Background: The time is December, 1572. Don Frederic was the murderous son of the
Duke of Alva, and commander of the troops who had just butchered nearly every
citizen and soldier in the city of Naarden. After leaving the city in, ashes, Don
Frederic departed for the front at Amsterdam to meet with his father.
"Maneuvers On The Ice" (Vol. 2, Pg. 427-8)
A little fleet of armed vessels, belonging to Holland, had been frozen
up in the neighborhood of Amsterdam. Don Frederic on his arrival from
Naarden, dispatched a large body of men over the ice to attack the
imprisoned vessels. The crews, had, however, fortified themselves by
digging a wide trench around the whole fleet, which thus became for the
moment an almost impregnable fortress. Out of this frozen citadel a strong
band of well-armed and skillful musketeers sallied forth upon skates as the
besieging force advanced. A rapid, brilliant, and slippery skirmish
succeeded, in which the Hollanders, so accustomed to such winter sport, easily
vanquished their antagonists, and drove them off the field, with the loss of
several hundred Spaniards left dead upon the ice.
'Twas a thing never heard of before today,' said Alva, 'to see a body
of arquebusiers (musketeers) thus skirmishing upon a frozen sea.' In the
course of the next four-and-twenty hours a flood and a rapid thaw released
the vessels, which all escaped to Enkhuyzen, while a frost, immediately and
strangely succeeding, made pursuit impossible.
The Spaniards were astonished at these novel maneuvers upon the ice.
It is amusing to read their elaborate descriptions of the wonderful
appendages which had enabled the Hollanders to glide so glibly into battle
against a superior force, and yet so rapidly to glance away, after achieving a
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Note: Alva immediately ordered 7,000 pairs of skates for his soldiers, who
soon acquired adequate skating skills.
It's unfortunate the author didn't describe in more detail Alva's impression
of this battle, though it's not difficult to envision the humor of this
event (despite the loss of lives). After reading the horror stories of what
the Spaniards did to the Dutch in city after city, year after year, I found
myself applauding these minor Dutch victories, and admiring more and more
the courage and spirit of a people who refused to submit to Spanish
authority. Though they tried for more than 30 years, Spain never conquered Holland.
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