On the summit of the headland was a castle accessible on two sides only.
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.
Place: Lagos Bay
In high dudgeon he [Captain William Burroughs – jl] returned to his ship, and, in the midst of a gale which suddenly arose and drove the fleet to the north of the cape, he indicted a long and solemn protest, not only against the contemplated operation, but against the unprecedented despotism with which Drake was conducting the whole expedition. Borough, though no doubt jealous of Drake, certainly believed he was doing nothing beyond his right and duty. He felt he had been attached to the expedition as the most complete sailor in the kingdom, and he valued and deserved his reputation. In the scientific knowledge of his art he was unrivalled, and he was the only officer in the service who had fought and won a purely naval action. No one, therefore, can fairly blame him for resenting the revolutionary manner in which his commander was ignoring him in contempt of the time-honored privileges of the council of war.
Drake, in his hot self-confidence, thought otherwise. As he rode out the gale under the lee of St. Vincent, and the tempest howled through his rigging, once more there fell upon him the shadow of the tragedy which could never cease to darken his judgment. Already, in Cadiz harbor, he had thought his vice-admiral too careful of his ship when the shot were flying; and now he saw in him another Doughty sent by the friends of Spain to hang on his arm. “In persisting,” he told Lord Burleigh, “he committed a double offence, not only against me, but it toucheth further.” To his embittered sense the querulous protest was a treasonable attack on his own authority, and in his fury he brutally dismissed the old admiral from his command and placed him under arrest on his flag-ship. In vain the astonished veteran protested his innocence, apologized, and made submission. Drake would not listen. The ring of the heads-man’s sword upon the desolate shores of Patagonia had deafened his ears to such entreaties forever.
Two days later he was back in Lagos Bay, landing a thousand men for an attempt upon the town, but in the evening, after vainly endeavoring to induce the bodies of cavalry which hovered on their line of march to come within reach, the troops re-embarked, reporting the place too strong to be taken by assault. Such reports were not to Drake’s liking. It was no mere cross-raiding on which he was bent, but a sagacious stroke that was essential to the development of his new ideas. To get the command of the seas it was necessary that he should be able to keep the seas, and for this a safe anchorage and watering-places were necessary. In default of Lagos, strategy and convenience both indicated St. Vincent road for his purpose. It was commanded by forts, but that did not deter him; and, resolved to have his way, he next day landed in person near Cape Sagres.
On the summit of the headland was a castle accessible on two sides only. The English military officers declared that a hundred determined men could hold it against the whole of Drake’s force. But he would not listen; it commanded the watering-place, and he meant to have it. Detaching part of his force against a neighboring fort, which was at once evacuated, he himself advanced against the castle, and at the summit of the cliff found himself confronted with walls thirty feet high, bristling with brass guns and crowded with soldiers. The garrison had just been reinforced by that of the evacuated fort, and to every one but the admiral the affair was hopeless. He attacked with his musketeers, and, when they had exhausted their ammunition, in the name of his queen and mistress he summoned the place to surrender. In the name of his lord and master the Spanish captain laughed at him. Whereupon Drake, more obstinate than ever, sent down to the fleet for fagots, and began piling them against the outer gate to fire it. So desperate was the resistance that again and again the attempt failed. For two hours the struggle lasted. As fast as the defenders threw down the fire, the English piled it up again; and in the midst of the smoke and the bullets the admiral toiled like a common seaman, with his arms full of fagots and his face black with soot. How long his obstinacy would have continued it is impossible to say, but at the end of the two hours the Spanish commandant sank under his wounds and the garrison surrendered. Daunted by a feat which every one regarded as little short of a miracle, the castle and monastery of St. Vincent, together with another fort near it, capitulated at the magician’s first summons, and left him in complete possession of the anchorage to water the fleet undisturbed.
Having fired the captured strongholds, and tumbled their guns over the cliffs into the sea, Drake returned to the fleet to find the sailors had not been idle. Between St. Vincent and a village some nine miles to the eastward which they had been ordered to burn, they had taken forty-seven barks and caravels laden with stores for the Armada, and destroyed between fifty and sixty fishing-boats with miles of nets. The tunny-fishery, on which the whole of the adjacent country chiefly depended for its subsistence, was annihilated. For the time Drake’s work on the Algarve coast was done, and, having watered the fleet and fished up the captured guns, he sailed for Lisbon.
His own idea had been to land there and smite Philip’s preparation at its heart, but this the Government had expressly forbidden. Still he hoped that the havoc he had made and the insults he had put on the Spanish coasts might goad Santa Cruz to come out and fight him. For three days he lay off Cascaes, in sight of Lisbon, threatening an attack and sending polished taunts to the Spanish admiral.
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