All the next day, July 27th, the two fleets sailed slowly up the Channel in hostile but silent companionship--the Spaniard convinced he could not meet the Englishman in open fight; the Englishman heedful that he should not be surrounded by a superior force. At night the battered and maltreated Armada took refuge in the harbor of Calais.
The same afternoon Lord Howard was joined by Sir Harry Seymour with his squadron of sixteen vessels, which bad been keeping watch along the eastern ports, and the combined fleet dropped anchor to the eastward of Calais, and within a mile and a half of the French shore. "Never, since England was England," says Mr. Motley, "had such a sight been seen as now revealed itself in those narrow straits between Dover and Calais. Along that low, sandy shore, and quite within the range of the Calais fortifications, one hundred and thirty Spanish ships - the greater number of them the largest and most heavily armed in the world - lay face to face, and scarcely out of cannon-shot, with one hundred and fifty English sloops and frigates, the strongest and swiftest that the island could furnish, and commanded by men whose exploits had rung through the world.
"Farther along the coast, invisible but known to be performing a most perilous and vital service, was a squadron of Dutch vessels of all sizes lining both the outer and inner of the sand-banks of the Flemish coasts and swarming in all the estuaries and inlets of that intricate and dangerous cruising-ground between Dunkirk and Texel. Those fleets of Holland and Zealand, numbering some one hundred and fifty galleons, sloops, and fly-boats, lay patiently blockading every possible egress from the ports in possession of the Duke of Parma, and longing to grapple with him as soon as his fleet of gunboats and hoys, packed with his Spanish and Italian veterans, should venture to set forth upon the sea for their long-meditated enterprise."
This friendly attitude of the Dutch to the English was due to a variety of causes. Both nations represented the new religion in its struggle against the established church. In consequence of the terrible atrocities of the Duke of Alva, the Dutch had an inextinguishable hatred for the Spaniards, and were ready to do anything to thwart their plans and diminish their power. Then, too, the Dutch remembered how the ships of Elizabeth, laden with provisions, had brought succor to their beleaguered cities and saved the lives of their famished people. So, animated by enmity on the one side and by gratitude on the other, the Dutch for a time forgot their struggle for maritime supremacy with the English, and brought all their force to bear to support the English cause in its hour of greatest need.
The Spaniards seem never to have anticipated this energetic action on the part of the Dutch. The Duke of Medina Sidonia now found that he could get no direct sea communication with the Spanish land-forces; and the Duke of Parma found himself in a situation where his invincible army was powerless, and his soldierly experience and talents were of no avail. The plans of the Spanish admiral to make use of the small vessels of Parma had been thwarted by the Dutch, and the dispersion of the Dutch vessels had been prevented by the fierce attack of Howard and Drake upon the Armada.
In coming to anchor on that Saturday night in Calais Harbor, however, the Spaniards had gained two important points. Their ships were under the protection of friendly land-batteries; and nothing remained to prevent the co-operation of the land-forces and the fleet. The Duke of Parma could march his forces westward and embark from Calais instead of Dunkirk, and thus turn the flank of the Dutch fleet.
The English Fleet engages the Spanish Amarda
Sunday, July 29th, was a day of suspense and anxiety on the part of both the contending forces. The English knew that a junction with Parma was now possible, and Howard and Drake were too good seamen not to know that, in a close and general engagement, the superior size, weight, and numbers of the Spanish ships would prevail. On the other hand, the Spaniards knew that they were in an unsafe harbor should a strong wind spring up from the west, and Medina Sidonia began to have a wholesome dread of the valor and strength which guarded the homes of Britain. The day passed in Sabbath quiet and repose, and when the sun set there was no indication that a night's strife was to follow, potential as shaping the future destinies of both Spain and England.
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