Siege of Ostend

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Siege of Ostend
Part of the Eighty Years' War
Sitio de Ostende.jpg
Siege of Ostend by Pieter Snayers, oil on canvas.
Date 5 July 1601 – 16 September 1604
Location Ostend (present-day Belgium)
Result Spanish victory
Dutch Republic United Provinces
England England
Commanders and leaders
Dutch Republic Daniel de Hertaing
England Francis Vere
Spain Archduke Albrecht
Spain Ambrosio Spinola
40,000 infantry,
9,500 cavalry
68,500 infantry,
12,000 cavalry
Casualties and losses
30,000 dead or wounded
15,000 captured
+30,000 civilians
35,000 dead or wounded
Machines for the Siege of Ostend developed by Pompeo Targone and G. Gamurini. Drawn by P. Giustiniano, Delle guerre di Fiandra libri VI, Antwerp, 1609.

The Siege of Ostend was a three-year siege of the city of Ostend (in present-day Belgium) during the Eighty Years' War and one of the longest in history. Described as a "long carnival of death", it is remembered as the bloodiest conflict of the war, and culminated in a Spanish victory. It is said "the Spanish assailed the unassailable; the Dutch defended the indefensible."[1]

General Sir Francis Vere led a 3,000-men strong English army in support of the Dutch, and was appointed Governor of Ostende by Maurice of Nassau in 1601. After a skillful defence of the city, the English commander left Ostende in March 1602, but the remaining English troops continued to fight for the Dutch until the end.[2]

In 1603, under the able leadership of newly appointed commander General Spinola, the Spanish tore Ostend's outer defenses from the exhausted Dutch and put what remained of the city under the muzzles of their guns, compelling the Dutch to surrender. The cost of the victory proved enormous with 35,000 men killed or wounded in the blasted trenches and dugouts surrounding the ruined city.

The next two years saw the Spanish increase the pressure on the Dutch as Spinola captured Oldenzaal, Lochem, Lingen, Rijnberk and Groenlo, despite the efforts of the Dutch army under Maurice of Nassau, reducing trade and causing great fear within the United Provinces.

The shocking devastation suffered at Ostend led to the first serious thoughts about a peace agreement. The Dutch made an approach to the Spanish Crown and after difficult negotiations signed a Twelve Year Truce.

The Dutch dead included Hendrick van Rensselaer, the father of Kiliaen van Rensselaer, ancestor of the prominent American political family - the van Rensselaer family of New York.


  • Simoni, Anna E. C., The Ostend Story: Early Tales of the Great Siege and the Mediating Role of Henrick van Hastens (‘t-Goy-Houten: HES & De Graaf Publishers, 2003) ISBN 90-6194-159-8
  • Routledge & Kegan Paul, Siege warfare: the fortress in the early modern world, 1494-1660.
  • Lombaerde, P., "The fortifications of Ostend during the Great Siege of 1601-1604", Fort (Fortress Study Group), 1999, (27), pp. 93–112
  • Williams, Penry (1998). The Later Tudors: England, 1547-1603. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192880446. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°13′01″N 2°54′00″E / 51.217°N 2.900°E / 51.217; 2.900