Battle of Delft (1573)
The Battle of Delft also known as the Defence of Delft was a military engagement that fought during the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo–Spanish War which took place in October 1573 in and outside the city of Delft. The battle was fought by a small Anglo-Dutch force under Thomas Morgan and an attacking Spanish force under Francisco de Valdez. The Spanish were repelled and forced to retreat.
The Spanish Governor of the Netherlands Fernando de Toledo (the 3rd Duke of Alba) had besieged Alkmaar in August but had been repelled. Soon after in early October, Leiden was besieged but a chance of a quick victory disappeared when the Spanish realised the city had stronger defences and a well stocked garrison. Alba then sent the master of his camp Francisco de Valdez with his veteran Tercio soldiers along with twelve companies of Walloons; in all numbering 4,000 men under the command of Julián Romero to advance deep into Holland. His objective was to seize the rich villages and outlying towns between Leiden, Delft and the sea coast as far as the River Maas so that all relief for Leiden could be cut off. Valdez captured The Hague without any resistance and soon the place was fortified by them.
Meanwhile, Thomas Morgan's regiment of English, several Scots, a few French Huguenot companies besides the States troops under the command of the Prince of Orange were lodged in the villages between Delft and Rotterdam safely from the Spanish. They were positioned before large dykes on both sides of the roads. One position secured the Prince in control of the alluvial quadrangle watered on two sides by the rivers IJssel and the Mass. One company of English held this position and was under the command of Roger Williams and included the poet George Gascoigne. Captain Edward Chester was posted in the Polderwaert, another fortified position in between Delft and Rotterdam. These troops were ready to shore up any last ditch defence if Delft, Rotterdam and Delfshaven had been attacked by the Spanish.
A Dutch force had made upon intelligence of the Spanish approach to Delft via outskirts of the Hague. Romero and his Spaniards were entrenched at a stone bridge halfway between the Hague and Delft, and cut off the passage between that town and Leiden. The Dutch burnt all the houses on the outskirts denying the Spanish any shelter. The Prince had a total of 6,000 troops between Rotterdam and Delft but did not have enough experienced troops to meet the Spanish Tercios in open combat. Valdez did all he could with Leiden and Delft by using treachery or stealth in order to open the town port leading to Utrecht.
Valdez constructed a few peat boats which were manned with nearly a thousand hand-picked troops with the intention of gaining the city at night from different directions. A few boats managed to get through past the port entrance to Delft by use of a French spy, but the garrison was on full alert and managed to kill or capture all of the Spanish attackers. Meanwhile, at the Polderwaert bastion outside Delft, Captain Chester with his company of 200 English men at arms highly distinguished themselves in repelling the attack, inflicting heavy casualties.
With this repulse Valdez then sought to make a large assault on the town. At the same time the garrison sought out the betrayers and with intelligence from Spanish prisoners were able to discover the townsmen, who were then dealt with. The garrison was then reinforced from nearby villages to expand to just over 1,000, most of whom had entered the following night. In addition cannons were loaded with whatever could be found such as nails and musket balls.
The main attack, however, never came, as Valdez had discovered that the defences were much stronger and realised that a major assault on the city was out of the question. As a result, he gave over the Delft enterprise and the Spanish withdrew.
The attack on the city had been defeated, and the Spanish had lost in all around 700 men, mostly on the outskirts. Delft, amongst other Dutch towns and cities, had been saved, and this meant that Leiden had better hope of relief.
After these attempts, Valdez informed the Duke of Alba of his defeat, showing him that victory could not be achieved without a larger force along with siege artillery. He requested more troops and guns or leave to retire himself from the area with the troops he had; the latter was chosen as Alba refused more men or guns. Romero, meanwhile, managed to capture Maassluis, but an attempt on Delftshaven was repelled, and no further efforts were made for the rest of year.
For his action in helping to repel the Spanish attack on the city, the Prince of Orange promoted Chester to the rank of lieutenant colonel. The Duke of Alba, after this bout of failures, and as a result of his violent councils, solicited to be recalled and thus departed the Netherlands in 1574.
- Knight, Charles Raleigh: Historical records of The Buffs, East Kent Regiment (3rd Foot) formerly designated the Holland Regiment and Prince George of Denmark's Regiment. Vol I. London, Gale & Polden, 1905, p. 11
- Pratt p 163
- Kittle, William (1930). G. Gascoigne, April 1562 to January 1, 1578. W.F. Roberts Company. pp. 50–53.
- Motley, John Lothrop (1863). The Rise of the Dutch Republic: Complete in One Volume Author. National Library of the Netherlands: Strahan. p. 569.
- Scott, Walter (1809). A Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts: On the Most Interesting and Entertaining Subjects. T. Cadell, W. Davies. pp. 373–74.
- Tillotson, John (1865). Stories of the wars, 1574-1658, from the rise of the Dutch republic to the death of O. Cromwell. Oxford University. p. 13.
- Evans, John X (1972) p 234
- Fruin pp 17-22
- Butler, Lomas, Hinds, Wernham, John, Sophia, Allen, Richard (1876). Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth: 1572-1574 Volume 10. Green, Longman, Roberts & Green. pp. 437–38.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Swart p 114
- Hofdijk, Willem Jacobszoon (1874). Leydens wee en zegepraal, 1573-1574 (Dutch). National Library of the Netherlands: Van Santen. p. 124.
- Rich p 383
- Evans, John X (1972). The works of Sir Roger Williams. Clarendon Press. pp. 137–38.
- Tracy p 37
- Chester, Robert (1913). Poems, Volumes 14-16. Bryn Mawr College. p. xlvii.
- Fruin, Jacobus Antonie (2013). The Siege and Relief of Leyden in 1574. Springer. ISBN 9789401768207.
- Rich, Barnaby (2014). Rich’s Farewell to Military Profession, 1581. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292772335.
- Pratt, Fletcher (2013). The Battles that Changed History. Courier Corporation. ISBN 9780486318943.
- Swart, Erik (2006). Krijgsvolk: militaire professionalisering en het ontstaan van het Staatse leger, 1568-1590 (Amsterdam studies in the Dutch golden age). Amsterdam U.P. ISBN 9789053568767.
- Tracy, James (2008). The Founding of the Dutch Republic: War, Finance, and Politics in Holland, 1572-1588. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191607288.