Voyages and Travels: Ancient and Modern. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
Sir Francis Drake Revived
Sir Francis Drake
Calling upon this dull or effeminate Age, to follow his noble steps for gold and silver.
AS there is a general Vengeance which secretly pursueth the doers of wrong, and suffereth them not to prosper, albeit no man of purpose empeach them: so is there a particular Indignation, engraffed in the bosom of all that are wronged, which ceaseth not seeking, by all means possible, to redress or remedy the wrong received. Insomuch as those great and mighty men, in whom their prosperous estate hath bred such an overweening of themselves, that they do not only wrong their inferiors, but despise them being injured, seem to take a very unfit course for their own safety, and far unfitter for their rest. For as ESOP teacheth, even the fly hath her spleen, and the emmet [ant] is not without her choler; and both together many times find means whereby, though the eagle lays her eggs in JUPITERS lap, yet by one way or other, she escapeth not requital of her wrong done [to] the emmet.
Among the manifold examples hereof, which former Ages have committed to memory, or our Time yielded to sight: I suppose, there hath not been any more notable then this in hand; either in respect of the greatness of the person by whom the first injury was offered, or the meanness of him who righted himself. The one being, in his own conceit, the mightiest Monarch of all the world! The other, an English Captain, a mean subject of her Majestys! Who (besides the wrongs received at Rio de [la] Hacha with Captain JOHN LOVELL in the years 65 and 66) having been grievously endamaged at San Juan de Ulua in the Bay of Mexico, with Captain JOHN HAWKINS, in the years 67 and 68, not only in the loss of his goods of some value, but also of his kinsmen and friends, and that by the falsehood of DON MARTIN HENRIQUEZ then the Viceroy of Mexico; and finding that no recompense could be recovered out of Spain, by any of his own means, or by Her Majestys letters; he used such helps as he might, by two several voyages into the West Indies (the first with two ships, the one called the Dragon, the other the Swan, in the year 70: the other in the Swan alone in the year 71), to gain such intelligences as might further him, to get some amends for his loss.
And having, in those two Voyages, gotten such certain notice of the persons and places aimed at, as he thought requisite, and thereupon with good deliberation resolved on a Third Voyage (the description whereof we have now in hand); he accordingly prepared his ships and company, and then taking the first opportunity of a good wind, had such success in his proceedings, as now follows further to be declared.
On Whitsunday Eve, being the 24th of May, in the year 1572, Captain DRAKE in the Pascha of Plymouth of 70 tons, his admiral [flag-ship]; with the Swan of the same port, of 25 tons, his vice-admiral, in which his brother JOHN DRAKE was Captain (having in both of them, of men and boys seventy-three, all voluntarily assembled; of which the eldest was fifty, all the rest under thirty: so divided that there were forty-seven in the one ship, and twenty-six in the other. Both richly furnished with victuals and apparel for a whole year; and no less heedfully provided of all manner of munition, artillery, artificers, stuff and tools, that were requisite for such a Man-of-war in such an attempt: but especially having three dainty pinnaces made in Plymouth, taken asunder all in pieces, and stowed aboard, to be set up as occasion served), set sail, from out of the Sound of Plymouth, with intent to land at Nombre de Dios.
The wind continued prosperous and favourable at north-east, and gave us a very good passage, without any alteration or change: so that albeit we had sight (3rd June) of Porto Santo, one of the Madeiras, and of the Canaries also within twelve days of our setting forth: yet we never struck sail, nor came to anchor, nor made any stay for any cause, neither there nor elsewhere, until twenty-five days after; when (28th June) we had sight of the island of Guadaloupe, one of the islands of the West Indies, goodly high land.
The next morning (29th June), we entered between Dominica and Guadaloupe, where we descried two canoes coming from a rocky island, three leagues off Dominica; which usually repair thither to fish, by reason of the great plenty thereof, which is there continually to be found.
We landed on the south side of it, remaining there three days to refresh our men; and to water our ships out of one of those goodly rivers, which fall down off the mountain. There we saw certain poor cottages; built with Palmito boughs and branches; but no inhabitants, at that time, civil or savage: the cottages it may be (for we could know no certain cause of the solitariness we found there) serving, not for continual inhabitation, but only for their uses, that came to that place at certain seasons to fish.
But thence directed our course, for a place called by us, Port Pheasant; for that our Captain had so named it in his former voyage, by reason of the great store of those goodly fowls, which he and his company did then daily kill and feed on, in that place. In this course notwithstanding we had two days calm, yet within six days after we arrived (12th July) at Port Pheasant, which is a fine round bay, of very safe harbour for all winds, lying between two high points, not past half a cables length over at the mouth, but within, eight or ten cables length every way, having ten or twelve fathoms of water more or less, full of good fish; the soil also very fruitful, which may appear by this, that our Captain having been in this place, within a year and few days before [i. e., in July, 1571] and having rid the place with many alleys and paths made; yet now all was so overgrown again, as that we doubted, at first, whether this was the same place or not.
At our entrance into this bay, our Captain having given order to his brother what to do, if any occasion should happen in his absence, was on his way, with intent to have gone aland with some few only in his company, because he knew there dwelt no Spaniards within thirty-five leagues of that place. [Santiago de] Tolou being the nearest to the eastwards, and Nombre de Dios to the westwards, where any of that nation dwelt.
But as we are rowing ashore, we saw a smoke in the woods, even near the place where our Captain had aforetime frequented; therefore thinking it fit to take more strength with us, he caused his other boat also to be manned, with certain muskets and other weapons, suspecting some enemy had been ashore.
When we landed, we found by evident marks, that there had been lately there, a certain Englishman of Plymouth, called JOHN GARRET, who had been conducted thither by certain English mariners which had been there with our Captain, in some of his former voyages. He had now left a plate of lead, nailed fast to a mighty great tree (greater than any four men joining hands could fathom about) on which were engraven these words, directed to our Captain.
IF YOU fortune to come to this Port, make haste away! For the Spaniards which you had with you here, the last year, have bewrayed this place, and taken away all that you left here.
I depart from hence, this present 7th of July, 1572.
The smoke which we saw, was occasioned by a fire, which the said GARRET and his company had made, before their departure, in a very great tree, not far from this which had the lead nailed on it, which had continued burning at least five days before our arrival.
This advertisement notwithstanding, our Captain meant not to depart before he had built his pinnaces; which were yet aboard in pieces: for which purpose he knew this port to be a most convenient place.
And therefore as soon as we had moored our ships, our Captain commanded his pinnaces to be brought ashore for the carpenters to set up; himself employing all his other company in fortifying a place (which he had chosen out, as a most fit plot) of three-quarters of an acre of ground, to make some strength or safety for the present, as sufficiently as the means he had would afford. Which was performed by felling of great trees; bowsing and hauling them together, with great pulleys and hawsers, until they were enclosed to the water; and then letting others fall upon them, until they had raised with trees and boughs thirty feet in height round about, leaving only one gate to issue at, near the water side; which every night, that we might sleep in more safety and security, was shut up, with a great tree drawn athwart it.
The whole plot was built in pentagonal form, to wit, of five equal sides and angles, of which angles two were toward the sea, and that side between them was left open, for the easy launching of our pinnaces: the other four equal sides were wholly, excepting the gate before mentioned, firmly closed up
Without, instead of a trench, the ground was rid [laid bare I>] for fifty feet space, round about. The rest was very thick with trees, of which many were of those kinds which are never without green leaves, till they are dead at the root: excepting only one kind of tree amongst them, much like to our Ash, which when the sun cometh right over them, causing great rains, suddenly casteth all its leaves, viz., within three days, and yet within six days after becomes all green again. The leaves of the other trees do also in part fall away, but so as the trees continue still green notwithstanding: being of a marvellous height, and supported as it were with five or six natural buttresses growing out of their bodies so far, that three may men so be hidden in each of them, that they which shall stand in the very next buttress shall not be able to see them. One of them specially was marked to have had seven of those stays or buttresses, for the supporting of his greatness and height, which being measured with a line close by the bark and near to the ground, as it was indented or extant, was found to be above thirty-nine yards about. The wood of those trees is as heavy or heavier than Brazil or Lignum vitæ; and is in colour white.
The next day after we had arrived (13th July), there came also into that bay, an English bark of the Isle of Wight, of Sir EDWARD HORSEYS; wherein JAMES RANSE was Captain and JOHN OVERY, Master, with thirty men: of which, some had been with our Captain in the same place, the year before. They brought in with them a Spanish caravel of Seville, which he had taken the day before, athwart of that place; being a Caravel of Adviso [Despatch boat] bound for Nombre de Dios; and also one shallop with oars, which he had taken at Cape Blanc. This Captain RANSE understanding our Captains purpose, was desirous to join in consort with him; and was received upon conditions agreed on between them.
Within seven days after his coming, having set up our pinnaces, and despatched all our business, in providing all things necessary, out of our ships into our pinnaces: we departed (20th July) from that harbour, setting sail in the morning towards Nombre de Dios, continuing our course till we came to the Isles of Pinos: where, being within three days arrived, we found (22nd July) two frigates of Nombre de Dios lading plank and timber from thence.
The Negroes which were in those frigates, gave us some particular understanding of the present state of the town; and besides, told us that they had heard a report, that certain soldiers should come thither shortly, and were daily looked for, from the Governor of Panama, and the country thereabout, to defend the town against the Cimaroons (a black people, which about eighty years past [i. e., 1512] fled from the Spaniards their masters, by reason of their cruelty, and are since grown to a Nation, under two Kings of their own: the one inhabiteth to the West, and the other to the East of the Way from Nombre de Dios to Panama) which had nearly surprised it [i. e., Nombre de Dios], about six weeks before [i. e., about 10th June, 1572].
Our Captain willing to use those Negroes well (not hurting himself) set them ashore upon the Main, that they might perhaps join themselves to their countrymen the Cimaroons, and gain their liberty, if they would; or if they would not, yet by reason of the length and troublesomeness of the way by land to Nombre de Dios, he might prevent any notice of his coming, which they should be able to give. For he was loath to put the town to too much charge (which he knew they would willingly bestow) in providing beforehand for his entertainment; and therefore he hastened his going thither, with as much speed and secrecy as possibly he could.
To this end, disposing of all his companies, according as they inclined most; he left the three ships and the caravel with Captain RANSE; and chose into his four pinnaces (Captain RANSES shallop made the fourth) beside fifty-three of our men, twenty more of Captain RANSES company; with which he seemed competently furnished, to achieve what he intended; especially having proportioned, according to his own purpose, and our mens disposition, their several arms, viz., six targets, six firepikes, twelve pikes, twenty-four muskets and calivers, sixteen bows, and six partisans, two drums, and two trumpets.
Thus having parted (23rd July) from our company: we arrived at the island of Cativaas, being twenty-five leagues distant, about five days afterward (28th July). There we landed all in the morning betimes: and our Captain trained his men, delivering them their several weapons and arms which hitherto he had kept very fair and safe in good caske [casks]: and exhorting them after his manner, he declared the greatness of the hope of good things that was there! the weakness of the town, being unwalled! and the hope he had of prevailing to recompense his wrongs! especially now that he should come with such a crew, who were like-minded with himself; and at such a time, as he should be utterly undiscovered.
Therefore, even that afternoon, he causeth us to set sail for Nombre de Dios, so that before sunset we were as far as Rio Francisco. Thence, he led us hard aboard the shore, that we might not be descried of the Watch House, until that being come within two leagues of the point of the bay, he caused us to strike a hull, and cast our grappers [grappling irons], riding so until it was dark night.
Then we weighed again, and set sail, rowing hard aboard the shore, with as much silence as we could, till we recovered the point of the harbour under the high land. There, we stayed, all silent; purposing to attempt the town in the dawning of the day: after that we had reposed ourselves, for a while.
But our Captain with some other of his best men, finding that our people were talking of the greatness of the town, and what their strength might be; especially by the report of the Negroes that we took at the Isle of Pinos: thought it best to put these conceits out of their heads, and therefore to take the opportunity of the rising of the moon that night, persuading them that it was the day dawning. By this occasion we were at the town a large hour sooner then first was purposed. For we arrived there by three of the clock after midnight. At what time it fortuned that a ship of Spain, of 60 tons, laden with Canary wines and other commodities, which had but lately come into the bay; and had not yet furled her sprit-sail (espying our four pinnaces, being an extraordinary number, and those rowing with many oars) sent away her gundeloe [gondola ?] towards the town, to give warning. But our Captain perceiving it, cut betwixt her and the town, forcing her to go to the other side of the bay: whereby we landed without impeachment, although we found one gunner upon the Platform [battery] in the very place where we landed; being a sandy place and no key [quay] at all, not past twenty yards from the houses.
We presently dismounted them. The gunner fled. The town took alarm (being very ready thereto, by reason of their often disquieting by their near neighbours the Cimaroons); as we perceived, not only by the noise and cries of the people, but by the bell ringing out, and drums running up and down the town.
Our Captain, according to the directions which he had given over night, to such as he had made choice of for the purpose, left twelve to keep the pinnaces; that we might be sure of a safe retreat, if the worst befell. And having made sure work of the Platform before he would enter the town, he thought best, first to view the Mount on the east side of the town: where he was informed, by sundry intelligences the year before, they had an intent to plant ordnance, which might scour round about the town.
Therefore, leaving one half of his company to make a stand at the foot of the Mount, he marched up presently unto the top of it, with all speed to try the truth of the report, for the more safety. There we found no piece of ordnance, but only a very fit place prepared for such use, and therefore we left it without any of our men, and with all celerity returned now down the Mount.
Then our Captain appointed his brother, with JOHN OXNAM [or OXENHAM] and sixteen other of his men, to go about, behind the Kings Treasure House, and enter near the easter[n] end of the Market Place: himself with the rest, would pass up the broad street into the Market Place, with sound of drum and trumpet. The Firepikes, divided half to the one, and half to the other company, served no less for fright to the enemy than light of our men, who by his means might discern every place very well, as if it were near day: whereas the inhabitants stood amazed at so strange a sight, marvelling what the matter might be, and imagining, by reason of our drums and trumpets sounding in so sundry places, that we had been a far greater number then we were.
Yet, by means of the soldiers of which were in the town, and by reason of the time which we spent in marching up and down the Mount, the soldiers and inhabitants had put themselves in arms, and brought their companies in some order, at the south-east end of the Market Place, near the Governors House, and not far from the gate of the town, which is the only one, leading towards Panama: having (as it seems) gathered themselves thither, either that in the Governors sight they might shew their valour, if it might prevail; or else, that by the gate they might best take their Vale, and escape readiest.
And to make a shew of far greater numbers of shot, or else of a custom they had, by the like device to terrify the Cimaroons; they had hung lines with matches lighted, overthwart the wester[n] end of the Market Place, between the Church and the Cross; as though there had been in a readiness some company of shot, whereas indeed there were not past two or three that taught these lines to dance, till they themselves ran away, as soon as they perceived they were discovered.
But the soldiers and such as were joined with them, presented us with a jolly hot volley of shot, beating full upon the full egress of that street, in which we marched; and levelling very low, so as their bullets ofttimes grazed on the sand.
We stood not to answer them in like terms: but having discharged our first volley of shot, and feathered them with our arrows (which our Captain had caused to be made of purpose in England; not great sheaf arrows, but fine roving shafts, very carefully reserved for the service) we came to the push of pike, so that our firepikes being well armed and made of purpose, did us very great service.
For our men with their pikes and short weapons, in short time took such order among these gallants (some using the butt-end of their pieces instead of other weapons), that partly by reason of our arrows which did us there notable service, partly by occasion of this strange and sudden closing with them in this manner unlooked for, and the rather for that at the very instant, our Captains brother, with the other company, with their firepikes, entered the Market Place by the easter[n] street: they casting down their weapons, fled all out of the town by the gate aforesaid, which had been built for a bar to keep out of the town the Cimaroons, who had often assailed it; but now served for a gap for the Spaniards to fly at.
In following, and returning divers of our men were hurt with the weapons which the enemy had let fall as he fled; somewhat, for that we marched with such speed, but more for that they lay so thick and cross one on the other.
Being returned, we made our stand near the midst of the Market Place, where a tree groweth hard by the Cross; whence our Captain sent some of our men to stay the ringing of the alarm bell, which had continued all this while: but the church being very strongly built and fast shut, they could not without firing (which our Captain forbade) get into the steeple where the bell rung.
In the meantime, our Captain having taken two or three Spaniards in their flight, commanded them to shew him the Governors House, where he understood was the ordinary place of unlading the moiles [mules] of all the treasure which came from Panama by the Kings appointment. Although the silver only was kept there; the gold, pearl, and jewels (being there once entered by the Kings officer) was carried from thence to the Kings Treasure House not far off, being a house very strongly built of lime and stone, for the safe keeping thereof.
At our coming to the Governors House, we found the great door where the mules do usually unlade, even then opened, a candle lighted upon the top of the stairs; and a fair gennet ready saddled, either for the Governor himself, or some other of his household to carry it after him. By means of this light we saw a huge heap of silver in that nether [lower] room; being a pile of bars of silver of, as near as we could guess, seventy feet in length, of ten feet in breadth, and twelve feet in height, piled up against the wall, each bar was between thirty-five and forty pounds in weight.
At sight hereof, our Captain commanded straightly that none of us should touch a bar of silver; but stand upon our weapons, because the town was full of people, and there was in the Kings Treasure House near the water side, more gold and jewels than all our four pinnaces could carry: which we would presently set some in hand to break open, notwithstanding the Spaniards report the strength of it.
We were no sooner returned to our strength, but there was a report brought by some of our men that our pinnaces were in danger to be taken; and that if we ourselves got not aboard before day, we should be oppressed with multitude both of soldiers and towns-people. This report had his ground from one DIEGO a Negro, who, in the time of the first conflict, came and called to our pinnaces, to know whether they were Captain DRAKES? And upon answer received, continued entreating to be taken aboard, though he had first three or four shot made at him, until at length they fetched him; and learned by him, that, not past eight days before our arrival, the King had sent thither some 150 soldiers to guard the town against the Cimaroons, and the town at this time was full of people beside: which all the rather believed, because it agreed with the report of the Negroes, which we took before at the Isle of Pinos. And therefore our Captain sent his brother and JOHN OXNAM to understand the truth thereof.
They found our men which we left in our pinnaces much frightened, by reason that they saw great troops and companies running up and down, with matches lighted, some with other weapons, crying Que gente? que gente? which not having been at the first conflict, but coming from the utter ends of the town (being at least as big as Plymouth), came many times near us; and understanding that we were English, discharged their pieces and ran away.
Presently after this, a mighty shower of rain, with a terrible storm of thunder and lightning, fell, which poured down so vehemently (as it usually doth in those countries) that before we could recover the shelter of a certain shade or penthouse at the western end of the Kings Treasure House, (which seemeth to have been built there of purpose to avoid sun and rain) some of our bow-strings were wet, and some of ours match and powder hurt! which while we were careful of, to refurnish and supply; divers of our men harping on the reports lately brought us, were muttering of the forces of the town, which our Captain perceiving, told them, that He had brought them to the mouth of the Treasure of the World, if they would want it, they might henceforth blame nobody but themselves!
And therefore as soon as the storm began to assuage of his fury (which was a long half hour) willing to give his men no longer leisure to demur of those doubts, nor yet allow the enemy farther respite to gather themselves together, he stept forward commanding his brother, with JOHN OXNAM and the company appointed them, to break the Kings Treasure house: the rest to follow him to keep the strength of the Market Place, till they had despatched the business for which they came.
But as he stepped forward, his strength and sight and speech failed him, and he began to faint for want of blood, which, as then we perceived, had, in great quantity, issued upon the sand, out of a wound received in his leg in the first encounter, whereby though he felt some pain, yet (for that he perceived divers of the company, having already gotten many good things, to be very ready to take all occasions, of winding themselves out of that conceited danger) would he not have it known to any, till this his fainting, against his will, bewrayed it: the blood having first filled the very prints which our footsteps made, to the greater dismay of all our company, who thought it not credible that one man should be able to spare so much blood and live.
And therefore even they, which were willing to have adventured the most for so fair a booty, would in no case hazard their Captains life; but (having given him somewhat to drink wherewith he recovered himself, and having bound his scarf about his leg, for the stopping of the blood) entreated him to be content to go with them aboard, there to have his wound searched and dressed, and then to return on shore again if he thought good.
This when they could not persuade him unto (as who knew it to be utterly impossible, at least very unlikely, that ever they should, for that time, return again, to recover the state in which they now were: and was of opinion, that it were more honourable for himself, to jeopard his life for so great a benefit, than to leave off so high an enterprise unperformed), they joined altogether and with force mingled with fair entreaty, they bare him aboard his pinnace, and so abandoned a most rich spoil for the present, only to preserve their Captains life: and being resolved of him, that while they enjoyed his presence, and had him to command them, they might recover wealth sufficient; but if once they lost him, they should hardly be able to recover home. No, not with that which they had gotten already.
Thus we embarked by break of the day (29th July), having besides our Captain, many of our men wounded, though none slain but one Trumpeter: whereupon though our surgeons were busily employed, in providing remedies and salves for their wounds: yet the main care of our Captain was respected by all the rest; so that before we departed out of the harbour for the more comfort of our company, we took the aforesaid ship of wines without great resistance.
But before we had her free of the haven, they of the town had made means to bring one of their culverins, which we had dismounted, so as they made a shot at us, but hindered us not from carrying forth the prize to the Isle of Bastimentos, or the Isle of Victuals: which is an island that lieth without the bay to the westward, about a league off the town, where we stayed the two next days, to cure our wounded men, and refresh ourselves, in the goodly gardens which we there found abounding with great store of all dainty roots and fruits; besides great plenty of poultry and other fowls, no less strange then delicate.
Shortly upon our first arrival in this island, the Governor and the rest of his Assistants in the town, as we afterwards understood, sent unto our Captain, a proper gentleman, of mean stature, good complexion, and a fair spoken, a principal soldier of the late sent garrison, to view in what state we were. At his coming he protested He came to us, of mere good will, for that we had attempted so great and incredible a matter with so few men: and that, at the first, they feared that we had been French, at whose hands they knew they should find no mercy: but after they perceived by our arrows, that we were Englishmen, their fears were the less, for that they knew, that though we took the treasure of the place, yet we would not use cruelty toward their persons. But albeit this his affection gave him cause enough, to come aboard such, whose virtue he so honoured: yet the Governor also had not only consented to his coming, but directly sent him, upon occasion that divers of the town affirmed, said he, that they knew our Captain, who the last two years had been often on our coast, and had always used their persons very well. And therefore desired to know, first, Whether our Captain was the same Captain DRAKE or not? and next, Because many of their men were wounded with our arrows, whether they were poisoned or not? and how their wounds might best be cured? lastly, What victuals we wanted, or other necessaries? of which the Governor promised by him to supply and furnish us, as largely as he durst.
Our Captain, although he thought this soldier but a spy: yet used him very courteously, and answered him to his Governors demands: that He was the same DRAKE whom they meant! It was never his manner to poison his arrows! They might cure their wounded by ordinary surgery! As for wants, he knew the Island of Bastimentos had sufficient, and could furnish him if he listed! but he wanted nothing but some of that special commodity which that country yielded, to content himself and his company. And therefore he advised the Governor to hold open his eyes! for before he departed, if GOD lent him life and leave, he meant to reap some of their harvest, which they get out of the earth, and send into Spain to trouble all the earth!
To this answer unlooked for, this gentleman replied, If he might, without offence, move such a question, what should then be the cause of our departing from that town at this time, where was above 360 tons of silver ready for the Fleet, and much more gold in value, resting in iron chests in the Kings Treasure House?
But when our Captain had shewed him the true cause of his unwilling retreat aboard, he acknowledged that we had no less reason in departing, than courage in attempting: and no doubt did easily see, that it was not for the town to seek revenge of us, by manning forth such frigates or other vessels as they had; but better to content themselves and provide for their own defence.
Thus, with great favour and courteous entertainment, besides such gifts from our Captain as most contended him, after dinner, he was in such sort dismissed, to make report of that he had seen, that he protested, he was never so much honoured of any in his life.
After his departure, the Negro formentioned, being examined more fully, confirmed this report of the gold and the silver; with many other intelligences of importance: especially how we might have gold and silver enough, if we would, by means of the Cimaroons, whom though he had betrayed divers times (being used thereto by his Masters) so that he knew they would kill him, if they got him: yet if our Captain would undertake his protection, he durst adventure his life, because he knew our Captains name was most precious and highly honoured by them.
This report ministered occasion to further consultation: for which, because this place seemed not the safest; as being neither the healthiest nor quietest; the next day, in the morning, we all set our course for the Isle of Pinos or Port Plenty, where we had left our ships, continuing all that day, and the next till towards night, before we recovered it.
We were the longer in this course, for that our Captain sent away his brother and ELLIS HIXOM to the westward, to search the River of Chagres, where himself had been the year before, and yet was careful to gain more notice of; it being a river which trendeth to the southward, within six leagues of Panama, where is a little town called Venta Cruz [Venta de Cruzes], whence all the treasure, that was usually brought thither from Panama by mules, was embarked in frigates [sailing] down that river into the North sea, and so to Nombre de Dios.
It ebbeth and floweth not far into the land, and therefore it asketh three days rowing with a fine pinnace to pass [up] from the mouth to Venta Cruz; but one day and a night serveth to return down the river.
At our return to our ships (1st August), in our consultation, Captain RANSE (forecasting divers doubts of our safe continuance upon that coast, being now discovered) was willing to depart; and our Captain no less willing to dismiss him: and therefore as soon as our pinnaces returned from chagres (7th August) with such advertisement as they were sent for, about eight days before; Captain RANSE took his leave, leaving us at the isle aforesaid, where we had remained five or six days.
In which meantime, having put all things in a readiness, our Captain resolved, with his two ships and three pinnaces to go to Cartagena; whither in sailing, we spent some six days by reason of the calms which came often upon us: but all this time we attempted nothing that we might have done by the way, neither at [Santiago de] Tolou nor otherwhere, because we would not be discovered.
Our Captain led the three pinnaces about the island, into the harbour of Cartagena; where at the very entry, he found a frigate at anchor, aboard which was only one old man; who being demanded, Where the rest of his company was? answered, That they were gone ashore in their gundeloe [gondola or ships boat?], that evening, to fight about a mistress: and voluntarily related to our Captain that, two hours before night, there past by them a pinnace, with sail and oars, as fast as ever they could row, calling to him Whether there had not been any English and Frenchmen there lately? and upon answer that, There had been none! they bid them look to themselves! That, within an hour that this pinnace was come to the utterside [outside] of Cartagena, there were many great pieces shot off, whereupon one going to top, to descry what might be the cause? espied, over the land, divers frigates and small shipping bringing themselves within the Castle.
This report our Captain credited, the rather for that himself had heard the report of the ordinance at sea; and perceived sufficiently, that he was now descried. Notwithstanding in farther examination of this old mariner, having understood, that there was, within the next point, a great ship of Seville, which had here discharged her loading, and rid now with her yards across, being bound the next morning for Santo Domingo: our Captain took this old man into his pinnace to verify that which he had informed, and rowed towards this ship, which as we came near it, hailed us, asking, Whence our shallops were?
Straightway they railed! and reviled! We gave no heed to their words, but every pinnace, according to our Captains order, one on the starboard bow, the other on the starboard quarter, and the Captain in the midship on the larboard side, forthwith boarded her; though we had some difficulty to enter by reason of her height, being of 240 tons. But as soon as we entered upon the decks, we threw down the grates and spardecks, to prevent the Spaniards from annoying us with their close fights: who then perceiving that we were possessed of their ship, stowed themselves all in hold with their weapons, except two or three yonkers, which were found afore the beetes: when having light out of our pinnaces, we found no danger of the enemy remaining, we cut their cables at halse, and with our three pinnaces, towed her without the island into the sound right afore the town, without [beyond the] danger of their great shot.
Meanwhile, the town having intelligence hereof, or by their watch, took the alarm, rang out their bells, shot off about thirty pieces of great ordnance, put all their men in a readiness, horse and foot, came down to the very point of the wood, and discharged their calivers, to impeach us if they might, in going forth.
The next morning (14th August) our ships took two frigates, in which there were two, who called themselves Kings Scrivanos, the one of Cartagena, the other of Veragua, with seven mariners and two Negroes: who had been at Nombre de Dios and were now bound for Cartagena with double [duplicate?] letters of advice, to certify them that Captain DRAKE had been at Nombre de Dios, had taken it; and had it not been that he was hurt with some blessed shot, by all likelihood he had sacked it. He was yet still upon the coast; they should therefore carefully prepare for him!
After that our Captain had brought all his fleet together, at the Scrivanos entreaties, he was content to do them all favour, in setting them and all their companies on shore; and so bare thence with the islands of St. Bernards, about three leagues of the town: where we found great store of fish for our refreshing.
Here, our Captain considering that he was now discovered upon the chiefest places of all the coast, and yet not meaning to leave it till he had found the Cimaroons, and made his voyage, as he had conceived; which would require some length of time, and sure manning of his pinnaces: he determined with himself, to burn one of the ships, and make the other a Storehouse; that his pinnaces (which could not otherwise) might be thoroughly manned, and so he might be able to abide any time.
But knowing the affection of his company, how loath they were to leave either of their ships, being both so good sailers and so well furnished; he purposed in himself by some policy, to make them most willing to effect that he intended. And therefore sent for one THOMAS MOONE, who was Carpenter in the Swan, and taking him into his cabin, chargeth him to conceal for a time, a piece of service, which he must in any case consent to do aboard his own ship: that was, in the middle of the second watch, to go down secretly into the well of the ship, and with a spike-gimlet, to bore three holes, as near the keel as he could, and lay something against it, that the force of the water entering, might make no great noise, nor be discovered by a boiling up.
THOMAS MOONE at the hearing hereof, being utterly dismayed, desired to know What cause there might be, to move him to sink so good a bark of his own, new and strong; and that, by his means, who had been in two so rich and gainful voyages in her with himself heretofore: If his brother, the Master, and the rest of the company [numbering 26, see p. 130] should know of such his fact, he thought verily they would kill him.
The next morning [15th August] our Captain took his pinnace very early, purposing to go a fishing, for that there is very great store on the coast; and falling aboard the Swan, calleth for his brother to go with him, who, rising suddenly, answereth that He would follow presently, or if it would please him to stay a very little, he would attend him.
Our Captain perceiving the feat wrought, would not hasten him; but in rowing away, demanded of them, Why their bark was so deep? as making no great account of it. But, by occasion of this demand, his brother sent one down to the Steward, to know Whether there were any water in the ship? or what other cause might be?
The Steward, hastily stepping down at his usual scuttle, was wet up to his waist, and shifting with more haste to come up again as if the water had followed him, cried out that The ship was full of water! There was no need to hasten the company, some to the pump, others to search for the leak, which the Captain of the bark seeing they did, on all hands, very willingly; he followed his brother, and certified him of the strange chance befallen them that night; that whereas they had not pumped twice in six weeks before, now they had six feet of water in hold: and therefore he desireth leave from attending him in fishing, to intend the search and remedy of the leak. And when our Captain with his company preferred [offered] to go to help them; he answered, They had men enough aboard, and prayed him to continue his fishing, that they might have some part of it for their dinner. Thus returning, he found his company had taken great pain, but had freed the water very little: yet such was their love to the bark, as our Captain well knew, that they ceased not, but to the utmost of their strength, laboured all that they might till three in the afternoon; by which time, the company perceiving, that (though they had been relieved by our Captain himself and many of his company) yet they were not able to free above a foot and a half of water, and could have no likelihood of finding the leak, had now a less liking of her than before, and greater content to hear of some means for remedy.
Whereupon our Captain (consulting them what they thought best to be done) found that they had more desire to have all as he thought fit, than judgment to conceive any means of remedy. And therefore he propounded, that himself would go in the pinnace, till he could provide him some handsome frigate; and that his brother should be Captain in the admiral [flag-ship] and the Master should also be there placed with him, instead of this: which seeing they could not save, he would have fired that the enemy might never recover her: but first all the pinnaces should be brought aboard her, that every one might take out of her whatever they lacked or liked.
The next morning (16th August) we resolved to seek out some fit place, in the Sound of Darien, where we might safely leave our ship at anchor, not discoverable by the enemy, who thereby might imagine us quite departed from the coast, and we the meantime better follow our purposes with our pinnaces; of which our Captain would himself take two to Rio Grande [Magdalena], and the third leave with his brother to seek the Cimaroons.
Upon this resolution, we set sail presently for the said Sound; which within five days (21st August), we recovered: abstaining of purpose from all such occasion, as might hinder our determination, or bewray [betray] our being upon the coast.
As soon as we arrived where our Captain intended, and had chosen a fit and convenient road out of all trade [to or from any Mart] for our purpose; we reposed ourselves there, for some fifteen days, keeping ourselves close, that the bruit of our being upon the coast might cease.
But in the meantime, we were not idle: for beside such ordinary works, as our Captain, every month did usually inure us to, about the trimming and setting of his pinnaces, for their better sailing and rowing: he caused us to rid a large plot of ground, both of trees and brakes, and to build us houses sufficient for all our lodging, and one especially for all our public meetings; wherein the Negro which fled to us before, did us great service, as being well acquainted with the country, and their means of building. Our archers made themselves butts to shoot at, because we had many that delighted in that exercise, and wanted not a fletcher to keep our bows and arrows in order. The rest of the company, every one as he liked best, made his disport at bowls, quoits, keiles, &c. For our Captain allowed one half of the company to pass their time thus, every other day interchangeable; the other half being enjoined to the necessary works about our ship and pinnaces, and the providing of fresh victuals, fish fowl, hogs, deer, conies, &c., whereof there is great plenty. Here our smiths set up their forge, as they used, being furnished out of England, with anvil, iron, coals, and all manner of necessaries, which stood us in great stead.
At the end of these fifteen days (5th September), our Captain leaving his ship in his brothers charge, to keep all things in order; himself took with him, according to his former determination two pinnaces for Rio Grande, and passing by Cartagena but out of sight, when we were within two leagues of the river, we landed (8th September), to the westward on the Main, where we saw great store of cattle. There we found some Indians, who asking us in friendly sort, in broken Spanish, What we would have? and understanding that we desired fresh victuals in traffic; they took such cattle for us as we needed, with ease and so readily, as if they had a special commandment over them, whereas they would not abide us to come near them. And this also they did willingly, because our Captain, according to his custom, contented them for their pains, with such things as they account greatly of; in such sort that they promised, we should have there, of them at any time what we would.
The same day, we departed thence to Rio Grande [Magdalena], where we entered about three of the clock in the afternoon. There are two entries into this river, of which we entered the wester[n] most called Boca Chica. The freshet [current] is so great, that we being half a league from the mouth of it, filled fresh water for our beverage.
From three oclock till dark at night, we rowed up the stream; but the current was so strong downwards, that we got but two leagues, all that time. We moored our pinnaces to a tree that night: for that presently, with the closing of the evening, there fell a monstrous shower of rain, with such strange and terrible claps of thunder, and flashes of lightning, as made us not a little to marvel at, although our Captain had been acquainted with such like in that country, and told us that they continue seldom longer than three-quarters of an hour.
This storm was no sooner ceast, but it became very calm, and therewith there came such an innumerable multitude of a kind of flies of that country, called mosquitoes, like our gnats, which bite so spitefully, that we could not rest all that night, nor find means to defend ourselves from them, by reason of the heat of the country. The best remedy we then found against them, was the juice of lemons.
At the break of day (9th Sept.), we departed, rowing in the eddy, and hauling up by the trees where the eddy failed, with great labour, by spells, without ceasing, each company their half-hour glass: without meeting any, till about three oclock in the afternoon, by which time we could get but five leagues ahead.
Then we espied a canoe, with two Indians fishing in the river; but we spake not to them, least so we might be descried: nor they to us, as taking us to be Spaniards. But within an hour after, we espied certain houses, on the other side of the river, whose channel is twenty-five fathom deep, and its breadth so great, that a man can scantly be discerned from side to side. Yet a Spaniard which kept those houses, had espied our pinnaces; and thinking we had been his countrymen, made a smoke, for a signal to turn that way, as being desirous to speak with us. After that, we espying this smoke, had made with it, and were half the river over, he wheaved [waved] to us, with his hat and his long hanging sleeves, to come ashore.
But as we drew nearer to him, and he discerned that we were not those he looked for; he took his heels, and fled from his houses, which we found to be, five in number, all full of white rusk, dried bacon, that country cheese (like Holland cheese in fashion, but far more delicate in taste, of which they send into Spain as special presents) many sorts of sweetmeats, and conserves; with great store of sugar: being provided to serve the Fleet returning to Spain.
With this store of victuals, we loaded our pinnaces; by the shutting in of the day, we were ready to depart; for that we hastened the rather, by reason of an intelligence given us by certain Indian women which we found in those house: that the frigates (these are ordinarily thirty, or upwards, which usually transport the merchandise, sent out of Spain to Cartagena from thence to these houses, and so in great canoes up hence into Nuevo Reyno, for which the river running many hundred of leagues within the land serveth very fitly: and return in exchange, the gold and treasure, silver, victuals, and commodities, which that kingdom yields abundantly) were not yet returned from Cartagena, since the first alarm they took of our being there.
As we were going aboard our pinnaces from these Storehouses (10th Sept.), the Indians of a great town called Villa del Rey, some two miles distant from the waters side where we landed, were brought down by the Spaniards into the bushes, and shot arrows; but we rowed down the stream with the current (for that the wind was against us) only one league; and because it was night, anchored till the morning, when we rowed down to the mouth of the river, where we unloaded all our provisions, and cleansed our pinnaces, according to our Captains custom, and took it in again, and the same day went to the Westward.
In this return, we descried a ship, a barque, and a frigate, of which the ship and frigate went for Cartagena, but the Barque was bound to the Northwards, with the wind easterly, so that we imagined she had some gold or treasure going for Spain: therefore we gave her chase, but taking her, and finding nothing of importance in her, understanding that she was bound for sugar and hides, we let her go; and having a good gale of wind, continued our former course to our ship and company.
In the way between Cartagena and Tolou, we took [11th September] five or six frigates, which were laden from Tolou, with live hogs, hens, and maize which we call Guinea wheat. Of these, having gotten what intelligence they could give, of their preparations for us, and divers opinions of us, we dismissed all the men; only staying two frigates with us, because they were so well stored with good victuals.
Within three days after, we arrived at the place which our Captain chose, at first, to leave his ship in, which was called by our Captain, Port Plenty; by reason we brought in thither continually all manner store of good victuals, which we took, going that way by sea, for the victualling of Cartagena and Nombre de Dios as also the Fleets going and coming out of Spain. So that if we had been two thousand, yea three thousand persons, we might with our pinnaces easily have provided them sufficient victuals of wine, meal, rusk; cassavi (a kind of bread made of a root called Yucca, whose juice is poison, but the substance good and wholesome), dried beef, dried fish, live sheep, live hogs, abundance of hens, besides the infinite store of dainty flesh fish, very easily to be taken every day; insomuch that we were forced to build four several magazines or storehouses, some ten, some twenty leagues asunder; some in islands, some in the Main, providing ourselves in divers places, that though the enemy should, with force, surprise any one, yet we might be sufficiently furnished, till we had made our voyage as we did hope. In building of these, our Negros help was very much, as having a special skill, in the speedy erection of such houses.
For in our absence, Captain JOHN DRAKE, having one of our pinnaces, as was appointed, went in with the Main, and as he rowed aloof the shore, where he was directed by DIEGO the Negro aforesaid, which willingly came unto us at Nombre de Dios, he espied certain of the Cimaroons; with whom he dealt so effectually, that in conclusion he left two of our men with their leader, and brought aboard two of theirs: agreeing that they should meet him again the next day, at a river midway between the Cabezas [Cabeza is Spanish for Headland] and our ships; which they named Rio Diego.
These two being very sensible men, chosen out by their commander [chief], did, with all reverence and respect, declare unto our Captain, that their nation conceited great joy of his arrival, because they knew him to be an enemy to the Spaniards, not only by his late being in Nombre de Dios, but also by his former voyages; and therefore were ready to assist and favour his enterprises against his and their enemies to the uttermost: and to that end their captain and company did stay at this present near the mouth of Rio Diego, to attend what answer and order should be given them; that they would have marched by land, even to this place, but that the way is very long, and more troublesome, by reason of many steep mountains, deep rivers, and thick brakes: desiring therefore, that it might please our Captain to take some order, as he thought best, with all convenient speed in this behalf.