the Silent's
son, a lad of eighteen. With wool sacks, sandbags, planks, and
other materials the patriots now rapidly entrenched the position
they had gained, while a large body of sappers and miners set
to work with picks, mattocks, and shovels, tearing down the dyke.
The Spaniards poured out from the forts; but Antwerpers, Dutchmen,
Zeelanders, Scotchmen, and Englishmen met them bravely, and a
tremendous conflict went on at each end of the narrow causeway.
Both parties fought with the greatest obstinacy, and for an hour
there was no advantage on either side. At last the patriots were
victorious, drove the Spaniards back into their two forts, and
following up their success attacked the Palisade Fort. Its outworks
were in their hands when a tremendous cheer was heard. The sappers
and miners had done their work. Salt water poured through the
broken dyke, and a Zeeland barge, freighted with provisions, floated
triumphantly into the water beyond, now no longer an inland sea.
Then when the triumph seemed achieved another fatal mistake was made
by the patriots. Sainte Aldegonde and Hohenlohe, the two commanders
of the enterprise, both leapt on board, anxious to be the first
to carry the news of the victory to Antwerp, where they arrived in
triumph, and set all the bells ringing and bonfires blazing.
For three hours the party on the dyke remained unmolested. Parma
was at his camp four leagues away, and in ignorance of what had been
done, and Mansfeldt could send no word across to him. The latter
held a council of war, but it seemed that nothing could be done.
Three thousand men were entrenched on the narrow dyke, covered by
the guns of a hundred and sixty Zeeland ships. Some of the officers
were in favour of waiting until nightfall; but at last the advice
of a gallant officer, Camillo Capizucca, colonel of the Italian
Legion, carried the day in favour of an immediate assault, and the
Italians and Spaniards marched together from Fort Stabroek to the
Palisade Fort, which was now in extremity.
They came in time, drove back the assailants, and were preparing
to advance against them when a distant shout from the other end of
the dyke told that Parma had arrived there. Mondragon moved from
the Holy Cross to Fort George; and from that fort and from the
Palisade the Spaniards advanced to the attack of the patriots'
position. During the whole war no more desperate encounter took
place than that upon the dyke, which was but six paces wide. The
fight was long and furious. Three times the Spaniards were repulsed
with tremendous loss; and while the patriot soldiers fought, their
pioneers still carried on the destruction of the dyke.
A fourth assault was likewise repulsed, but the fifth was more
successful. The Spaniards believed that they were led by a dead
commander who had fallen some months before, and this superstitious
belief inspired them with fresh courage. The entrenchment was
carried, but its defenders fought as obstinately as before on the
dyke behind it. Just at this moment the vessels of the Zeelanders
began to draw off. Many had been sunk or disabled by the fire that
the forts had maintained on them; and the rest found the water
sinking fast, for the tide was now ebbing.
The patriots, believing that they were deserted by the fleet, were
seized with a sudden panic; and, leaving the dyke, tried to wade or
swim off to the ships. The Spaniards with shouts of victory pursued
them. The English and Scotch were the last to abandon the position
they had held for seven hours, and most of them were put to the
sword. Two thousand in all were slain or drowned, the remainder
succeeded in reaching the ships on one side or other of the dyke.
Ned Martin had fought to the last. He was standing side by side
with Justinius of Nassau, and the two sprang together into a clump
of high rushes, tore off their heavy armour and swam out to one of
the Zeeland ships, which at once dropped down the river and reached
the sea. Ned's mission was now at an end, and he at once returned
The failure of the attempt upon the Kowenstyn dyke sealed the fate
of Antwerp. It resisted until the middle of June; when finding
hunger staring the city in the face, and having no hope whatever
of relief, Sainte Aldegonde yielded to the clamour of the mob and
These were continued for nearly two months. Parma was unaware that
the town was reduced to such an extremity, and consented to give
honourable terms. The treaty was signed on the 17th of August. There
was to be a complete amnesty for the past. Royalist absentees were
to be reinstated in their positions. Monasteries and churches to be
restored to their former possessors. The inhabitants of the city
were to practice the Catholic religion only, while those who refused
to conform were allowed two years for the purpose of winding up
their affairs. All prisoners, with the exception of Teligny, were
to be released. Four hundred thousand florins were to be paid by
the city as a fine, and the garrison were to leave the town with
arms and baggage, and all honours of war.
The fall of Antwerp brought about with it the entire submission of
Brabant and Flanders, and henceforth the war was continued solely
by Zeeland, Holland, and Friesland.
The death of the Prince of Orange, and the fall of Antwerp, marked
the conclusion of what may be called the first period of the struggle
of the Netherlands for freedom. It was henceforth to enter upon
another phase. England, which had long assisted Holland privately
with money, and openly by the raising of volunteers for her service,
was now about to enter the arena boldly and to play an important
part in the struggle, which, after a long period of obstinate
strife, was to end in the complete emancipation of the Netherlands
from the yoke of Spain.
Sir Edward Martin married Gertrude Von Harp soon after his return
to England. He retained the favour of Elizabeth to the day of her
death, and there were few whose counsels had more influence with
her. He long continued in the public service, although no longer
compelled to do so as a means of livelihood; for as Holland and Zeeland
freed themselves from the yoke of Spain, and made extraordinary
strides in wealth and prosperity, the estates of the countess
once more produced a splendid revenue, and this at her death came
entirely to her daughter. A considerable portion of Sir Edward
Martin's life, when not actually engaged upon public affairs, was
spent upon the broad estates which had come to him from his wife.
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