Johan Evertsen (1 February 1600 – 5 August 1666) was a Dutch admiral during the 17th century. Evertsen and his five brothers started their career in the military by being given the rank of lieutenant after the death of their father, "Captain Jan." He quickly moved through the ranks through battles with corsairs and protecting Dutch ships from other privateers. Evertsen was eventually promoted to admiral during the Anglo-Dutch Wars. With Evertsen's successes and influence in the Dutch Navy, he was considered controversial due to him being known as a coward.
Born in Vlissingen, Johan was the eldest surviving son of Johan Evertsen, known as Captain Jan, who died in 1617 fighting near La Rochelle against a French corsair. As gratitude for his services rendered, all five sons of Captain Jan were named lieutenants by the Admiralty of Zeeland.
Johan is already at the age of 18 reported as captain of a ship. He fights near La Rochelle in 1625 under Willem de Zoete and in 1626 and 1627 in a campaign against the Barbary Coast under Laurens Reael.
Between 1628 and 1636, he distinguished himself while fighting the Dunkirk corsairs. His greatest successes were in 1628 preventing the interception by the Dunkirkers of the captured treasure fleet of Piet Heyn and in 1636 the capture of the famous corsair Jacob Collaert. He also played an important part in the Dutch victory in the Battle of the Slaak against the Spanish.
In 1637 he becomes Vice-Admiral and commands in 1639 a squadron in the Battle of the Downs in which he destroys the Portuguese Admiralship Santa Teresa, killing 800 of the 1000 men crew.
In the wake of this battle, he gets into conflict with Witte Corneliszoon de With, and doesn't receive any more important commands for the next years. In those years he develops a friendship with stadtholders Frederick Henry and William II.
First Anglo-Dutch War
At the outbreak of the First Anglo-Dutch War, Johan Evertsen was still left aside by Witte de With, who considered him an orangist. But after de With's defeat in the Battle of the Kentish Knock and his replacement by Maarten Tromp, Johan Evertsen was reinstated as squadron commander and helped achieve victory in the Battle of Dungeness, extricating Tromp's flagship from an English attack.
The final Battle of Scheveningen was also lost and Tromp was killed in battle. Evertsen's ship was so badly damaged that he had to withdraw and leave the command to Witte de With. Evertsen was again blamed by de With to be a coward, and he didn't receive any command for the next 5 years.
Only in May 1659, after the death of de With, he sailed under Michiel de Ruyter in the fleet that assisted Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam in reconquering the Danish islands after the victory in the Battle of the Sound, in which de With was killed.
Second Anglo-Dutch War
Despite his age, Johan Evertsen became third in command of the fleet that faced the English in the Battle of Lowestoft. The battle went horribly wrong for the Dutch, and the first and second in command, Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam and Egbert Bartholomeusz Kortenaer, were killed. Evertsen now took command, but the confusion in the Dutch fleet was so great, that Cornelius Tromp did the same. By the evening the Dutch fleet was in full flight.
Johan Evertsen was summoned to The Hague. When he travelled there, he was dragged from his carriage by an angry mob, mistreated, and thrown into the water, hands and feet tied. He saved himself by clinging on to the stem of a ship. He had to be escorted for his protection by an armed detachment to Den Helder, where he would be trailed for cowardice.
But the commanders of the fleet spoke out in his favour, and when it became clear that Evertsen had prevented worst by covering the retreat of the fleet, receiving 150 bullet impacts in his ship, he was released from prison.
When his brother Cornelis Evertsen the Elder was killed in the Four Days' Battle, Johan joined as yet the fleet and took command of the vanguard of De Ruyter. He was killed on the first day of the St James's Day Battle.
Both brothers were, after much conflict between the Admiralty and the family over the costs, in 1681 buried in the Abbey of Middelburg, where their shared grave memorial is still to be seen.
Marriage and children
Johan married Maayken Gorcum (1600–1671). They had five children:
- Johan Evertsen, the younger (1624–1649)
- Cornelis Evertsen the Younger (1628–1679), vice-admiral
- three daughters
- Jonge, J. C. de, Levens-beschrijving van Johan en Cornelis Evertsen, Luitenant-Admiralen van Zeeland, ’s Gravenhage, Weduwe J. Allart & Comp., 1820.
- This article is based on the article from the Dutch Wikipedia "Johan Evertsen".