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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Last Fight of the Revenge
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
 
From ‘A Report of the Truth of the Fight about the Isles of Azores, the last of August, 1591, betwixt the Revenge, one of her Majesty’s ships and an armada of the King of Spain. Penned by the honorable Sir Walter Raleigh, knight.’

THE LORD THOMAS HOWARD with six of her Majesty’s ships, six victualers of London, the bark Raleigh and two or three other pinnaces riding at anchor near unto Flores, one of the westerly islands of the Azores, the last of August in the afternoon, had intelligence by one Captain Middleton of the approach of the Spanish armada. Which Middleton, being in a very good sailer, had kept them company three days before, of good purpose both to discover their forces the more, as also to give advice to my Lord Thomas of their approach. He had no sooner delivered the news but the fleet was in sight; many of our ships’ companies were on shore in the island, some providing ballast for their ships, others filling of water and refreshing themselves from the land with such things as they could, either for money, or by force, recover. By reason whereof our ships being all pestered and rummaging, everything out of order, very light for want of ballast, and that which was most to our disadvantage, the one half part of the men of every ship sick and utterly unserviceable; for in the Revenge there were ninety diseased, in the Bonaventure not so many in health as could handle her mainsail. For had not twenty men been taken out of a bark of Sir George Carey’s, his being commanded to be sunk, and those appointed to her, she had hardly ever recovered England. The rest, for the most part, were in little better state. The names of her Majesty’s ships were these, as followeth: the Defiance, which was admiral; the Revenge, vice-admiral; the Bonaventure, commanded by Captain Cross; the Lion, by George Fenner; the Foresight, by Mr. Thomas Vavasour; and the Crane by Duffield. The Foresight and the Crane being but small ships, only the others were of the middle size; the rest, besides the bark Raleigh, commanded by Captain Thin, were victualers, and of small force or none. The Spanish fleet, having shrouded their approach by reason of the island, were now so soon at hand as our ships had scarce time to weigh their anchors, but some of them were driven to let slip their cables and set sail. Sir Richard Grenville was the last that weighed, to recover the men that were upon the island, which otherwise had been lost. The Lord Thomas with the rest very hardly recovered the wind, which Sir Richard Grenville not being able to do, was persuaded by the master and others to cut his mainsail and cast about, and to trust to the sailing of the ship, for the squadron of Seville were on his weather bow. But Sir Richard utterly refused to turn from the enemy, alleging that he would rather choose to die than to dishonor himself, his country, and her Majesty’s ship, persuading his company that he would pass through the two squadrons in despite of them and enforce those of Seville to give him way. Which he performed upon divers of the foremost, who as the mariners term it, sprang their liff, and fell under the lee of the Revenge. But the other course had been the better, and might right well have been answered in so great an impossibility of prevailing. Notwithstanding, out of the greatness of his mind, he could not be persuaded. In the meanwhile, as he attended those which were nearest him, the great San Philip, being in the wind of him and coming towards him, becalmed his sails in such sort, as the ship could neither make way nor feel the helm; so huge and high carged was the Spanish ship, being of a thousand and five hundred tons. Who after laid the Revenge aboard. When he was thus bereft of his sails, the ships that were under his lee, luffing up, also laid him aboard, of which the next was the admiral of the Biscayans, a very mighty and puissant ship commanded by Brittandona. The said Philip carried three tiers of ordnance on a side, and eleven pieces in every tier. She shot eight forth right out of her chase, besides those of her stern ports.  1
  After the Revenge was entangled with this Philip, four others boarded her, two on her larboard, and two on her starboard. The fight, thus beginning at three of the clock in the afternoon, continued very terrible all that evening. But the great San Philip, having received the lower tier of the Revenge, discharged with crossbar shot, shifted herself with all diligence from her sides, utterly misliking her first entertainment. Some say that the ship foundered, but we cannot report it for truth, unless we were assured. The Spanish ships were filled with companies of soldiers,—in some two hundred besides the mariners, in some five, in others eight hundred. In ours there were none at all beside the mariners but the servants of the commanders and some few voluntary gentlemen only. After many interchanged volleys of great ordnance and small shot, the Spaniards deliberated to enter the Revenge, and made divers attempts, hoping to force her by the multitudes of their armed soldiers and musketeers, but were still repulsed again and again, and at all times beaten back into their own ships, or into the seas. In the beginning of the fight, the George Noble of London, having received some shot through her by the armadas, fell under the lee of the Revenge, and asked Sir Richard what he would command him, being but one of the victualers and of small force. Sir Richard bade him save himself, and leave him to his fortune. After the fight had thus, without intermission, continued while the day lasted and some hours of the night, many of our men were slain and hurt, and one of the great galleons of the armada, and the admiral of the hulks both sunk, and in many other of the Spanish ships great slaughter was made. Some write that Sir Richard was very dangerously hurt almost in the beginning of the fight, and lay speechless for a time ere he recovered. But two of the Revenge’s own company brought home in a ship of Lima from the islands, examined by some of the lords and others, affirmed that he was never so wounded as that he forsook the upper deck, till an hour before midnight, and then, being shot into the body with a musket, as he was dressing was again shot into the head, and withal his surgeon wounded to death. This agreeth also with an examination, taken by Sir Francis Godolphin, of four other mariners of the same ship, being returned, which examinations the said Sir Francis sent unto Master William Killigrew, of her Majesty’s privy chamber.  2
  But to return to the fight: the Spanish ships which attempted to board the Revenge as they were wounded and beaten off, so always others came in their places, she having never less than two mighty galleons by her sides and aboard her. So that ere the morning, from three of the clock the day before, there had fifteen several armadas assailed her; and all so ill approved their entertainment as they were by the break of day far more willing to hearken to a composition than hastily to make any more assaults or entries. But as the day increased, so our men decreased; and as the light grew more and more, by so much more grew our discomforts. For none appeared in sight but enemies, saving one small ship called the Pilgrim, commanded by Jacob Whiddon, who hovered all night to see the success, but in the morning, bearing with the Revenge, was hunted like a hare amongst many ravenous hounds, but escaped.  3
  All the powder of the Revenge to the last barrel was now spent, all her pikes broken, forty of her best men slain, and the most part of the rest hurt. In the beginning of the fight she had but one hundred free from sickness, and fourscore and ten sick, laid in hold upon the ballast; a small troop to man such a ship, and a weak garrison to resist so mighty an army. By those hundred all was sustained, the volleys, boardings, and enterings of fifteen ships of war, besides those which beat her at large. On the contrary, the Spanish were always supplied with soldiers brought from every squadron, all manner of arms and powder at will. Unto ours there remained no comfort at all, no hope, no supply either of ships, men, or weapons; the masts all beaten overboard, all her tackle cut asunder, her upper work altogether razed, and in effect evened she was with the water, but the very foundation or bottom of a ship, nothing being left overhead, either for flight or defense. Sir Richard, finding himself in this distress, and unable any longer to make resistance, having endured, in this fifteen hours’ fight, the assault of fifteen several armadas, all by turns aboard him, and by estimation eight hundred shot of great artillery, besides many assaults and entries; and that himself and the ship must needs be possessed by the enemy, who were now all cast in a ring round about him (the Revenge not able to move one way or other, but as she was moved with the waves and billows of the sea), commanded the master gunner, whom he knew to be a most resolute man, to split and sink the ship, that thereby nothing might remain of glory or victory to the Spaniards, seeing in so many hours’ fight, and with so great a navy, they were not able to take her, having had fifteen hours’ time, above ten thousand men, and fifty and three sail of men-of-war to perform it withal; and persuaded the company, or as many as he could induce, to yield themselves unto God, and to the mercy of none else; but as they had, like valiant resolute men, repulsed so many enemies, they should not now shorten the honor of their nation by prolonging their own lives for a few hours or a few days. The master gunner readily condescended and divers others; but the captain and the master were of another opinion, and besought Sir Richard to have care of them, alleging that the Spaniard should be as ready to entertain a composition as they were willing to offer the same; and that there being divers sufficient and valiant men yet living, and whose wounds were not mortal they might do their country and prince acceptable service hereafter. And whereas Sir Richard had alleged that the Spaniards should never glory to have taken one ship of her Majesty, seeing they had so long and so notably defended themselves, they answered, that the ship had six foot water in hold, three shot under water, which were so weakly stopped as with the first working of the sea, she must needs sink, and was besides so crushed and bruised as she could never be removed out of the place.  4
  And as the matter was thus in dispute, and Sir Richard refusing to hearken to any of those reasons, the master of the Revenge (while the captain won unto him the greater party) was convoyed aboard the General Don Alfonso Bazan. Who (finding none over hasty to enter the Revenge again, doubting lest Sir Richard would have blown them up and himself, and perceiving by the report of the master of the Revenge his dangerous disposition) yielded that all their lives should be saved, the company sent for England, and the better sort to pay such reasonable ransom as their estate would bear, and in the mean season to be free from galley or imprisonment. To this he so much the further condescended as well, as I have said, for fear of further loss and mischief to themselves, as also for the desire he had to recover Sir Richard Grenville, whom for his notable valor he seemed greatly to honor and admire.  5
 
 
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