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The Reign of Elizabeth. (Continued) page 7

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Meantime the muster throughout the kingdom had brought together 130,000 men. True, the greater part of them were raw recruits without discipline and experience, and could not have stood for a moment before the veterans of Parma, had he landed; but they were instructed to lay waste the country before him, to harass his march day and night by hanging on his skirts, and obstructing his way; and as not a town would have surrendered without a violent struggle, the event, with the dogged courage and perseverance of an English population, could only have been one of destruction to the invaders. This great but irregular force was dispersed in a number of camps on the east, west, and southern coasts. At Milford Haven were stationed 2,200 horse; 5,000 men of Cornwall and Devon defended Plymouth; the men of Dorset and Wiltshire garrisoned Portland; the Isle of Wight swarmed with soldiers, and was fortified at all points. The banks of the Thames were fortified under the direction of a celebrated Italian engineer, Federico Giambelli, who had deserted from the Spaniards. Gravesend was not only fortified, but was defended by a vast assemblage of boats, and had a bridge of them, which at once cut off the passage of the river, and opened a constant passage for troops betwixt Essex and Kent. At Tilbury, opposite to Gravesend, there was a camp of 22,000 foot and 2,000 horse, under the command of the Earl of Leicester, and Lord Hunsdon defended the capital with an. army of 28,000 men, supported by 10,000 Londoners.

Such were the preparations for the vaunted Invincible Armada, With all the courage of Elizabeth, however, she continued to negotiate anxiously for peace to the very last minute, and to the great chagrin of Leicester and Walsingham, who assured her that such a proceeding was calculated to encourage her enemies and depress her own subjects. Burleigh, with his more cautious nature, supported her, and even so late as February, 1587, she sent commissioners to Bourbourg, near Calais, to meet the commissioners of Philip, and they vainly continued their negotiations for peace till the Armada appeared in the Channel.

And now the time for the sailing of this dread fleet had arrived. The King of Spain, tired of delays, ordered its advance. It was in vain that Providence appeared to suggest the wisdom of further postponement, by taking away his experienced Admiral Santa Cruz, and his excellent Vice-Admiral the Duke of Paliano; he immediately gave the command to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, a man wholly without such experience, and the second command to Martinez de Ricaldo, a good seaman. In vain the Duke of Parma entreated that he might reduce Flushing before he carried such a force out of the country, and Sir William Stanley, who had deserted to Spain from the Netherlands army, recommended the occupation of Ireland before the descent on England. The Pope had delivered his bull for the deposition of Elizabeth, had collected the money which he promised to advance, had made Dr. Allen a cardinal, and appointed his legate in England to confer on Philip the investiture of the kingdom; the fleet was at anchor in the Tagus, and he commanded it to put forth.

This famous Armada consisted of 130 vessels of different sizes. There were forty-five galleons and larger vessels of from 500 to 1,000 tons each; twenty-five were pink-built ships, and thirteen were frigates. It carried 2,431 guns of different calibres, and 20,000 troops, exclusive of the crews which worked the vessels, of whom 2,000 were volunteers of the highest families in Spain. The English fleet outnumbered the Armada by about sixty vessels, but its entire tonnage did not amount to half that of the Armada.

On May the 30th, 1588, this formidable and long prepared fleet issued from the Tagus. The spectacle was of such grandeur, that 110 one could behold it without the strongest emotions and the most flattering expectations of success. But these were of very brief duration: one of those tempests which in every age, since the Norman Conquest, as if indicating the steady purpose of Providence, have assailed and scattered the fleets of England's enemies, burst on the Armada off Cape Finisterre, scattered its vessels along the coast of Gallicia, ran three large ships aground, dismasted and shattered eight others, and compelled the proud fleet to seek shelter in Corunna, and other ports along the coast. The damages to the ships were so considerable, that it occasioned the admiral a delay of three weeks at Corunna.

No sooner was this news announced in London, than Elizabeth, amid her most warlike movements never forgetting the expense, immediately ordered the lord admiral to dismantle four of his largest ships, as if the danger were over. Lord Howard had the wise boldness to refuse, declaring that he would rather take the risk of his sovereign's displeasure, and keep the vessels afloat at his own cost, than endanger the country. To show that all his vessels were needed, he called a council of war, and proposed that they should sail for the Spanish coast, and fall on the fleet whilst it was thus disordered. At sea they saw and gave chase to fourteen Spanish ships. The wind veered and became at once favourable to his return, and also to the sailing of the Armada. He turned back to Plymouth, lest some of the Spanish, vessels should have reached his unprotected station before him.

The event proved that his caution was not vain. He had scarcely regained Plymouth and moored his fleet, when a Scotch privateer, named Fleming, sailed in after him and informed him he had discovered the Armada off the Lizard. Most of the officers were at the moment playing at bowls on the Hoe, and Drake, who was one of them, bade them not hurry themselves, but play out the game and then go and beat the Spaniards. The wind, too, was blowing right into harbour, but having with great labour warped out their ships they stood off, and the next day, being the 20th of July, they saw the Spanish fleet bearing down full upon them. They were drawn up in the form of a crescent, the horns of which were seven miles apart, and a nobler or more imposing sight was never seen on the ocean. Lord Howard deemed it hazardous to measure strength with ships of such superior size and weight of metal, and ho was soon relieved from the necessity, for the Duke of Medina, on perceiving the English fleet, called a council of his officers, who were impatient to attack and destroy the enemy at once, and showed them his instructions, which bound them strictly to avoid all chance of damage to his vessels by a conflict before he had effected the main object of seeing the Flemish army landed on the English coast. The grand Armada, therefore, swept on in stately magnificence up the Channel, the great galleasses, with their huge hulks, their lofty prows, and their slow imposing motion, making a brave show. To the experienced eyes of the English sailors, however, this immediately communicated encouragement, for they saw at once that they were not calculated like their own nimbler vessels to tack and obey the helm promptly.

And now began, as it were, a strange chase of the mighty Armada by the lesser fleet. The Duke of Medina pressed on with all sail to reach Dunkirk, and make a junction with the fleet of flat-bottomed boats of the Duke of Parma, which were to carry over the army; but some of his vessels soon fell behind, and spite of his signalling for them to come up, they could not do so before the nimbler English vessels were upon them, and fired into them with right good will. The Disdain, a pinnace commanded by Jonas Bradbury, was the first to engage, and was speedily seconded by the lord admiral himself who attacked a great galleon, and Drake in the Revenge, Hawkins in the Victory, and Frobisher in the Triumph, closed in with the others. Ricaldez, the rear-admiral, was in this affray, and encouraged his men bravely, but it was soon found that the Spaniards, though so muck more gigantic in size, had no chance with, the more manageable English ships. Their heavy artillery, from their uncommon height, fired over the enemies' heads, and did little mischief, whilst the undaunted English tacked about and hit them first in one place and then in another. Drake justified his fame by boarding a great galleon, the mast of which was shot away, and taking her with 55,000 ducats on board. The Duke of Medina was compelled to heave-to till the jeopardised squadron could come up; but night set in, and there was seen-another of the great galleons blazing on the water, having, it was said, been purposely set on fire by a Flemish gunner, whom the captain had accused of cowardice or treachery. In the confusion the neighbouring vessels ran foul of each other, there being a heavy sea, and a third vessel was separated from the fleet, and was captured near the French coast.

Lord Howard on the 23rd again came up with the Armada off Portland. He was now reinforced by forty fresh sail, and had on board this accession Sir Walter Raleigh. The weather was still adverse to the advance of the Spaniards, and the English kept them well engaged by pouring in ever and anon a broadside, and then dropping out of range. Sometimes, the wind lulling, they were compelled to stand the full fire of the great ships, and in one of these encounters Erobisher was surrounded in the Triumph, and had to sustain an unequal combat for two hours. By direction of the admiral, however, a number of vessels moved to his rescue, and reserving their fire till they were close in with the enemy, they poured such a broadside into the Spaniards as turned the scale. Many of the Spanish ships were completely disabled in this day's fight, and a Venetian argosy and several transports remained in their possession.

The next day the English fleet could not renew the, action, for they had burnt all their powder, and the time to prevent the junction of Medina with Parma was totally lost. The next, the 25th, having in the meantime procured a fresh supply of ammunition from shore, the admiral renewed the fight off the Isle of Wight, where Hawkins took a large Portuguese galleon, and the Duke of Medina's ship had its mainmast shot away, and was much shattered; but in the midst of the engagement the powder of the English again failed, and they were obliged to draw off. Fortunately the Spanish admiral also found that he had expended his heavy shot, and sent to the Duke of Parma to hold himself in readiness and send him back some shot. On the 26th the Armada held on its way with a fair breeze up the Channel, and Howard, who had received fresh ammunition, besides continual reinforcements of small vessels and men from the ports as they passed, directly pursued. In the Straits of Dover he expected to be joined by a strong squadron under Lord Henry Seymour and Sir Thomas Winter, and, therefore, he reserved his fire. On the following day, the Duke of Medina, instead of making at once for Dunkirk, as he wished, was prevailed on to cast anchor before Calais. It was represented that there was a Dutch and English fleet blockading Newport and Dunkirk, the only outlets for Parma's 'flat-bottoms, and that the Armada would then be enclosed betwixt the two hostile fleets. It was necessary first to beat off the fleet which hung on his rear, and he had already found it impracticable with, his huge unwieldy vessels. He therefore dispatched a messenger to the Duke of Parma over land, urging him to send him a squadron of his fly-boats to beat off the English ships, and to be ready embarked, that he might land in England under his fire as soon as he could come up.

But Parma sent him the discouraging news that it was impossible for him to move or even to transport his troops till the grand fleet came up to his assistance. Fourteen thousand troops, he informed him, had been already embarked at Newport, and the other division at Dunkirk held in readiness for the word of command, in expectation of the arrival of the fleet; but that, having been so long delayed, their provisions were exhausted, the boats, which had been built in a hurry with green wood, had warped and become unseaworthy, and with the hot weather fever had broken out amongst his troops. Were he, however, otherwise able to stir, there lay a force of Dutch and English vessels at anchor enough to send every boat to the bottom.

Under these circumstances there was nothing for it but to make for Dunkirk, force the blockades at the mouth of the Scheldt, and effect the junction with Parma. But now the expected junction of Winter and Lord Henry Howard had taken place with the lord admiral's squadron, and the Spaniards found themselves closely hemmed in by 140 English sail, crowded with sailors and soldiers eager for the fray, and there was clearly no avoiding a general engagement. This being inevitable, the Spaniards placed their great ships in front, anchored the lesser betwixt them and the shore, and awaited the next morning for the decisive battle. But such captains as Drake and Hawkins saw too well the strong position of the Armada to trust to their fighting, and they determined to throw the enemy into confusion by stratagem. They therefore prepared eight fire-ships, and the wind being in shore, they sent them, under the management of Captains Young and Prouse, at midnight, down towards the Spanish lines. The brave officers effected their hazardous duty, and took to their boats. Presently, there was a wild cry as the eight vessels in full blaze, and sending forth explosion after explosion, bore right down upon the Spaniards. Remembering the terrible fire-ships which the Dutch had formerly sent amongst them, the sailors shouted - "The fire of Antwerp! the fire of Antwerp!" and every vessel was put in motion to escape in the darkness as best it might. The confusion became terrible, and the ships were continually running foul of each other. One of the largest galeasses had her rudder carried away by coming in contact with her neighbour, and, floating at the mercy of the waves, was stranded. When the fire-ships had exhausted themselves, the Duke of Medina fired again to recall his scattered vessels; but few heard it, flying madly as they were in fear and confusion, and the dawn found them scattered along the coast from Ostend to Calais. A more terrible night no unfortunate creatures ever passed, for a tempest had set in, a furious gale blowing from the southwest, the rain falling in torrents, and the pitchy gloom being only lit up by the glare of lightning.

A loud cannonade in the direction of Gravelines announced that the hostile fleets were engaged there, and it became a signal for the fugitives to draw towards, but all along the coast the active English commanders were ready to receive them, arid Drake, Hawkins, Raleigh, Erobisher, Seymour, and Cumberland vied in their endeavours to win the highest distinction. Terrible scenes were presented at the different stranded galeasses. That off Calais, after a desperate engagement, was boarded, its crew and troops cut to pieces or pushed overboard, and 50,000 ducats were taken out of her. One great galleon sunk under the English fire; another, the San Matteo, was compelled to surrender; and another, dismantled and in miserable plight, drifted on shore at Flushing and was seized by the sailors. Some of the battered vessels foundered at sea, and the duke, calling a council, proposed to return home. This was vehemently opposed by many officers and the seamen, who had fought furiously and now cried for revenge; but the admiral held that it was impossible long to hold out against such an enemy, and gave the order to make for Spain. But how? The English now swarmed in the narrow seas, and the issue of the desperate conflict which must attend the attempt the whole way was too clear. The only means of escape he believed was to sail northward, round Scotland and Ireland. Such a voyage, through tempestuous seas and along dangerous coasts, to men little, if at 'all, acquainted with them, was so charged with peril I and hardships, that nothing but absolute necessity could have forced them to attempt it. The remains of the Armada, no longer invincible, and already reduced to eighty vessels, was now, therefore, seen with a favourable wind in full sail northward. With such men as Drake and the rest it might have been safely calculated that not a ship would ever return to Spain. A strong squadron is patched to meet the Spanish fleet on the west coast of Ireland, and another following in pursuit, would have utterly destroyed this great naval armament. But here again the parsimony of Elizabeth, and the strange want of providence in her Government, became apparent. Instead of pursuing, the English fleet returned to port on the 8th of August for want of powder and shot! and, as if satisfied with getting rid of the enemy, no measures whatever were taken to intercept the fugitive fleet. "If," Bays Sir William Monson, "we had been so happy as to 'have followed their course, as it was both thought and discoursed of, we had been absolutely victorious over this great and formidable navy, for they were brought to that necessity that they would willingly have yielded, as divers of them confessed that were shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland."

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