Men on Horseback Captured a Fleet of Ships: The Only Time in History When It Happened

French Revolutionary Wars have lasted for decade, but their strangest moments might have lasted for few days only.

In history, Battle of Texel is the only instance where horse-riding soldiers captured a fleet of ships. It was not exactly a battle and took place in 1975.

It was extremely cold in Holland in the winter of 1794-1795. The storm rolled in. A Dutch fleet anchored in the strait of Marsdiep tried to shelter by Texel Island until the storm blew over, but then found themselves iced in. There was a fight between French and Dutch Republic at that time alongside revolutionaries within the Netherlands who supported the ideas of the French Revolution.

French general Jean-Charles Pichegru come to know the news of stuck ships and he asked Johan Williem de Winter, a Dutch admiral who worked for the French, to deal with it. De Winter helped them out sending infantry, calvary and horse-artillery. The troops reacged on 22nd January and camped out for the night.

Blackmore, the author states that: “Seeing their campfires, Captain Reyntjes, oldest and most senior officer in the Dutch fleet and in temporary command of it, prepared to spike all guns and scuttle the ships.”

After that news came at the midnight that revolutionaries had overtaken the government and wanted to pause the fighting. Author says: “But for this timely ceasefire there might have been an epochal fight between a land army and a fleet.”

Other reasons behind ceasing of war included unavailability of heavy guns and ladders to climb the ships by French. Dutch were not as weak as they seemed. Frozen into the ice near one another, and well-armed, Dutch forces from one ship could cover another. There were 14 Dutch ships with a fair amount of firepower.

Hussars, famed French cavalrymen were sent by French leader to see if they could intimidate the Dutch into surrendering, but results were not favorable as Dutch was not intending to do so.

Blackmore says: “Subsequent French military propagandists sponsored the unlikely story of ’Ragged men… thundering on their horses across the ice to capture with naked sword the battlefleet of Holland. In fact, it was a lot more mundane.”

The situation does not clearly states what happened but there wasn’t a big battle. It is likely that they rode up to Reyntjes’ ship and the two sides agreed to wait for orders. Blackmore says: “Five days later, the Dutch crews swore an oath to comply with French orders and maintain naval discipline, but could remain under the Dutch flag.”

No doubt this was one of history’s weirder moments for sure.

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