Johan van Galen

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Johan van Galen

Johan van Galen (* 1604 in Essen ; † March 23, 1653 off Livorno in the Mediterranean), born of Galen and also mentioned with the shortened first name Jan , was a captain and squadron commander of the United Netherlands .

Origin and first years at sea

Single sheet print with portrait and naval battle, published after his death. Below the picture a motto for the fame of the deceased.

Johan van Galen was born as the son of Johan von Galen, who settled in Essen around 1600 , and Agneta Hekkings in Essen; his paternal grandparents were Sibilla von Oel and Gisbrecht von Galen, his parents Adam von Galen and Margereta Bongaarden from the Papendorp family.

In 1627 he sought his fortune in the Netherlands and took up sea service at the age of 23; in 1630 he became a ship's master at the private Amsterdam Chamber of Directors. In 1631 he was given command of the newly built 32-gun ship Swaarte Leeuw , in 1632 he commanded the Mars and in 1633 the Maurits , with which he cruised against Dunkirk raiders. In February 1634 he visited his hometown and had a birth certificate issued in Essen. On January 8, 1635, he began his service as a regular captain in the Admiralty of Amsterdam . In 1636 he was given command of the De Bul . After he raised several ships and wanted to sell them as prizes in Plymouth , he and his ship were placed under arrest - only after a year he was able to go back to sea in the spring of 1637.

Service in the English Channel and the Baltic Sea

In the summer of 1639 he took command of the Utrecht in the Witte de With squadron . In the Battle of the Downs on October 13, 1639, van Galen got into action with Antonio d'Oquendo's flagship, Santiago, and he distinguished himself through his bravery. In 1642 he took command of the Prins Willem and was entrusted with various tasks. So he crossed again against captive Dunkirkers and escorted merchants through the canal or into the Baltic Sea .

When Denmark blocked the Øresund to finance the Torstensson War (Swedish-Danish War of 1643−45) in order to collect a drastically raised sound tariff for its passage , the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands decided to set up its Baltic Sea convoy in 1644 - consisting of 800 to 900 ships - to escort through the sound with a strong escort fleet under Witte de With. The merchant ships only had to pay the previous lower duty. During this voyage, Van Galen, captain of the Maan, and Vice-Admiral de With clashed several times; he eventually accused him of "willful disobedience" and placed him under arrest. After his return, van Galen filed an official complaint against de With with the Amsterdam Admiralty in November 1645 and offered to resign. The Admiralty refused because they did not want to give up their services; the complaint against de With remained unsuccessful.

Operations in the Mediterranean

In 1647 he fell ill and was temporarily out of service. In 1649 he was placed under the command of Joris Cats, who was sent to the Mediterranean with a squadron to fight the African pirates . In addition, the squadron should also support France in the fight against Spain. The squadron managed to raise several ships. The crews of the ships brought up by van Galen and sold in Spanish slave markets brought in 61,482 guilders and twelve stuyver . This money, in turn, Dutch sailors were from the African slavery ransomed be.

When van Galen lay with his ship Roos in the Bay of Cádiz in front of Puerto Maria in 1650 to sell the captured 20-person crew of an African ship, he was ambushed by a Spanish gang on the way back with the redeemed 4000 guilders and wounded eleven times . In order to cure his injuries, van Galen turned to the Amsterdam Admiralty, which approved him to return home. He was ordered to hand the ship over to his Lieutenant Govert Reael and to return to Amsterdam on a merchant .

In the Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654)

The naval battle off Livorno of 1653 in an ink drawing by
Willem van de Velde the Elder that was completed soon after the event . Ä.
In this painting of the naval battle near Livorno by Reinier Zeeman (1623–1664), the Dutch superiority is clearly recognizable by the flags in the large top

After his recovery, van Galen received the order in July 1652 to immediately go to the Mediterranean Sea and take command of the squadron operating there. The Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654) was imminent and the Amsterdam Admiralty found the current commander, Joris Cats, unsuitable. Even before the actual declaration of war on July 29, 1652, there had been some armed conflicts; so the battle at Dover on May 29, 1652.

On August 3, 1652 van Galen traveled overland to Livorno , which he reached on August 22. Here he takes command of the Mediterranean Squadron on board the Jaarsveld . In addition, he had received orders to strengthen his squadron with as many merchants as possible. These ships had to be at least 180 loads (approx. 360 t ) in size, were not allowed to have a crew of less than 50 men and had no less than 24 guns.

Van Galen did not let any time pass and immediately made his squadron ready for action in order to sail out as quickly as possible. He knew that England had two squadrons originally operating separately from each other in the Mediterranean: one under Richard Badiley with eight ships and one under Henry Appleton with six ships. Both had orders to unite the squadrons and fight the Dutch in the Mediterranean. Before this could happen, van Galen managed to use ten ships to capture Badiley's association in the sea ​​battle near Elba south of the island of Montecristo on the afternoon of August 27, while he held Appleton's six-ship association blocked off Livorno. The English Levant trade was severely disturbed

In the spring of 1653, Badiley tried again to unite with Appleton. He was supposed to warp his ships out of the port at night so that he could leave the following day and then attack if Badiley himself attacked the Dutch. On March 4, 1653, the sea ​​battle at Livorno broke out . But Appleton had contact with the Dutch too early. Van Galen, now on the Vereenigde Provincien, built in 1643 , was the first to attack the smaller unit under Appleton with a total of sixteen ships. Of its six ships, three were captured and two destroyed in battle. Only the fast sailing Mary could escape to Badiley's bandage, which then withdrew from the majority. During this battle, Van Galen was injured by a cannonball on the lower leg, which was amputated during the fighting ; three weeks later he died of the effects of sepsis .

With Johan van Galen's victory in 1653 in the battle of Livorno, the United Provinces had gained the upper hand and now controlled the trade routes in the Mediterranean. Around this time, the so-called Golden Age of the Netherlands reached its peak.

Grave monument for Johan van Galen in the Nieuwe Kerk of Amsterdam - under the coat of arms of the States General a corona navalis , in the oval the inscription of the epitaph above the discarded hero

Honoring the dead

It was not until March 15 that van Galen was brought to the house of the Dutch consul Peter van der Straten in Livorno, where he died on March 23. His body was embalmed and taken home on board the Haarlem . On December 11, 1653 he was buried with a state funeral in the Nieuwe Kerk . The beginning of the Latin inscription on the epitaph of his tomb, designed by Rombout Verhulst as a so-called praalgraf , translates as: 'Dedicated to the manly hero Johann van Galen from Essen for eternal glory'. The Amsterdam Admiralty covered the cost of 3,100 guilders, as well as the expenditure for the biography that Arnoldus Montanus wrote. On June 7, 1654, the artist from Schiffen received Willem van de Velde the Elder. Ä. the order to record the 'battle between the commander van Galen and the English' for 100 guilders. An honor that no other Dutch captain has ever received.

Individual evidence

  1. In Oosterkamp, ​​p. 8, the beginning of March is given as the period of birth without giving any sources.
  2. Also Halve Maan, Gouden Maan, built in 1643.
  3. The actual declaration of war was decided in parliament on July 10, 1652.
  4. Van Galen's previous flagship Jaarsveld was lost on February 9, 1653 after it hit a rock off Livorno and sank.


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