Gateway to the Classics: The Story of Sir Walter Raleigh by Margaret Duncan Kelly
The Story of Sir Walter Raleigh by  Margaret Duncan Kelly

A Fight by Sea and Land

E IGHT years had now passed by since the glorious victory over the Spanish Armada. Ever since that terrible defeat the King of Spain had been planning vengeance on the English. They had crushed him for the time, but some day his turn would come. With all the riches of the New World flowing into his treasury, he would make another Armada, stronger even than the first. Surely the gentlemen of Spain would then be able to conquer and destroy that race of sea-robbers. So he prepared once more a mighty fleet with which to invade England.

When Raleigh left Guiana he had promised the Indians that he would return the next year; but when he heard of the new Spanish Armada, he knew that he would be needed to fight England's battle at home, so he sent one of his faithful captains instead.

And now the Queen and her lords took counsel how best to save England and break the mighty power of Spain. They remembered Raleigh's advice, given eight years before, to sail forth and attack the enemy before ever they had left their own harbour. So they fitted out an English fleet, which was to attack the Spanish ships as they lay in their own harbour of Cadiz, in the south of Spain.

News came to Spain that in the south and west of England great guns were being made, and many sailors pressed into service, and all England's warships fitted out.

But the proud, boastful Spaniards said, "These beggarly Englishmen are only seeking to defend their own shores."

At last all was ready. Once more the English fleet set sail from Plymouth Bay. As they left the harbour "there lighted a very fair dove" on the mast of one of the ships. "And there she sat very quietly for the space of three or four hours, being nothing dismayed all the while." The sailors were glad, for they said, "the dove will bring us good luck."

Among the brave men who manned the English fleet there were many who had fought in that great sea-fight which crushed the Invincible Armada.

But some of the bravest were missing. Sir Richard Grenville had died like a hero, fighting to the last for his country and his Queen.

Sir Francis Drake, the most daring of sea-captains, the terror of the Spaniards, was dead. The news of his death, far away in Spanish seas, had reached England just before the fleet started.

Yet there were still many gallant captains who meant to win a victory for England.

The chief commander was a dashing young nobleman called the Earl of Essex. He was brave as a lion, but not nearly so wise and skilful as Sir Walter Raleigh, who was one of the commanders under him. Raleigh did not like the Earl of Essex, who was very proud and vain, and often, indeed, rude to the captains who were under him.

As day dawned on a beautiful Sunday in June, the English fleet sailed into Cadiz harbour, with colours and streamers flying from every ship. Sir Walter Raleigh was left outside the harbour to attack any ship trying to escape.

Within the harbour lay a splendid Spanish fleet, ranged under the walls of Cadiz.

The English commanders decided to land the soldiers and try to capture the town before attacking the fleet in the bay. When Raleigh came into the harbour he found that the Earl of Essex was landing his men. The sea was wild and rough, and fifteen men had been drowned already.

Raleigh saw that all would be lost if they did not attack the Spanish ships before the town. So, in the presence of all the captains, he made Essex change his plans. The men were taken on board again, and the ships were made ready for battle.

Night fell, and the English commanders met to plan the attack on the Spanish fleet, which was to take place next morning. To Sir Walter Raleigh was given the post of honour. His ship, the Warsprite,  was to lead the vanguard, which is the very front rank of ships.

All through the night, while the English were preparing for battle, the Spaniards in Cadiz were feasting and making merry. They had seen the English fleet sail into their bay, but they were sure that their own fleet would soon drive them out. The streets of Cadiz were brilliantly lit up with lamps, and tapers, and torches, and blazing tar-barrels. As the people sang, and danced, and laughed, they told each other, "We are quite safe, the great guns in our forts will shatter the English ships, even if our warships do not utterly destroy them."

With the first peep of day the English fleet, with all sails set and colours flying, sailed gallantly on to charge the enemy.

At the head of the English line came Sir Walter Raleigh in the Warsprite.

Beneath the walls of Cadiz lay the horrible Spanish galleys. The big ships or galleons had moved further up the harbour. The galleys were long snake-like rowing-boats. Each galley had about forty oars; each oar was rowed by five or six wretched slaves. A long gangway ran from end to end of the boat. Up and down this gang-way walked the slave-drivers with their cruel whips. At each end of the galley were soldiers with cannon and guns.

As the Warsprite  passed the walls of Cadiz, the cannons of the fort and the guns of the galleys opened fire.

But Raleigh thought these galleys "but as wasps." "To show scorn to all which," he says, "I only answered first the fort and afterward the galleys, with my trumpet, disdaining to shoot one piece at any or all of those esteemed dreadful monsters."


Raleigh gave the word to his men.

Leaving the galleys to the ships behind, Raleigh sailed swiftly on to where the great galleons lay. There was the St. Philip,  the largest ship in the world, and many another huge galleon. Raleigh made at once for the St. Philip  and the St. Andrew.  These were the two ships which had boarded the Revenge,  when Sir Richard Grenville fought his desperate battle against fearful odds, and died at last as a true soldier ought to do.

As Raleigh thought of that hero's noble death, he cried, "I will be revenged for the Revenge,  or second her with mine own life."

So saying, he gave the word to his men, and a storm of musket-balls swept the great galleons. Thick and fast came the volleys of cannon. The fight was long and fierce. For three long hours the Warsprite  fought both galleons at once. So quick was the firing that the three ships were wrapped all the time in a cloud of smoke.

And now the other English captains, eager to be in the thick of the fight, began to push forward, struggling with each other for the most dangerous post. One captain, indeed, secretly fastened a rope on to the side of the Warsprite  to draw himself up abreast. But some of Raleigh's men saw the rope and told him. So they cut the rope off, and the captain fell back into his place behind the Warsprite.  There, Raleigh says proudly, "I guarded him, all but his very prow, from the sight of the enemy."

At last the Spaniards in the St. Philip  could fight no more. So, setting their ship on fire, they jumped into the sea to try to swim to shore. Another galleon was also blown up to save it from being captured by the English. The Spaniards flung themselves into the sea in heaps "as thick as if coals had been poured out of a sack." Many of them were drowned, and very few reached the shore alive.

Raleigh and his stalwart men captured two great galleons, one of them the St. Andrew.  These were afterwards used as English warships.

It was a great sea victory for the English. After the battle the lives of all were spared, and they even tried to save some of the drowning Spaniards.

The Earl of Essex now landed and prepared to capture the city of Cadiz. An army of Spanish horsemen rode out to meet him, but after a short fight they fled back to the city across the sandy plain. The English followed, and found an old wall at the far end of the city over which they managed to climb. So the city was easily captured.

Raleigh had been badly wounded in the sea-fight. Yet he was so eager to help in the capture of the city that he made his men carry him ashore on their shoulders; but his wound was very painful, and he was soon glad to return to the Warsprite.

Sir Walter Raleigh was the first to bring the news of victory home to England. Great was the joy of all the people when they heard that the Spaniards had been beaten on their own shores.

The streets were crowded to cheer the victorious soldiers and sailors. A glad welcome was given to many poor Englishmen, who had been working as slaves in the Spanish galleys until the English victory had saved them from their life of misery.

When the people heard how Raleigh had led the fight, how he had answered the guns of fort and galleys with a blast from his silver trumpet, how he had seized the post of danger and captured two great galleons, they cheered him most of all as the hero of the fight.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: Westward Ho!  |  Next: Raleigh and His Enemies
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.