The forgotten Dutch threat to Virginia

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Although Virginians might not consider an attack by the Dutch Navy to be a serious threat these days, such was not always the case. Little remembered today is the fact that England (and the colony of Virginia) went to war three times with Holland in the mid-17th century. The wars were mostly over trade rivalries between the two nations and since Virginia tobacco was a significant trade item with England, that made the Chesapeake Bay a big inviting target of the Dutch.

During the “Second Anglo-Dutch War,” the greatest threat to the area came from the Dutch naval commander Abraham Crijssen… known to Virginians back then as “Admiral Crimson.” He commanded a raiding fleet that “was looking for trouble” when it entered the Chesapeake Bay in June of 1667. Sitting virtually unprotected in Hampton Roads at that time was the Virginia tobacco fleet of over twenty ships, preparing to sail for England.

Through the deception of flying a British flag, Admiral Crijssen quickly captured and burned the lone English guard ship that been sent to defend us…. He then set to work plundering the helpless tobacco ships at anchor off the town of Hampton. Meanwhile, needing fresh water, the Dutch attempted to land nearby and replenish their casks, but were beaten off at several points by the hastily assembled local militia.

At Jamestown, Governor William Berkeley planned to mobilize several merchant ships, load them with militia and cannon, and attack Crijssen’s fleet. Unfortunately, while valiant in repelling a few Dutch sailors looking for water, the militia proved less than willing to get into a real battle… Several militia commanders and merchant sea captains took their time preparing to fight....

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Jon Kukla - 4/20/2010

Story makes it sound like Dutch raiders suddenly noticed the Chesapeak in the 1670s. In fact Dutch merchants were carrying Virginia tobacco throughout the first half of the 17th century - especially from the Eastern Shore. And it was a Dutch ship that infamously delivered "20 and odd" slaves to Virginia in 1619.
By the 1640s the Mathews-Claiborne faction based in the James River were busy with their London-merchant allies such as Maurice Thompson trying to control the tobacco trade and exclude the Dutch - a policy that culminated in the Navigation Act of 1651. After the Restoration, to the great disappointment of Wm Berkeley and his supporters, Charles II and Parliament renewed the Navigation Act and eventually harried the Dutch out of the colonial tobacco trade.