Reign of Elizabeth - from A.D. 1558 to A.D. 1603.
Among the brave admirals of this period, one of the most gallant was Sir Richard Grenville, who, after serving his country for many years, sailed in the Revenge as Vice-Admiral to Lord Admiral Howard, in 1591, in search of the Spanish West India merchant-fleet, with a squadron of six men-of-war, six victuallers, and a few pinnaces. The English squadron was at anchor near the island of Flores, when the admiral received intelligence of the approaching Spanish fleet. He was in no condition to oppose the Spaniards, for, besides being greatly inferior in numbers, nearly half the men were disabled by the scurvy, a large proportion of whom were on shore. The admiral immediately weighed and put to sea, and the rest of his squadron followed his example. Sir Richard Grenville, however, remaining to receive the sick men, was the last to weigh. The admiral and the rest of the fleet with difficulty recovered the wind, but Sir Richard, not being able to do this, was advised by his master to set his mainsail and coast about, trusting to the sailing of his ship. As the Spanish squadron was already on his weather-gage, Sir Richard utterly refused to fly from the enemy, declaring that he would rather die than dishonour Her Majesty’s ship, persuading his company that he would pass through the two squadrons in spite of them. Standing for the Spaniards, he compelled several of them to spring their luff, who thus fell under the lee of theRevenge. Meanwhile, as he was engaging those nearest to him, an enormous Spanish ship, the great San Philip, of 1500 tons, being to windward, and bearing down upon him, becalmed his sails, so that his ship could neither make way nor feel the helm. This enormous ship now laid theRevenge aboard; while she was thus becalmed, the ships under her lee luffing up, also laid her aboard, one of them the Spanish admiral’s ship, mighty and puissant, two on her larboard, and two on her starboard side. The fight, which began at three o’clock in the afternoon, continued very terrible all that evening. The great San Philip, however, having received the broadside of the Revenge, discharged with cross-bar shot, shifted herself with all diligence from her sides, utterly misliking her first entertainment. The Spanish ships were filled with companies of soldiers, in some 200, in others 800, while the Revenge had no soldiers, besides the mariners, but the officers’ servants and a few volunteers. After a long interchange of broadsides, and small shot, the Spaniards attempted to board the Revenge, hoping by the multitudes of their armed soldiers and musqueteers to force her, but were repulsed again and again, and driven back into their own ships or into the sea. In the beginning of the fight a victualler, the George Noble, of London, after receiving some shot, fell under the lee of the Revenge, and asked Sir Richard what he commanded him to do. Sir Richard bade him save himself, and leave him to his fortune. After the fight had continued without intermission while the day lasted and some hours of the night, many of the English were slain and wounded, the great galleon had been sunk, while terrific slaughter had been made on board the other Spanish ships. About midnight Sir Richard was struck by a musket-ball; while the surgeon was dressing his wound, he was again shot in the head, the surgeon being killed at the same moment.
The first ships which had attacked the Revenge having been beaten off, others took their places, so that she had never less than two mighty galleons by her sides, and before morning she had fifteen other ships assailing her; and so ill did they approve of their entertainment that by break of day they were far more willing to hearken to a composition than again to attack her. But as the day increased, so did the gallant crew decrease; no friends appeared in sight, only enemies, saving only one small ship called the Pilgrim, commanded by Jacob Widdon. He deserves to be handed down to fame, for he hovered near all night in the hopes of helping the admiral, but in the morning, bearing away, was hunted like a hare among many ravenous hounds; but, happily, he escaped.