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Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake


Sir Francis DrakeSir Francis Drake, the first English circumnavigator of the globe, was born in 1545, at Crowndale, near Tavistock, Devonshire, England. His parentage is obscure, yet we are told that, by just descent and prerogative of birth, he had the right to bear the arms of his name and family. His father, Robert, was probably the third son of John Drake, of Otterton, and of his wife, Agnes Kelloway. Drake's inclinations were for a sailor's life, and in 1565-6 he was engaged in one or two voyages to Guinea and the Spanish Main, under Captain John Lovell.


In 1567 in a squadron fitted out by Captain Hawkins, a near relation, Drake commanded the 'Judith. She was destroyed by the Spaniards. On his return to England, he was sent up to London to lay before Sir William Cecil all the particulars. Thus Drake was for the firstt time brought to the notice of this great minister. In the years 1570-71 he made two voyages to the West Indies. In the second trip he sailed with two ships the largest of which was the " Pascha " of seventy tons burthen, with a crew of forty-seven men, the smaller the Swanne, was of twenty-five tons burthen! with twenty-six men. One-third of these died on the voyage. He attacked Nombre de Dios, and several other towns on the Isthmus of Darien captured or destroyed several Spanish vessels which he found on the coast; penetrated inland, and plundered more than one train of mules! bringing the treasures of the Mexican mines to the coast for shipment to the mother country.


Drake returned to England determined to organize a fresh expedition with more ambitious designs. From a high tree. which he had climbed on the Isthmus of Panama, he had seen the Pacific, and had made a vow to sail upon its waters. In 1577 he again left Plymouth with five ships.,the largest of which, the .Pelican, was under his own command. The united crews numbered but 164 men. They arrived on the coast of Patagonia June 20th, 1578. Here Thomas Doughty, second in command, was accused of plotting against Drake, tried, and beheaded. Drake now coasted down to the Straits of Magellan but, a storm arising, his squadron was shattered, and he was left to prosecute his enterprise with the Pelican" alone. He changed his vessel's name to that of the " Golden Hind," as an omen of what she was to prove to him. He threaded his way through the Straits of Magelhaen, and reached the Pacific.Drake now proceeded to attack the most tempting Spanish towns on the Peruvian coast. He reaped a golden harvest, even entering the port of Callao, and plundering no less than seventeen galleons. He landed in California, taking possession of it in the name of Queen Elizabeth. He now quitted the American coast, and in two months reached the Philippine Islands. After being nearly wrecked on the coast of Celebes, he passed around the Cape of Good Hope on his homeward voyage. He reached Plymouth in Sept., 1580, after a voyage of nearly three years duration.


Drake sailed around to the Thames, where Queen Elizabeth did him the honor of dining on board his ship. She also conferred on him the honor of knighthood, Drake being the first Englishman who had sailed round the world. A chair was made out of the Golden Hind, which still may be seen in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Nearly five years elapsed before the great captain again put to sea. In 1585 he once more crossed the Atlantic, to renew his attacks on the Spaniards. His Bag-ship was the I' Elizabeth," a vessel of 900 tons' burthen. He overran St. Domingo, stormed and sacked Carthagena aud St. Jago, near Cape Verd. Drake, all his return to England, expressed himself as "eager to singe the King of Spain's beard." He set sail for Cadiz in 1587 with thirty sail. Entering Cadiz, he destroyed 10,000 tons of shipping, transferring their valuable cargoes to his own ships. At Lisbon he burnt 100 vessels more; but later, in 1089, Sir Francis and Sir John Norris failed in an expedition, the object of which was to deliver Portugal from the dominion of Spain.


On the 12th of July, 1588, the great Spanish Annada was sighted off the Lizard Point. At the time that word of their arrival was brought, the Lord High Admiral and the other admirals and captains were playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe. Lord Howard was for at once putting to sea and meeting the enemy. II There's plenty of time to win this game and thrash the Spaniards too," &' Drake. The English soon put to sea to meet the Annada. Drake was second in command of the" Revenge," a vessel of 500 tOilS aud carrying 240 guns. On the 21st of July the fleets sighted each other west of Plymouth. The Armada consistcd of a hundred and thirtysix ships, thus doubling in number the English fleet. After a week's fighting the Spanish fleet was scattered and destroyed by meaus of fire-ships sent among them by the English.


Elizabeth now determined once more to invade the territory of the King of Spain fitting out 30 vessels, with 2,500 men aboard, Hawkins and Drake led the expedition. It failed entirely. Hawkins died of fever off Porto Rico, while Drake passed on to the Isthmus to attack Panama. He was compelled to retreat, and on January 28, 1596, died of fever on board his flagship. A few days later his body, enclosed in a lead coffin, was committed to the deep.


Sir Francis Drake, though twice married, left no children. In stature he was low; but he was broad-chested and possessed wonderfully strong limbs. Had Drake been living at this time, he, with many of his friends, would have been deemed pirates; but things were different then, and the Spaniards themselves were worse than Sir Francis. He was a thorough sailor, a skillful commander, kind and considerate to his sailors and careful of their lives and interests. Eloquent by nature, restless and full of energy, a man to be feared by an enemy, Drake carried the flag of England across seas where it never had before waved.





Sir Francis Drake, having set sail from England, for the purpose of examining the west coast of America and circumnavigating the globe, reached Agllapulco, or Acapulco, on the southwestern coast of Mexico, on April 15th, 1577. He had coasted down the eastern side of South America sailed through the Straits of Magellan; been driven, by unfavorable winds, south of Cape Horn, the extreme point of South America, and had coursed his way up the western coast as far as Acapulco.


Leaving this port, Drake penetrated farther north until the cold became so severe, and gave the men so much annoyance, especially in freezing the ropes and hindering the management of the vessel, as to occasion great complaints. He sailed as far as the 48th degree of latitude, near Vancouver's Island, where he found a harbor. But dense fogs, sudden flaws and violent tempests, prevented him from tarrying there very long. His men being strongly opposed to proceeding farther north, and the wind being against him, he concluded to run down the coast to the neighborhood of the 38th degree of north latitude, where he found other harbor, which, there can be bnt little doubt, was San Francisco. The country was inhabited, and many of the natives had erected their huts close by the water.


Approaching this harbor, they saw a single native coming off in a canoe, who, when he came within speaking distance, made a long address to them, and then, with marks of great reverence, returned to the shore. What the address was, whether it was made up of threats, information, or offers of submission, they knew not, as they were unacquainted with the language. The vessel having sprung aleak, it was necessary to lighten her, in order to repair her. Tents were raised on the shore for the men, and a rude fort constructed for the protection of the stores and cargo. The natives looked on from a distance, not knowing what these things meant. By and by they came down armed, in great numbers, but gave no evidence of hostile design. They were ordered, by signs, to lay down their bows and arrows, and at once complied. The admiral, in order to secure their good will, gave them a number of presents of European manufacture. In return, they presented him with articles of their own handiwork, and also sottle feathers and skills. At night they withdrew to their own village, about a mile distant. They there made demonstrations of a most noisy character i the women, especially, shrieked in a terrific manner, as if they expectcd to be led to captivity or death. For two days after this none of them came but the English; but on the third day a company presented themselves, much more numerous than those who first appeared. One of them, who was probably a chief speaker among them, delivered a long address. Then he had finished, the whole company laid down their weapons, and came to the English camp. Judging from their conduct, it would seem that the women had no sympathy with the proceedings of the men, They made doleful lamentations, tore the flesh from their cheeks, and appeared to be overwhelmed with sorrow. Perhaps, however, this was their method of giving more intense expression to the same feelings as those of the men.


The English suspected that they were about to offer a sacrifice. Whereupon the admiral, with his company, engaged in prayer and in the reading of the Bible to them, to which the natives gave good attention, and seemed much impressed by it but when they came to the English they restored the gifts which they had previously received from them. Presently the King himself made his appearance, accompanied by many of his followers, of stately and warlike appearance, and painted in various colors. His Indian majesty was preceded by two ambassadors, who come to announce his approach. Their address continued about an hour, at the end of which the King advanced, surrounded with all the trappings of royalty at his command. During his stately march to the English camp, the followers who composed his train" cried continually, after a singing manner, with a lusty courage. As they drew nearer and nearer, so did they more and more strive to behave themselves with a certain comeliness and gravity in all their actions.


So friendly was the manner of their approach that Drake,being disarmed of all suspicions, gave orders for tbeir admission within the enclosure of the camp without interruption. They entered the fort with songs and dances. During the continuance of the festivity, the King approached tbe admiral with singing, and, with the consent of all the rest, placed upon his head, with great reverence, an ornamented feather cap, as if it were an act of coronation, threw over his neck wany chains belonging to his followers, presented many other things as gifts, and then greeted him with the salutation, Hioh, which the English supposed was either his own name or else the Indian title for King. They then added what was supposed to be a song and dance of triumph. The women, not satisfied with songs and dances, tore their faces and breasts until they were horribly disfigured with wounds and blood.


The ceremony of coronation which we have described was interpreted by Drake as a formal and official acknowledgment of allegiance to him, by which the King resigned himself, his people, and all their lands, into his hands, and bound themselves and all their posterity to become his subjects. In reply, Drake gave them to understand, as well as he was able, that he accepted them and their lauds in the name and for the use of her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth of England. It is very uncertain whether the interpretation of the admiral was correct. The ceremony of the Indians was undoubtedly an expression of great respect and reverence for the English; but it seems quite improbable that they should voluntarily have offered themselves, their lands, and their posterity to these strangers, without receiving, or even asking, any equivalent. Such an act is not in harmony with Indian character.


These people are described as teachable, confiding, and amiable, destitute of duplicity, treachery, and reveuge. Their bows and arrows were comparatively harmless, being weak, and more appropriate for children than adults. Yet the men were unusually strong. A burden, which two or three of the English found it difficult to lift, one of them would carryover a rough road, up hill and down, a long distancc. It was observed also that the women were very obedieut and serviceable to those whom they had married. Before the admiral left this place he erected a post, or column, on which he fastened a brass plate, containing the date of his arrival, the voluntary proffer of the country by the King and people to him, with his own name underneath. He also had skillfully set in the plate a cnrrent English sixpence, On which were impressed the picture and coat-of-anus of her majesty. In this manner he left evidence of having taken fonnal possession of the place in the name of Queen Elizabeth of England.


As a token of respect to his own country, and also because he had observed on different parts of this coast white cliffs similar t those all the coast of England, he called all the land he bad here seen New Albion. After remaining in this port thity-six days, repairing his ships and cultivating friendly relations with the natives, Drake again put to sea. The Indians appear to have parted with him with regret, and to have wished for his speedy retunt. They ran upon the hills, kindled fires and kept them burning all the time that he was insight.-J. BANVARD.




At a subsequent period, Drake again visited this country, approaching it from the West Indies on the eastern side. On the 28th of May, 1586, he discovered all the coast of Florida a rude scaffold, supported on four poles, having the appearance of all observatory. As no one on board could give any account of its history, he manned his pinnaces and went all shore to discover who held it. Passing up the River St. Augustine, he came to a fort newly erected by the Spaniards, but not quite finished, called the Fort of St. Juan de Pinos. When the Spaniards saw the English approaching, they abandoned the work and fled as rapidly as possible to the town of St Augustine, which contained a garrison of one hundred and fifty men. The next day the English bnded, and marcbed to the fort which protected the town, for the purpose of storming it. As they approached, they could discover uo one there to defend it. Perhaps the garrison are concealed, in order to throw the English off their guard. Perhaps they are in ambush, and will suddenly fire upon their flank or rear. The stonning party advance very cautiously. Not a sword, musket nor feather can they see. They enter the fort but no one is there. They have all fled. On a platronIl, constructed of large pine trees, were fourteen pieces of large brass ordnance. But the Spaniards tested the calibre of none of them. They fled without firing a single ball. Upon examining the place, the attacking party discovered a Frenchman, a fifer, who bad been held by the Spaniards a prisoner. He infonned the English that the Spaniards fled in such haste as to leave behind them a chest containing two thousand pounds in money.


The English soldiers now pressed on to the town. The Spaniards mustered sufficient courage to fire a few shots at them, and then, having no blood to spare, they rail away. Anthony Powell, a sergeant.major, leaping upon one of the horses they had left behind, pursued them over ground which was covered with long grass. His rashness led him too far in advance of his company. A Spaniard who bad concealed himself in the grass fired at him, and shot him through the bead, and then pierced his body with many wounds. The Govemor of the place had retired to St. Matheo, leaving not a single inhabitant in the town. Drake noticed that St. Augustine appeared to be in a prosperous condition. Among other edifices it contained a town honse and church, and was ornamented with a number of gardens but all these pleasant things were burnt and laid waste by the English, in revenge for the death of Major Powell.


It was Drake's intention to have visited another Spanish settlement, about thirty miles farther on, called St. Helena, and to have destroyed that also; but the weather being unfavorable, and the shoals dangerous, it was considered advisable to relinquish the attempt, especially as he had no pilot who was acquainted with the channel.


Abandoning this design, Sir Francis Drake proceeded farther north, in search of Sir Walter Raleigh's colony, wbich had recently been planted in Virginia. He had received orders from her Majesty, the Queen, before his departure from England, to extend to this infant settlement every encouragement and assistance in his power. He found the shore inaccessible on account of shoals, and was therefore obliged to anchor in an open, exposed situation, two miles from land. To Mr. Ralph Lane, Governor of the colony, who was then at his fort in Roanoke, he sent an oWer of assistance and supplies. The Governor, with some of his men, visited the admiral, and requested him to furnish the colony with more men and provisious, and also a small vessel and boats, so that, if an extremity should occur, they might be able to return to England. In compliance with their request, the admiral immediately fitted up one of his ships and bountifully supplied it with all manner of stores for their use. A storm now arose, which drove that ship and some others out to sea, and Drake did not see them again tilt his return home. He now proposed to furnish another of his ships for their use. But the Governor and his colonists, having passed through many hardships, had become quite disheartened. And now that this recent calamity had been visited upon them, and the promised stores from England had failed, they construed it into au expression of the disapprobation of Providence of their design to establish a colony. After mutual consultation among themselves, they requested Sir Francis Drake to remove them from the coast and take them home. When they landed in Virginia, their number was one hundred and eight; it was reduced to one hundred and three, all of whom now embarked in the Beet of the admiral for England.-J. BANVARD.


Sir Francis Drake

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