« ZurückWeiter »
captives into slaves, but only to hold them for ransom. Valdez responded to Drake's politeness by kissing his hand, embracing him, and overpowering him with magnificent compliments. He was then sent on board the Lord-Admiral, who received him with similar urbanity, and expressed his regret that so distinguished a personage should have been so coolly deserted by the Duke of Medina. Don Pedro then returned to the Revenge, where, as the guest of Drake, he was a witness to all subsequent events up to the roth of August, on which day he was sent to London with some other officers, Sir Francis claiming his ransom as his lawful due.
Here certainly was no very triumphant beginning for the Invincible Armada. On the very first day of their being in presence of the English fleet—then but sixty-seven in number, and vastly their inferior in size and weight of metal—they had lost the flagships of the Guipuzcoan and of the Andalusian squadrons, with a general-admiral, 450 officers and men, and some 100,000 ducats of treasure.
They had been out-manoeuvred, out-sailed, and thoroughly maltreated by their antagonists, and they had been unable to inflict a single blow in return.
THE LAST DAY'S FIGHT WITH THE ARMADA.
[Throughout a whole week the running fight went on, the
Armada slowly making its way along the Channel, the English ships hanging on its rear. Many Spanish ships were sunk or taken; but the great fleet still remained formidable when, in spite of its enemies, it at last reached the Flemish coast. If it was to be prevented from embarking the army which was destined for the invasion of England, a great engagement was now necessary; and the English seamen resolved to engage.]
The Lord-Admiral, who had been lying off and on, now bore away with all his force in pursuit of the Spaniards. The Invincible Armada, already sorely crippled, was standing N.N.E. directly before a fresh topsail breeze from the S.S.W. The English came up with them soon after nine o'clock A.M. off Gravelines, and found them sailing in a half-moon, the admiral and vice-admiral in the centre, and the flanks protected by the three remaining galeasses and by the great galleons of Portugal.
Seeing the enemy approaching, Medina Sidonia ordered his whole fleet to luff to the wind, and prepare for action. The wind, shifting a few points, was now at w.n.w., so that the English had both the weather-gage and the tide in their favour. A general combat began at about ten, and it was soon obvious to the Spaniards that their adversaries were intending warm work. Sir Francis Drake in the Revenge, followed by Frobisher in the Triumph, Hawkins in the Victory, and some smaller vessels, made the first attack upon the Spanish flagships. Lord Henry in the Rainbow, Sir Henry Palmer in the Antelope, and others, engaged with three of the largest galleons of the Armada, while Sir William Winter in the Vanguard, supported by most of his squadron, charged the starboard wing.
The portion of the fleet thus assaulted fell back into the main body. Four of the ships ran foul of each other, and Winter, driving into their centre, found himself within musket-shot of many of their most formidable ships.
“ I tell you, on the credit of a poor gentleman," he said, “that there were five hundred discharges of demi-cannon, culverin, and demi-culverin, from the Vanguard; and when
I was farthest off in firing my pieces, I was not out of shot of their harquebus, and most time within speech, one of another.”
The battle lasted six hours long, hot and furious ; for now there was no excuse for retreat on the part of the Spaniards, but, on the contrary, it was the intention of the CaptainGeneral to return to his station off Calais, 1 if it were within his power. Nevertheless the English still partially maintained the tactics which had proved so successful, and resolutely refused the fierce attempts of the Spaniards to lay themselves alongside. Keeping within musket-range, the well-disciplined English mariners poured broadside after broadside against the towering ships of the Armada, which afforded so easy a mark; while the Spaniards, on their part, found it impossible, while wasting incredible quantities of powder and shot, to inflict any severe damage on their enemies. Throughout the action, not an English ship was destroyed, and not a hundred men were killed. On the other hand, all the best ships of the Spaniards were riddled through and through, and with masts and yards shattered, sails and rigging torn to shreds, and a north-west wind still drifting them towards the fatal sandbanks of Holland, they laboured heavily in a chopping sea, firing wildly, and receiving tremendous punishment at the hands of Howard, Drake, Seymour, Winter, and their followers. Not even master-gunner Thomas could complain that day of “blind exercise” on the part of the English, with “little harm done” to the enemy. There was scarcely a ship in the Armada that did not suffer severely; for nearly all were engaged in that memorable action off the sands of Gravelines. The Captain-General himself, Admiral Recalde, Alonzo de Leyva, Oquendo, Diego Flores de Valdez, Bertendona,
1 From which he had been driven the day before by English fire-ships.
Don Francisco de Toledo, Don Diego de Pimentel, Telles Enriquez, Alonzo de Luzon, Garibay, with most of the great galleons and galeasses, were in the thickest of the fight, and one after the other each of those huge ships was disabled. Three sank before the fight was over, many others were soon drifting helpless wrecks towards a hostile shore, and, before five o'clock in the afternoon, at least sixteen of their best ships had been sacrificed, and from four to five thousand soldiers killed.
Nearly all the largest vessels of the Armada, therefore, having been disabled or damaged-according to a Spanish eye-witness -and all their small shot exhausted, Medina Sidonia reluctantly gave orders to retreat. The CaptainGeneral was a bad sailor, but he was a chivalrous Spaniard of ancient Gothic blood, and he felt deep mortification at the plight of his invincible fleet, together with undisguised resentment against Alexander Farnese,2 through whose treachery and incapacity he considered the great Catholic cause to have been so foully sacrificed. Crippled, maltreated, and diminished in number, as were his ships, he would have still faced the enerny, but the winds and currents were fast driving him on the lee-shore, and the pilots, one and all, assured him that it would be inevitable destruction to remain. After a slight and very ineffectual attempt to rescue Don Diego de Pimentel in the St. Matthew—who refused to leave his disabled ship--and Don Francisco de Toledo, whose great galleon, the St. Philip, was fast driving, a helpless wreck, towards Zeeland, the Armada bore away N.N.E. into the open sea, leaving those who could not follow to their fate.
The St. Matthew, in a sinking condition, hailed a Dutch fisherman, who was offered a gold chain to pilot her into Newport. But the fisherman, being a patriot, steered her close to the Holland fleet, where she was immediately assaulted by Admiral Van der Does, to whom, after a two hours' bloody fight, she struck her flag. Don Diego, marshal of the camp to the famous legion of Sicily, brother of the Marquis of Tavera, nephew of the Viceroy of Sicily, uncle to the Viceroy of Naples, and numbering as many titles, dignities, and high affinities, as could be expected of a grandee of the first class, was taken, with his officers, to the Hague. “I was the means,” said Captain Borlase, “that the best sort were saved, and the rest were cast overboard and slain at our entry. He fought with us two hours, and hurt divers of our men, but at last yielded.”
2 The Prince of Parma, who commanded the Spanish army in Flanders, and who had not succeeded in joining the Armada.
John Van der Does, his captor, presented the banner of the St. Matthew to the great church of Leyden, wheresuch was its prodigious length—it hung from ceiling to floor without being entirely unrolled ; and there it hung, from generation to generation, a worthy companion to the Spanish flags which had been left behind when Valdez abandoned the siege of that heroic city fifteen years before.
The galleon St. Philip, one of the four largest ships in the Armada, dismasted and foundering, drifted towards Newport, where camp-marshal Don Francisco de Toledo hoped in vain for succour. La Motte made a feeble attempt at rescue, but some vessels from the Holland fleet, being much more active, seized the unfortunate galleon, and carried her into Flushing. The captors found forty-eight brass cannon and other things of value on board, but there were some casks of Ribadavia wine which was more fatal to her enemies than those pieces of artillery had proved. For while the rebels were refreshing themselves, after the fatigues of the capture, with large draughts of that famous vintage, the St. Philip, which had been bored through and through with English shot, and had been rapidly filling with water, gave a sudden