Drake, success as captain, failure as vice-admiral
Was he the most famous privateer?
Among the English Drake stood out, and became a famous corsair with a fortune with many imitators. He traveled through America, attacking ships and Spanish colonies.
Privateer Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596)
Pirate Drake for the Spanish, Corsair Sir Francis for the English.
This famous English corsair became famous and achieved many successes attacking by surprise. In his flight from the Spaniards, he even went around the world to escape.
Although at the beginning he was an English slave trader, he enriched Queen Elizabeth I by raiding Spanish colonies, and she thanked him and made him a Knight, with all the honors of the English Crown.
In his travels he made long voyages, even circumnavigating the planet out of necessity, in order to escape from the Spaniards, who closed his way back across the Atlantic.
The Drake Corsair Expeditions
There were corsair sailors, who carried out authentic marine explorations. Although not exactly for scientific purposes. Sometimes long voyages were made, despite the enormous dangers.
Francis Drake was one of them. In command of 5 ships and with the support of Queen Elizabeth I of England, he prepared an expedition to the Pacific in 1577.
He made a surprise raid on the unprotected Spanish colonies in the Pacific, carrying great wealth.
A successful privateer for the English
Drake, with a long experience at sea, started sailing at a very young age.
The Caribbean islands were an ideal passageway for boarding ships and even Spanish colonies off the coast.
Initially he participated in trips to Africa for the purchase and sale of slaves, and ended up as a famous English privateer.
He put on his coat of arms the legend “First to circumnavigate the Earth”, ignoring that the Spaniards had already done so. Or renamed other previous discoveries of other explorers.
He ignored the discoveries and explorations made by the Spaniards, attributing them to himself. He stole and used the maps made by the Spaniards of the new maritime routes.
He renamed El Estrecho, discovered by the Spaniard Hoces decades earlier, “The Strait of Gibraltar”.
He named Drake Passage after the Sickle Sea, discovered in 1525, that is, 50 years earlier by the Spaniards.
It was also linked to the discovery of Tierra de Fuegos. However, many years before it already appeared in the reports of Spanish navigators as an archipelago.
Francis Drake the pioneer
He made a long journey to the Pacific.
Corsair Drake was a skilled navigator.
He got Queen Isabella I to grant him a privateer’s license and helped him prepare an expedition against the Spanish possessions in America.
In command of five ships, he crossed the Strait of Magellan and managed to reach the Pacific Ocean, losing two of them during the voyage.
His life as a precocious seafarer
He embarked at the age of 13
He came from Crowndale in Devonshire. He began his seafaring life at the age of 13, and at 20 he was already captain of a ship. He began making expeditions to Africa, to capture African slaves and ended up plundering Spanish possessions. He became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the planet, although more than 50 years after the Spaniards did.
Alumnus of John Hawkins
He learned from his uncle, a famous corsair with whom he sailed
Hawkins was a famous privateer and navigator of his time.
He participated with him in an expedition that traveled to Africa in search of slaves, and attacked the Antilles and Cartagena de Indias in present-day Colombia.
On the same voyage, he managed to enter the port of Veracruz, raising Spanish flags on his ships.
The Spaniards, who were expecting the arrival of an armada, gave them every facility and allowed them to enter.
Even the people waved to them from the city, thinking it was a Spanish armada.
They captured the fort, and seized the city, without any resistance. And remained in it until the Spanish armada arrived and surprised them.
Drake’s Successes and Failures
Escaped Veracruz by the skin of his teeth
In 1567, upon the arrival of the Spanish armada, he abandoned his men
When he was in forced negotiations to be able to arrange his ships, and to be provisioned, the Spanish armada appeared with 13 ships, where the new Viceroy was coming.
Hawkins, finding himself surrounded by the Spaniards, loaded the gold, silver and valuables they had seized onto his ship during the night.
He left with a ship for England, leaving the rest of his men on land fighting against the Spanish soldiers.
But he got a surprise, his nephew had already fled. As he left, he saw that one ship was missing, that of Francis Drake, who had been the first to escape to England.
The Spaniards captured all the English ships in the port, seizing numerous pieces of artillery.
Failed in the Canary Islands
In 1585, he failed. He tried twice to invade the islands
In this year of 1585, Francis Drake with a fleet and about 6000 men, tried to enter the city.
They were repulsed with artillery from the forts, and with militias that waited for them on the beaches, preventing them from disembarking.
In 1595, together with John Hawkins, a new invasion attempt to Palmas de Gran Canarias. With a fleet of 30 ships and about 3000 men, he tries to disembark. Again they are rejected.
Successfully attacks Nombre de Dios
In 1572, several ships were seized in the harbor
Leaving Plymouth she approaches the Caribbean and near Panama seizes several Spanish ships.
Cross the Isthmus of Panama to the Cordillera and perhaps you could see the Pacific Ocean.
It takes over Cartagena de Indias
Enter the city by surprise at night
In 1586, he managed to enter the city during the night.
He asks for a huge ransom for not burning the city, in spite of this, as a sample he burns more than 200 houses.
He took the ransom, all the valuables, the artillery, and even the cathedral bells.
Santo Domingo was taken over
In 1585, with a fleet of 25 ships, he invaded the city of Hispaniola.
In 1585 he prepared a new expedition and with a fleet carrying some 9000 men, he attacked the city and seized it.
The 500 arquebusiers and some local militia could do little to prevent it.
He seized every object of value and demanded an enormous ransom for not burning the city and not killing its inhabitants. Although he did not completely fulfill the promise and burned a neighborhood of Santo Domingo.
Helped the first English colony
Fulfilled English wish
England wanted to have colonies in America, just as the Spanish had.
In command of a fleet, he arrived at the Spanish possessions in Florida, which were sacked.
He collaborated with the first English colony in North America, on an island in North Carolina.
He picked up the few survivors he found from the first colony. He returned with the colonists who had failed in their attempt to settle in the area of Virginia, now the United States of America.
Watched over La Gran Armada Española
He was Vice Admiral in the service of England
In 1588, in the face of the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Crown, he commanded part of the English armada.
He was able to take advantage of the existing differences between the two fleets: The Spanish fleet was composed of heavier ships and more effective in cannon fire. The ships were designed for the routes to America, and to transport large quantities of merchandise.
The English fleet with ships prepared for the North Atlantic Sea, lighter and more maneuverable. Designed for piracy and speed. With artillery of longer range, although more inaccurate because the ships were less heavy and moved more in the moments of firing.
Circumnavigated the Earth
Fleeing the Spanish
Knowing he was cornered, he circled the Earth in order to escape.
He went to the Pacific, and ended up traveling the planet.
His expedition, prepared to plunder by surprise the Spanish colonies in the Pacific, forced him to travel practically most of the American coast.
Unable to find a passage through North America to the Atlantic in order to return to England, he was forced to cross the Pacific. He was fortunate to have kidnapped a Portuguese pilot Nuño de Silva who knew much of the route.
He also crossed the Indian Ocean and, after circumnavigating Africa, arrived in England, after sailing around the world.
Stolen Spanish Letters
By seizing Spanish ships, he obtained their maps and charts.
The English joined the expeditions to New World waters 80 years after the Spanish expeditions.
Therefore, they did not have enough accurate and valuable Spanish Navigation Charts.
The seizure of these Maritime Charts was an enormous advance for England. In this way, without any effort, it obtained the cartographic work of decades of the Spanish fleet.
Of incalculable value for the amount of effort, ships and thousands of Spanish lives lost to compile this information. Maritime Charts that indicated not only the best routes, but also reported the prevailing winds in each area, places of provisioning to get water or fresh food.
Rio de la Plata Expedition
In 1577, he travels through the area and heads south.
He crosses the Strait of Magellan and storms sink some of his ships.
He travels the coasts of Chile and Peru performing acts of piracy.
The great Treasure in the Pacific
Seized the Silver Galleon
He captured a Portuguese pilot, who knew the Pacific. Appearing by surprise in those waters, he caught the Spanish unawares, and assaulted the unprotected colonies.
He located the Galeón de la Plata, called the Cacafuego because of its enormous artillery, posing as a Dutch merchant ship in distress. When the galleon came to his aid, he seized it in just a few minutes. The surprised Spaniards did not have time to take up arms.
The treasure he obtained was immense, and with it he was able to return to England, a hero, laden with riches and immensely wealthy. It is estimated to be worth over 150,000 pounds sterling.
Unable to go west because of the winds, he headed north, possibly reaching as far as Washington State, but returned to California, where he made repairs to his ship and looked for provisions.
The return to England to avoid meeting the Spaniards made him go around the world. He knew that the Spanish were waiting for him on the coasts of South America, on the way back and passage to the Atlantic.
He therefore set course for the East Indies, passing through Java, the Moluccas, arriving in Africa. He passed the Cape of Good Hope and Sierra Leone.
He managed to reach Plymouth in the autumn of 1588, becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world.
Drake’s latest expeditions
Attacked the port of Cadiz
He managed to set fire to 30 valuable ships
In 1587, being already a privateer under the orders of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and with the news that an expedition against England was being prepared, he decided to weaken the Spanish fleet.
In command of an expedition of 30 ships, he attacked by surprise the port of Cadiz. The Spanish espionage thought that the English fleet would attack Lisbon, in Portugal, (a country that at that time also belonged to the Spanish Empire). The city was waiting for him to face him but he did not appear there. It passed Lisbon and the Portuguese coast, reaching its objective Cadiz.
He unexpectedly appeared in Cadiz, attacked by surprise and set fire to 30 ships that were in port, capturing one with valuable merchandise from the Indies. He sacked the city, which had been left defenseless.
Although the Spanish King Philip II demanded compensation for the attack and robbery to no avail. The Queen of England responded by knighting Francis Drake, in a ceremony on his own ship.
This victory delayed the preparation of the expedition of the Spanish fleet to England and favored the subsequent disaster of the Great Armada.
Lost 20 ships at La Coruña
In 1589, his expedition got off to a bad start, in an unsuccessful raid
He made a new expedition with Norreys, attacking Coruña, which he considered poorly defended. But the result was his defeat, failing to seize the city.
The Spaniards, some time ago during an English attack, made them believe that the city of La Coruña was poorly protected.
This idea was made to the English because during an English attack they did not use in the defense of the city, one of the groups of batteries of cannons that protected it.
Thinking of the possible weakness of Spain after the disaster of the Invincible Armada, England prepared the counter-armada.
In 1589, when the English, under Drake’s command, attacked the city again, they encountered defenses they had not expected.
The cannon fire from the coastal fortifications caused the English more than 10,000 dead.
More than 20 ships were destroyed in the ambush, surrounded by gun batteries that they believed did not exist.
Such was the disaster that, despite several attempts, they were not even able to disembark.
25-boat expedition failed
In 1595, he led a large fleet to the Spanish colonies in America.
Attempted to assault Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, Panama to no avail
Already appointed Admiral by the Queen of England, he made his last expedition, which also failed.
With the idea of the supposed weakness of Spain, he goes to the Caribbean. In 1595, another corsair expedition to America, to plunder again the Spanish possessions. With a fleet of 25 ships and thousands of corsairs, he set out again from England.
When he failed in the assault of Puerto Rico, he tried with smaller populations of the mainland, assaulting and burning Riohacha and Santa Marta. But at the exit of the population, at the mouth of the river, he loses several ships and a great part of the booty.
Attempts to seize Cartagena de Indias, but fails with losses. He then leads the expedition to the Pacific Ocean attacking Panama, and fails again.
Defeated 2 times in Puerto Rico
He attempted the assault twice, failing both times.
Arrives from England to America, to plunder Spanish possessions once again.
He did not manage to seize Puerto Rico, was defeated twice, and was almost killed when a cannon shot fell on the bridge.
He did not manage to take the cities, because they were already beginning to be fortified.
Dies in Portobelo
He did not win any more victories.
After the disasters in Puerto Rico, it assaults small, undefended towns.
He died in Portobello, possibly of disease, while attacking the small villages around the city.
His grave does not exist, since his body and that of Hawkins is said to have been thrown into the sea. After the failure and the death of its two main captains, the expedition returned to England.
Allegedly attributed phrases
Like all great English myths, he has been attributed famous phrases
Motto: “Sic parvis magna”.
The relationship between small things and big things
There must be a beginning to any great thing, but to continue to the end, until it is well finished, is the true glory.
We have all the time
We have all the time in the world to win this game and to destroy the Spaniards.
Sighting from England of the ships of the Great Armada
Knowing that he could not leave the port until the tide came in, he took the game he was participating in in stride.
Scorching the beard of the King of Spain
Expedition to Cadiz (1587)
This expedition had a relative English success, but managed to delay the invasion of England by the Great Spanish Armada.
The Life of F. Drake: From Slave Pirate, to Famous Privateer, The Privateer Expeditions of Francis Drake, The Pioneer, Precocious Seaman, Pupil of John Hawkins, Escaped Veracruz, Attacks on the Canary Islands, To Cartagena de Indias, To Santo Domingo, Invincible Armada, Circumnavigated the globe, Charts of navigation, A real treasure, First colony, Set fire to Cadiz, Failed at La Coruña, The egomaniac, Pretentious, Defeated in Puerto Rico, Dies at Portobello