Francisco Balbi di Correggio

Balbi Corregio's Diary - 21st of May - The Ottomans set their camp and launch their first attack

Monday, 21 May 1565

The enemy had already landed a great part of their artillery and ammunition which they took to the village of San Ġwann. On this day they planted their camp on the heights of S. Margherita. It was well laid out and gay with many flags of all sizes, and they celebrated the occasion by playing on many instruments of all kinds as is their custom.

The Ottomans made an orderly reconnaissance in force against the Birgu in order to intimidate us by their great force which numbered more than forty thousand.

The Grand Master divined their object and ordered all the drums to be beaten and to have all the flags ready. When the Grand Master judged that the right moment had arrived he sent out a force of six or seven hundred arquebusiers under the Marshal, the knight Pierre de Giou, Colonel Mas and Captains Medrano, La Motte, Romegas and many other knights… The advantage which the enemy had over us in numbers was negatived by our greater speed in loading and firing … The Grand Master had ordered the flags to be flown outside the counterscarp of the ditch of Provence, and had re-inforcement ready of more than one thousand men, while he himself stood inside the gate holding a lance so as to prevent the reserves from rushing to the fray without orders. They were standing ready and had not been there to check them, not one man would have remained in the Birgu so great was their ardour to fight the Ottomans. This engagement lasted five hours, after which the Grand Master ordered his force to retire. We did very well on that day. More than one hundred Ottomans were killed… Many heads of the Ottomans were brought to the Birgu and one flag which was captured by Monsieur de Prade and a Spanish soldier. Our killed were ten in all.

Whilst the fight was at its hottest, the Ottomans had the leisure to reconnoitre the Birgu from Salvatore and Kalkara.

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