Robert Kerr.

A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 07 online

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engagements to compass their designs. For this reason the English
merchant ships were obliged to go to sea armed and in company; by which
means they not only prevented the outrages of these faithless enemies,
but often revenged the injuries done to others of their countrymen. At
length, the resentment of the nation being inflamed by their repeated
treacheries and depredations, the English began to send out fleets to
annoy their coasts and disturb their navigation. Of these proceedings,
we propose to give a few instances in this chapter, which may suffice to
shew the noble spirit that prevailed in these early times." - _Astl_. I.


_Gallant escape of the Primrose from Bilboa in Spain, in 1585_[332].

It is not unknown to the world, what dangers our English ships have
lately escaped from, how sharply they have been entreated, and how
hardly they have been assaulted; insomuch that the valour of those who
managed and defended them is worthy of being held in remembrance.
Wherefore, the courageous attempt and valiant enterprize of the tall
ship named the Primrose of London, from before the town of Bilboa, in
the province of Biscay in Spain, (which ship the corregidore of that
province, accompanied by 97 Spaniards, offered violently to arrest, yet
was defeated of his purpose, and brought prisoner into England,) having
obtained renown, I have taken in hand to publish the truth thereof, that
it may be generally known to the rest of our English ships; that, by the
good example of this gallant exploit, the rest may be encouraged and
incited in like extremity to act in a similar manner, to the glory of
the realm and their own honour. - _Hakluyt_, II, 597.

[Footnote 332: Hakluyt, II. 537. Astley, I.194.]

* * * * *

Upon Wednesday the 26th of May 1585, while the ship Primrose of 150 tons
was riding at anchor off the bay of Bilboa, where she had been two days,
there came on board a Spanish pinnace, in which were the corregidore and
six others, who seemed to be merchants, bringing cherries with, them,
and spoke in a very friendly manner to the master of the ship, whose
name was Foster. He received them courteously, giving them the best
cheer he could, with beer, beef, and biscuit. While thus banqueting,
four of the seven departed in the pinnace for Bilboa; the other three
remaining, and seeming much pleased with their entertainment. Yet Mr
Foster was suspicious of some evil designs, and gave secret intimation
to his people that he was doubtful of the intentions of these men, but
said nothing to his guests by which they could any way surmise that he
distrusted them. Soon afterwards there came a shipboat in which were
seventy persons, seemingly merchants and the like of Biscay, and a
little behind came the pinnace in which were twenty-four other persons,
as the Spaniards afterwards confessed. On reaching the Primrose, the
corregidore and three or four of his men went on board that ship; but on
seeing such a multitude, Mr Foster desired that no more might come on
aboard which was agreed to: Yet suddenly all the Spaniards left their
boat and boarded the Primrose, all being armed with rapiers and other
weapons which they had brought secretly in the boat, and had even a drum
along with them to proclaim their expected triumph.

On getting on board, the Spaniards dispersed themselves over the ship,
some below deck, others entering the cabins, while the most part
remained in a body as if to guard their prize. Then the corregidore, who
had an officer along with him bearing a white rod in his hand, desired
Mr Foster to yield himself as a prisoner to the king of Spain; on which
he called out to his men that they were betrayed. At this time some of
the Spaniards threatened Mr Foster with their daggers in a furious
manner, as if they would have slain him, yet they had no such purpose,
meaning only to have taken him and his men prisoners. Mr Foster and his
men were amazed at this sudden assault, and were greatly concerned to
think themselves ready to be put to death; yet some of them, much
concerned for their own and Mr Fosters danger, and believing themselves
doomed to death if landed as prisoners, determined either to defend
themselves manfully or to die with arms in their hands, rather than to
submit to the hands of the tormentors[333]; wherefore they boldly took
to their weapons, some armed with javelins, lances, and boar-spears, and
others with five calivers ready charged, being all the fire-arms they
had. With these they fired up through the gratings of the hatches at the
Spaniards on deck, at which the Spaniards were sore amazed not knowing
how to escape the danger, and fearing the English had more fire-arms
than they actually possessed. Others of the crew laid manfully about
among the Spaniards with their lances and boar-spears, disabling two or
three of the Spaniards at every stroke. Then some of the Spaniards urged
Mr Foster to command his men to lay down their arms and surrender; but
he told them that the English were so courageous in the defence of their
lives and liberties, that it was not in his power to controul them, for
on such an occasion they would slay both them and him. At this time the
blood of the Spaniards flowed plentifully about the deck; some being
shot between the legs from below, the bullets came out at their
breasts; some were cut in the head, others thrust in the body, and many
of them so sore wounded that they rushed faster out at one side of the
ship than they came in at the other, tumbling fast overboard on both
side with their weapons, some falling into the sea, and others into
their boats, in which they made all haste on shore. But though they came
to the ship in great numbers, only a small number of them returned, yet
it is not known how many of them were slain or drowned. On this occasion
only one Englishman was slain named John Tristram, and six others
wounded; but it was piteous to behold so many Spaniards swimming in the
sea, and unable to save their lives, of whom four who had got hold of
some part of the ship, were rescued from the waves by Mr Foster and his
men, whose bosoms were found stuffed with paper to defend them from the
shot, and these four being wounded, were dressed by the English surgeon.
One of these was the corregidore himself, who was governor over an
hundred cities and towns, his appointments exceeding six hundred pounds
a year. This strange incident took place about six o'clock in the
evening; after they had landed upwards of twenty tons of goods from the
Primrose, which were delivered at Bilboa by John Barrell and John
Brodbank, who were made prisoners on shore.

[Footnote 333: This seems to allude to their fears of the Inquisition,
if made prisoners. - E.]

After this valiant exploit, performed by 28 Englishmen against 97
Spaniards, Mr Foster and his men saw that it were vain for them to
remain any longer; wherefore they hoisted their sails and came away with
the rest of their goods, and arrived safely by the blessing of God near
London, on the 8th June 1585. During their return towards England, the
corregidore and the other Spaniards they had made prisoners offered 500
crowns to be set on shore anywhere on the coast of Spain or Portugal;
but as Mr Foster would not consent, they were glad to crave mercy and
remain on board. On being questioned by Mr Foster as to their reason for
endeavouring thus to betray him and his men, the corregidore assured him
it was not done of their own accord, but by the command of the king of
Spain; and calling for his hose, which were wet, he took out the royal
commission authorising and commanding him to do what he had attempted,
which was to the following purport:

"Licentiate de Escober, my corregidore of my lordship of Biscay. Seeing
that I have caused a great fleet to be equipped in the havens of Lisbon
and Seville, that there is required for the soldiers, armour, victuals,
and ammunition, and that great store of shipping is wanted for the said
service: I therefore require you, on sight of this order, that with as
much secrecy as may be, you take order for arresting all the shipping
that may be found on the coast and in the ports of the said lordship,
particularly all such as belong to Holland, Zealand, Esterland, Germany,
England, or other provinces and countries that are in rebellion against
me; excepting those of France, which, being small and weak, are thought
unfit for the present service. And being thus arrested and staid, you
shall take special care, that such merchandise as are on board these
ships be taken out, and that all the armour, arms, ammunition, tackle,
sails, and provisions be bestowed in safe custody, so that none of the
ships and men may escape, &c. Done at Barcelona, the 29th May 1585."

In this gallant exploit is to be noted, both the great courage of the
master, and the love of the mariners to save their master; likewise the
great care of Mr Foster to save as much as he could of the goods of his
owners, although by this conduct he may never more frequent those parts,
without losing his own life and those of his people, as they would
assuredly, if known, subject themselves to the sharp torments of their
_Holy house_. As for the king of Spain pretending that the English were
in rebellion against him, it is sufficiently well known even to
themselves, with what love, unity, and concord our ships have ever dealt
with them, being always at least as willing to shew pleasure and respect
to their king and them, as they have been to deal hospitably by the
English. - _Hakl._


_Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, in 1585, to the West Indies_[334].

Upon the knowledge of the embargo laid by the king of Spain in 1585,
upon the English ships, men, and goods found in his country, having no
means to relieve her subjects by friendly treaty, her majesty authorised
such as had sustained loss by that order of embargo to right themselves
by making reprisals upon the subjects of the king of Spain; for which
she gave them her letters of reprisal, to take and arrest all ships and
merchandises they might find at sea or elsewhere, belonging to the
subjects of that King. At the same time, to revenge the wrongs offered
to her crown and dignity, and to resist the preparations then making
against her by the king of Spain, her majesty equipped a fleet of
twenty-five sail of ships, and employed them under the command of Sir
Francis Drake, as the fittest person in her dominions, by reason of his
experience and success in sundry actions.

[Footnote 334: Church. Collect. III. 155.]

It is not my intention to give all the particulars of the voyages
treated of, but merely to enumerate the services performed, and the
mistakes and oversights committed, as a warning to those who may read
them, to prevent the like errors hereafter. As this voyage of Sir
Francis Drake was the first undertaking on either side in this war, for
it ensued immediately after the arrest of our ships and goods in Spain,
I shall deliver my opinion of it before I proceed any farther. One
impediment to the voyage was, that to which the ill success of several
others that followed was imputed, viz. the want of victuals and other
necessaries fit for so great an expedition; for had not this fleet met
with a ship of Biscay, coming from Newfoundland with fish, which
relieved their necessities, they had been reduced to great extremity. In
this expedition Sir Francis Drake sailed in the Elizabeth Bonadventure;
captain Frobisher, in the Aid was second in command; and captain Carlee
was lieutenant-general of the forces by land, Sir Francis having the
supreme command both as admiral and general.

The services performed in this expedition were, the taking and sacking
of St Domingo in Hispaniola, of Carthagena on the continent of America,
and of St Justina in Florida, three towns of great importance in the
West Indies. This fleet was the greatest of any nation, except the
Spaniards, that had ever been seen in these seas since their first
discovery; and, if the expedition had been as well considered of before
going from home, as it was happily performed by the valour of those
engaged, it had more annoyed the king of Spain than all the other
actions that ensued during that war. But it seems our long peace had
made us incapable of advice in war; for had we kept and defended those
places when in our possession, and made provision to have relieved them
from England, we had diverted the war from Europe; for at that time
there was no comparison betwixt the strength of Spain and England by
sea, by means whereof we might have better defended these acquisitions,
and might more easily have encroached upon the rest of the Indies, than
the king of Spain could have aided or succoured them. But now we see and
find by experience, that those places which were then weak and
unfortified, are since fortified, so that it is to no purpose for us to
attempt annoying the king of Spain now in his dominions in the West
Indies. And, though this expedition proved fortunate and victorious, yet
as it was father an awakening than a weakening of the king of Spain, it
had been far better wholly let alone, than to have undertaken it on such
slender grounds, and with such inconsiderable forces[335].

[Footnote 335: It must be acknowledged that the present section can only
be considered as a species of introduction or prelude to an intended
narrative of an expedition: Yet such actually is the first article in
Sir William Monson's celebrated Naval Tracts, as published in the
Collection of Churchill; leaving the entire of the narrative an absolute
blank. Nothing could well justify the adoption of this inconclusive and
utterly imperfect article, but the celebrity of its author and actor:
For Sir William Monson, and the editor of Churchill's Collection, seem
to have dosed in giving to the public this _Vox et preterea nihil_. - E.]


_Cruizing Voyage to the Azores by Captain Whiddon, in 1586, written by
John Evesham_[336].

This voyage was performed by two barks or pinnaces, the Serpent of 35
tons, and the Mary Sparke of Plymouth of 50 tons, both belonging to Sir
Walter Raleigh, knight. Leaving Plymouth on the 10th June 1586, we
directed our course in the first place for the coast of Spain, and
thence for the islands called the Azores, in which course we captured a
small bark, laden with sumach and other commodities, in which was the
Portuguese governor of St Michael's Island, with several other
Portuguese and Spaniards. Sailing thence to the island of Gracioso,
westward of Tercera, we descried a sail to which we gave chase, and
found her to be a Spaniard. But at the first, not much respecting whom
we took, so that we might enrich ourselves, which was the object of our
expedition, and not willing it should be known what we were, we
displayed a white silk ensign in our maintop, which made them believe
that we were of the Spanish navy laying in wait for English cruizers;
but when we got within shot, we hauled down our white flag, and hoisted
the St Georges ensign, on which they fled as fast as they were able, but
all in vain, as our ships sailed faster than they; wherefore they threw
overboard all their ordnance and shot, with many letters and the chart
of the straits of Magellan, which lead into the south sea, immediately
after which we took her, finding on board a Spanish gentleman named
Pedro Sarmiento, who was governor of the straits of Magellan, whom we
brought home to England, and presented to the queen our sovereign.

[Footnote 336: Hakluyt; II. 606. Astley, I. 196. The command of this
expedition is attributed by the editor of Astley's Collection to captain
Whiddon, on the authority of the concluding sentence. - E.]

After this, while plying off and on about the islands, we espied another
sail to which we gave chase, during which our admiral sprung his
main-mast; yet in the night our vice-admiral got up with and captured
the chase, which we found was laden with fish from Cape Blanco on which
we let her go for want of hands to bring her home. Next day we descried
two vessels, one a ship and the other a caravel, to which we gave chase,
on which they made with all haste for the island of Gracioso, where they
got to anchor under protection of a fort; as having the wind of us we
were unable to cut them off from the land, or to get up to attack them
with our ships as they lay at anchor. Having a small boat which we
called a _light horseman_, there went into her myself and four men armed
with calivers, and four others to row, in which we went towards them
against the wind. On seeing us row towards them, they carried a
considerable part of their merchandise on shore, and landed all the men
of both vessels; and as soon as we got near, they began to fire upon us
both from their cannon and small arms, which we returned as well as we
could. We then boarded one of their ships, in which they had not left a
single man; and having cut her cables and hoisted her sails, we sent her
off with two of our men. The other seven of us then went very near the
shore and boarded the caravel, which rode within stones throw of the
shore, insomuch that the people on the land threw stones at us; yet in
spite of them, we took possession of her, there being only one negro on
board. Having cut her cables and hoisted her sails, she was so becalmed
under the land that we had to tow her off with our boat, the fort still
firing on us from their cannon, while the people on shore, to the number
of about 150, continually fired at us with muskets and calivers, we
answering them with our five muskets. At this time the shot from my
musket, being a bar-shot, happened to strike the gunner of the fort
dead, while he was levelling one of his great guns; and thus we got off
from them without loss or wound on our part. Having thus taken five[337]
sail in all, we did as we had done with the ship with the fish, we
turned them off without hurting them, save that we took from one of them
her mainmast for our admiral, and sent her away with all our Spanish and
Portuguese prisoners, except Pedro Sarmiento, three other principal
persons, and two negroes, leaving them within sight of land, with bread
and water sufficient to serve them ten days.

[Footnote 337: Four only are mentioned in the text; and it appears that
they only sent away at this time the first taken ship, in which they had
captured Sarmiento. - E.]

We now bent our course for England, taking our departure from off the
western islands in about the latitude of 41° N. and soon afterwards one
of our men descried a sail from the foretop, then ten sail, and then
fifteen sail. It was now concluded to send off our two prizes, by
manning of which we did not leave above 60 men in our two pinnaces. When
we had dispatched them, we made sail towards the fleet we had
discovered, which we found to consist of 24 sail in all; two of them
being great caraks, one of 1200 and the other of 1000 tons, and 10
galeons, all the rest being small ships and caravels, laden with
treasure, spices, and sugars. In our two small pinnaces we kept company
with this fleet of 24 ships for 32 hours, continually fighting with them
and they with us; but the two huge caraks always kept between their
fleet and us, so that we were unable to take any one of them; till at
length, our powder growing short, we were forced to give over, much
against our wills, being much bent upon gaining some of them, but
necessity compelling us by want of powder, we left them, without any
loss of our men, which was wonderful, considering the disparity of force
and numbers.

We now continued our course to Plymouth, where we arrived within six
hours after our prizes, though we sent them away forty hours before we
began our homeward course. We were joyfully received, with the ordnance
of the town, and all the people hailed us with willing hearts, we not
sparing our shot in return with what powder we had left. From thence we
carried our prizes to Southampton, where our owner, Sir Walter Raleigh,
met us and distributed to us our shares of the prizes.

Our prizes were laden with sugars, elephants teeth, wax, hides,
Brazil-wood, and _cuser?_ as may be made manifest by the testimony of
me, John Evesham, the writer hereof, as likewise of captains Whiddon,
Thomas Rainford, Benjamin Wood, William Cooper master, William Cornish
master, Thomas Drak corporal, John Ladd gunner, William Warefield
gunner, Richard Moon, John Drew, Richard Cooper of Harwich, William
Beares of Ratcliff, John Row of Saltash, and many others.


_Brief relation of notable service performed by Sir Francis Drake in


The title of this article at large in Hakluyt is, A brief relation of
the notable service performed by Sir Francis Drake, upon the Spanish
fleet prepared in the road of Cadiz; and of his destroying 100 sail of
barks; passing from thence all along the coast of Spain to _Cape Sacre_,
where also he took certain forts; and so to the mouth of the river of
Lisbon; thence crossing over sea to the isle of St Michael, where he
surprised a mighty carak called the St Philip, coming from the East
Indies, being the first of that kind ever seen in England.

[Footnote 338: Hakl. II. 607. Astl. I. 197.]

The editor of Astleys Collection says, that this relation seems to have
been taken from a letter, written by one who was in the expedition to a
friend; and thinks that it is not unlike the manner of Sir Walter
Raleigh. - E.

* * * * *

Being informed of mighty naval preparations in Spain for the invasion of
England, her Majesty queen Elizabeth, by the good advice of her grave
and prudent council, thought it expedient to use measures to prevent the
same; for which purpose she caused a fleet of some thirty sail to be
equipped, over which she appointed as general Sir Francis Drake, of
whose many former good services she had sufficient proof. She
accordingly caused four ships of her royal navy to be delivered to him,
the Bonaventure, in which he went general; the Lion, under the command
of Mr William Borough, comptroller of the navy; the Dreadnought,
commanded by Mr Thomas Venner; and the Rainbow, of which Mr Henry
Bellingham was captain[339]. Besides these four ships, two of her
majestys pinnaces were appointed to serve as tenders or advice boats. To
this fleet, there were added certain tall ships belonging to the city of
London, of whose special good service the general made particular
mention, in his letters to the queen.

[Footnote 339: Sir William Monson in his Naval Tracts, in Churchills
Collection, III. 156, gives a short account of this expedition. By him
the admiral ship is called the Elizabeth Bonaventure, and Sir William
Burroughs is called vice admiral. From a list given by Sir William
Monson of the royal navy of England left by queen Elizabeth at her
death, (Church. Coll. III. 196.) the Bonaventure appears to have been of
the burden of 600 tons, carrying 50 pieces of cannon and 250 men, 70 of
whom were mariners, and the rest landsmen. The Lion and Rainbow of 500
tons each, with the same number of guns and men as the Bonaventure. The
Dreadnought of 400 tons, 20 guns, 200 men, 50 of them seamen. - E.]

This fleet sailed from Plymouth Sound, towards the coast of Spain, in
April 1587. The 16th of that month, in latitude of 40° N. we met two
ships belonging to Middleburg, in Zealand, coming from Cadiz, by which
we were acquainted that vast abundance of warlike stores were provided
at Cadiz and that neighbourhood, and were ready to be sent to Lisbon.
Upon this information, our general made sail with all possible
expedition thither, to cut off and destroy their said forces and
stores, and upon the 19th of April entered with his fleet into the
harbour of Cadiz; where at our first entering we were assailed by six
gallies over against the town, but which we soon constrained to retire
under cover of their fortress. There were in the road at our arrival
sixty ships, besides sundry small vessels close under the fortress.
Twenty French ships fled immediately to Puerta Real, followed by some
small Spanish vessels that were able to pass the shoals. At our first
coming, we sunk a ship belonging to Ragusa of 1000 tons, very richly
laden, which was armed with 40 brass guns. There came two other gallies
from Port St Mary, and two more from Puerta Real, which shot freely at
us, but altogether in vain, so that they were forced to retire well
beaten for their pains. Before night we had taken 30 of their ships, and
were entire masters of the road in spite of the gallies, which were glad

Online LibraryRobert KerrA General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 07 → online text (page 36 of 52)