Capture of the Dutch fleet at Den Helder

Capture of the Dutch fleet at Den Helder
Part of the War of the First Coalition

Capture of the Dutch fleet by the French hussars
Date23 January 1795
LocationNow Wadden Sea, Netherlands
Result Capture of the Dutch fleet
 Dutch Republic France Republican France
Commanders and leaders
Dutch Republic H. Reintjes (POW) France J-G de Winter
France Louis Lahure
14 warships
850 guns in total
One hussar regiment
One infantry battalion
Casualties and losses
14 warships (850 guns), and several merchant ships captured None

The Capture of the Dutch fleet at Den Helder or the Battle of Texel occurred in the night of the 23 January 1795, and presents a rare occurrence of a "naval" battle between warships and cavalry; a French Hussar regiment surprised a Dutch fleet frozen at anchor between the port of Den Helder and the island of Texel.[1] After an extraordinary charge across the frozen Zuiderzee, the French cavalry captured 14 Dutch ships and 850 guns.[2] This capture of ships by horsemen is a unique feat in military history.[3][4] Some sources however say that no battle took place, and that Hussars merely accepted the surrender of the Dutch fleet.[5]

The French units were the 8th Hussar Regiment and the 15th Line Infantry Regiment of the French Revolutionary Army. Jean-Charles Pichegru was the leader of the French army that invaded the Dutch Republic. The Dutch fleet was commanded by H. Reintjes. The actual capture was accomplished by Jean-Guillaume de Winter and Louis Joseph Lahure. The action happened during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.


The port of Den Helder (green) and the island of Texel above in grey.

Den Helder is located at the tip of the North Holland peninsula, south of the island of Texel, on what was then the shallow Zuiderzee bay (Dutch for Southern Sea ; cf North Sea). The Zuiderzee has been closed off and partly pumped out in the 20th century, and what is left of it now forms the freshwater IJsselmeer.

During the War of the First Coalition of the French Revolutionary Wars, General of Division Jean-Charles Pichegru was commanding the autumn 1794 campaign during which the conquest of the Netherlands occurred. The French Army entered Amsterdam on the 19 January 1795 to stay there over winter. Well informed, the general found out that a Dutch fleet was anchored at Den Helder, approximately eighty kilometers north from Amsterdam.

The winter of 1794–1795 was exceptionally cold, causing the Zuiderzee to freeze.[6]

Pichegru ordered General of Brigade Jean-Guillaume de Winter to lead a squadron of the 8th Hussar. De Winter had been serving with the French since 1787, and would later command the Dutch fleet in the Battle of Camperdown.


Prise de la flotte Anglo-Batave, arrêtée par les glaces dans les eaux du Texel pendant l'hiver de 1795. by Charles Louis Mozin.

General de Winter arrived at Den Helder with his troops during the night of the 23 January 1795. The Dutch fleet was there as expected, trapped by ice. Each hussar had brought on the croup of his horse an infantryman of the 15th Line Infantry Regiment. After a careful approach to avoid awakening the Dutch sailors (the hussars had covered the horses' hooves with fabric[7]), Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Joseph Lahure launched the assault. The ice did not break, and the hussars and infantrymen were able to board the Dutch ships. The French captured the Dutch admiral and the vessels' crews; the French suffered no casualties.[8]


The capture completed, the French conquest of the Netherlands was brought to an end and the French Army captured 14 warships, 850 guns, and several merchant ships.[9] It is the only time in known military history in which cavalry captured a fleet.[10][11]


The ships of the line, frigates, and corvettes received French crews in February 1795. France returned all her prizes to the Batavian Republic in May 1795 against a payment of 100 million Florins.

Ships of the line (5)[12][13]
Frigates (3)[14][13]
Corvettes (6)[15][13]
Cutters (4)[16][13]

Post script

In the Vlieter Incident on 30 August 1799, a squadron of the navy of the Batavian Republic under the command of Rear-Admiral Samuel Story surrendered to the British Royal Navy. The incident occurred during the Anglo-Russian Invasion of Holland. It took place on a sandbank near the channel between Texel and the mainland that was known as De Vlieter, near Wieringen. Two of the vessels the British seized were Admiral de Ruyter and Gelderland.

Notes, citations, and references


    External links

    Coordinates: 52°57′30″N 4°45′32″E / 52.9583°N 4.7589°E / 52.9583; 4.7589

    This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/18/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.