From a letter by admiral Steven van der Haghen to the VOC-directors of Amsterdam,
written on 10 March 1616, off Jacatra
[Dutch National Archives, access no.: 1.04.02 (VOC), file 1059, folio folio 292 to 300r]
the original letter, partly printed in Tiele "Bouwstoffen etc",p.118 to p.131

...As it has not been possible to execute the resolution, taken upon our arrival in the Indies [november 5 or 6, 1614], to secure the isle of Carimon [note 1] and the place of Johor ..., the late Sir Governor-General Gherardt Reynst and the Council of the Indies approved last October that I would go to the quarters of Johor with the ships Nieuw Zeeland, Hollandia, Middelburch, the Zon (Sun) and the Maan (Moon) [2]. This in order to harm the enemy as much as possible and to wait for the carack coming from Macao.
We have found a situation very different from the one we expected and hoped to find. The king of Aceh had come to Johor river with 300 sails and 30 or 40 thousand men, burning the empty city. We have heard no other reason for this than the great tyranny and ambition of the above-mentioned king [3]. The king of Johor, being not powerful enough to withstand the king of Aceh, had fled upon the rumours of the approach of the armada. He stayed on proas and other vessels under the nearby Bintam [P. Bintan] islands, in order not to be seen by the king of Aceh.
Those from Malacca had come to assist the king of Johor with 4 big and excellent galleons, of which 3 had 2 rows of guns.. . They had made a peace treaty with the king of Johor, confirming it by convoying the King's son with frigates to Pahan, where he would accept possession of that kingdom.
Between Moër [Muar] and Rio Formosa [Batu Bahat] they met the armada, which was returning to Aceh without provisions, and engaged a battle.[4] One of the galleons took fire by its own gunpowder and exploded. From this the king of Aceh got 50 or 60 Portuguese prisoners.
We found it advisable to prevent that the galleons might give assistance to the carack arriving from China and we continued vigilantly our journey to Malacca, taking with us the yachts Neptunus and Aeolus [5], which had been sent later to us by the Sir Governor-General. On the December 7, as soon as we got the city of Malacca in sight the 3 remaining galleons [6] raised sail and set themselves close to the Isla das Naxos, a small island straight off Malacca.

[follows a two page, detailed description how the Portuguese set on fire 2 of their own galleons after a battle on december 9 and 10 ; the dutch conquered the 3rd galleon with only 15 prisoners [7]; Dutch losses were 21 or 22 persons; the Dutch estimation was that the Portuguese lost more than 200 persons, including the vice-admiral and several captains. An even more detailed Dutch account is given in Van der Haghen's letter to J.P. Coen d.d. 25 december 1615, printed in Coolenbrander "J.P. Coen etc p.63-69";
This letter also states very briefly that on the VOC side the loss of the 400 ton ship "Rode Leeuw met pijlen" (Red Lion with Arrows) should be included. Coming from the Coromandel coast together with another VOC ship, the yacht "Der (or Ter) Goes", they met the 4 Portuguese galleons near Aru [8], between Aceh and Malacca. The Red Lion was so badly damaged that it had to be tossed to Aceh; The yacht "Ter Goes" continued her journey, sailing along the west-coast of Sumatra in order to avoid the Portuguese ships, which took her more than 3 months
Coen in his letter to the directors in the Republic of the same date (Coolenbrander, p. 154-155 ) situates the battle near Malacca and adds that it took place in July 1615. Information based upon meetings with Hans de Hase, financial controller and sailing on the ship "Der Goes";
for Portuguese information see note [9] ]

These galleons have been made in the Indies. May last year, they had sailed away from Goa to Malacca with the Viceroys' order to sail to Manila. They had been in Singapore Strait, but had returned. Some said that they had been unable to continue while other maintained that they did not want to be in Manila. Which one can believe as every one fears to be sent to the Moluccas.
There were 2 other galleons in India. Together with the other four, they had been in action a little over a year ago against 4 English ships laying in a creek near Suratte. The galleons could not come near them, so the admiral sent 3 patachen [from "patas", Sp.] with several galliots to board the English ships but they were burned by the English without any losses.[10]
So this was the assistance from India for which they had been calling so long in the Moluccas. In my opinion, those in Manila can not expect much help from India for a long time.
We have not been able to burn the vessel [11] that was pulled up high before Malacca, as we do not possess a rowing vessel and also because the enemy stayed around there with galliots the whole night.
On december 13th, after burning the conquered galleon and having terminated our job before Malacca, we parted for Johor to look for the carack and galleon that were expected from Macao, . The yacht Neptunus was sent back to be used elsewhere by Sir Governor-General, after having taken water and some wood near Johor river. The other ships were divided near the cape of Johor, called Oudgontana [12], in the sight of which the carack had to pass. Due to a stiff and hard blowing monsoon wind it was not possible for the ships to headway against the monsoon and reach Poulo Tioman, lacking anchors and ropes.

[the page that follow (Tiele,p. 122-123) describes the agreement made between Van der Haghen and a representative of the king of Johor to fix the part of the king in the prize if a Portuguese ship would strand, defining different parts in case the stranding was merely due to storm and wind or the result of being chased there by the Dutch. Van der Haghen adds that the Portuguese are not likely to let their ships strand, but the agreement was made "just in case" and that the part of the king could be made smaller "by valuation" if the prize proved to be very important ]

After this [having reached an agreement] the orankayas [13] told us that a Spanish ship or small ship had stranded at another cape, called Randgaij [Renquey in the spanish letter]. The crew, 70 to 80, white and black altogether, stayed there with the part of the cargo that had been rescued . We found it advisable that the boats of all the ships, duly equipped and with provisions, would go there and take a look at the place and at the enemy, taking with them the 3 persons from Johor that were left by the Orankayas for that purpose. As it proved impossible for the boats to sail against the monsoon, the committed agreed to send several crew members together with the persons from Johor to the shore to spy the enemy. They reported that it was easy to overmaster them. Again we agreed to send 100 man ashore to jump upon the enemy unexpectedly and take them by surprise. The Lord Almighty gave us victory without any damage, for which we cannot be grateful enough also for the foregoing. We conquered 18 Spaniards, 17 Indian women and between 50 and 60 blacks together with several drag-hooks. This caravel measured about 50 tons burden and came from Manila. She had gone to Macao in order to ask in name of Don Juan de Sylva whether the captain of the galleon that was sent from Goa to convoy the carack would do the same in the Moluccas in service of the king . For which the captain could excuse himself because of his instructions from the Viceroy. They also had bought there guns, ammunition of war, drag-hooks and other tools for the fleet going to the Moluccas. They had made a contract with a Orangkaya representing the king of Johor, stipulating that the king would get half of the guns and the gunpowder, i.e. 114 guns and 9 jars of gunpowder, in exchange for passage through his country to bring the rest to Malacca. This had not yet taken place. The day before our victory a galley [?,14 ] had arrived there and taken away the remaining 100 guns and jars with gunpowder to Malacca.
[...6 lines skipped]
We have examined the prisoners and understood that Don Juan de Sylva in Manila [15] would be ready to sail by mid-january with 10 well-equipped galleons and as many galleys, carrying 1500 man, excepted a good number of Japanese and other Indian nations to come and jump upon the Moluccas. The Admiral and vice-admiral [ships] had more than 50 guns, of which some could shoot iron[ ball]s of 44 and 48 pound. The reinforcements from Nova Hispania had arrived: 2 ships without guns carrying 5 to 600 man together with 300 thousand reals of eight from the king and one and half million from private persons. What will come out of this, time will teach us.
[3 lines skipped].
We have also found among the papers an instruction from the Viceroy of India for the carack and the galleon coming from Macao. In this the carack was instructed expressly to pass at poulo Tioman (situated near Pahan) on their return voyage in order to understand the security or insecurity of this place. The prisoners also informed us that Diego Mendoza Fortado, lieutenant-colonel or admiral of the Southern quarters, had sailed with galleys[?,14] to Poulo Tioman in order to observe the carack there and make a choice out of the following alternatives: either to bring the cargo ashore and to make fortifications or to choose another route through the detroit of Sunda or otherwise. For this they had taken experienced pilots with them.
On this news we deliberated whether it was advisable to send two or three ships to Poulo Tioman, as the strong wind that had prevented doing so until now, had diminished since two or three days. However we decided that we better sailed soon to Bantam, as the end of the period for doing so, half february, would expire within 6 or 7 days. The ships had no rice provisions, neither anchors and ropes, necessary for turning, which would be necessary. The monsoon was ending. Further delay would jeopardize the inward journey to Amboina and the Moluccas to resist the enemy there. Besides, we had to talk with the king of Johor and in all cases the enemy would have carried the cargo ashore and have fortified themselves in such a way that he could not be beaten with few people.
On February 8, we took sail from Johor to Riou on Bintam to discuss with the king, who stays there and puts up fortifications. He expressed his poor state and extreme distress and asked our advise and action. We had been instructed expressly to hold the king of Johor in devotion, as the prosperity of the company required, the resolution mentioned above could not been implemented for the moment. In these conditions this could only happen if we provided the king at least with artillery and ammunition of war. We have taken counsel a long time considering the fact that the king of Aceh would take this very much amiss. Notwithstanding this, we could not refrain in providing the king with two conquered canons [16] and four iron guns together with eight drums with gunpowder and 10 balls for each gun for the following reasons. It was clear that the peace or armistice between the Portuguese and the King of Johor would be broken and annulled, if it had not been broken already, because of the procedures and acts by the King to our advantage and disadvantage for the Portuguese since we were in the quarters of Johor. Also because of the Johorees that had been captured or killed. In addition, there is a strong rumour that the King of Aceh had made a treaty with the Portuguese.
It would have been easy for us to annul the armistice between the King of Johor and the Portuguese, but in that case the King would ask us for assistance against them, which we were unable to provide at this moment.
[2 folio skipped; Van der Hagen starts answering questions of the VOC-directors]
Your Honour understood from the last dispatches from the Indies that the project to assault Manila had been rejected by resolution by majority of votes. It was agreed upon to wait for the enemy in the Moluccas itself. This resolution has been taken before our time [17], but in my opinion it would not have been a bad idea to fight him in his own country if only in order to burn the galleons that were on the stocks. Our Spanish prisoners said themselves that this could have been easily done.
[at the very end of this letter, not printed in Tiele] We send Your Honour with this letter the skipper of the stranded carvela, called Juan Gallujo? de Missea and Alonso Dias[,] Cap. y Maestro of the same. Your Honour will be able to understand the situation of the Philippines from them.
[1] In August 1614, the VOC had sent an mission to ask the king of Johor permission to build a fortress in his country (letter J.P. Coen of 10 nov.1614, Coolenbrander, p.62); on october 30 the mission returned in Bantam with a positive answer: the VOC could build a fortress wherever they wanted, including the island Carimon;(idem p.90). 6 or 7 days later the new Governor-General and Van der Hagen arrived in Bantan.
Carimon (nowadays: Pulau Karimun) is situated between Singapore and the mainland of Sumatra and was a strategic base of the Sultanate Malacca (1400 - 1510); at present it is part of the Riau province of Indonesia.
[2] "Nieuw Zeeland" (or "Zeelandia") and "Middelburch": both 800 ton, both ships were built in Zeeland for the VOC-chamber of Zeeland; the "Nieuw Zeelandt" was the flagship of admiral Van der Haghen during this expedition.
"Zon" en "(Grote) Maan", both 500 ton, built in Amsterdam for the VOC-chamber of Amsterdam, arrived in Bantam on november 28, 1612 together with 2 other ships; the "Zon" was broken up on 10-1-1621 (source: Dutch Asia Shipping database,; "Hollandia": 1000 ton, 5 guns made of bronze (dutch: halve kartouwen, calibre: 15 cm, balls: 24 pounds), 25 light and heavy iron guns (dutch: gotelingen) (source: Journal of Pieter van der Broecke in: Pieter van den Broecke in Azië. Deel 1. Ed. W.Ph. Coolhaas. 1962, p.74)
[3] a rather naive statement, probably influenced by the recent account of Ryser, the VOC factor in Aceh who had been thrown before the elephants by the king of Aceh. In fact, the king of Aceh had already attacked in 1612 or 1613 the king of Johor and after his victory taken the court of Johor to Aceh. He had liberated them several months later after the conclusion of a treaty and arranging an intermarriage of the two families. One of the conditions in the treaty was a common attack against Malacca. Coen's letters to the VOC directors confirm rumours circulating in Johor and Aceh about the pending attack of Malacca (letter of dec. 27, 1614 and of march 3, 1615, (Coolenbrander p.101 and p.109)); However, in his letter of Oct.22, 1615 he mentions that the sultan of Johor had concluded a peace treaty with Malacca some time before. It is clear that the king of Aceh considered this as a violation of the treaty.
It is not easy to understand why the VOC kept on backing the king of Johor (especially during the attack 1612/13 , when the Aceh's explicitely asked the VOC factory to remain neutral) notwithstanding the fact that Johor had concluded a treaty with the Portuguese and proved to be on the military side, absolutely no match for the king of Aceh at that time.
For the commander of the 4 portuguese ships the target of the Aceh fleet was Malacca and they would have succeeded without the re-enforcement from Goa.
[4] in Portuguese sources known as the naval battle of Rio Formoso - 1615,(Francisco de Miranda Henriques);
[5] "Aeolus" or "Kleine Aeolus": yacht of 240 ton, crew of 90 , built in Rotterdam for the VOC-chamber of Rotterdam, arrived in Bantam on october 31, 1614 after an exceptional long voyage (18 months) loosing 45 of her crew; "Neptunus": yacht of the VOC-chamber of Amsterdam, tonnage unknown, arrived in Bantam on august 16, 1614 after a long voyage of 16 month, loosing 47 of her crew; the ship remained in the Indies until she was laid up in ca. 1620-21; (source: Dutch Asia Shipping database,;
We possess no information about the guns on these two yachts, but another yacht of similar tonnage, the "Nassau" of 300 tons, might give us some indications; she carried 2 guns of bronze (halve kartouwen, calibre: 15 cm) and 14 iron sakers (calibre: ca 8,8 cm, balls: 5,5 p. [iron] or 2 p. [stone]) or 1/2 sakers (calibre: 6,4 à 7,1 cm, balls: 2,5 à 3 p.)(source: Journal of Pieter van der Broecke in: Pieter van den Broecke in Azië. Deel 1. Ed. W.Ph. Coolhaas. 1962, p.74)
[6] the flagship "St. Bento", the vice-admiral ship "St. Laurenco", both with 2 rows of guns, and the "Nossa Seignora del Ramedjo" which had 13 guns made of bronze and 3 iron guns, all of them seized by the Dutch (Van der Haghen's letter of December 25, 1615 (Coolenbrander,p.66);
[7] and 70 persons killed or wounded: Van der Haghen's letter of December 25, 1615 (Coolenbrander,p.67);
[8] Deli Tua, near the present-day harbour of Medan, Belawan;
[9] in Portuguese sources known as naval battle of Ilha das Naus - 1615, (Francisco de Miranda Henriques);
[10] in Portuguese sources known as naval battle of Surrate - 1615 (D.Jerónimo de Azevedo);
An analysis (in Portuguese) of the naval battles mentioned in note 3, 6 and 7 can be found in the book by Comandante Armando Saturnino MONTEIRO, retired teacher at the Naval Academy of the Portuguese Navy:
"Batalhas e Combates da Marinha Portuguesa Vol. V, Perda do Domínio do Mar - (1604-1625)"
editor: LIVRARIA SÁ DA COSTA EDITORA 1ª Edição de 1994 ; ISBN: 9725623231;
A list of the battles treated in the book and some examples can be found on this website:
[11] Van der Haghen's letter of December 25, 1615 (Coolenbrander, p.69) states ".. to burn the junks and other vessel, that was pulled up high before Malacca.."; the expression remains somewhat ambiguous;
[12] Oedjong (or Ujung) Tanah,(according to Tiele); literally: "Land's End"; Jantana for the Portuguese ;
[13] (from the Malay words Orang Kaya) literally: rich person; mostly translated by: "Noble", also "Council of Nobles"; can also mean the village chief
[14] the dutch word is "Gilee" and apparently - from the context - a vessel; Having found no vessel of this name I have taken it for a misspelling of the Dutch word "galei";
[15] The Dutch National Archives contain a few documents from Don Juan de Silva, such as :
"ARA VOC 1064 folio 155 - 162: (Proposition and Declaration by Don Juan de Silva, governor and captain-general of the Philippines, concerning the best way to use the Spanish Armada against the Dutch, with opposition from Don Juan Alvarada Brecamonte, judge-advocate of His Majesty); (copy[?] in ARA 1064-folio 238 - 241) ;
"ARA VOC 1066 folio 348- 358", (Proposition and Declaration by Don Juan de Silva in the Council of the Philippines, dd 30 december 1614, concerning his coming exploit to be made with his mighty fleet to Malacca) ; it not clear whether the last document is another copy of the first. All three arrived only in the year 1618 at the VOC headquarters in the Netherlands.
[16] "wijtmonden", ("wide mouth" literally) is the Dutch name for this type of Portuguese artillery.
[17] apparently in the first half of 1612; the rejected project is mentioned in 2 letters of the first Governor-General Pieter Both dated 26 july 1612 and reproduced in "De eerste landvoogd Pieter Both (1568-1615), Gouverneur-generaal van Nederlands-Indie (1606-1614)",editor Rietbergen, deel 2, p.251 & p.262

page introduced july 15, 2004,    last update september (information about the VOC-ships)