Losing strategy

Up, and with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Pen to White Hall in the latter’s coach, where, when we come, we find the Duke at St. James’s, whither he is lately gone to lodge. So walking through the Parke we saw hundreds of people listening at the Gravel-pits, and to and again in the Parke to hear the guns, and I saw a letter, dated last night, from Strowd, Governor of Dover Castle, which says that the Prince come thither the night before with his fleete, but that for the guns which we writ that we heard, it is only a mistake for thunder; and so far as to yesterday it is a miraculous thing that we all Friday, and Saturday and yesterday, did hear every where most plainly the guns go off, and yet at Deale and Dover to last night they did not hear one word of a fight, nor think they heard one gun. This, added to what I have set down before the other day about the Katharine, makes room for a great dispute in philosophy, how we should hear it and they not, the same wind that brought it to us being the same that should bring it to them: but so it is.
Major Halsey, however (he was sent down on purpose to hear newes), did bring newes this morning that he did see the Prince and his fleete at nine of the clock yesterday morning, four or five leagues to sea behind the Goodwin, so that by the hearing of the guns this morning we conclude he is come to the fleete.
After wayting upon the Duke, Sir W. Pen (who was commanded to go to-night by water down to Harwich, to dispatch away all the ships he can) and I home, drinking two bottles of Cocke ale in the streete in his new fine coach, where no sooner come, but newes is brought me of a couple of men come to speak with me from the fleete; so I down, and who should it be but Mr. Daniel, all muffled up, and his face as black as the chimney, and covered with dirt, pitch, and tarr, and powder, and muffled with dirty clouts, and his right eye stopped with okum. He is come last night at five o’clock from the fleete, with a comrade of his that hath endangered another eye. They were set on shore at Harwich this morning, and at two o’clock, in a catch with about twenty more wounded men from the Royall Charles.
They being able to ride, took post about three this morning, and were here between eleven and twelve. I went presently into the coach with them, and carried them to Somerset-House-stairs, and there took water (all the world gazing upon us, and concluding it to be newes from the fleete, and every body’s face appeared expecting of newes) to the Privy-stairs, and left them at Mr. Coventry’s lodging (he, though, not being there); and so I into the Parke to the King, and told him my Lord Generall was well the last night at five o’clock, and the Prince come with his fleete and joyned with his about seven. The King was mightily pleased with this newes, and so took me by the hand and talked a little of it. Giving him the best account I could; and then he bid me to fetch the two seamen to him, he walking into the house. So I went and fetched the seamen into the Vane room to him, and there he heard the whole account.
THE FIGHT.
How we found the Dutch fleete at anchor on Friday half seas over, between Dunkirke and Ostend, and made them let slip their anchors. They about ninety, and we less than sixty. We fought them, and put them to the run, till they met with about sixteen sail of fresh ships, and so bore up again. The fight continued till night, and then again the next morning from five till seven at night. And so, too, yesterday morning they begun again, and continued till about four o’clock, they chasing us for the most part of Saturday and yesterday, we flying from them. The Duke himself, then those people were put into the catch, and by and by spied the Prince’s fleete coming, upon which De Ruyter called a little council (being in chase at this time of us), and thereupon their fleete divided into two squadrons; forty in one, and about thirty in the other (the fleete being at first about ninety, but by one accident or other, supposed to be lessened to about seventy); the bigger to follow the Duke, the less to meet the Prince. But the Prince come up with the Generall’s fleete, and the Dutch come together again and bore towards their own coast, and we with them; and now what the consequence of this day will be, at that time fighting, we know not. The Duke was forced to come to anchor on Friday, having lost his sails and rigging. No particular person spoken of to be hurt but Sir W. Clerke, who hath lost his leg, and bore it bravely. The Duke himself had a little hurt in his thigh, but signified little.
The King did pull out of his pocket about twenty pieces in gold, and did give it Daniel for himself and his companion; and so parted, mightily pleased with the account he did give him of the fight, and the successe it ended with, of the Prince’s coming, though it seems the Duke did give way again and again. The King did give order for care to be had of Mr. Daniel and his companion; and so we parted from him, and then met the Duke [of York], and gave him the same account: and so broke up, and I left them going to the surgeon’s and I myself by water to the ‘Change, and to several people did give account of the business. So home about four o’clock to dinner, and was followed by several people to be told the newes, and good newes it is. God send we may hear a good issue of this day’s business!
After I had eat something I walked to Gresham College, where I heard my Lord Bruncker was, and there got a promise of the receipt of the fine varnish, which I shall be glad to have. Thence back with Mr. Hooke to my house and there lent some of my tables of naval matters, the names of rigging and the timbers about a ship, in order to Dr. Wilkins’ book coming out about the Universal Language.
Thence, he being gone, to the Crown, behind the ‘Change, and there supped at the club with my Lord Bruncker, Sir G. Ent, and others of Gresham College; and all our discourse is of this fight at sea, and all are doubtful of the successe, and conclude all had been lost if the Prince had not come in, they having chased us the greatest part of Saturday and Sunday.
Thence with my Lord Bruncker and Creed by coach to White Hall, where fresh letters are come from Harwich, where the Gloucester, Captain Clerke, is come in, and says that on Sunday night upon coming in of the Prince, the Duke did fly; but all this day they have been fighting; therefore they did face again, to be sure. Captain Bacon of The Bristoll is killed. They cry up Jenings of The Ruby, and Saunders of The Sweepstakes. They condemn mightily Sir Thomas Teddiman for a coward, but with what reason time must shew.
Having heard all this Creed and I walked into the Parke till 9 or 10 at night, it being fine moonshine, discoursing of the unhappinesse of our fleete, what it would have been if the Prince had not come in, how much the Duke hath failed of what he was so presumptuous of, how little we deserve of God Almighty to give us better fortune, how much this excuses all that was imputed to my Lord Sandwich, and how much more he is a man fit to be trusted with all those matters than those that now command, who act by nor with any advice, but rashly and without any order. How bad we are at intelligence that should give the Prince no sooner notice of any thing but let him come to Dover without notice of any fight, or where the fleete were, or any thing else, nor give the Duke any notice that he might depend upon the Prince’s reserve; and lastly, of how good use all may be to checke our pride and presumption in adventuring upon hazards upon unequal force against a people that can fight, it seems now, as well as we, and that will not be discouraged by any losses, but that they will rise again.
Thence by water home, and to supper (my father, wife, and sister having been at Islington today at Pitt’s) and to bed.

flee fight flee flee
flee flee flee flee

FIGHT flee fight flee
flee flee flee fight

fight fight fight flee
fight flee fight


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 4 June 1666 (account of the Four Days’ Battle).

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