He immediately ordered an advance, and, while Drake made a bold attack upon the main body of the enemy, the lord high admiral drove upon the sands several of the sluggard vessels of the Armada which the fire-ships had failed to drive out to sea.
For several hours he engaged the great galliasse under the direct command of Admiral Moncada, which was aground upon the sands. The vessel was captured and Moncada slain, and the English admiral hastened to the assistance of Drake.
"It was well," says Froude, "that no more time was wasted over so small a matter. Lord Howard had already delayed too long for his fame. It was no time for the admiral of the fleet to be loitering over a stray feather which had dropped from the enemy's plume when every ship was imperiously needed for a far more important service. Medina Sidonia intended to return to Calais, but his ships had drifted in the night far to the east, and before his signal of return could be obeyed the English fleet was upon them.
"Sir Henry Seymour, with his sixteen ships, having the advantage of wind, speed, and skill, came upon a cluster of Spanish galleons at eight in the morning. Reserving their fire till within a hundred and twenty yards, and wasting no cartridges, the English ships continued through the entire forenoon to pour upon them one continuous rain of shot. They were driven together, and became entangled in a confused and helpless mass.
"Drake, in the mean time, had fallen upon a score of galleons under the direct command of Medina Sidonia himself. They were better handled than the rest, and were endeavoring to keep sea-room and retain some command of themselves. But their wretched sailing powers put them to a disadvantage, for which no skill or courage could compensate. The English were always at windward of them; and, hemmed in at every turn, they, too, were forced back upon their consorts, hunted together as a shepherd hunts sheep upon a common, and the whole mass of them were forced slowly eastward, away from the only harbor open to them, and into the unknown waters of the North Sea.
"Howard came up at noon to join in the work of destruction. The Spaniards' gun-practice, always bad, was helpless beyond all past experience. From eight o'clock in the morning until sunset the English, almost untouched themselves, fired into them without intermission at short range. They ceased only when the last cartridge was spent, and every man was weary with labor. They took no prizes, and they attempted to take none. Their orders were to sink and destroy. They saw three great galleons go down, and three more drift toward the sands, where their destruction was certain.
"On board the Spanish ships all was consternation and despair. Toward sunset the great Santa Maria went down with all on board. When the ships' companies were called over, it was discovered that no less than four thousand men had been killed or drowned, and twice as many wounded. The survivors were so utterly dispirited that nothing could induce them to face England's sea-kings again."
Interesting Facts and Information about the Elizabethan Age and The Spanish Armada