Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/130

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THE pirates of Algiers had for some years been very troublesome, not in the Mediterranean only, but also along the European coasts of the Atlantic. Several English vessels trading to Smyrna had been plundered, and the corsairs had even made descents on the coasts of England and Ireland and had swept away people into slavery. James I proposed that the different Christian powers should unite to destroy Algiers, the principal port of these pirates. Spain, whose subjects suffered most, engaged to co-operate, but withdrew at the last moment. Sir Robert Mansell was placed in command of the English fleet, but provided with an inefficient force, and given strict orders from the timid and parsimonious James not on any account to endanger his vessels.

On 24 May, 1621, Sir Thomas sailed into the harbour of Algiers and set fire to the Moorish ships and galleys; but had scarcely retired—unwilling to follow up the advantage—when "a great cataract of rain" hindered the spread of the fire; and the Algerines succeeded in recovering all their ships with the exception of two, which burnt to the water's edge. The enemy brought their artillery to bear on the English fleet, mounted batteries on the mole, and threw booms across the mouth of the harbour. Mansell, hampered by his instructions, dared not expose his vessels further and withdrew, having lost only eight men; and returned to