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THE EXPEDITION OF THE ENGLISH KNIGHT SIR FRANCIS DRAKE
TO THE WEST INDIES
IN THE YEAR 1585
HE English knight Francis Drake, eager to enhance the name of his prince and nation, thought again on an expedition to the West Indies, and for this purpose prepared a fleet of twenty-five ships, in which there were about 2,500 men, both soldiers and sailors, and brought them to the port of Plymouth on September 12, 1585. And he had a number of energetic Captains and other noble men, whose names were these: Christopher Carleill, Lieutenant General (as they call him), a man most experienced in war by land and sea, Antony Powell, Sergeant Major of the entire army, as they say nowadays, Matthew Morgan, John Sampson, Antony Platt, John Merchant, Edward Winter, John Goring, Robert Pew, George Barton, Walter Bigges, Richard Stanton, John Hannam.
2. And these were the leaders, or Captains, by land. By sea, the Captains of ships were these: Martin Frobisher, Vice Admiral, a man most experienced of sea matters, who indeed in some other expeditions had commanded an entire fleet, Francis Knolles, Thomas Venner, William Cecil, James Carleill, Henry White, Thomas Drake, Thomas Seely, Captain Rivers, Captain Martin, Captain Bailey, Captain Crosse, Captain Fortescue, Captain Carelesse, Captain Hawkins, Captain Erizo, Captain Moone, Captain Vaughan, Captain Varney, Captain Gilman, and many other noble men whose names are not listed here.
3. After setting out on the 14th of September, we first came to the Isles of Bayon belonging to Spain, where an adverse wind, and then a storm suddenly arising and a want of fresh water obliged us to put in. We had scarce dropped anchor when our General commanded all our ships and boats to be filled with soldiers and all manner of weaponry, and so to be readied for all eventualities. When this was done he boarded his galleon (for thus we call the kind of ship in which he was carried), and steered for the city of Bayon, thinking to take it, with God’s good help. We had scarce completed a half league on our way, when a certain English merchant was sent to us from the Governor of the city to discover our identity and nationality. When our General had had conversation with him for some time, he summoned to himself Captain Sampson and sent him to the Governor for the purpose of discovering two things he wished to learn of the man. First, whether there was open war between the English and the Spanish; and then, why our merchants were being detained there with their wares. When Sampson entered the city in the company of the merchant, he saw all the citizens and the Governor himself to be no little astonished and troubled by the sudden novelty of such a great development. In the meantime our General, by the advice of Christopher Carleill his Lieutenant General, decided he should not tarry longer anywhere else, but that he should approach closer to the city itself, whence, if there chanced to be any need for action, upon Sampson’s return he would easily be able to occupy the city unexpectedly, or even to storm it before dark. Then Sampson came back with this repose. First, touching on peace or war, the Governor could make no answer, inasmuch as he was only the subject of his sovereign, who alone had the power to declare war. The merchants and their wares had been detained by royal order, but with no intent that they receive any injury thereby, and that a countermand had been received about a week ago that the English merchants were free to go where they will with their wares. As proof of which thing he sent along some merchants belonging to our nation who were in the city at that time and dealing in those parts. When these fellows had explained to our General how these matters stood, we took counsel what was best to do, and, with night approaching, it seemed needful and best to disembark as quickly as we could, as was done late in the evening. And there, having chosen the most suitable ground possible, and with guards posted on all sides, we rested through the night. And there on the next day the Governor sent us wine, oil, apples grapes, marmalade (thus they call a sweet delicacy) and other gifts of that sort. About midnight a sudden change of weather obliged us to change our plan, and it seemed safer for us to embark on our ships as quickly as we could, rather than to remain there. But before we could regain our fleet, a great storm suddenly blew up, so that several ships were set adrift with their anchors dragged loose, not without great danger to their crews, and were obliged to hoist sail. Among these were a ship named the Talbot, likewise another, the Hawkins, and another called the Speedwell. The first of these, driven astray, made its way to England, the other two followed the fleet and caught it up. This storm lasted for three days.
4. As soon as it subsided, the Lieutenant General was sent by the General in his own galleon, another ship of his, and three small boats, to the city of Vigo, to see if there was any booty or profit to be had there or in the vicinity. There he took several ships laden with much household furniture and many other things of no great value, but together with these was one ship carrying donations for the principal church at Vigo, and many silver vessels, and along with these a large cross of great value, most artfully chased and gilded. Afterwards we learned that the citizens had complained that what they had lost by this misfortune cost them more than forty thousand ducats. The following day our General set sail from these isles and, leaving Vigo behind him, chose a harbor not far away, most suitable both because of its very safe shelter for the ships and its fresh water. While our fleet rode there, the Governor of Gallicia (a region once inhabited by the Callaici, they say) assembled a force of as many soldiers as he could, 2000 foot and 300 horse, as it seemed, and with these moved into that part of the region where he could best keep our fleet under observation, and commanded his men to remain there. Whence he sent a representative to invite our General to a parlay, which was agreed to under the condition that he come to him in a pinnace or other small boat, and that hostages be given by both sides. As soon as the Governor gave his agreement, along with two companions he entrusted himself into our Vice-Admiral’s skiff, which had been sent to the shore for him, and likewise our General came in a skiff to meet him. Then they came to an agreement that we would be allowed to fetch as much fresh water as we wished and satisfied out needs, and be permitted to purchase other stuff for our refreshment for a fair price.
5. So, sailing thence, we set sail for the Canary Islands, thinking to take the island of Palma, and there to set our affairs in better order, and to outfit ourselves more fully with all the needful things which that region could supply in abundance. But, since we were never to make a landing except at a certain place much protected by a number of fortifications, always exposed to ordnance fire, we were immediately obliged to beat a retreat, with cannon (as today we call great ordnance) playing upon us heavily and reaching as far as our ships with balls as large as any used today. But especially the tide and currents of the sea compelled us to depart, for it threatened our pinnaces and boats with imminent destruction. Therefore, cheated of this hope of invading the island, we sought another one, commonly called Isla de Ferro (the one that used to be called Pluitalia), to see if we might perhaps fare better there. When we put in there, 1000 soldiers were immediately ordered to disembark, and were stationed in a valley hard by the foothills of a certain lofty mountain. Where we had tarried there three or four hours, in the meantime the natives came to us bringing with them a young Englishman, an inhabitant of the same region, who affirmed to us that this island was most poverty-stricken, and that these people had nearly come to that degree of want that they were dying of hunger. When we found that this was quite true, we were bidden to leave empty-handed and board the ships immediately, and the very same night to steer for Africa, with a south-southeast wind blowing. On Saturday November 13th we came to the region commonly known as Cabo Bianco, very deserted and low-lying, where in a very shallow sea we caught a great mess of fish. Afterwards we came there to a certain place (it seemed to be a harbor) where we met some French warships which we left there after entertaining their captains in a friendly and lavish manner. After this banquet our fleet was reassembled, as it become scattered as the ships wandered about fishing.
6. From there we drove along in the direction of the so-called Cape Verde Islands, sailing until the 17th of December, when early in the morning the island of Santiago presented itself to our sight, and at dusk we dropped anchor between a town named Play or Prey and Santiago (which metropolis gives its name to the entire island). Here landed 1000 men under the leadership of our Lieutenant General Christopher Carleill, who managed the business (as he always did elsewhere) prudently and energetically. The route by which we first had to march was very difficult and rugged, there being along it many valleys and dales, and many rocks in our way. Guarding ourselves from these, we were often obliged to break formation. But our leader did not allow us to rest until he had led the whole column into a wide and open field, and then he commanded every man to return to his ranks. And when we had progressed in good battle order until we were only half a league away from the city, the Lieutenant General forbade us to progress any farther or do any more before daybreak, as we had nobody to show us the way to the city and we were entirely ignorant of the ground there. And when we had taken our rest at that place, half an hour before the dawn he divided his forces in three, and now, as our ranks were being deployed, the day broke. We drew nearer to the city walls, and encountered nobody putting up a resistance. Wherefore our leader ordered Captains Sampson and Barton, with thirty musketeers apiece, to go down as quickly as they could into the city, which lay in a sunken valley, so that from the elevation of the mountain (as from an observation tower) we could see what was being done within the city from one end to the other. And here we quickly sent our great banner with its read cross, the emblem of England, to be set up on the seaward side, so that our fleet could see its royal insignia raised on the enemy’s rampart. At this point it was immediately commanded that all the ordnance in the city and on its ramparts (to the number of fifty) should be fired off in memory of the Queen’s coronation, as is the solemn custom performed every year in on the 17th of November. To this our fleet, which had now drawn near, responded with its ordnance in a matching volley. The din was great and it is miraculous to tell how, as long as it continued, it assaulted our ears and those of the inhabitants. Meanwhile our leader retained the greater part of the army on the hilltop, until provisions for their quartering had been made in the city, and quickly every Captain was assigned his portion of the city, with guards having been posted everywhere most carefully, so there would be no fear from the enemy. Thus we remained here for fourteen days. Where, by way of booty, there fell to us whatever the city had to provide: wine, oil, vinegar, wheat, and similar wares such as are customarily shipped to the Indies by the merchants. But there was nothing of gold or silver, nor anything else of significant value.
7. During this same time we lingered there, certain other things occurred not unworthy of mention. A man came to us under flag of truce, to whom Captains Sampson and Goring were immediately sent. He first asked them to what nation they belonged, and they responded they were Englishmen. Next he asked whether war had been declared between the Spanish and the English. Our men answered they had nothing to tell him, but if he wished to learn more about the matter, he should pay a call on our General: by way of giving him free passage, they gave him their word that he could go and come back unharmed. But he refused to approach any farther, because he was not sent by his Governor. Then they told him that if his Governor was to consult for the safety of his people and nation, he should come before our General and make trial of his mercy and humanity rather than see everything wasted with fire and sword within three days, as was our intention. With this answer, the man departed and promised to return the following day, but afterwards nobody came. On November 24th, with 600 men, we came to a town in the region of Santo Domingo situated twelve leagues from the sea. When we entered it, we found the place empty and abandoned by its inhabitants, who had fled to the nearby mountains to protect themselves. Wherefore we halted here a while, in case any of them chanced to parlay with us. When we seemed to have had sufficient rest, our General ordered his men to return whence they had come. And behold, along the way the enemy showed himself with horse and foot, but not in sufficient numbers that he dared come to grips with us. And while we were keeping him under observation the evening fell, so that we were scarcely able to reach Santiago before nightfall. On Monday November 26th our General commanded all our ships and boats to be readied and the soldiers to board them. But his Lieutenant Carleill sent Captain Goring with Lieutenant Tucker and a hundred musketeers to the city marketplace, to keep watch until our forces were aboard ship, which the Vice-Admiral was awaiting in the harbor with some pinnaces and small boats, from where he would transfer them to the ships. Furthermore, the General ordered the companies of Captains Barton and Bigges to board a pinnace (thus we call this type of ship today) and two small boats, and under Sampson’s leadership to go the town of Play in search of ordnance hidden there, as we had understood from a certain man taken captive by us the day before, who also promised to show us the place. When they landed there, Captain Sampson immediately ordered the captive to show him what he said had been hidden there. Which he could, or rather would not do. But nevertheless they scrutinized hiding-places and found two pieces of ordnance, one of iron, and one of brass. After noon the General ordered the rest of the fleet to anchor before the same town, which he command us to burn and then return to the fleet as quickly as we could. This was quickly done, and about 6 o’clock the fleet again set sail.
8. But before we go any farther, we must say something about the military discipline and order observed by us in Santiago, and about some other things not undeserving of mention. Each Captain conducted a muster of his troops, who took an oath of loyalty unto death towards her royal majesty of England as their supreme mistress, and that they would always obey the orders of their General and his officers. And we especially wondered that all the time we tarried there neither the Spanish Governor of the island nor the Bishop of that city, whose authority there was great, nor anybody of the citizens or inhabitants approached us (and we daily expected somebody of their number or sent by them), come to ask us to return what we were taking away, or at least not to bear off everything needful for their life, and that we decline to burn the city or lay it completely waste. And, though we penetrated twelve English leagues, as has been said above, into their countryside, where we had heard the Governor had fled our approach together with the Bishop, and while returning had awaited those who showed us themselves from afar, yet they were never willing to draw nearer to us, even though we sent a very small number to them inviting them to parlay. I suspect the reason for this unusual diffidence was the fresh memory of the great injury they had inflicted on William Hawkins of Plymouth three years previously, who had steered there with his expedition, when they violated the word they had given him. Which crime, since I imagine it is unknown to few, I will omit to mention here. So, indignant that they always refused to parlay with us, and also because a body of a boy of ours was found in the road, decapitated and cruelly disemboweled, departing thence we burned down all their houses, in country and city alike.
9. Hastening thence towards the West Indies, we had not long been at sea, when a strange form of disease, like some manner of plague, suddenly fell upon us, and within a short time took off more than 300 of our men; this we did not experience until the eighth day after our departure from the island of Santiago, up to which time our numbers had been intact. But after that time many men were seized by a dry fever, of whom few remained alive, and these, for no little while afterward, were weakened in mind and body by the force of the disorder. And on the corpses of some of the dead small spots were visible, not unlike those which we see to blotch the skin of plague victims.
10. Within eighteen days of our departure from Santiago, we came to Santo Domingo, the first island of the West Indies where we put in. But we spent some days, namely those of the festival of our Savior’s birthday, on another island called St. Christopher’s, to refresh our sick and clean and air our ships. There our General, the Lieutenant, the Vice-Admiral and the other Captains resolved to sail towards the island of Hispaniola, since by then we appeared to have recovered our strength. We were drawn here by the reputation of Santo Domingo, the oldest city in those parts. On the voyage we met a frigate headed in the same direction, which was taken by us, and its crew were most closely questioned about all the things which might be of assistance to our expedition. Among whom there was one who told us the harbor was very sandy, and the surrounding region excellently fortified, and that there was a fortress outfitted with many pieces of ordnance, so that we could not land without great peril save at a remove of ten miles, and he also promised to be our pilot on the way. When these things were understood, our soldiers were ordered to board the pinnaces and boats, and our General also put himself in the barque Fraunces. All night we sailed, making little headway until at dawn we gained sight of the place we were seeking. So on January 1st we landed nine or ten miles westward of the most elegant city of Santo Domingo, since so far nobody knew of a place safer for boats, or where they could better overcome the tide. So here, seeing all his men put on land, our General returned to the fleet as quickly as he could, having committed us to the protection of God and the leadership of Carleill his Lieutenant. Afterwards, at eight o’clock in the morning our column began to march, and we arrived in close to the city about noon, when some nobles and more than a hundred and fifty leading citizens seated on the handsomest of horses showed themselves to us, who, being shot at by our musketeers and hackbutters, admirably protected by our pikemen, were unable to fall with any force upon us, who displayed ourselves drawn up smartly and very ready for a fight, and they could not repel us as we approached the gates and walls of the city. On the sea side there were two gates defended by ordnance, and not far off some musketeers concealed in ambush by the road. At about this place our forces (which amounted to a about 1000 or 1200) were divided in two with the intention of assaulting both gates simultaneously, and we should not desist from our endeavor until we came together again in the city’s marketplace As soon as ordnance commenced playing upon us, our Lieutenant, his voiced raised to encourage his men, strove to break into the city with all might and main. At his side fell the first of our men to be struck by a ball. Wherefore, he did all within his power to keep them from reloading their ordnance. And now, with those who were in ambush doing nothing to hinder us, we broke into the gates with a great rush and with our full exertion, and entered the city together with the enemy pell-mell. They were obliged to look to their lives by flight rather than by making a stand or collecting themselves. So making our entrance in this manner, we continued on to the city marketplace, a spacious square before their principal church, which, together with some other places in the vicinity, we fortified with barricades thrown up on every side, and there we gathered all our troops in the place which seemed safest to us, and which could be best defended. For all the quarters of such a large city could not be guarded by such a small band of men.
11. The following day, ranging somewhat further abroad, yet not through half the city, we took possession of other places most useful and opportune for ourselves, surrounding them all with trenches and placing our pieces of ordnance pieces so that they gave each other cover, we held the city for an entire month. Throughout this time people were sent to us by the inhabitants and citizens to treat about the price of their ransom. As we could come to no agreement with them, we spent the morning of every day in the burning of buildings without the city, and the destruction of the tallest of these, must neatly built of squared stone, cost us great effort. And though for a number of days we ordered two hundred sailors to do nothing from dawn until the hot time of day (which began at nine o’clock) but cast fire into houses outside our trenches and ramparts, while the soldiers stood guard in the meantime, yet we were barely able to destroy a quarter of the city, and finally, in our haste to go elsewhere, we suffered them to redeem it for 25,000 pieces of gold.
12. Among the other noteworthy things we saw there, one must not omit that in the royal palace, where dwelt the local Governor, was discovered a great and memorable sign of Spanish arrogance. As you enter into the hall and the other rooms of the palace, you must ascend by a very elegant and artfully wrought staircase, at whose side see an escutcheon of the King of Spain that greets any comer, and beneath it a huge globe holding all the sea and land, upon which is a rearing horse, with his hind feet planted on the globe but his forefeet outside it as if to leap, with this motto in his mouth, NON SUFFICIT ORBIS [THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH FOR ME]. When we asked the leading citizens who came to us about the ransoming of the city what this saying meant, they gave us no answer, but now looked off in another direction, now blushed, hung their heads, and fell silent. To them in their embarrassment some of our people said that, were there open war between our Queen and their King, he would soon abandon that arrogance, and rather think upon defending his territories from the incursion of our men, as their city, so easily occupied by us, could readily demonstrate. Not a few men are surprised that in this most large, most prosperous, and most populous city, which was so full of all things needful for our refreshment, we failed to discover much gold or silver. That they may cease to wonder, let them know a good deal of time has passed since the Indians of that island (which rivals England in size) were most basely exterminated from their homeland, and together with them all those who had knowledge of the region’s gold or silver. The principal wares brought there are sugar, the ginger grown there, and cowhides, for the sole sake of which as many cattle as possible of incredible size and fatness are grazed in the eastern part of the island, a most fertile region. And we found there much wine of good quality, oil, vinegar, and likewise excellent wheat stored in casks, and also a quantity of linen and silk cloth lately carried there from Spain. In proportion to the city’s magnificence, there was no great supply of silver plate, for in those hot climes there is more use of utensils made of elegantly glazed clay (which they call porcelain, transported there from the East Indies) and glassware, which is manufactured there most excellently. Nevertheless we discovered not a little silver plate, which had been bought by them at great cost, but was cheap in our eyes.
13. From there we sailed towards the mainland, and, arriving at its shore, at length caught sight of Cartagena, situated so close to the seashore that those in our pinnaces came within easy range of its culverins. The harbor entrance was removed from the city five English miles, where we put in about four o’clock in the afternoon with nobody preventing us, for there were no battlements or ordnance there. When it had now grown dark, under the leadership of Lieutenant Carleill we landed near the mouth of the harbor. And with our column drawn up to offer resistance, should anyone perchance wish to oppose us or attack us from ambush as we progressed, in the thick of night we made our march on foot along the sandy beach, lest we go astray thanks to the mistake of our guide, as had happened a little before. We were scarce a half mile from the city, and behold, 100 horsemen came against us, who were put to rout by our musketeers’ first volley, since the road on which they met us was full of trees and shrubs, and hence very unsuitable for them, so they retired whence they had come. At about the same time a loud peal of ordnance was heard by us hard by the harbor, a signal from the General to the Vice-Admiral and Captains Venner, White, Cross and others, that, with pinnaces and boats, they should now launch an attack on the small fortification at the entrance to the harbor adjacent to the town. Because the place was very fortified, the entranceway narrow and closed with a chain, this attempt was frustrated, nor was anything else accomplished then, save that those who were an entire mile away from us on the far side of the harbor were roused to arms. With our forces thus divided, a half mile from the city the route along which we were marching was quite narrow, only fifty paces from the ocean to the harbor. This place was protected by an outer ditch and by a wall constructed very neatly of stone and very suitable for deploying ordnance, and I think no piece of work could be more effective than this one. In it there was no more of an opening than would be sufficient to permit the passage of a horse or, should the need arise, a wagon to pass through, and it was reinforced by dirt-filled casks instead of ramparts, excellently fortified against hostile attack. On this rampart were six pieces of ordnance, which were aimed at the front of our column. In the harbor were two triremes, or, as they are called today, galleys, outfitted with eleven pieces of ordnance and thirty or forty musketeers, who shot at our flank. The rampart itself was defended by thirty musketeers and pikemen, who all, watchfully awaiting us, frequently fired with their cannon and muskets. But before the dawn, taking advantage of the darkness according to the order of the Lieutenant General, we marched along the beach next to the sea (the tide was out) drew near to them secretly, so that nearly all of the ordnance and musket fire by which they hoped to repel us proved to be in vain. At this point the Lieutenant General forbade every man jack to shoot before we were at the wall itself. And there, using both muskets and pikes, we made an assault against those ramparts made out of casks, the place which seemed most suitable for our first attack, and we broke through them, although they were most stoutly defended by their musketeers and pikemen, and turned them out. And immediately, our muskets having been discharged, we entered the city mingled with the fleeing enemy. Our pikes were longer then theirs, our bodies better armored, so they could not adequately withstand the blows of our weapons or swords.
14. And now, when they were compelled to yield ground to us at our first onslaught, with his own hand our Lieutenant General killed the Spanish standard-bearer as he strenuously defended himself, and we immediately pursued them, giving them no time or place for catching their breath, and finally we came as far as the city marketplace, which we easily gained, though they vainly put up a defense against us for a while. Then they left us the entire city, empty, and for all the time we were there they kept themselves without. They had most artfully defended the ends of individual streets with earthworks and ditches outside them, and most diligently kept watch at their entrances. But their guards were easily overcome by our men, with few killed or wounded. They had also stationed Indian bowmen at advantageous positions, in large numbers, who did their best to shoot poisoned arrows at us. Their individual shots, if they did but break the skin, were mortal, and it was an incredible thing, worthy of the greatest admiration, if somebody touched by them escaped death. So they killed some of our party with their arrows, and some with short, pointed sticks smeared with poison on the end, of which they planted many on the highway we should have traversed, and inflected wounds that all but fatal. But we avoided most of their injuries because we marched along the beach, not by the road they imagined we would.
15. Many other things occurred at this time which I willingly omit, not having the leisure to relate them. But among them was this, which is perhaps not undeserving of mention, how Captain Sampson, who was in command of the pikemen of the vanguard, received many sword-inflicted wounds during the first entry, and likewise how Alfonzso Bravo permitted himself to be captured after having been wounded by the sword of Captain Goring, who was in command of the pikemen in the same vanguard. Captain Winter was also in the vanguard, and the Lieutenant General himself as well. Captain Powell, the Sergeant Major, commanded the van, and Morgan, who had commanded the vanguard at Santo Domingo, led the rear guard. Then all fell on the enemy with a will, so that they had no ability to withstand such a great onslaught. Here we lingered for six weeks, nor did the aforementioned disease cease to vex our men, though not in so great a number at the same time, nor so vehemently. A few of the victims who suffered from it could scarce return to their former strength, indeed to their right mind. Hence there was a byword among us about a foolish speaker, that we would say he was suffering from the calentura (thus the Spanish call a hot fever). For, as I have said above, this one was hot, constant, and pestilent, which men think was acquired by breathing the unclean night air which they call la serena. They affirm that any man there staying in the open air at eventide, if he is not an Indian or an inhabitant of the region, is infected and assuredly taken by that pestilent fever. And many of our men stood night watch in that contagious climate, and especially on the island of Santiago. And then this continual disease, greatly reducing the number of our men, prevented us from fulfilling our intention of sailing towards the island of Nombre de Dios, and from there traveling overland to Panama, whence we hoped to carry off and transport a great amount of gold and silver, a reward for our constant labor. And hence we first decided to return home from Cartagena.
16. There (as previously at Santo Domingo), we used the Spanish in the most friendly way, and we often offered them lavish feasts, as they did us in turn, so much so that the city Governor himself, together with the Bishop and some other noblemen, came to our General to pay their duty. Here too, in the same way as at Santiago, we burned and demolished buildings outside the city, because at the first parlay we could not come to an agreement about the price of a ransom. Afterwards, however, we came to an agreement for the portion of the city still standing, that they should pay us 110,000 pieces of gold. This city, as you can see, although it was less than half the size of Santo Domingo, paid a far greater price for its ransom, because it was much wealthier thanks to its very suitable harbor and because it is situated in a place whence wares can very easily be transported to the island of Nombre de Dios and other parts, and because it is inhabited by very rich merchants, so we rightly put a higher price on it. But Santo Domingo is for the most part inhabited by noblemen, lawyers and magistrates. For there is a court there where the inhabitants of that island and the other neighboring ones have customarily brought their suits. But the rumor of our taking of Santo Domingo reached the inhabitants of Cartagena twenty days before we arrived, which gave them more than sufficient time to arm themselves against us, fortify their city, and transfer elsewhere their gold, silver, and whatever else they had of great value.
17. So (to return from my digression) when we had tarried here six weeks, we returned to our ships and set sail, and now we had scarce been at sea two or three days, when lo, a certain ship we had captured on the island of Santo Domingo, laden with ordnance, much brass, and all our other booty (for which reason we called her the New Year’s Gift) began to leak and take on water, so much so that she straggled away from the rest of the fleet. When our General could catch no sight of her the following day, he ordered the fleet to disperse in search of her, and finally came across her, leaking with several gaps and her crew most exhausted from bailing her. And he ordered another ship, named the Talbot, to follow behind her to recover and save the crew, should she be in danger of sinking, and he himself returned to Cartagena with the entire fleet. Whence, after we consumed ten or eleven days shifting the cargo and crew of that broken ship onto others, we sailed towards the western parts of Cuba and Cabo San Antonio, and reached there on the 27th of April. But we were quickly obliged to sail thence due to want of fresh water, with the good hope of reaching Matanzas, a region west of Havana, with a favorable wind. But fourteen days after our departure it began to blow contrary, and compelled us to return to Cabo San Antonio. And there our great need for fresh water (the best mistress of things) at length compelling us to search with greater diligence, and in marshes about 300 paces from the sea we found a sufficiently large supply of rainwater, collected from pits and ditches.
18. At this point I must not hold my silence about our General’s great vigilance, who here (as he previously did everywhere) urged on the rest by his personal example, bending every effort to gathering water, no less then the men of the lowest ranks. But he handled his fleet with such prudence and care, and often not without risk to his own life, and at all times and places had a care that it be in the best order possible, so that, had he been any other man who had obeyed orders in such a praiseworthy manner, he would be deemed worthy of the first place of honor. And he was fortunate in having so great a Lieutenant in Captain Carleill, whose very sure counsels and experience in managing affairs he never put the test without a happy outcome. But this praise is shared by them both, that in every time and place they treated each man with punishment or reward, according to his deserts.
19. On March 13th we again departed Cabo San Antonio, and on May 28th, sailing about Cabo de la Florida, we never put in to land until, always keeping Florida at our side at a distance and steering northwards, we spotted a lookout tower supported by four ships’ masts, to which one ascended by thirty steps. Landing with our pinnaces, we marched a while along a river bank, to see if we could come to places there in possession of the enemy. For we had no guide for our journey or anyone familiar with the places of that region. Our General ordered his Lieutenant to lead the van. Thus we had marched less than a whole mile when we caught site of a fort newly built by the Spanish on the other side of the river, hurriedly constructed of timbers and trees. Here we brought up our ordnance for destroying the fort, and before evening we placed one piece in this place. The first ball was shot by the Lieutenant General himself against the enemy’s standard, and passed clean through out, as we later learned from a certain Frenchmen they were detaining in prison. Then we aimed another cannon against the lower part of the fort, made of timbers. And the same night the Lieutenant General decided to cross the river with four companies of soldiers, and to entrench his men so close to the fort itself that that our musketeers would have it within easy range, and shoot any of the enemy who raised his head, and also to bring over his ordnance to play upon the enemy. But because the sailors were unavailable for digging trenches, the whole business was put off until the following night.
20. And presently on that very same night the Lieutenant General with six well-armed men, namely Captains Morgan and Sampson and four others, went on a skiff to see how well the enemy’s guards were posted, and how easily we could penetrate further into that country. And when they were observed from afar, albeit they managed themselves as quietly and secretly as possible on the way, the enemy, thinking a band of our men had come to make an attack, took up their arms, and after a few pieces of ordnance were discharged, took to their heels. And indeed the Lieutenant General returned to us, ignorant that the fort had been abandoned by them until a French piper was seen by our guards crossing to our side of the river, and playing a popular song in praise of the Prince of Orange on his flute. Challenged by them, before he got out of his rowboat, he told them who he himself was, and then how the Spanish had deserted their fort. As a proof of this thing he gave himself into our hands and said he was willing to return there in our company. Placing his trust in him, our General, in a pinnace with the Lieutenant General and some Captains, and the Vice-Admiral with two or three boats full of soldiers, hastened upriver to the fort, with the other pinnaces ordered to follow. From the fort, as we drew closer, we were shot at with ordinance by some fellows who remained behind, braver than the rest. Of these we found nobody, when we landed and entered the fort. The walls of this fort were made of ship’s timbers and other pieces of wood after the fashion of a palisade (thus we call this manner of fortified place these days). But the ditches outside were not yet brought to completion. For in the space of four months they had been unable to complete these, as well as some portions of the fort itself. And therefore they were not able to hold it longer, or to defend it when we made our approach. And so one must not imagine they abandoned it rashly, because, besides the fact it could easily be taken by assault, it could also be set afire without difficulty. The pieces of ordnance there, fourteen in number, were placed on platforms of stacked pine-logs, joined together in the manner of a wheel with a bit of earth added in between here and there. A locked chest containing the royal money from which they used to give the soldiers their pay, which amounted to £2000 Sterling in our currency, was also discovered by us. With the so-called fort of San Juan occupied in this manner, we also attempted to approach the town, but we could not achieve this because of an interposing river. But, having quickly returned to the ships by another route, we headed back there up a larger river (which was called the St. Augustine River, after the town itself). When we had arrived there and were readied to land, some soldiers showed themselves to us at a distance, who fired their muskets at us and immediately fled. As soon as we landed, our Sergeant Major immediately mounted a horse which he had discovered, saddled and bridled, to see if perhaps he could chase down or capture somebody fleeing. When he was now alone, having left his comrades behind him, he was shot through the head by a man lying in ambush behind a clump of reeds and, before any of our men could come to his aid, he was stabbed all at once by three or four swords and daggers, and died, no little mourned by us. He was a man as excellent as the best, a veteran and a great-spirited soldier.
21. To debar all foreigners (such as Englishmen and Frenchmen), if perchance they might want to settle those places, the King of Spain kept 150 soldiers in a garrison, and the same number in another place twelve leagues to the north called San Helena. They were all commanded by Marquis Pedro Melendez, the nephew of that Admiral Melendez who fifteen or sixteen years previously had broken his word and attacked the fleet of our countryman John Hawkins in the harbor of Mexico. So he was in command of the garrison when we arrived, and was the first to desert it. There, in a conference of all the Captains it was decided that we should make an attempt to occupy the fort of Santa Helena as soon as possible, and then quickly seek out a certain district in that region occupied by our Englishman, and named La Virginia after our virgin Queen, which was distant about six degrees (in our contemporary parlance) to the north. But when we were not far distant from Santa Helena, we never put in because in many places the coast was full of shoals and sandbars, and hence very perilous, and especially because we had no sailor who knew the way, and so kept going for the sake of avoiding danger. For on the preceding night our Admiral had sounded the bottom four leagues offshore and discovered the depth was only three and a half fathoms. And yet there were those who told us that with the help of a pilot ships larger and heavier laden than ours can easily put in there. So for a while we coasted along that shore, marked by many small islands. And at length on June 9th was seen at a distance a great fire, such as is customarily kindled in those parts, and our General sent his skiff to the shore manned by sailors, who in that region met a number of Englishman and brought back one of them to us, who guided us to the harbor. When they could not enter, they anchored outside it. And the day after we put in a great storm blew up, so that most were obliged to weigh anchor and set sail, some of which returned to the remainder of the fleet, while others sailed straight for England. Here our General made an offer to Ralph Lane, General of the English in Virginia, to provide him and his people with all things most needful, and to leave one ship with a pinnace there, on which he could return to England if the number of his soldiers (which at the time was only one hundred and five) were not increased within a month. But those men were so oppressed and broken by a scarcity of all things that they wished nothing more than to return home with us as soon as possible. Thus they were taken into the ships with us, and sailed from there.
22. At length we put into Portsmouth on July 20th, 1586, all of us hale and hearty. Thanks, praise and honor be to God, Who granted this expedition to fall out prosperously, not without honor to our prince, our nation, and all of ourselves. Our booty was reckoned at £60,000 Sterling in our currency, of which £20,000 should have come to our soldiers and sailors. But of all the number who participated in this expedition, about 750 died; the names of those of some renown who died by violence, disease, or otherwise were these: Captain Powell, Captain Bigges, Captain Varney, Captain Cecil, Captain Moone, Captain Haman, Captain Fortescue, Captain Greenfield, Lieutenant Thomas Tucker, Lieutenant Alexander Starke, Lieutenant Escot, Lieutenant Vincent, Lieutenant Waterhouse, Nicholas Winter, Alexander Carbeil, Robert Alexander, Scroup, James Dier, Peter Duke, and certain others who do not come to mind. We seized 240 pieces of ordnance both brass and iron, of which 200 were brass: on the island of Santiago 52 or 52; at Santo Domingo about 80, of which the majority were great pieces, such as cannons, demi-cannons, culverins, demi-culverins and so forth; at Cartagena 62 or 63, of which the majority were of great pieces; in the fort of San Juan 14. But most of the iron ones were brought from Santo Domingo and Cartagena.