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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Richard Granville’s Last Fight

By William Stith (1707–1755)

[From The History of the First Discovery and Settlement of Virginia. 1747.]

THE FOLLOWING year, 1591, Sir Richard Grenville was sent, by the Queen, Vice-Admiral to the Lord Thomas Howard, with seven ships of war, and a few other small vessels, to intercept the Spanish plate-fleet. At the Azores, this small squadron was surprised by fifty-three capital ships, purposely sent from Spain; and Sir Richard Grenville, who was unwilling to leave a great part of his men, then on shore for water and other necassaries, to the insolence and barbarity of the islanders, staid so long in getting them off, that he was hemmed in between the enemy’s fleet and the island of Flores. In this dangerous situation he scorned to show any signs of fear, or to owe his safety to flight; but he bravely bore down upon the enemy, and endeavored to break through them, in which attempt he maintained a gallant and obstinate fight with the best of the Spanish ships, for fifteen hours together. He was at once laid aboard by the St. Philip, a ship of fifteen hundred tons and seventy-eight large pieces of ordnance, and four other of the stoutest ships in the Spanish fleet, full of men—in some two hundred, in some five hundred, and in others eight hundred soldiers, besides mariners; and he never had less than two large galleons by his side, which, from time to time, were relieved by fresh ships, men, and ammunition. Yet he behaved himself with such uncommon bravery and conduct, that he disabled some, sunk others, and obliged them all to retire. Neither did he ever leave the deck, though wounded in the beginning of the close fight, till he received a dangerous wound in the body by a musket bullet. When he went down to have it dressed, he received another shot in the head, and his surgeon was killed by his side. By this time also most of his bravest men were slain, his ship much disabled, his deck covered with dead and wounded, and scattered limbs, and his powder spent to the very last barrel. Yet in this condition he ordered the vessel to be sunk, but it was prevented by the rest of the officers; though many of the crew joined with him, and the master-gunner, if he had not been restrained, would have killed himself, sooner than fall into the hands of the Spaniards.

When the ship, or rather wreck, was surrendered, Sir Richard was carried on board the Spanish Admiral, where he died within two days, highly admired by the very enemy, for his extraordinary courage and resolution. And when he found the pangs of death approach, he said to the officers, that stood round him, in the Spanish tongue: “Here die I, Richard Grenville, with a joyful and quiet mind, having ended my life like a true soldier, that fought for his country, Queen, religion, and honor;” thus summing up, in short, all the generous motives that fire the breasts of the truly brave and great, to exert themselves beyond the common pitch of humanity.

And such was the gallant end of this noble gentleman, who, next to Sir Walter Raleigh, was the principal person concerned in this first adventure of Virginia.