Today’s installment concludes Drake Captures Cartegena; Raids Cadiz,
our selection from Sir Francis Drake by Julian Corbett published in 1890.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of eight thousand words. Congratulations! 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: Off the Iberian coast
He offered to convoy him to England if his course lay that way; he took prizes under his very nose; with his fleet in loose order he sailed up to the very entrance of the harbor; but, though seven galleys lay on their oars watching him from the mouth of the Tagus, Santa Cruz would not move, and Drake learned at last how deep was the wound he had inflicted.
Philip’s organization was now completely dislocated. The fleet at Lisbon was unmanned. Its crews had been shattered in Cadiz harbor, and the troops that were intended for it had been thrown into the defenseless city under the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, with orders that while Drake was on the coast not a man was to be moved. All thought of an attack on England was given up. It was even doubted whether by straining every nerve it would be possible to save the homeward-bound fleets from the Indies. The Italian squadrons were ordered to land their troops at Cartagena, and Philip hoped that by forced marches across the peninsula they might possibly arrive in time for Santa Cruz to sail before it was too late. Every one else looked on the convoys as doomed. For Drake, having assured himself that Santa Cruz could not stir, and that England was safe for a year at least, resolved to make for the Azores and wait for the prey that had so narrowly escaped him the year before.
On the third day of his stay off the Tagus he took advantage of a northerly gale to run for the anchorage at St. Vincent, which he had made his own, and where he intended to water and refresh for the voyage. There, huddled under the lee of the cape, was found a fresh crowd of store-ships, which he seized. For nine days he lay there, rummaging the ships, taking in water, and sending the men ashore in batches to shake off the sickness with which, as usual, the fleet was attacked. Every day new prizes fell into his hands, and ere he sailed he had taken and destroyed forty more vessels and a hundred small craft. On May 22d he put to sea, and, as the news spread, a panic seized every commercial centre in the Spanish dominions. Half the merchants in Philip’s empire saw ruin before them: the whole year’s produce both of the East and West Indian trade was at Drake’s mercy; and no one knew how Spain, with its resources already strained to the utmost, would survive the shock.
Whatever might have been the result had these fears been realized, destiny seemed to have decided that in the Channel should be played the last great scene. Drake had not been two days out when a storm struck his fleet and scattered it over the face of the sea. For three days it raged with extraordinary fury. Drake’s own flag-ship was in dire peril, and, when the heavens cleared, only three of the battle-ships and half a dozen smaller craft were together. Not a single merchant-ship was to be seen, and the Lion, Borough’s flag-ship, on which he was still a prisoner, was missing too. Before leaving St. Vincent Drake had told Walsingham that he ought to have at least six more cruisers to do his work properly, and now two-thirds of what he had before were gone. Still he held on, hoping to find some of the missing ships at the rendezvous in the Azores.
On the morning of June 8th St. Michael’s was sighted, but not a sail had rejoined the flag except the Spy, one of the Queen’s gunboats, with the captain and master of the Lion on board, and they reported that the crew of Borough’s ship had mutinied and carried him home. Then, in the depth of his disappointment, Drake’s fury blazed out anew. His fierce self-reliance and fanatic patriotism had taught him to see a traitor in every man that opposed him, and the bitter experience of his lifelong struggle against the enemies of his country and his creed could bring him but to one conclusion — Borough was the traitor who had ruined the greatest chance of his career! A jury was impaneled, the deserter tried for his life, found guilty, and condemned to death.
It was little good except to relieve the admiral’s anger. The splendid opportunity was gone; the fruit of his brilliant exploit was snatched from his lips; for, even had the remnant of his fleet been less shattered than it was, the great convoys were beyond its strength. The only hope was to hurry back to England and beg for reinforcements to fight Santa Cruz for the life-blood of Spain.
Yet ere he sailed there was a consolation at hand. As he lay waiting for his shattered squadron to close up, fuming at traitors, and marveling at the inscrutable will of Heaven, the dawn of June 9th lit up the gray sea and showed him a huge carack in the offing. On a smart breeze he gave chase. The carack kept her course, but, as Drake drew near, began displaying her colors nervously. Drake made not a sign in reply, but held on till he was within range. Then on a sudden, with a blaze of her ensigns and her broadside, the Elizabeth Bonaventura told the stranger what she was. Two of Drake’s squadron threw themselves resolutely athwart-hawse of the enemy, and the rest, plying her hard with shot, prepared to run aboard her towering hull. But, ere they closed, her flag fluttered sadly down, and the famous San Filippe, the King of Spain’s own East-Indiaman, the largest merchantman afloat, was a prize in Drake’s hands.
Well might he wonder now at God’s providence, as with lightened heart he sailed homeward with his prize. For not only was it the richest ever seen in England before or since, not only was its cargo valued at over a million of our money, but in it were papers which disclosed to our merchants all the mysteries and richness of the East India trade. It was a revelation to English commerce. It intoxicated the soberest capitalists; and they knew no rest till they had formed the great East India Company, to widen the gap which Drake had opened, and to lay the foundation of our Indian Empire.
This concludes our selection from Sir Francis Drake by Julian Corbett published in 1890. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
More information here and here and below.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history