The Buccaneer (1545 - 1596)

Frances Drake was born in Devon, England, the son of a puritan farmer and preacher. He learned sailing as a young man, serving as an apprentice to the master of a small coastal merchant ship. His master, left young Drake the ship on his death. He later served some time as an officer aboard a West African slaver. He was the first Englishman to sail around the world and very instrumental in the defeat of the Spanish Armada sent to invade England. He made three voyages to the New World, where he plundering Spanish settlements and captured and destroying Spanish ships. In 1572, he marched across the Isthmus of Panama.

Drake's first visit to the New World, was aboard a slaver, commanded by John Lovell in 1564. After picking up a cargo of slaves from Africa, they sailed to the West Indies, selling the slaves, while hiding from the Spanish authorities. By treaty, the English were prohibited from trading with the Spanish towns along the coast. 

Drake made his next excursion against the Spanish Main when he accompanying his cousin John Hawkins, on his third and last expedition. Hawkins's squadron, consisting of six ships, sailed from Plymouth on October, 2, 1567. After securing a cargo of African slaves, they coasted along the shores of North America, selling their slaves. When he tried to sell slaves at the Spanish port of Rio Hacha, he was prohibited. In retaliation, he attacked and captured the town in 1568. He was able to sell some two hundred of his slaves. Sailing to San Juan de Ulloa (Vera Cruz) in the Gulf of Mexico, they were intercepted by a fleet of thirteen armed Spanish ships, under the command of Alvarez de Bazan. The English were severely defeated and only two of their ships, the Minion (Hawkins' flag ship) of 100 tons, and the Judith (commanded by Drake) of 50 tons escaped, making it back to England in 1569. Drake developed a deep hatred for the Catholic Spaniards and vowed to get even.

In the following years, 1570 and 1571, Drake sailed the Spanish Main on two voyages of exploration. He not only traded with the inhabitants, but also studies the coast of Darien, and learned all he could about the route taken by the Treasure Train, as it crossed the Isthmus of Panama, loaded with gold from Panama to Nombre de Diós. 

In May of 1572, he again sailed from Plymouth with two ships. The Pasha of 70 tons, and the Swan of 25 tons and 73 men. On this trip were two of his brothers, Charles and John Drake. The landed in a hidden harbor in the Gulf of Darien, which he had discovered earlier. There, he was joined by James Rause, who commanded his own English ship and two Spanish ships he had captured. They later sailed to Isla de Pinos, off the coast of Cuba, where Rause was left to guard the ships. Drake left with 73 men, in some small boats, hoping to capture Nombre de Diós. After some fierce fighting, he was able to capture the town on July 29, 1572. As the garrison was regrouping, and reinforcements arrived from Panama, and Drake had been severely wounded, the English made a hasty retreat with very little booty. The urgency of their haste, was very upsetting to them, since they left behind silver bars, in excess of a million pounds Sterling, and much gold, pearls and jewels, that were stored in the Royal Treasure House. The English were able to get back to Isla de Pinos, where Rause returned to England, and Drake continued his attempts to capture Spanish Treasures.

Drake captured several Spanish ships along the coast of Cartagena. He would hide in the secret bay on the coast of Darien, which his men had given the name of Port Plenty. This was because of  the large amounts of stores, that they had accumulated, and stored there. Drake left his brother in charge of Port Plenty, as he continued to sail the coast of Darien, capturing Spanish vessels has he went, and all the while, making plans for his overland capture of the Gold Train, as it crossed the Isthmus. On returning from one of his excursion, he learned that his brother John, had been killed, attempting to capture a Spanish ship Since it was the rainy season, no Gold Trains, were leaving Panama, so he had to wait. When the dry season, arrived, they were attacked by the Spanish, and he lost twenty-eight men, including his remaining brother. The escaped Negro slaves, that had befriended Drake, soon informed him that the Spanish Galleons were starting to gather in Nombre de Diós, meaning the Gold Trains would soon start crossing the Isthmus. 

Early in February of 1573, leaving all of the sick and some healthy men behind to guard their ships, he set out with eighteen men, to capture the Gold Train. Along the way, he was joined by thirty Cimarron's, with their chief, Pedro. After a weeks march, he climbed a tree, and was able to see the Pacific Ocean. Three days later, they were out side, the city of Old Panama from where they could easily see the ships that had arrived from Peru with the Treasures for Spanish King. Learning when the mule train, was to leave, he when back towards the town of Cruces. There he divided his forces into two teams, stationing on group on one side of the Camino Real, and the other group on the other side. Both groups were about fifty yards apart, hoping to attack the mule train from both sides, and preventing any of the mules from escaping. The plan was very good, but failed. To avoid being hit in the cross fire, his men put their shirts on over their armor, so they could recognize themselves in the battle. Unfortunately, on of the men, Robert Pike, was so drunk, that he stood up early, and was spotted by one of the sentries, who gave the alarm. Having failed on capturing the mule train, Drake captured the town of Cruces, but found no treasure there. Within a week, they crossed the Isthmus and were back in their camp.

Drake then turned his attention to capturing a galleons he heard that was taking on gold at Veraguas. He sailed from Port Plenty, with one ship hoping to capture the Treasure Ship in the harbor. As they approached the town of Belen, they were spotted and the alarm was given, and the whole coast line was alerted. He gave up, and returned to Port Plenty. 

His Cimarron's spies informed him that three pack trains of bullion, with  190 mules each was headed to Nombre de Diós and was scheduled to arrive there on April 1st.. He quickly got a force together of fifteen Englishmen, Twenty Frenchmen and some Cimarron's, on March 30th, and landed his force near Nombre de Diós. He stationed his force in the jungle, about a mile back from the town, along the Los Camino Real. They were able to capture the mule train, after some heaving fighting, and made off with all the treasure they could carry. They were upset at leaving about fifteen tons of silver bars. After reaching their ships, and dividing the treasure among all present, the set sail back to England. They arrived in Plymouth on Sunday, August 9, 1573.

Drake's next voyage would end up with him sailing around the world, from 1577 to 1580. He had the secret financial support of Queen Elizabeth I and the war party in her council. They hoped that his trip would end the Spanish monopoly of trade in the Pacific. It was 85 years after Columbus had discovered the Americas and the Spanish and Portuguese had a hold on all the gold coming out of the New World and Queen Elizabeth wanted it for England. Drake's official mission was to plunder the gold laden Spanish galleons and to establish trade links with East Asia.

Drake set sail from England with three galleons and two supply ships, which he planned to abandon, when he reached his destination. heading to the Strait of Magellan. Drake sailed with the queen’s courtesan and his friend Thomas Doughty. After harsh weather, and very rough sailing, Thomas Doughty turned into a mutineer, convincing Drake’s exhausted crew to revolt against their captain. Drake’s reaction was ruthless. When Drake reached his destination on the West Coast of South America, Drake had Doughty convicted of mutineer by a military court-martial, and was beheaded. After this incident, Drake changed his ship’s name to "Golden Hind". By the time they had crossed the 330 miles of the Straits of Magellan, he had lost four of his ships. Alone on the other side, Drake sailed north along the South American coast, where he pillaged Spanish settlements and looted every Spanish ship he could. Sailing to Valparaiso, Drake encountered rain, and storms. His three-mast ship was devastated by the journey. The Spaniards were unable to identify the Golden Hind as a pirate ship and fell victim to Drakes attacks. He captured a Spanish Man Of War, in the port of Callo. From the captured ship, Drake learned that the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de la Conception, loaded with treasure, was sailing up the coast to Panama.  On the 3rd of March 1579 they sighted the galleon. Drake overtook the heavy galleon. The Golden Hind met the Spanish Galleon with cannon fire, and forced the Galleon to surrender. Drake plundered unimaginable wealth. It took Drake’s crew four days to transfer all of the treasure from the Galleon to the Golden Hind.. The captured 80 pounds of gold, 20 tons on silver, 13 cases of silver coins, and cases full of pearls and precious stones. At one point, Drake robbed a llama train, laden with gold and silver.

By the time he left the Mexican port of Guatulco, his ship was heavily laden with booty. Drake decided to avoid meeting any Spaniards on his return home, so he decided to sail home, around the world as Ferdinand Magellan had done. He dropped anchor somewhere near San Francisco and was greeted by Miwok Indians, who took Drake and his men for sea gods. Drake named this region New Albion, after the Celtic name for Great Britain and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth. He crossed the Pacific and Indian oceans and reached the Atlantic by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, on the southern tip of Africa. On the 26th of September 1580, the Golden Hind burdened with the holds heavy and precious cargo, sailed to the port of Plymouth after three years of adventures around the world. Queen Elizabeth knighted him for his accomplishments and the treasures he delivered to the British Crown.. Sir Frances Drake later gained even more fame when in 1587 he attacked the Spanish shipyards in Cadiz and, in 1588 directed the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

In August, 1596, Drake began his last trip to the Caribbean, again in search of Spanish treasure. He sailed from Plymouth with a fleet of 26 ships, heading to Panama. Queen Elizabeth, ordered the fleet to go to Porto Rico, to help an English fleet that was in danger. Sir John Hawkins, who was the vice-admiral on this trip, took sick and died and was buried at sea. When the Spaniards heard that Sir Francis Drake was headed their way, they unloaded the treasure from their ships, and sank them in the harbor, preventing Drake from capturing them. He then turned his attention to the Spanish Main, sacking and burning the towns of La Hacha, Rancheria, Santa Marta, and many others. He then attacked and captured Nombre de Diós. He sent a force of 750 men, under the command of Sir Thomas Baskerville, to follow the Camino Real and march to and take Panama. The Spanish were warned and prepared, and put up a lot of resistance along the way. Baskerville, decided to turn back, after meeting with so much resistance by the Spanish troops that were sent to defend Panama. When they arrived back in Nombre de Diós, the city was burning and all the ships in the harbor were burned. 

Drake then headed to Porto Bello, and was stricken by a tropical disease, "the bloody flux" From Porto Bello, they headed to San Juan de Nicaragua, but were encountered a storm and had to return to Porto Bello. The next day, January 29, 1597, Drake died. on board his flagship Defiance. He was buried at sea, one league off the coast of Puerto Bello, Panama, in a lead coffin.

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