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The naval Battle of Palermo took place on 2 June 1676 during the Franco-Dutch War, between a French force sent to support a revolt in the city of Messina against the Spanish rule in Sicily, and a Spanish force supported by a Dutch maritime expedition force.

The Allied Dutch and Spanish ships were at the bay of Palermo. Making repairs from earlier engagements with the French fleet (battles of Stromboli and Augusta, Sicily) where Dutch Lt. Admiral General de Ruyter suffered lethal injuries. His death caused a severe impact on morale of the Dutch. The command of the Dutch fleet was transferred to Vice Admiral den Haen.

Battle of Palermo
The French fleet attacked the ill prepared Spanish ships. Many of them fleed (rightwing) without order. Three Spanish frigates were burnt due to a French fireship attack. Two Spanish galleys were destroyed by artillery fire with Admiral de Villaroel killed. Then the French attacked the left side and centre consisting of the Dutch ships.

Fireships weapon

The Spanish flagship, 70-gun Nuestra Señora del Pilar, was attacked by four French fireships, caught fire and exploded with 200 sailors and both Admirals, de Ibarra and de La Cerda, killed.

The majority of Dutch losses could be attributed to another successful French fireship attack on 68-gun Steenbergen which collided with two other Dutch ships, 50-gun Vrijheid and 36-gun Leiden, in a failed evasive manoeuvre. All three Dutch ships caught fire and exploded, though most of their crews escaped successfully. Rear Admiral van Middelandt was killed on board Steenbergen. The Dutch continued to resist though. Vice Admiral den Haen was killed by a cannonball while commanding his flagship, 76-gun Gouda.

With all Dutch and Spanish admirals killed, a flag officer of late de Ruyter, Captain Callenburgh of 76-gun Eendracht, assumed general command. One of Spanish coastal batteries exploded and the town caught fire. The Dutch and Spanish were in a dire position, though the French lost all their fireships by this time and Vivonne ordered a return to Messina.


Type: ship of the line
Built: yard in Amsterdam, 1651
Owner: Admiralty of Amsterdam
Dimensions: 134 x 34 x 13.25 ft
Complement: 170-225
Master: Abraham van der Hulst (1653) Adam van Brederode (1676
Armament: 46


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