Galleys could only fire straight ahead; and, as they came on line abreast, Drake, passing with the Queen’s four battle-ships athwart their course, poured in his heavy broadsides.
Continuing Drake Captures Cartegena; Raids Cadiz,
our selection from Sir Francis Drake by Julian Corbett published in 1890. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Drake Captures Cartegena; Raids Cadiz.
By all the rules of war, on which Borough was the first authority in the service, to attack was suicide; but Drake had spent his life in breaking rules. He did not care. The enemy was there, his authority was in his pocket, the wind was fair, his officers believed in him, and as the sun sank low behind them the fleet went in.
A scene of terror and confusion followed. Every ship in the harbor cut its cables and sought safety in flight, some to sea, some across the bay to St. Mary’s, some through the Puntal passage to the inner harbor and Port Royal. To cover the stampede ten galleys came confidently out from under the Cadiz batteries. All was useless. While the chartered cruisers swooped on the fugitives, the Queen’s ships stood in, to head off the advancing galleys, as coolly as though they had fought them a hundred times before. In a few minutes the English admiral had taught the world a new lesson in tactics. Galleys could only fire straight ahead; and, as they came on line abreast, Drake, passing with the Queen’s four battle-ships athwart their course, poured in his heavy broadsides. Never before had such gunnery been seen. Ere the galleys were within effective range for their own ordnance they were raked and riddled and confounded, and to the consternation of the Spaniards they broke for the cover of the batteries. Two had to be hauled up to prevent their sinking; the rest were a shambles, and nothing was now thought of but how to protect the city from the assault which seemed inevitable. Hardly any troops were there: a panic seized the population; and Drake was left alone to do the work for which he had come.
Beyond the batteries the fleet anchored with its prizes, plundering and scuttling with all its might, till the flood came in again. Then all that remained were fired, and, by the flare of the blazing hulks as they drifted clear with the tide, Drake moved the fleet into the mouth of the Puntal channel, out of range of the batteries. He himself took up a position seaward of the new anchorage, to engage the guns which the Spaniards were bringing down from the town and to keep off the galleys; for as yet the work was but half done. In the inner harbor lay the splendid galleon of the Marquis de Santa Cruz, and a crowd of great ships too big to seek the refuge of the shoals about Port Royal, and at daylight the Merchant Royal went boldly in, with all the tenders in company. Then, in spite of the labors of the past night, the plundering, scuttling, and burning began again. Outside, the galleys were making half-hearted demonstrations against the English anchorage, but they were easily kept at bay. By noon it was all over, and Drake attempted to make sail. In the past thirty-six hours he had entirely revictualled his fleet with wine, oil, biscuit, and dried fruits. He had destroyed some twelve thousand tons of shipping, including some of the finest vessels afloat, and four ships laden with provisions were in possession of his prize crews. It was enough and more than enough. But the wind would not serve, and all day long he lay where he was, in sight of the troops that were now pouring along the isthmus into Cadiz.
 In the official report the Spaniards admit the loss of twenty-four ships valued at one hundred seventy-two thousand ducats. This, it would seem, was all they dared tell the King.
Again and again the galleys attempted to approach, and every time Drake’s broadsides swept them back before they reached their effective range. Vainly, too, the Spaniards strove to post guns near enough to annoy the fleet. Nor did the struggle cease till at midnight a land-wind sprang up, and, brushing from his path the galleys that sought to block the way, Drake made sail. By two o’clock he had cleared the batteries and was safe outside without losing a single man. Boldly enough then the galleys gave chase, but, unfortunately, the wind suddenly shifted completely round. Drake at once went about, and the galleys fled in most undignified haste, leaving the English fleet to complete its triumph by anchoring unmolested in full view of the town.
Such an exploit was without precedent. The chivalry of Spain was as enthusiastic in its admiration of Drake’s feat of arms as it was disgusted at the cumbrous organization which condemned it to inactivity. A whole day Drake waited where he was, to try and exchange his prisoners for English galley-slaves, but, getting nothing but high compliments and dilatory answers for his pains, on the morrow he sailed. There was no time to lose. By his captures he had discovered the whole of Philip’s plan. Out of the Mediterranean the divisions of Italy, Sicily, and Andalusia were to come and join the head-quarters at Lisbon, where the Grand Admiral of Spain, the Marquis de Santa Cruz, was busy with the bulk of the armada. At Cape St. Vincent was the road where ships coming out of the Straits waited for a wind to carry them north, and there he had resolved to take his stand, and fight everything that attempted to join Santa Cruz’s flag in the Tagus.
Such light airs prevailed that it was not till the end of the month that the fleet reached the road. By that time its water was exhausted, and, as every headland was crowned with works commanding the anchorage and the watering-places, Drake at once saw he must take them. In his usual off-hand way he summoned his council, and told them over the dinner-table what he was going to do. It was more than the vice-admiral’s dignity and caution could endure.
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