Relief Of Leyden
The armies of Spain and the Inquisition were seeking to subdue Holland. The city of Leyden was filled with many people trying to escape the advancing papal armies. In fact, so many people had fled to the city for safety that there were now three times the number of people than those who actually lived there. There was not enough food to feed them all; and after having held out against the Spaniards for three months, they were threatened with starvation. In order to send relief and food to the starving city, William of Orange decided upon a desperate plan.
Much of Holland is land that is actually lower than the sea that surrounds the small country. The seawater is kept out by a wall, or series of dikes. William determined to break a hole in the dikes, allowing seawater to flood in over the land. According to his plan, he was then going to send a flotilla of flat-bottomed relief ships, armed with guns and filled with supplies, to assist the besieged city of Leyden.
An opening was made in the dike; but that year strong, northeasterly winds blew longer than usual, beating back the waters. Only a few inches of seawater flooded in over the land, not nearly enough to float the boats with the supplies. The Spanish, who had at first been terrified at the prospect of being flooded by the ocean, began to ridicule the efforts to rescue the starving people of Leyden. Their taunts, however, were heard by One whose hand holds the oceans.
For seven weeks there had been not a piece of bread in Leyden. The suffering from hunger was terrible. Already thousands had died when, on the first of October, the wind gave evidence of shifting and a gale began to blow in from the northwest. After blowing for some hours, it again changed directions, coming with increased fury from the southwest. The strength of the winds heaped up the waters of the ocean upon the coast of Holland and, like loosed from its fetters, it came surging through the broken dikes. At midnight on the second of October, Admiral Boisot’s flotilla was afloat and making its way to Leyden.
Boisot’s fleet advanced to within two miles of the walls of Leyden; but here, at about a mile distance from the city, was a strong Spanish garrison, called Lammen, blocking the way. The admiral realized that the fort was above water and of great strength, and he hesitated to attack it. The citizens in Leyden saw the fleet behind the fort and understood the difficulty preventing the relief supplies from arriving. By means of a carrier pigeon, it was arranged that the following morning, the people from inside Leyden would attack the Spanish fort from one side, while the ships would attack from the other.
Night fell again, and it was blacker than usual. About midnight, a terrible crash was heard. A short time later, a strange sight appeared. A line of lights was seen to be coming out of Lammen and moving through the darkness away from the fort. All waited for the coming of day to explain what was happening.
At last dawn broke, and it was seen that a large portion of the city walls of Leyden had fallen over during the night. This was what had caused the noise. Had the Spanish realized what had taken place, they might have rushed into the city and massacred the inhabitants; but instead of this, they imagined the terrible sound to be the enemy rushing to attack them, so, lighting their torches and lanterns, they fled when no man pursued. Instead of opening fire on the fort, Boisot sailed under the silent guns of the now empty fort and entered the city of Leyden.
The citizens of Leyden, along with the sailors of Admiral Boisot’s fleet, sang a hymn of thanksgiving and praise, though few were able to continue singing until the end because of the tears of gratitude that were shed.
The miracle of the sea did not end here, for yet another miracle was to reveal the providence of God. The whole fast plain from Rotterdam to Leyden was now underwater. It was expected that many, many hours of labor would be required to recover the fertile and beautiful land, now so sorely marred! The very next day, however, the wind shifted to the northeast and, blowing with great violence, it steadily pushed the waters back out to sea, laying bare the land behind. He Who had brought up the ocean upon Holland with His mighty hand, rolled it back.