The first shot that took effect carried off the point of the pennant of Don Juan de Cardona, who in his swiftest vessel was hovering along the line.
Continuing The Battle of Lepanto and the Destruction of the Turkish Navy,
our selection from Don John of Austria by Sir William Stirling-Maxwell published in 1883. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in The Battle of Lepanto and the Destruction of the Turkish Navy.
Place: Gulf of Patras
He [Ali – jl] also observed with concern the large number of the galleys which were Spanish, or western (ponenirinas, as they were called in the Levant), and of a stronger build than those which were constructed at Venice by the Orientals. He now saw that the victory was not to be so easy as he had anticipated, and that he must neglect no means that might avert defeat. A kind-hearted as well as a brave man, he had always been remarkable for the humanity with which he had cared for the unhappy Christian slaves who rowed his galley. He now walked forward to their benches and said to them in Spanish: “Friends, I expect you to-day to do your duty by me, in return for what I have done for you. If I win the battle, I promise you your liberty; if the day is yours, God has given it to you.”
When the fleets neared each other, and the Christians were all prostrate before their crucifixes and friars, and no sound was heard on their decks but the voices of the holy fathers, the Turks were indulging in every kind of noise which nature or art had furnished them with the means of producing. Shouting and screaming, they bade the Christians come on “like drowned hens” and be slaughtered; then they danced and stamped and clanged their arms; they blew trumpets, clashed cymbals, and fired volleys of useless musketry. When the Christians had ended their devotions and stood to their guns, or in their ordered ranks, each galley, in the long array, seemed on fire, as the noon-tide sun blazed on helmet and corselet, and pointed blades and pikes with flame. The bugles now sounded a charge, and the bands of each vessel began to play. Before Don John retired from the forecastle to his proper place on the quarter-deck, it is said by one of the officers, who had written an account of the battle, that he and two of his gentlemen, “inspired with youthful ardor, danced a galliard on the gun platform to the music of the fifes.” The Turkish line, to the glitter of arms, added yet more splendor of color from the brilliant and variegated garb of the janissaries, their tall and fanciful crests and prodigious plumes, and from the multitude of flags and streamers which every galley displayed from every available point and peak. Long before the enemy were within range the Turkish cannon opened. The first shot that took effect carried off the point of the pennant of Don Juan de Cardona, who in his swiftest vessel was hovering along the line, correcting trifling defects of position and order, like a sergeant drilling recruits. About noon a flash was seen to proceed from one of the galleasses of the Christian fleet. The shot was aimed at the flag-ship of the Pacha, conspicuous in the centre of the line, and carrying the sacred green standard of the Prophet. Passing through the rigging of the vessel, the ball carried off a portion of the highest of the three splendid lanterns which hung on the lofty stern as symbols of command. The Pacha, from his quarter-deck, looked up on hearing the crash, and perceiving the ominous mischief, said, “God grant we may be able to give a good answer to this question.” The next shot split off a great piece of the poop of an adjacent galley. Of the six galleass four were soon pouring a murderous fire into the Turkish centre and right wing; the remaining two, which were intended to gall the left wing, having been rendered of little use, then and during the battle, by dexterous southerly movements of Aluch Ali. The balls from the galleasses appeared to stop the vessels which they struck, and which seemed to have been met as by a wall. Two of them were speedily sunk by the terrible fire. Perceiving the great superiority of the galleasses in weight of metal, Ali ordered his galleys not to attempt to attack them, but, avoiding them as well as they could, to push on against the galleys of the Christians. Obedience to this order, however necessary, produced great confusion in the Turkish line.
The Pacha of Alexandria, who led the right wing, endeavored both to elude the galleasses and circumvent his antagonists, the Venetians on the Christian left, by passing between them and the shore. Barbarigo observed the movement, and prepared to oppose by adopting it; but his pilots, inferior to those of Sirocco in local knowledge, dreading the shoals and shallows, did not stand toward the coast with sufficient boldness. The Pacha therefore effected his purpose with a few of his vessels and Barbarigo found himself placed between two fires; his own galley at one time being engaged by no less than eight Turkish vessels. As they approached the Christians, the Turks assailed them not only with cannon and musketry, but also with showers of arrows, many of which, from the wounds inflicted by them, were supposed to have been poisoned. As Barbarigo stood giving orders on his quarter-deck, he became a conspicuous mark; and the hail of arrows fell so thick around him that the great lantern which adorned the galley’s stern was afterward found to be studded with their shafts. At length one of these ancient missiles pierced the left eye of the gallant commander and compelled his immediate removal below. The wound, in three days, proved mortal. His nephew, Marco Contarini, rushing to his assistance, was also slain. These untoward events for a moment paralyzed the efforts of the Venetians. The galley became the centre of so severe a fire that its defenders were more than once swept away, and it was in great danger of being taken. Frederigo Nano, however, who, by Barbarigo’s desire, had assumed the command, succeeded in rallying his men, and not only beat off Sirocco, but made a prize of one of his best galleys and its commander, the corsair Kara Ali.
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