Vere, Francis

, a brave English commander, was second son to Geoffrey Vere, who was third son of John Vere, earl of Oxford. He was born in 1554, and applying himself early to the military art, became one of the most famous generals of his time. He served first among the forces sent by queen Elizabeth, under the command of the earl of Leicester, to the assistance of the States of Holland, where he gave proofs of a warlike genius, and undaunted courage. In 1588, he was part of the English garrison which gallantly defended Bergen -op- Zoom against the prince of Parma and “that true courage might not want its due reward or distinction,” says Camden, “the lord Willoughby, who was general of the English after Leicester’s departure, conferred the honour of knighthood on sir Francis Vere, whose great fame commenced from this siege.

In 1589, the town of Bergh, upon the Rhine, being besieged by the marquis of Warrenbon, and distressed for want of provisions, sir Francis Vere was sent by the Statesgeneral to count Meurs, governor of Guelderland, with nine companies of English, to concert with him measures for the relief of that town. At his coming to Arnheim, the governor being greatly hurt by an explosion of gunpowder, and the states of the province representing to sir Francis the importance of the place, and the great extremity it was reduced to; at their earnest desire he hastened to its relief, with seven companies of Dutch foot, and twelve troops of horse. With these, and carriages laden | with provisions, he marched towards Bergh, through a heathy and open country, with such diligence, that having surprised the enemy, who lay dispersed in their forts about the town, in full view of them", he put provisions into it, and returned without loss. After some days refreshment, the States, who had received advice how matters passed at Bergh, ordrred a fresh supply of provisions for it under the command of sir Francis. When he caine within two English miles of the town, the way they were to take being very narrow, and leading by the castle of Loo, th<- enemy from the castle galled his men and horses in their passage with such resolution, that sir Francis perceived they were not the ordinary garrison. Yet, by his military skill and valour, he beat them back to their castle, and was no farther interrupted by them in his passage through the narrow way: but before he could well form his men on an adjoining plain, he was again attacked by a fresh body of the enemy. At the first encounter, his horse was killed under him by a pike, and falling upon him, he could not presently rise, but lay between the two armies, receiving a hurt in his leg, and several thrusts with pikes through his clothes, till the enemy was forced to give way; and though his forces consisted only of the two English troops under his command, and did not exceed four hundred men, yet by his valour and conduct the enemy was defeated, and lost about eight hundred men. He afterwards threw in provisions into Bergh, and exchanged the garrison, though count Mansfeldt was near with thirteen or fourteen thousand foot, and twelve hundred horse.

In 1590, he bravely relieved the castle of Lickenhooven, in the fort of Recklinchusen, with the diocese of Cologn, in which the States had a garrison that was besieged; and he also recovered the town of Burick in Cleves, and a little fort on that side of the Rhine, which had been surprized by the enemy. In 1591, he took by stratagem a fort near Zutphen, in order to facilitate the siege of that town. The manner in which he made himself master of this place is thus related by himself in his “Commentaries:” “I chose,” he says, “a good number of lusty and hardy young soldiers, the most of which I apparelled like the country-women of those parts, the rest like the men: gave to some baskets, to others packs, and such burthens as the people usually carry to the market, with | pistols, and short swords, and daggers under their garments, willing them, by two or three in a company, by break of day, to be at the ferry of Zutphen, which is just against the fort, as if they stayed for the passage boat of the town; and bade them there to sit and rest themselves in the mean time, as near the gate of the fort as they could for avoiding suspicion, and to seize upon the same as soon as it was opened, which took so good effect, that they possessed the entry of the fort, and held the same till an officer with two hundred soldiers (who was laid in a covert not far off) came to their succour, and so btcame fully master of the place. By which means the siege of the town afterwards proved the shorter.

Sir Francis also assisted count Maurice at the siege of Deventer, being the chief instrument in the taking that place; and it was also through his conduct and valour, that the duke of Parma received a signal defeat before Knodsenburgh fort, near Nimeguen: which obliged that prince to retire from thence, with more dishonour than m any action that he had undertaken in those wars. In 1596 he was recalled from the Low Countries, and employed in the expedition against Cadiz, -with the title of Lord Marshal: and in this enterprize he displayed his usual courage and military skill. He returned again to Holland the following year, and had a principal share in the action near Turnhout, where near three thousand of the enemy were killed and taken. Some time after he was appointed governor of the Brill, one of the cautionary towns in the Low Countries, and was permitted at the same time to retain the command of the English troops in the service of the States. In 1599, when a new Spanish invasion was apprehended, the queen constituted him Lord Marshal: and being sent over in all possible haste, he embarked on the 22d of August at the Brill, and arrived in London the next day, where he remained until all apprehensions of an invasion were over. He then returned back to the Hague, and had there an audience of the States.

In the beginning of 1600, he had much dispute with the States about some accounts, and particularly their having lessened, in his absence, the companies he commanded for them, from an hundred and fifty to an hundred and thirteen men. He still however continued in his command, and abomt this time the forces of the States laid | siege to Nieuport; but Albert, archduke of Austria, who commanded the Spanish forces, having recovered many forts which had been surprized by the troops in the Dutch service, and cut off eight hundred Scots who were posted as a rear-guard to intercept his passage, came to the relief of Nieuport, and a battle became unavoidable The army of the States was commanded by prince Maurice, and the chief officers under him were sir Francis Vere, who was lieutenant-general of the foot, and colonel Lodovick of Nassau, general of the horse. Vere, who commanded in the front, having occasion to repass a ford, before he could come to a convenient place of action, ordered his men not to strip themselves; for which he assigned this reason, “that they would in a few hours either have better clothes, or stand in need of none.A council of war being then held, prince Maurice was entirely directed by Vere, who was of opinion, that the army of the States ought to wait for the enemy. The dispositions for the battle were then made by Vere with admirable judgment: and the English, who were not above one thousand five hundred, were posted upon the eminences of the downs, and supported by a body of Friesland musqueteers. The archduke was all this time advancing: but his horse, the foot being left behind, were beat back by Vere. The foot, however, coming up, a bloody conflict ensued, in which Vere was wounded, receiving one shot through his leg, and another through his thigh, whilst his horse was killed under him, and himself almost taken prisoner: but prince Maurice advancing with the main body, the battle became general; and the Spaniards, by the courage and good conduct of Vere, received a total defeat.

The last and most signal military exploit performed by sir Francis Vere, was his gallant defence of Ostend, which, was besieged by the archduke Albert and a very numerous army. Vere had been appointed general of all the army of the States in and about Ostend; and accordingly he entered that city on the llth of July, 1601, in or-ier to undertake the defence of it, with eight companies of English, and found in the place thirty companies of Netherlanders, making about sixteen or seventeen hundred men. With this handful, for no less than four thousand were necessary for a proper defence, he resolutely defended the place for a long time against the Spanish army, which was computed at twelre thousand men. During the course of | the siege he received a reinforcement of twelve companies of English, and. cut out a new harbour at Ostend, which proved of gi’eat service to him. On Aug. 14, he was wounded in the head by the bursting of a cannon, which obliged him to remov" into Zealand till Sept. 19, when he returned to Ostenti, and found that in his absence some English troops had arrived there to reinforce the garrison. On Dec. 4, in the night, the Spaniards fiercely assaulted the English trendies, so that sir Francis Vere was callt d up without having time to put on his clothes; but by his conduct and valour the enemy were repulsed, and lost about 500 men. In the mean time the place began to be much distressed; and sir Francis, having advice that the besiegers intended a general assault, in order to put them off, and gain time, he artfully contrived to enter into treaty with them for the surrender of the place; but receiving part of the supplies which he had long expected from the States, with an assurance of more at hand, he broke off the treaty. The archduke, equally surprized and enraged at this conduct, which indeed is scarcely to be vindicated, took a resolution to revenge himself of those within the town, saying he would put them all to the sword; and his officers and soldiers likewise took an oath, that, if they entered, they would spare neither man, woman, nor child. They made a general assault on Jan. 7, 1602; but sir Francis, with only twelve hundred men, kept off the enemy’s army of 10,000, which threw that day above 2,200 shot on the town; and had before discharged on it no less than 163,200 cannon shot, leaving scarcely a whole house standing. Our heroic general having acquired immortal honour in the defence of Osrend for eight months together, resigned his government March 7, 1602, to Frederic Dorp, who had been appointed by the States to succeed him; and he and his brother, sir Horatio Vere, returned into Holland.

Soon after his discharge from the government of Ostend, sir Francis, at the request of the States, came into England to desire fresh succours, which went over in May, and were to be under his command. He accordingly returned again to Holland; and upon receiving the news of queen Elizabeth’s death, he proclaimed king James I. at the Brill, in April 1603. A few months after he came to England, and his government of the Brill expiring, or he being superseded at Elizabeth’s death, it was renewed to him by king James. But under this pacific sovereign, a peace was | concluded with Spain in 1601. Sir Francis survived this about four years, and died at home, Aug. 28, 1608, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. He was interred in St. John’s chapel, Westminster-abbey, where a monument was erected to his memory by his lady. Besides his other preferments, he was governor of Portsmouth. He had three sons and two daughters, who all died before him. He married Elizabeth, second daughter of John Dent, a citizen of London, and she re-married with Patrick Murray, a son of John earl of Tullibardine, in Scotland.

Sir Francis Vere was a general of the greatest bravery, and of equal military talents. Queen Elizabeth had an high opinion of him, and always treated him with the greatest respect, often saying that she “held him to be the worthiest captain of her time.” He was a man of letters, as well as an accomplished general, and wrote an account of his principal military transactions, which were published from the author’s original, compared with two other transcripts, in 1657, by William Dillingham, D. D. under the title of “The Commentaries of sir Francis Vere, being divers pieces of service, wherein he had command, written by himself, in way of commentary,Cambridge, fol. with portraits of sir Francis, and sir Horace Vere, sir John Ogle, and maps and plans, &c. and additions by sir John Ogle, Henry Hexham, Isaac Dorislaus, and the editor. 1

1 Biog. Brit. Lloyd’s and Fuller’s Worthies. Peck’s Cromwell Collections, p. 32. -Lodge’s Illustrations, vol. III.