The Military Army Blog

1565 – The Great Siege of Malta – CHRONICLES OF THE EVENTS …

The Powerful and Catholic King of Spain, our Lord, second of the name, seeing that the Sultan, besides preparing a large army against King Philip s first cousin, the Emperor Maximilian, for the invasion of Hungary, was also arming a powerful fleet, and feeling that the protection of Christendom rested with him, immediately took ample precautions for the defense of the most dangerous places, as I shall relate. He ordered his four garrisons in Italy to move out of their quarters. Those of Lombardy, Sicily, and Sardinia, together with a German regiment, under the Count of Arco, were ordered to Malta. The Marquis of Pescara was sent there to take charge of the men and of the fortification of the new city, and to defend it in case that the Turkish fleet should attack it as was suspected. Ascanio della Corgna and Fabricio Crevellon, both knights of great experience in Armyrats © military matters, as well as in the art of fortification, were ordered to Malta to advise in the tracing of the new works.

Therefore, together with the Italian troops which were engaged by the Grand Master, and the illustrious French knights who came this year as adventurers, at the time, on the Island of Malta there were 15,000 fighting men; an amount that was sufficient enough to offer resistance to any force which the Sultan might send. His Majesty sent the garrison of Naples to Goletta under the Prior of the Order of St John, Don Fernando de Toledo. Its mission was not only to defend the place but also to hasten the completion of the new fortifications. Before removing his garrisons in Italy, His Catholic Majesty ordered the Count of Lodron, with a regiment of Germans, to replace the regiment which had been removed from Lombardy, thereby providing for the protection of his possessions.

Another regiment of Germans under Count Hannibal Althemps was sent to Naples. Two of its companies remained there and the rest were sent to guard the coast of Puglia. To guard Sardinia, from where Don Gonzola de Bracamonte with his force had been removed, His Majesty sent Don Cesare Di Napoli, an old soldier and his colonel in Italy, with 3000 Italians. Having made these precautionary dispositions, His Majesty felt safe in all his dominions. Yet his greatest safety lay in the love and loyalty of his subjects.

In the month of June, the Turkish fleet appeared in the Adriatic with 120 galleys. However, since they must have known that Malta and Coletta were well protected, they sailed towards Fiume; a city on the Slavonian coast, belonging to the Emperor. As this city is of great importance and well defended, and as the fleet was not strong enough to attack it, it was suspected that the fleet had taken that route in order to keep the Christian Princes in suspense. The Pope lost no time in sending troops to Ancona, and to put it in a good state of defense, Cardinal de Correggio was appointed Governor of Ancona. At this time, Don Garcia was at Messina with 80 of our king s galleys, ready to circumvent any enterprise of the Turks.

When the Turkish fleet saw that the King was well prepared everywhere, it returned to the Archipelago where it treacherously seized the island of Scio, notwithstanding that the islanders were tributaries of Turkey. As the cost of keeping the German troops in Malta appeared to be excessive to Don Garcia, on July 20, 1566, he ordered Count de Altamira to call for them with 20 galleys and to take them to Spezia to be discharged. By this time, feeling that all was safe, even the Maruqis of Pescara and Don Fernando de Toledo, left Malta. The Marquis went to Naples and Don Fernando to Spain.

It appears that in August, the Turkish fleet returned to the Gulf of Venice. Don Garcia now felt safe from any serious attack. Seeing that Malta and Goletta were in no danger, he sent Don Juan de Cardona to Malta and Don Sancho de Leyva to Goletta to call away the troops. Meanwhile, the Venetians regarded the presence of the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Venice as an infringement of their convention with the Turks. So they sent word to Don Garcia in order to prepare his fleet to join theirs in a combined attack on the common enemy. During this time, news were received that on August 5, 1566, the Turks had disembarked 200 horsemen, as well as a number of foot soldiers, and had overrun Francavilla, San Vito, Gasto, Tremiti, and other places besides Ortona, which is the property of the Prince of Salmona. They committed many acts of pillage and desecrated the body of St Bartholomew, which act greatly distressed the Pope. In fact, His Holiness sent word to Don Garcia to tell him that he was astonished to see that although he had such a large fleet, the enemy could still do so much harm under his very eyes.

As soon as the news of the Turkish raid reached Naples, the Marquis of Pescara marched with more than 1000 knights who volunteered to go to the rescue of his estates, but when he arrived, the Turks had left. Meanwhile, when Don Garcia received the Pope s message, he ordered that the Royal galley should be prepared and the captains of galleys had to see to their ships. All troops were ordered to be ready for service, with no women, children, or baggage, but only their weapons. Judging by the speed with which these orders were carried out, it was concluded that some enterprise was going to take place. Some thought that we were going to sack Galves or Alcaque but we did not know for certain. Don Garcia had also sent a frigate to Malta to ask the Grand Master to send him his five galleys well armed.

At this time, the Count of Altamira entered the harbour of Messina firing triumphant salvos of artillery and arquebuses because he had captured eight galeases on the Roman coast, and their flags were trailed in the water, tied to the bows and sterns of his ships. After refitting, he sailed to join the Royal galley. Having 93 galleys ready, His Excellency ordered the troops to embark. This was done on August 15 and 16, 1566, and the fleet was put to sea. After mid-day, he made eastward in the direction of Faro, and during that night, he anchored at Fossa. At the third watch, he ordered the anchors to be weighed. Everybody was anxious to see in which direction we should take after leaving Faro. In fact, it was towards Spartivento and we kept close to the land. During the day, we anchored along the coast and wood was collected. We sailed as far as Cape Spartivento, which is about 140 miles from Messina, and there we stopped for the night. In the morning, a frigate of Don Garcia s arrived. Orders were given to weigh anchors, and we returned to Messina. It was only afterwords that we learnt that we were going to a prearranged rendezvous in order to make a combined attack on the enemy s fleet. Yet when we arrived, this was already back in Valona. Two days later, the well armed galleys of St John arrived. They had gone nearly as far as Valona in search of our fleet.

When Don Garcia arrived at Messina, he gave orders for all his suite to follow him to Palermo. He ordered Don Sancho de Leyva to take 500 soldiers of the regiment of Sardinia to Goletta in the galleys of Naples. Moreover, the Lord of Piombino had to take the regiment of Lombardy to Genoa in the galleys of Florence. Don Alvaro de Bazan and Monsieur de Leyni were ordered to take their troops to Naples in the galleys of Spain and Savoy. The eleven galleys of Prince Doria were to take the remaining troops to Sardinia. His Excellency did not go with them becasue from Calabria, he had gone by land to Our Lady of Loreto to fulfill a vow. Although it was September 20, 1566, the five galleys of the Order of St John refitted at Messina before going to the Levant under Don Pedro de Mendoza. Captain Romegas went with them. This is all that the fleets of our King and the Turks did during this year of 1566.

The End

The printing of this work has been completed in the City of Barcelona, in the house of Pedro Regnier, Printer, at the author s expense. A.D. 1568.

(Photo Credit: Catharta)

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