Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa: Sir John Hawkins last disastrous slaving expedition
Hello Mates, I’ve been writing a collection of short stories for awhile now. I feel like I finally have enough that I can start releasing them in sections, kind of like the old serials, once a week. This first story is centered around the famous Sir John Hawkins and his fourth expedition. My next story is about the famous Dutch adventurer Piet Heyn and his capture of the Spanish Silver fleet. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa next weekend…..
A welcome gust of fresh breeze from the southeast caught his nose as the ships pitched slightly over from the burst of fresh air. He quickly breathed it in deeply. The mixture of scents aboard was just plain odd. Having just survived one of the worst storms in four expeditions, the sea soaked wood smelled strong and fishy. The smell of fresh hot rigging tar and deck caulk from the refit crew was thick in the hot tropical air. All of these combined with the foul stench of confined human odors made the air seem almost unbreathable. But John had smelled much worse. Thank God for the wind, he thought, as several lifeless black bodies were hurled overboard into the surf.
Captain Hawkins had moved himself aboard the “good old ship” Jesus of Lubeck as the small English fleet spied land on the horizon. Hawkins was on board to inspect the cargo as well as the damage the aging ship had sustained during the recent gale. She had been leaking heavily trying to stay on a northerly course and Hawkins wasn’t willing to lose her and all the gold bullion he’d collected – or for that matter the human cargo on his current expedition.
He’d been avoiding coming aboard in the rough weather, but now that they were approaching landfall, he needed to get back aboard the “flagship”. He didn’t want to put in here and their former course for Hispaniola and Florida was days past behind them as the storm had blown them helplessly westward. With their recent misfortunes, he had little choice now but to try to put in at San Juan de Ulloa for fresh supplies and a refit. Maybe they could even sell their remaining cargo there.
Regardless of his ship’s poor seaworthy condition, as they drew closer and closer to land, the Jesus offered the best views of their intended destination from this distance. At over 700 tons burthen, she dwarfed the other ships in Hawkins little six ship flotila. The Jesus was a relic of a by-gone era, but her obsolete design offered both a towering foc’sle and after castle; features typical of great ships a century past, but rarely seen by 1568. Her main crows nest towered half a mast’s length taller than any of the others. Indeed, these features had worried Hawkins several times before, watching Jesus distantly from the Minion as she lumbered along through stormy seas. Hawkins admired the hardy old vessel and knew that being at least over eighty years old she must have withstood a dozen similar storms. Nonetheless, the weight of her tops made her sway to and fro so badly that she sometimes appeared as if she would capsize. She always managed to correct herself upright again, but during this last blow, John thought to himself that he was glad he was not on board.
He mused at how funny it was that his best most dependable ships were his oldest and the ones he’d originally left England with. The Minion was just as old as the Jesus, but less than half her size at 300 tons and English built. She had the hybrid looks of a cross between carrack and galleon gained during a rebuild decades before. Unlike the Jesus, she was an extremely seaworthy ship and handled well in any conditions.
Standing at the forward larboard corner of the tall, oversized forecastle of the Jesus, Hawkins shifted slightly to the left to avoid the bright glint of sunlight reflecting off the heavy, glassy paint of the freshly coated and replaced front railing. He held his glass close to his eye and squinted to focus. He scanned the coast of the now appearing harbor revealing itself in the distance. After a long moment of intense starring at a single spot, he sighed heavily at the sight he beheld. He was hoping the harbor would be empty and was discouraged at this additional turn of bad luck. At this distance the spyglass couldn’t altogether discern the full detail necessary to make a full assessment of what was there, but enough to make out the shape of at least a dozen vessels. Several of these ships looked larger than the rest. To his great surprise there seemed to one very large ship on the western shore, within the harbor itself that looked to be a great carrack similar in shape and size to the Jesus of Lubeck.
He abruptly snapped his glass shut with both hands and then stared silently down at the rhythmically undulating wake far below them. The sun was descending fast and he knew he wouldn’t get the good look he needed at the harbor tonight. His officers shifted uneasily behind him waiting for their commander to issue orders. Robert Barrett stepped forward as if to speak, but Drake grabbed him by the arm. The familiar cousins eyes met and Drake silently with a small motion shook his head side to side. Barrett stepped back. Young Francis Drake knew not to bother their Captain when he was formulating a plan. They all had high confidence in their leader and John Hawkins had got them out of tight spots before. He would certainly do it again this time, they thought.
Hawkins continued to stare deeply into the foamy glassy wake, the glint of white and orange light dancing on its ever changing shape as the sun continued in its descent. He wondered what he would do now. Through his mind he replayed the events of the last several months, back to the beginning of the ill fated expedition. He thought even further back to the first slaving expedition he’d made with his father seven years past. Queen Elizabeth had initially condemned their amoral venture but in the end was persuaded to send Hawkins on another expedition in 1564 because of the huge profits they had made. That was the year the Queen had given Hawkins the Jesus of Lubeck. From that time forward they considered it the Queen’s flagship and indeed the Queen was fond of the old oak that had belonged to her father.
The Jesus was purchased by King Henry the Eighth over twenty years before, but was actually much older. The grand old carrack had started life in the late 1400s laid down by Baltic German shipwrights and used to haul the valuable cargoes of the Kontor of Lubeck between the rich and prosperous Hanseatic League trading cities.
Captain Hawkins smiled as he remembered the day they’d left Portsmouth almost a year before. On previous expeditions, he’d left England with more ships and men. On this, his fourth expedition, he had left England with just the Jesus, Minion, and Swallow. The Swallow, at only 100 tons was Hawkins smallest ship, but she was fairly new and patterned after the popular Flemish lines, making her a fast well handling little pinnace.
They had spent the preceeding months raiding the Guinea coast, seizing and robbing gold, slaves and ships all the way to wreaking havoc off the north Brazilian coastline and Caribbean. Hawkins now had six ships consisting of his original ships, plus three small prizes taken along the way. Two of the ships, the Angel (30 tons) and Judith (50 tons) were Spanish prizes, and the third, the Grace of God (150 tons) was a fine well armed Portuguese barque. He’d given Judith to the young, brave 22 year old Francis Drake and the Angel to a young Frenchman, around the same age, named Robert Blondel, who had joined them in Guinea and had actually bested the Captain in a wager with cards there. Hawkins had personally renamed all three ships.
It had been a good trip, like the others before. The holds of all the ships were full of gold. Most of the slaves (many of which were seized from Portuguese slave ships) had already been sold off to mostly Brazillian/Portuguese masters to be used as miners. All that was left to do was sell off the remaining slaves and head for home – England, with the hopes they may run into an additional prize or two on the way.
Hawkins wondered at the turn of bad luck. He wondered if God might be angry with him for all the killing, robbing and slavery. Surely not, he thought. After all, he was doing the work of Queen and country against his sovereign’s enemies. The Papists deserved everything they had been meted, and Hawkins was more than happy to be God’s avenging instrument of death. I will pray more often he thought, planning to work in an additional mid day prayer as part of his daily ritual.
The sun was now edging past the horizon and fires and lanterns could be seen dotting the houses and shore batteries of the now darkening, shadowy San Juan de Ulloa. The Captain gave the order to heave to, and displayed the signal for the rest of the Captains to join him aboard the Jesus. Once all the Captains had arrived aboard the Jesus of Lubeck, John Hawkins laid out his plan.
We will fool them into believing we are Spaniards, he said. No colors will be flown except for the Queen’s own colors from the Jesus and Minion. The blue and red jacks are so faded that they will not discern what nation they belong to until we are deep into the harbor. From my views of the harbor, it appears that all the craft are anchored outside the inlets and I can discern no sail in the harbor proper. We will know in the morning if I am correct. As for our current position, we will anchor here for the night and await first light.
All the Captains were agreed and the group knelt together in evening prayers before returning to their vessels. Hawkins was uneasy in his berth as he thought about what might unfold the next day. He wondered why the Spanish ships were sitting outside the harbor. Was there an obstacle or sunken ship in one of the channels? He couldn’t sleep and pulled his boots back on. He strolled out onto the low main deck. He felt like he was standing between two tall buildings with the Jesus’ tall castles towering above him on either side.
It was quiet and the ship gently ebbed and rocked slightly in the night’s gentle breeze. The air from shore whispered and sung with the familiar creaking of timbers and rigging all around him. The occasional echoing of woody pacing footsteps from the watches decks above him, was all that could be heard at this late hour. The smell was not nearly so bad now and Hawkins could make out an earthy, palmy scent on the breeze from shore that was soothing to him. The watch gave him a salute as Hawkins paced by and squinted to make out patterns in the lights on shore and from the ships outside the harbor. If he could just get in and moor, he thought, we would have a strong position and be able to negotiate. After all, he had no desire to raid at this point. Refit and trading were all he was after. If they could negotiate and hold a truce with the garrison commander, he could be underway in a week – maybe less with luck.
Hawkins ordered a double watch. Surely they knew his fleet was out here. They had to have seen them. What if they sent out boats to investigate? With this precaution taken, Hawkins went back to bed. As he finally nodded off, his dreams were filled with thoughts of his home and times long passed.
As the shadows of the morning began to give way to the first sliver of sunlight emerging from their seaward horizon, there was a noisy bustle of activity. Soldiers donned their armor and helmets. Armorers made final repairs closing rivets on the odd broken tasset and tallowed pikes as the wide shrouds were filled with men making their way up to the fighting tops. The low iron sounds of hammering and sharpening could be heard in several directions.
There was a wide array of professional soldiers and mercenaries aboard. Heavy crossbowmen made up the majority of the soldiers in the tops but there were a few odd longbowmen with them. The musketeers lined up along the gunwales, netting, and crenellated parapets of the fighting castles. They had already loaded, rammed and primed their long .70 caliber matchlocks, and only awaited orders from their captain to light their matches and make ready. Steely hollow thuds echoed throughout the hull as gunners loaded their cannon all over the ship.
Hawkins gave the order to make sail and run out his guns almost simultaneously. He knew the Jesus would be more than a match for anything he’d seen the night before, with the possible exception of the carrack he spotted on the north inlet. It was the farthest ship from him, he thought, so they wouldn’t tangle. He knew he had better artillery at any rate. The Jesus boasted over 125 guns alone, of all shapes and sizes. Her after castle by itself had four decks of guns. On the main deck, eight huge bombards weighing in at over two tons a piece – and with bores over two feet wide, strained forward against the wales as their polished cast bronze glared fiery gold catching the morning’s first light.
Captain Hawkins popped open his glass and surveyed the coastline. Everything was clear now. To his great concern he could see that the shore batteries were heavily manned and had already run out their guns – they were pointed right at them. The Spaniards were fully aware of their presence and that Hawkins ships were coming their way.
The shore defenses were spread out. The island in the center was long, but more of a great sand bar than an island. The island guarded the harbor, only allowing entrance around it from it’s north and south approaches. Their was no great fort on the island or the mainland, but a small stone stockade surrounded by shore bastions with four gun batteries on each end of the island and opposite across the inlets on the mainland.
He laughed out loud when he saw the great carrack he’d been so concerned about the night before. She was obviously a stripped out hulk now, with little in the way of masts or rigging remaining. She was no doubt acting as a sort of fort for the settlement, possibly a store house and garrison as well. She did however make an imposing silhouette of a shore battery, and Hawkins wondered if she might also be a prison hulk. The settlement of San Juan de Ulloa sprawled out behind her mainly composed of small huts and shacks with the odd improved building close to shore adjacent the island. No doubt that’s where the Harbor Master and Garrison Commander would be he thought.
To their horror and surprise the shore batteries all began to fire at them. Hawkins heart sunk as he realized there would be no going in now. But why would they fire at this distance he thought, they were clearly out of range.
The guns continued to fire in a disciplined and timed sequence. Then it hit him! It all made sense now. He laughed out loud and slapped his knee. “They are saluting us!”, he cried to his men, and they laughed exuberantly with him. He smiled wide and shook his head almost in disbelief. He knew now why the ships weren’t in the harbor. They were expecting the treasure fleet, and had made room for the larger ships to come into the safe haven. San Juan de Ulloa was such a good harbor and so safe in storms that the Spanish preferred to load the treasure fleet at this backwards outpost, rather than at the busy port of Vera Cruz a days sail away. “They think WE are the treasure fleet!” His ruse had worked without even trying.
Hawkins made straight for the inlet with his men waving to the Spanish soldiers and the few citizens that had come out early to watch the fleet come in. The Spaniards waved back as the ships got closer to the docks. Hawkins pulled his ships snugly against the central piers and tightly moored them together right next to the great empty stripped carrack. He gave instructions to bind them together so closely as to allow the men to easily jump ship to ship making the squadron easier to defend, in the event they needed to. As his men were tying off the great hawsers to the births, a few Spanish soldiers and citizens finally began noticing the Queen’s faded standards flying from the Minion and Jesus.
Men began screaming in the streets in Spanish “Lutherans are here!” “Lutherans!” they continued to yell in terror. The ruse was up, and Barrett, skilled in several languages told Hawkins what they were yelling. Hawkins wondered if they even had any Lutherans aboard among his Germans. We are Englishmen he retorted, – protestants all the same, but loyal to the Church of England. Hawkins dusted off his maroon jacket with silver trim, buckled on his burgonet and tightened the strap as he prepared to go ashore. In only ten minutes a general panic had ensued over the local population – men, women, and soldiers alike fled from the town, leaving their Commander alone to face the Englishmen.
The Commander, Capitan Antonio Campodilla, calmly stood alone upon the flat stone sea wall where the wooden piers intersected, waiting for Hawkins and his entourage to meet him. Captain Hawkins fine tall black boots seemed to clod along the wooden dock louder than his compatriots as he stepped up on to the stone walk a pace away from Campodilla and bowed slightly with a flowing gesture of his hand. Campodilla bowed low, smiled nervously and began to introduce himself in Spanish. Hawkins had picked up a great deal of Spanish and Portuguese on his expeditions, but still looked slightly confused as he motioned for Barrett to come stand next to him. Campodilla was dressed in his best with fine red and yellow silk pantaloons protruding from below his segmented tassets and just above richly decorated tan colored boots. He wore a finely engraved peascod breastplate around which was hung a thin delicate decorated black and gold silken belt with a dozen tiny straps intersecting it’s left side and holding a long swept hilt rapier espada with miniscule buckles and a matching main gauche revealing itself from behind his right hip. On his head was a finely decorated but somewhat oversized Morion helmet that seemed too large for the little Capitan’s small head. His complexion was very white and his facial features angular and harsh – only slightly diminished by the small thin black mustache and goatee. His eyes were jet black and seemed dead like cold marble.
Hawkins introduced himself and Barrett translated for Campodilla. The Capitan began to speak inquisitively. Barrett responded, they want to know why we are here Sir. Hawkins responded, Tell him we are on our way back to England and that we mean him – and the King of Spain’s subjects no harm. Tell him we were battered by a storm and that we would simply beg his indulgence to refit, resupply, and trade. Tell him, we will pay them well to help us. Barrett translated with perfect Spanish to Campodilla and he nodded politely as he listened to him speak. The Capitan spoke again asking, what guarantees do I have that you will not attack and rob us. Hawkins responded, you have the sacred guarantee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, sovereign ruler of England. In addition we can exchange hostages if you’re agreed.
The Capitan was agreed and the two sides made the exchange. Hawkins ended up with a overly non-chalant Spanish nobleman named Villenueva accompanied by a young well dressed Spanish officer and sent two of his own officers in exchange. The officers of both parties drew up a document of agreement and Hawkins and Campodilla signed it stating that if either side broke the trust of this compact it was against all good Christian brotherhood and ran counter the good will the Monarchs of Spain and England bore to one another and the offenders names would be known to the courts of both nations.
Things appeared to be going well. All Hawkins ships were moored closely together and repairs had begun. The pumps on the Jesus had been going non-stop and it was said that fish were seen in the bilge above the ballast stones that had swum in through a large gap that had opened around the rudder post in the stern. The gap was now patched and closed and the water level below was lowering steadily as the Jesus was pumped out. They held a good position and with evening already approaching as things calmed, trading had commenced and needed supplies already purchased as the tropical sun sunk over the western hills and the great volcanic peak Orizaba. The Spanish seemed to be honoring their accord. Over the course of the day both soldiers and citizens cautiously trickled back into town from their hiding spots. Once the benign situation was established and confirmed, the atmosphere had even become jovial. Hawkins men were on their best behavior and both English and Spanish seemed to be in good spirits. The Englishmen were taking the additional opportunity to enjoy other local fare besides rotting beef and stale bread.
Captain Hawkins dined with the Garrison Commander and his officers, as well as both side’s hostages. The meal’s discourse was quiet and uncomfortable with Barrett doing an admirable job of translating. They discussed local native customs and compared the natives of North and South America. News from Europe was also discussed. The recent troubles of Dutch rebellion against King Phillip was a central topic of interest as soldiers from both sides knew comrades serving in Flanders. As the evening ended, officers from both sides traded assorted personal effects and Hawkins presented Campodilla with one of his best long white pipes and small green leather bag of tobacco. The Capitan responded by giving Hawkins a fine bottle of Madiera wine. As the men returned to their ships, they were vigilant and ready for any Dago tricks in the darkness. However they seemed to be the only men about and their loud boot steps were the only sounds to be made out over the quiet tropical night’s wind and gentle lapping of harbor waves against the sea wall. Hawkins patted Barrett on the back. “Well done, man.” “With your silver tongue, we may yet come out of this for the better.” As they came aboard, the guards saluted and the officers parted and meandered to their respective quarters, bellies full, calm considering their position, and secure.
The next morning’s calm was broken by the loud crack of a salute gun. Hawkins was already up and dashed to the poop of the Jesus to see what was happening. To his dread he could observe at least thirteen ships outside the harbor. Several were large galleons and in the front and middle of the convoy were two very large war galleons, the Capitana and Almiranta. The “real” Spanish Treasure Fleet had actually arrived.
Consternation reigned. Spanish soldiers that had become comfortable with the situation trading with the English, suddenly found new discipline, scrambling back to their stations, knowing that the Governor General and other senior Spanish government officials were on board the Almiranta.
Hawkins blood ran cold as he scrambled to the railing of the quarterdeck and shouted “Captains recall your companies”. Captains, bosuns, and sergeants at arms of the small English fleet immediately ran about recalling and herding their men back aboard and on several ships, drummers could be heard loudly beating to quarters. All guns that weren’t an obstacle to close mooring had remained loaded and run out since their entry into the harbor. All hatches were already open, to air out the ships.
Hawkins bellowed out orders, “arbelesters to the tops”, “gunners to your stations” “arquebusiers to the nettings”. He turned to a young and trusted lieutenant and messenger that stayed constantly by Hawkins side. Their steely eyes met with serious resolve. “Crosby, send word to all bosun’s mates to make ready to cut cables on my command”. Hawkins positioned himself at an advantageous viewpoint between the starboard quarterdeck and poop, so that he could both observe the readiness of his own ships and men, as well as the movements of the Spanish to his rear. They were in a bad spot, there was no doubt about it, however in fact, they were still in command of the harbor and could quickly move ships into position to answer Spanish broadsides if necessary. After all, the Spanish could only enter the inlets one ship at a time.
The Spanish galleons outside the harbor began reducing sail with the larger ones running out their guns and turning their broadsides to face the English. The smaller ships continued in line around the larger, passing beyond them and then reducing sail as well, coming to rest forming roughly two uneven lines of ships as all hove to.
A small urca came alongside the Almiranta, and the English could see officers and men climbing down into the small ship. An important looking standard was raised from the mainmast as the single small ship with no guns run out, began its way into the inlet under both sail and oars. Hawkins called Barrett over. “Can you make out those colors Barrett?” “They appear to be those of a Dago Viceroy, Sir”, he replied. “Damned our luck”, Hawkins retorted. “They’re certain to want us to give up our position.” “We mustn’t make any undue provocation – we are in no position to come out the better in a fight against so well armed an opponent.” He tapped his fingers on the railing and thought to himself, that the Spanish must also realize that the Englishmen could so damage the treasure fleet enough, that it would never be able to sail for Spain this season. He smiled as he saw that it appeared that no aggressive action seemed forthcoming, and that he was still in a good negotiating position.
The urca slowly turned about and came to gently rest with it’s larboard side just short of the jetty. A gangplank joined the small craft to the land, and immediately well dressed passengers began to disembark from the little ship. Before long an elaborately adorned group of Spanish gentlemen had assembled on the southern portion of stone sea wall with a small entourage of stylishly armed retinue. The brightly colored standard of the viceroy could be seen above the center of the group, draped – falling vertically attached to golden braid tied to the top of a partisan tipped pike.
Hawkins knew that he needed to meet their dignitaries, and ordered his senior officers accompanied by a small escort of well armed guards to form up on the sea wall just forward of the bow of the Minion. Hawkins rolled his eyes with a deep sigh as he started down the gangway, muttering to himself, “Dear God, help your poor servant overcome his adversaries this day.”
The two groups approached one another slowly with Hawkins leading his own men a pace ahead, watchful as the Spanish Viceroy emerged with his elite retainers to meet Hawkins company. Hawkins presented himself by bowing as Barrett announced him to the Viceroy in Spanish in a heraldic fashion, “My Lord, may I present Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s most trusted agent and Knight of the Kingdom of England, Commander of Her Majesties fleet of trade and exploration, Sir John Hawkins.
After a brief pause, Barrett’s counterpart responded in kind with a much longer and more flowery list of titles and honors, rambling on for minutes, “Good gentlemen of Angleterre, I present the noble appointed representative of his Most Exulted Catholic Majesty, King Phillip of Spain, Jerusalem, the Sicilies, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Milan, Brabant, Count of Habsburg, Flanders and Tirol, – Don Martin Enriquez de Almanza, Hero of Malta, Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and newly appointed Viceroy of Vera Cruz and the Americas.”
There was an air of both friction and mild fear as the gentlemen of both parties bowed. The Viceroy Don Enriquez forced a slight closed mouth smile. He was a diminutive man with an almost albino complexion. He possessed the facial characteristics common in Castilian nobility, with a somewhat larger than usual lower lip protruding outward slightly. His features were not unpleasant, but he possessed an obvious air of haughty overconfidence with unusually large blue eyes and eyelids that seemed to be always half shut in an unflappable attitude of indifference and boredom. Don Enriquez made additional introductions. “Sir John, may I present my officers, Admiral Fransico Lujan and two of his captains, Don Juan de Ubilla, and Capitan Ernesto Delgadillo.” Hawkins reciprocated, “may I present Captain Francis Drake and Captain Robert Blondel.” Neither Drake nor Delgadillo bowed except for slight nods of their heads. Their eyes met and immediately they knew that they hated one another as natural rivals do. They stared coldly at one another, both refusing to flinch or break their solid gaze, somehow knowing that they would one day be locked in mortal combat with one another.
The Viceroy spoke very good English albeit with a moderate Spanish accent. “Sir John, you do realize that you are considered by many to be a ruthless criminal?” Hawkins retorted, “My Lord, I’m certain that your reports are greatly exaggerated. I am but a simple seaman, merchant, and explorer. I offer my sincerest apologies if I have offended any of Good King Phillip’s subjects.” Hawkins thought to himself that he was glad he had released all the Spanish passengers seized from his prize ships as soon as he had landed at San Juan de Ulloa. He had considered keeping them as hostages.
It was agreed that they would meet in a large chamber of the harbor master’s warehouse to discuss further terms. Hawkins knew that he would cause an international incident if he refused to allow the Spanish fleet into the harbor and that he also might never escape. He also knew that he was in a very precarious situation and did not trust the Spanish whatsoever. He would be both friendly, generous and cautious.
Negotiations were tenuous at the outset. It did not look as if the parties could agree. However as food and drink were brought into the conference, a more relaxed atmosphere slowly prevailed. Initially, the Spanish insisted that the English move their ships out into the harbor proper, so that the Spanish could dock the treasure ships on the English position. Sir John knew that if he did this, his ships would be spread out and could not mutually defend one another with the fleet’s entire crew complement. The Spanish would not only command the harbor, but would also be able to go after one English ship at a time.
After negotiating most of the night, the two sides finally came to an agreement. As the morning emerged, two duplicate documents were written up by Barrett and a Spanish administrator. In this accord, the Viceroy assured and guaranteed “on pain of death” that Hawkins could continue to conduct repairs and supply his fleet with victuals without interference, provided Hawkins would accommodate the Spanish fleet’s entrance into the tight little harbor. Hawkins would keep his current position, but agreed to helping tow and position the Spanish ships around him so that they could conduct the business for which they had come with the least amount of inconvenience. The document also stipulated the further exchange of hostages in good faith bringing the totals to ten on each side. The documents were signed by Hawkins and Don Enriquez and witnessed to by all twenty hostages who also signed below the two leaders.
As the parties emerged into the morning air, the breeze was freshening and somewhat darkening clouds could be seen approaching from the southeast. Ships in the harbor were bobbing slightly as everyone returned to their ships and many of the Spanish officials were billeted on shore. Hawkins happily returned to the Jesus, but could not sleep. He chose to take breakfast on the quarterdeck with several of his officers, watching a few of the Spanish ships as they began making their way into the little port.
A small but very well armed Flemish built pinnace led the convoy. She was typical of the latest craft being built around Antwerp and Oostend and had stunningly beautiful lines highlighted by bright red and yellow stripes and chevrons decorating the flowing strakes of her gracefully raked hull. She was obviously faster and more agile than the three ships following her, making a quick entrance into the harbor, unintentionally widening the gap between her and the ships she was escorting. As she entered, she turned to reveal a full long deck of well sized bronze guns. The officers moved to the rail to have a better look at her. She fired off a salute gun from her starboard prow. Hawkins called out, “gunner’s mate – answer her if you please”. A gunner already at the ready, put match to touch-hole and a single loud report temporarily deafened the officers on the quarter deck. They could hear an almost simultaneous muffled reply from the small center fort on the island, as the momentary ringing in their ears subsided.
“By Heaven,” Hawkins mused admiringly, “I could do with a squadron of those.” Over the course of the day the weather worsened and only the first three of the Spanish ships came into the port. Three mid sized galleons were now safely anchored in the harbor. The urca that had taken the Spanish party back and forth the day before had also come back into the harbor and tied off next to the main jetty. The agile pinnace continued to move in and out of the harbor, no doubt carrying messages back and forth to arrange for the placement and positioning of the Spanish ships. During mid-day she docked and offloaded some cargo. It was learned that she was the Venganza de Dios and captained by none other than Drake’s new found rival Capitan Ernesto Delgadillo. Drake scowled when he heard the news, commenting “that such an Jack-n-Apes would be given command of such a fine vessel.”
The Venganza de Dios stayed in the harbor for several hours and then was boarded by a party of well dressed officers that emerged from the warehouse. She made sail and quickly left the harbor, heaving to next to the Capitana, one of the two large War Galleons still outside the harbor. A half hour or more went by before the Capitana and two of the other mid sized galleons all made sail accompanied by the Venganza. Oddly enough the ships headed away from the harbor in the direction of Vera Cruz. Hawkins watched as they disappeared beyond the horizon of the hills blocking his further view of their current course. He wondered what they were up to.
The remainder of the day was fairly uneventful. Repairs were proceeding very well and Sir John was advised that they should be able to safely get underway again in two days time. Trading had also gone well. All of the remaining slaves had been sold off despite the presence of Spanish officials and the edict that slaves could not be bought or sold in Spanish territory.
The Encomienda, in place since 1503, forbade slavery, but in turn was a lawful policy that allowed what was tantamount to the enslavement of indigenous native American peoples. Encomienda was a form of feudalism enjoyed by Spanish soldiers and nobles, under the premise of protecting and educating natives in Catholic spiritual instruction. The African slave trade did still occur legally, but with slaves “liberated” from rival powers ships and colonies, not brought by Spaniards from Africa. As long as Spanish captains could claim that their slaves were “liberated”, they could be legally sold at auction. Hawkins sales were clearly in violation and he wondered why there wasn’t the least bit of protest or prohibition to his selling as he had encountered in previous Spanish ports. Formerly he had made subtle threats of violent outcome if local officials refused to allow his selling of slaves in smaller or poorly defended Spanish settlements.
Hawkins and his officers made merry early that evening in the great cabin of the Jesus. All were confident that they would get underway soon. They were very happy that the weather was delaying the entry of all the Spanish ships into port. The weather was not dangerous, but just choppy enough to prevent safe navigation into the inlet channels. The English saw it as God sent. It not only secured their safety, but also allowed them to complete repairs unharassed. Several of the Spanish hostages were invited to include Villanueva, who spoke passable English. War stories were shared and Hawkins even allowed himself to get a little inebriated, something that rarely occurred as the old captain was known to stay awake and on deck for days at a time in crisis situations and storms. Hawkins, who was fatigued from being up the whole previous night in negotiations, decided to turn in early. As he made his exit, his officers stood and toasted him as he acknowledged in kind with a nod of his head saying, “thank you gentlemen, rest well, but remain vigilant as we are still in the lion’s den.” With that he returned to his quarters and sank into an unusually deep sleep.
John’s dreams were filled with fog. He paced the deck, but no one else seemed to be aboard. He could hear muffled screaming and crying. As he stepped forward to investigate, his right foot went through the deck and almost in shock he pulled it out as the rotten wood below him began cracking. He moved to the gunwale. He noticed he was heavy with thick canvas bags hanging about his shoulders and waist. He didn’t remember putting them on and pulled one from his belt to see what was inside. The bag was filled with Spanish gold escudos and reales. He placed the bag on the deck and pulled another smaller one from his groin that was impeding his steps. The small bag broke open as he gripped it and thirty pieces of Levantine silver cluttered out onto the deck ringing as they rolled and settled forward into the fog.
He reattached the bag of gold to his belt and began crawling forward on the rotten deck deeper into the fog to pick up the silver coins. He picked up as many as he could see. The crying was becoming louder and it sounded like it was coming from over the gunwales. He stood up straining to lift the heavy bags and looked over the side. There below him was his sister Judith, just out of reach and straining to hold on to the side of the ship. She looked up at him with fearful eyes. She was somehow very young again. “John” she said, “save me John – don’t let me fall!” John reached over to grab her hand but could not pull her up, overburdened with the wealth he carried on his body. Judith calmly advised her brother, “Don’t let me go John – don’t let your Judith go.” “You will have to drop something to save me John – something will have to be left behind”. John desperately tried to pull her up replying, “No Judith, I can hold you.” He strained and looked at her hand as it turned ebony black.
Shocked at the change, he let go as he watched the image of his sister morph into a beautiful young Guinean slave girl he thought he’d sold several years back. The young black beauty stared with accusing pity at him as she fell forever out of sight into the deep dark fog. Losing his grip on her he fell backwards into the rotten deck, falling through it and decks below into a yellow-white hot fire raging in the belly of the ship. Smoke surrounded him as he and his bags of gold caught afire. He screamed in pain.
John sat up in his bed, breathing out a heavy sigh of terror and covered in a cold sweat. A loud knock rang out on his cabin door and he was sorry for the previous nights drink as his left temple throbbed in pain. The door opened. It was Crosby. Sir, you’d better come on deck. “What is it man?”, Hawkins scolded. “Not certain Sir, we can’t see much,” Crosby replied. Hawkins pulled his boots on and ran out onto the quarterdeck. Immediately he knew something was wrong as he could feel the ship below him was pitching at an angle as if they were adrift. Hawkins cried across the chasm between the castles, “forward watch, what’s amiss?” The young guard called back, “The Dagos have cut our cables Sir”. It was true, the Spanish had cut the fleets cables in the early morning fog just before first light. The ships were still lashed to one another, but adrift all the same. Hawkins was both scared and furious. “Damned Dago sons of bastards!” Hawkins exclaimed. “Crosby, beat to quarters!” Hawkins quickly ran to the poop to get a better view of where he was and thought to himself, “My good God, what now?”
The morning mists were already clearing and the orb of the sun was just separating herself from the waters of the distant eastern horizon. The weather was still a little choppy, but the combination of shifting morning winds and the tide going out had caused Hawkins flotilla to drift eastwards into the center of the harbor. He could see two of the treasure galleons tacking into the channel and a third larger one beginning to make sail.
Hawkins knew he needed to somehow maintain a strong defensive posture. The skillful and experienced old captain had already formulated his plan as they drifted further east. His plan was simple. He would reposition their small fleet, mooring to the central island opposite the harbor from their previous berths. The Captain ordered the lashings cut to allow the ships to drift apart from one another. This was necessary both to prevent damage and to allow each ship to warp into their new positions individually.
The practice of warping was necessary when ships were in tight confines and required exact positioning – or in instances when there was no wind. Once there was appropriate space, Hawkins ordered all ships boats to be launched to assist in towing and warping. In this instance, warping (or kedging) was much faster – in that the boats would transport the ship’s anchors or lines to a good location and then the ship’s crew would perform the work of pulling the ship to that location – using the ship’s windlass or capstan. In this situation the boat’s crews did not need to drop the anchors because of their close proximity to the island, as well as the simple fact that there were solid posts and pilings on the shoreline. Tying the lines to the posts would allow the vessels to pull themselves into place, occupying their new berths. Once all ships had warped into position, the little fleet would be closely lashed back together again as they had been before.
The plan worked perfectly and just in time, as the additional Spanish galleons entered the center space of the harbor. Additionally, several of the small galleons and barques that Hawkins had observed outside of the harbor two nights prior, were now making for the opposite channel.
Once the English ships were in place and tied off, Hawkins ordered ladders and climbing lines be dropped. With no proper docks on the island, the vertical distance was much too far down from the railings for ramps or gangways to join land and ships. However, this inconvenience offered a great advantage in height if they needed to defend the ships from ground assault. Hawkins ordered his captains to join him on the sandy beach with armed shore parties. Still seething with anger, Sir John ordered his men to seize the shore batteries and the stone stockade at the island’s center. His orders were to attempt the seizures without powder and shot and with no loss of life if possible.
Strangely enough, the shore batteries were lightly armed with lookouts only, and gave up without a struggle. The stockade didn’t fall as easily. The small fort was low and wide with no battlements on its lower wall. It’s layout consisted of a slightly rectangular outer curtain wall about 10 feet tall with a wooden inner catwalk. The stone curtain surrounded a wide circular tower about twenty feet high. The forward wall was much thicker than the rest at about seven feet at the base, tapering up at a gradual angle to two feet width at the top of the barbican. The total length of the fort at the outer wall was about three hundred feet. As the English soldiers stormed the little fort, a determined resistance was encountered at the lower open gate and stairs while trying to seize the tower. However, no one was killed and the wounds of both factions were negligible, with no life threatening injuries sustained.
After the struggle and with the stockade secured, Hawkins strolled out onto the thick wood floor of the tower with sword still drawn. It was apparent the tower was a gun platform, and sitting atop it were two fine bronze Dutch 30 pounders. The culverines were over ten feet long and Hawkins knew these guns would far outrange anything else the Spanish had in the harbor. He ordered his men to turn the guns around to cover the harbor so that he could support his ships if the need arose. He ordered fifty of his men to occupy the island defenses – mostly made up of his heavy soldiers to include a small contingent of German landsknechts. He put the landsknecht captain in charge of the stockade and ordered him to spike the guns if they were overrun.
Hawkins surveyed the shore across from him, pleased that the Spanish had unwittingly put him into an even stronger position. He looked down towards the open hatch covering the wooden stairs hearing rapid small steps quickly ascending and emerging out onto the platform. Hawkins’ turned to see a young handsome boy dressed in a black doublet and breeches and brandishing a shell hilted longsword. It was Hawkins’ eleven year old nephew Paul Horsewell atop the stairs. Paul met his Uncle’s gaze with a large smile. Hawkins smiled back and gently commanded, “Paul my boy, run back to my cabin and fetch my ink box and parchment.” Turning again to face his officers he barked, “Crosby, run up George’s cross from the tower to let the Dagos know we are now in command of the island.”
The party continued to watch the galleons enter the harbor. The third galleon was making its way into the channel, and the even larger Almiranta was just trimming sails, underway with all guns run out despite the choppy weather – setting course for the inlet. Hawkins observed and took council with his officers on the tower for a time until Paul returned with the Captain’s ink box and paper. Hawkins turned to Barrett. “Barrett, write me a message to the Viceroy in Spanish.”
– “Excellency, may I ask the reasons for violation of our agreement this day by the cutting of our cables , – putting good Queen Elizabeth’s subjects in mortal danger and regrettably causing myself to act as Her Majesty’s custodian of both English subjects and property, to make prudent actions to secure the central sandy island of Saint John of Uloa, so as to better ensure our continued safety against any unprovoked attack of surprise or deception” –
Barrett read the finished letter aloud in English for the Captain’s approval. Hawkins nodded thoughtfully, stroking his short beard as he listened. Barrett laid the letter upon the stone parapet as Captain Hawkins moved forward and taking the skillful scribe’s pen in hand, added his signature below the text. The party then made their way down to the boats. The prisoners stood disarmed in a group next to the shoreline. Their wounds had already been bound up by the surgeons. In all, eighteen Spanish soldiers had been captured and Hawkins ordered that they be conducted to one of their own large open boats and allowed to make for the western shore. Before they departed, Hawkins advised Barrett, “Stay calm but outraged at their behavior and regretful but justified of our own.” “You have a talent for negotiating man, and I’ve noticed the Dagos seem to like you.” Barrett jumped into the launch with the Spanish soldiers. As they pushed off, Barrett waved with the freshly written message in hand. His orders were to see the Viceroy with all possible speed once he got to the opposite side. Hawkins yelled out, and Barrett cupped his hand to his ear to hear his commander’s departing instructions over the woody thuds of oars rhythmically splashing into the water as the boat gained distance, “Firm but tactful Barrett, Tact man!”
The captains returned to their ships to oversee continuing repairs and wait. Hawkins returned to the Jesus of Lubeck and met with the Master carpenter. Master Tocks report was not good. All leaks appeared to be sealed from the interiors, but the weathering was still far from complete and repair crews could be seen with hot steaming buckets, scrambling about over decks and hanging on rope-swings over the railings, chiseling rope into gaps – caulking and tarring bare exterior seams. With the defensive posture of the flotilla closely lashed together, many areas that required attention could not be reached.
The pumps were still manned on the Jesus and Minion as the water levels below were down to the last couple of feet above the keels. Repairs were nearly complete on all spars and rigging except on the Jesus. Her taller older rig was not easy to mend. Her mains and bonnets were much larger than the other ships in the harbor. Sailors were busy patching canvas both laid out on the decks and the sands ashore. Lastly, the foremast was sprung on the Jesus and the only reason the mainmast was still holding was because of it’s octagonal segmented design, of which half the wedges were cracked through and needed replacing. Given their current situation, there was no way they could afford the time or find materials to replace the ailing masts. Sound makeshift alternative steps were ordered, with riggers running additional standing lines and braces, as well as tightening or replacing the mast lashings. They would have to try to run easy on the ship’s rig during their return voyage.
Half the day had already been spent moving the ships into their new locations. This put the fleet an additional day behind from getting underway. Some aboard commented that the Spanish were deliberately delaying until they could catch all unawares, attacking and storming their ships to their destruction. However, morale was good and the crews were both proud and confident in their commander’s decision to take the island.
As the day wore on, Spanish ships continued to enter the harbor from both channels. The mighty flagship (Almiranta) eased into the center of the harbor and dropped anchor, reducing sail with her guns still run out. Her port broadside now faced the rear of the English flotilla at an oblique angle a little over two hundred yards distance. It was learned that she was the San Pedro. The great war galleon was a spectacle to behold, with a long, tall raked hull, decked out in angled bright red and yellow stripes and chevrons, making a dramatic contrast with her nearly black base coloring. She flew brightly colored pennants and flags from all masts and several stays and spars. Before she reduced sail, her mains could be seen painted with a red Maltese cross surrounded by rays of sunburst on the fore, and the royal arms of Spain on the main. She was one of the larger new designs and only a few years old. She mounted at least fifty guns on two full gun-decks and her impressive profile obscured all smaller craft behind her.
The lookouts called down from the tops that more sails could be seen on the horizon. As the sails and profiles became larger and more visible, six ships could be seen approaching. Barrett finally returned – boarding the Jesus and climbing up onto the quarter deck to join Hawkins, Drake and Blondel. They were glad to see him and smiled as he approached. “What news man?”, Hawkins inquired. “Sir John, Don Enriquez sends his apologies and is agreed that we can hold the island until our departure”, Barrett responded. “What reasons did he give for cutting us free?”, Drake asked. Barrett responded with the Viceroy’s explanation. The story was that the dock workers had gotten drunk with spirits the previous evening and were angry that they would have to load the galleons by boat because the English were occupying the central dock space. With their blood hot and full of strong drink, the Spanish workers came out early in the morning with axes and cut the English cables. The men laughed, not believing a word of the story, but glad that their relations at least still appeared to be amicable.
As the sighted ships approached the channel, the lead escort ship could be seen far ahead of the rest. As she entered the channel, it was clear that she was the Venganza de Dios returning with the other ships that had left the previous day. All the ships were back, to include the Capitana and an additional large older nao not seen with the flota when it first anchored. Hawkins was very suspicious and wondered why they had gone to Vera Cruz and then back to San Juan de Ulloa again in such a short amount of time. Had they picked up some additional cargo there? If so, it couldn’t have been large amounts, or anything heavy. Not enough time had passed to load anything significant. So why had they left and come back?
The ships began entering one after another and by early evening the little quarter mile long harbor was bursting at the seams with vessels. Over thirty ships were now in the harbor and the English made good on their promise, assisting the Spanish in the slow and work intensive process of towing and positioning their ships into their moorings. The Flota’s second flagship (Capitana) finally entered the harbor. She was just as colorful and even more impressive than the Almiranta at about five hundred tons and mounting sixty cannon. It was learned that she was the Santa Clara. She made straight for the dock space that the English ships had occupied the night before, but moored with her starboard side to the dock taking up much more space than necessary unless she were unloading cargo. Unlike the San Pedro anchored with all guns run out, Santa Clara’s larboard gun ports facing the English, remained closed.
As the sun began to set, the Santa Clara was a hub of activity and booms were seen offloading cannon onto the docks. Spanish soldiers could also be seen disembarking from the Capitana as the large empty carrack that the English initially moored next to, was towed out and repositioned with its starboard side next to the docks just behind the Capitana. “This is damned peculiar”, Hawkins commented. “Barrett, I want you to take a few men and go back over there.” “See if you can see what they are up to, and ask the Viceroy why it appears they are making military preparations when we have both sworn to keep an peaceful accord.” Hawkins was clearly worried and his captains could see it. He turned to his officers and gave his assessment and instructions. “Gentlemen, please hang all canvas while we still have light remaining. There may be no time for it come the morrow. I suspect our hosts may try to destroy or evict us very soon. Weather permitting, I would like to make for the open sea and resume our journey home on tomorrow’s tide. Regardless of mending still required, we are improved much for the better from our conditions three days previous. Our state of seaworthiness and repair shall have to be adequate. I fear we are too tempting a target for our Dago hosts as their occupation here increases. If any more Dago ships enter this place, I fear we may have no room to leave.”
The harbor was bustling with activity as the sun descended. The woody sloshing sounds of tub thumping could be heard all around as ships, skiffs, and dinghies of all sizes bumped into docks and one another. Added to this noise were the sounds of hammering, booms stretching rope and pulleys squeaking under the weight of their loads. The transport of crates, chests, bags and carts could be heard all around on the stone sea wall. The Spaniards were continuing to hoist smaller cannon down onto the docks from the Capitana. Hawkins popped open his glass and could clearly see men on the decks of the old stripped carrack. Both soldiers and working men could be seen walking back and forth in the small visible spaces between the stern of the Capitana and the stem of the old carrack.
Barrett returned with a note written by the Viceroy and reported to Hawkins. “Don Enriquez sends his complements Sir John and begs you to trust him when he says that no warlike actions are forthcoming against us. He says that we are merely observing their repositioning of necessary bulky items to make room for more important cargoes. He says that the movements of the San Salvador (the old derelict carrack) and other observed warlike preparations are purely defensive in nature to better secure the valuable cargoes that will shortly be put aboard King Phillip’s ships. He also inquired as to when we would be complete with our repairs and make way for England.” Hawkins thought for a moment and replied, “Do you believe him Barrett?” Barrett answered, “I do not Sir, there are guns all over the docks.” “Eye”, Hawkins scowled, “Why would they move eight pounders from the gunwales of one of their flagships to make room for cargo on their upper decks – as if their upper guns would impede the booms from access to their hold?”
The sun had set and as the evening darkness covered the sky, ships lanterns, torches and fire cages lit up dim sections of the harbor, docks and buildings with flaming and undulating lights. Reflections could be seen flickering and dancing all about, upon the calming water. The weather had completely calmed, which allowed the English to not only hear the haphazard noises of men working into the night, but also their distant, unintelligible speech, orders, and discussions on the docks across from them.
Oddly enough, torches could be seen all over the decks of the old Portuguese built carrack San Salvador. Sawing could be heard coming from the old hulk as well. Hawkins strained his eyes and squinted through his glass, making the old hulk the focus of his attention. In the dim light he could make out booms lowering cannons onto the upper decks of the old ship. He thought he could see stacks of halbards leaned over the railings between the main and quarter decks. The unmistakable clanking sounds of numerous armored soldier’s pauldrons metallically smacking breastplates and tassets slapping thighs could be heard moving onto, about, and within the old ship. However not seen was anything resembling a refit. No topmasts were being raised and no rigging was being run or added. It was clear she was not being prepared for sea.
The chaplain assembled the men for evening prayers on the main deck of the Jesus of Lubeck. Hawkins and the captains moved to the railing of the overlooking quarterdeck, removed their head coverings and knelt with the ship’s company. The chaplain began with a short sermon on Joshua and his skillful defeat of ten thousand men with only a few hundred. He then took a moment to criticize the Catholic Spanish across the harbor from them in pity, commenting that the poor lost souls could not understand their own liturgies written in the old language of the Romans, and preferred to pray to dead statues instead of to the Lord. He then read as loudly as he could in English from the Psalms: “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may praise your name. I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love for me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave. The arrogant are attacking me, O God; a band of ruthless men seeks my life – men without regard for you. But you, O Lord are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy upon me; grant your strength to your servant….Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Amen.” The whole ships company responded with a loud but muffled “Amen”.
Hawkins was uneasy and somewhat angry. He leaned over the rail and hailed his men. “Men, I need you to return to your stations and remain vigilant until your captains return with orders.” He turned to his officers. “Gentlemen, I want all men to remain armed this night. They can sleep on the decks at the ready. I want the Swallow and the Grace of God to be separated by a boats length. I want the Swallow’s crew to move aboard the Grace. If we are assailed by a ground attack from the south the Swallow’s freeboard is too low to effectively defend her and I fear she would be an advantageous platform to launch an attack upon the taller Grace. Leave minimal crew aboard to cut her cables and leave only a minimum of powder and shot aboard as well. Have the Swallow’s most valuable cargo moved aboard the Judith.” Keep a tow line run. If things become bad we will attempt to tow her out behind us. We can light her afire and leave her as a barrier between us if the need arises.”
Hawkins turned to Barrett once again. “Barrett, go back over there again. Insist on knowing why the Spanish are working into the night with military preparations. Remind the Viceroy of our agreement and his oath. Warn him that if there is an attack upon Her Majesty’s ships, that the whole world will know of it. In answer to his question, tell him it will be several more days before we are ready to depart. If we can delay any undue rash action with that report, all the better for us.”
Hawkins took a step forward close to Barrett and sighed, placing his large strong right hand on his shoulder in reassurance. Barrett looked tired and peered up into his Captain’s eyes with uncertainty. “Get back to me as soon as you can. I fear the worst.” Barrett turned and descended into the darkness of the stairs down to the main deck. It was the last time the two men would ever see one another.
Hawkins went to his quarters to try to catch some elusive sleep. Before retiring he pulled his heavy breastplate and tassets out of a trunk. The armor wasn’t as finely decorated as the Spanish armors he had seen worn by their senior officers the last few days, but he bet to himself it was stronger. The breastplate was made up of several large curved overlapping plates to provide for easier movement and was burnished in two tones of metal hue. Even though there was no gilding, filigree or flowery motifs on the armor it was fine nonetheless. The center of the armor was finely blackened in a wide stripe down the middle with much lighter contrasting edges consisting of five inches of polished surface, looking as bright as a silver plate. The edges and boundaries between the hues were trimmed in polished brass. He made certain the rearbraces and vambraces were properly attached so that he could quickly and easily pull the whole thing on over his doublet. He laid a set of heavy black leather gloves and a finely made pair of finger gauntlets next to his burgeonet helm. He quietly muttered to himself, “God grant that I shall not have need of these.”
His small cabin windows were open and he could still hear the sounds of the harbor in his bunk. He turned onto his back trying to find a more comfortable position. He had pulled off his stockings and the chamber smelled of sweaty boots. He had pulled out his spare pair of stockings for the next day and set them on his harness. He wiggled his toes in the open air and stared into a dim candle hanging on a small chain plate basin suspended from a ceiling beam over the foot of his bunk. In the candle light the old veteran’s feet looked more like those of a beast than a man. He thought to himself how they had looked as a boy and thought, “That’s what becomes of the feet of a soldier that spends half his life soaked in salt water.”
As he stared at the candle it suddenly became a torch and he stood in a grouping of native looking huts. The village seemed to be surrounded by tall dark jungle vegetation with the exception of a large clearing in front of the village. Even though numerous torches were lit, the huts seemed abandoned. He could hear the screaming and yelling of people in the woods all around the village. He could hear the clattering sounds of men in armor running about. “Am I back in Africa?”, he thought.
He could make out people running in the dimness at the far edge of the clearing being chased by armored soldiers throwing nets over them. More people, individually and in bunches, ran across the clearing hodge-podge in multiple directions. Suddenly his father ran up to him. He was out of breath and terrified. He grabbed John by the shoulders, “John, we must run!” “What?”, John answered. “Are we not slave hunting?” His father answered, “No my boy, no! We are the slaves hunted here!” John was confused and scared and asked, “Father where are your clothes?” His father replied, “There is no protection for us here John. You must choose whether or not you are a minion of Jesus or the Devil. You still have time. As a minion of good, you will escape. Run to Jesus, John, RUN!”
John looked down and in horror noticed he too was naked from head to toe. He heard a disturbance behind him as several terrified naked young European women ran out from behind one of the huts pursued by giant beasts in full Gothic harnesses of luminescent red armor. Their faces were hideous, full of large sharp jagged teeth smiling in complete hateful malevolence as they chased their prey with spears and nets. Suddenly, two of the huge armored demons spotted Hawkins and began chasing him. He ran into the jungle and was quickly apprehended falling into the dust as a net tripped him up and surrounded him. Tangled in the net, one of the devils lifted him and threw him into the air. He rose high and fell back some distance down onto the ships deck with a heavy thud. John awoke on the wood floor of his cabin. He had fell out of his bunk. He cursed to himself and muttered, “I wish I had never read Erasmus’s Enchiridion.”
He picked himself up from off the floor. He could hear the noises of men straining at a windlass and the dull metal ringing of guns being loaded and rammed from his cabin windows. He jumped to the window to look out across the harbor at the Capitana and the old carrack. The Santa Clara was no longer at the sea wall and slowly moving into the center of the harbor. Her lower gunports were opening in a random sequence and guns slowly started to show their muzzles as they were run out. To his great concern he could no longer see the great carrack. She had been moved. From his window view he could not see where she had gone. He ran onto the deck with no armor, weapons or boots.
The Jesus was moored between the Minion and the Judith and it’s tall size allowed good views in all directions. Hawkins ran to the railing and looked in the direction of where the old carrack San Salvador had been. Even from the quarter deck he could see over the tall stern of the Minion that the carrack had been moved out of her berth and towed. A Spanish shore party had tied her cables to posts next to the Minion and she was now slowly being warped into a position next to the Minion. She was only a ship’s length away.
Hawkins climbed onto the high sterncastle of the Jesus. Looking across from this position as the first swaths of morning light began soaking over the horizon, he could clearly make out Capitan General Don Juan Ubilla that he’d met two days before with the Viceroy’s entourage. Ubilla was now dressed in full battle armor and observing from the foc’sle of the San Salvador. Hawkins’ blood was boiling and an adrenaline rush had overtaken him. He commented to his officers, “Why would the noble Commander of the Flota’s grand flagship supervise the warping of an old derelict in full battle harness? The Spaniards are clearly not astute masters of surprise.” Hawkins cried out, hailing the Capitan General, “Captain, why do you wear your armor this day Sir?” Ubilla yelled back, “I am a soldier first Captain and will do my duty. I am certain you will do the same.”
Part 5 of Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa
Hawkins was livid. “Damn them to Hell,” he yelled. He immediately looked about him. Several arbalesters stood around him at the taffrail of the sterncastle with their weapons loaded. He turned to the soldier closest to him, and with a quick, firm motion, grasped and pulled an oversized, taut crossbow from the man’s grip into his own. He placed the stock into the socket of his shoulder and taking aim at the Spanish General, pulled the trigger handle, relieving the tension on the tightly wound weapon. The massive bow of the weapon sprung forward, letting loose a thick, foot long, armor piercing bolt with a loud woody twang. In an instance, the bolt flew across the narrowing expanse and struck the Spanish lieutenant standing next to Ubilla, squarely in the left check. Blood gushed out of the man’s mouth with his last breath onto the Capitan’s fine armor. The officer fell forward into his commander’s arms, the deadly square tip of the bolt clearly seen protruding through the back of the man’s neck as he collapsed onto the deck.
Hawkins had missed his target, but the man he did kill certainly prompted a reaction. Any Spanish hopes of surprise by using the carrack as a kind of floating Trojan Horse were dashed in a moment. Ubilla was both shocked with horror and outraged. He at once cried to his men, “Los españoles! ¡Hermanos! Aumento de las cubiertas y el fuego a nuestros enemigos! Destruir a los piratas hereje!”
Hawkins glanced slightly to his left, half-expecting Barrett to translate, but he had not returned and was sorely missed. Hawkins paused, wishing he hadn’t sent him, but understood most of what Ubilla had said anyway – to fire at and destroy their heretic pirate enemies.
Reacting to Ubilla’s rousing commands, scores of Spanish musketmen that had been concealing their numbers crouched out of sight, suddenly stood up at the order, matches already lit, and took positions along the starboard gunwale. Those that were already in position began firing their matchlocks in a broken, loud, percussive flurry of barking, smoking, flying lead balls.
Hawkins insanely bellowed out orders to his crews. “Make ready!” “Sergeants, bring your muskets in line! Let loose your salvees at her waist!” “Arbalesters, Fire at will.” “Prepare to repel boarders!” “Crosby, cut the Judith loose and tell Drake to get the Grace, Angel, Swallow, and Judith free of their moorings and make for the channel.”
Hawkins hastily surveyed the situation. A hundred yards to the rear of the Jesus, over half a dozen large open boats filled to capacity with Spanish soldiers, could be seen rowing for the island making for the opposite side of the English position from where the San Salvador was closing distance. The boats were spread out, not in any ordered formation. They looked like small floating bowls full of silver pearls, as the morning light shone off of scores of Spanish steel morion helmets. Hawkins was actually glad of this as the boats positions between the ships of both sides, seemed to be staying off the cannon fire of the San Pedro and Santa Clara. Not a shot had been fired at them yet from the west or south. However, at the more pressing location of the current assault, small cannon began belching out fire from freshly cut gun ports in the old Portuguese carrack’s castles. The assailed Minion began returning fire with telling effects. Splinters could be seen flying, and holes punched through the steep angled, thick, black side of the San Salvador.
From Hawkins vantage, he could see that the old carrack was almost in position. Spanish soldiers had thrown well over a dozen grappling hooks onto the Minion, and despite English sailors cutting some of the ropes, the distance steadily narrowed. Hawkins knew that only moments remained before Spanish boarders would attempt to take the Minion. He ran for the doorway into the sterncastle and sped to his quarters.
Neglecting to pull on the fresh stalkings he had laid out, he quickly pulled his boots onto his old fungus ridden bare feet. He threw his cuirass over his shoulders and cinched up the straps. He wiggled his arms into the vambraces and snapped them shut. Hurriedly, he pulled on the familiar black gloves and gauntlets almost simultaneously. He snatched a long red silken sash off a wall hook and threw it over his right shoulder. He briefly wrapped the ends around one another below his left armpit and let them hang. He positioned the two brown leather holsters containing large caliber gentlemen’s dags, tied to the ends of the sash slightly to the rear of his left hip. Last, he yanked his burgeonet onto his head, popped the catch letting the falling buffe fall forward for better breathing, and took a brief moment to tighten the chin strap. Now fully armed and armored, Hawkins dashed back to the command deck as the Minion and San Salvador’s waists came into alignment amidships.
Spanish soldiers commenced throwing boarding pikes across the gap onto the slightly lower main deck of the Minion as they dropped gangplanks off the carrack, joining the waists of the two ships together – resembling a medieval castle of old, dropping a drawbridge over a moat. An English line of musketeers in the waist of the Minion, discharged a deadly volley up the bridge of boarding ramps into an advancing body of Spanish infantry. The cries of the targeted men were audible over the carnage, as a dozen or more fell dead or wounded onto and over the sides of the ramps into the water below. Crowds of Spanish soldiers behind, took their places and began advancing down the ramps. Before they could board the Minion they were struck by an even more powerful subsequent volley from a line of at least twenty musketeers, standing not fifteen paces to the rear of the assault, above – on the much higher waist of the Jesus. Even though the Minion was nestled between the two archaic carracks, her position was not unteneble. She was only slightly lower than the San Salvador, and the Jesus offered excellent covering fire, over-watching the contested space. Jesus stood well over ten feet taller than the Minion and at least five feet taller than her adjacent obsolete, distant relative, the San Salvador.
Spanish soldiers swarmed out onto the decks from below onto the waist and bows of the old hulk. Large numbers of Spanish pikeman armed with partisans, halberds and bardiches, streamed down the ramps into the awaiting English. Multitudes more climbed down the opposite side of the old vessel, descending into the shallow water below, using rope lines and nettings thrown over the side. A few inadvertently sunk over the natural sandy rock shelf into the depths below – drowning, unable to swim to the surface and weighed down by their armor and weapons.
The Germans and Englishmen in the stockade and tower began firing down into the Spaniards who were assembling on the shore near the bow of the San Salvador. The men on the north shore batteries began firing their guns into the old hulk with observable damage. The English gunners on the tower observing the consternation around them, took aim at San Pedro directly across in their field of fire. The Landsknecht captain gave the order to fire as the two bronze culverines rang out with thundering blasts.
Two of the boats crossing the harbor had reached the Grace of God and could be seen throwing grappling hooks up onto her stern railings. Just as the other boats had made the shoreline, the Venganza de Dios arrived almost simultaneously and began debarking more men onto the southern shores. The southern island shore batteries opened fire on the Venganza. A ball struck the Venganza in her starboard gallery. Her Captain, Ernesto Delgadillo, was enraged. He leaped overboard into the surf and waded ashore with the men. He wore no armor, preferring the mobility of a think black leather, jack lined, doublet, tall black boots and no helmet. With a silvery ring, he tore out a long well decorated rapier espada from it’s tight scabbard and yelled out to his men, “Amigos ¡Adelante!”
In no time, the Spaniards had closed the distance to the shore cannon and overwhelmed the handfull of English gunners on the southern batteries, killing every last man with brutal indifference. His temper still hot, Delgadillo, like a man possessed, had almost alone carried out the attack, running several men through himself. After the batteries capture, the Spaniards reformed awaiting further instructions. Pointing at the Swallow, Delgadillo shouted orders to the leading Sargento, “take that ship”. As the Spanish infantry marched forward, advancing towards the Swallow, Capitan Delgadillo sprinted back to the Venganza, still hove to, and steered her out of the lee with the wind behind her.
Captains Drake and Blondel had both received their orders, and cut their cables and lashings. Robert Blondel and a few of his men killed the Spanish boarding parties as they tried to come aboard the Grace from the boats below. As the Spaniards from the shore parties overwhelmed the few men left behind on the Swallow, Blondel’s men fired both muskets and cannon down onto the formerly English pinnace, as they started drifting west out of their moorings. With all of the Spaniards dead that had tried to take the ship by sea, Blondel ordered men down into the empty Spanish boats to help tow her out. They also assisted by pulling forward on the lines of the Judith and Angel, attempting to free them as well from the embattled squadron.
The Grace had badly damaged the Swallow with close broadsides. She had drifted out with the other smaller ships and now holed, Swallow began to settle and list slightly as she slowly started to sink. The Spaniards abandoned her and swam, jumped into boats, or drowned making for shore. The Swallow, whose decks were now covered with dead Spaniards, had settled into a good shielding position between the smaller ships and the San Pedro. Her boyancy and sound Flemish design caused her to continue to float, only half sunk, for hours.
The Englishmen on the northern batteries managed to pull a couple of guns off their carriages and then split the trunnion mounts with boarding axes. They spiked the others by filling their bores with swab buckets full of rocks, shells and thick wet beach sand. Once finished they ran to the stockade with the now assembled Spanish shore parties quick on their heels. The Spaniards that had retaken the south batteries and seized the Swallow, had all made shore again, and now banded together with the larger ground assault battalion. The stockade had around forty men remaining, while the Spanish now numbered in the hundreds.
As Hawkins watched intently from the Jesus, the continuing assaults on the Minion and the island’s small fort simultaneously, he now knew why the Capitana and other Spanish ships had gone to Vera Cruz two days before, and the reason they had so hurriedly returned with their quickly loaded cargo. He also now knew what that cargo was – Spanish soldiers. He cursed to himself knowing that the Viceroy had never intended to keep his word and planned to attack the Englishmen from the first moments they had met. He resolved that if he got out of this debacle alive, he would never trust another Dago as long as he lived. All told, Hawkins had landed at San Juan de Ulloa with over seven hundred men. He estimated the Spanish must now have at least two or three times his numbers.
The fighting on the Minion raged as her complement were compelled to retreat, pushed back by masses of Spanish heavy infantry pressing forward into the waist of the embattled ship. The Minion’s crew fought hard as they climbed into their ship’s castles as well as the higher relative safety of the Jesus. At the same time, the Spaniards battered in the thick wood gate to the stockade. Dozens of them lay dead and wounded from withering English and German fire. Musket balls wizzed through the air. Even though the Spanish had set up firing lines of harquebusiers to support the assaulting heavy infantry, they had no cover and were being picked off pell mell by deadly German landsknecht wheellocks firing down from the protective cover of the stone barbican and tower.
Furious at the loss of so many comrades, the Spaniards stormed into the tower with steely vengeance. Resistance was fierce as they gradually cut down all who opposed them, ascending the wood stairs to the top of the tower. When they reached the roof, they were met by the last contingent of the elite German Landsknechts. The Landsknechts intimidated their Spanish attackers with merely their appearance and reputation alone. They stood firm on the towers wood floor calmly waiting for the Spaniards to step forward. The Spanish paused, almost confused by the bright colorful split bloused costumes they wore and fear of their brutal reputation as the most skilled and ruthless killers of all hired mercenaries.
The contrast couldn’t be more dramatic as the Spanish dressed in crimson and gold, armored in heavy breastplates and morions, stepped forward into the blurry onslaught of lightly armored atheletes dressed in bright green, white, and blue checkered tights, flowing white split sleeved blouses and topped in colorful green berets accented with feathers. The Landsknecht swordsman had formed a concave defensive line to give the soldiers behind them time to spike the Dutch guns. One of the crews was turning their gun towards the stairwell opening. The Spanish stepped forward into a meatgrinder of deadly butchery. The landsknecht swordsmen, many trained since their youths in codified sword schools, and veterans of many battles, swung their deadly long blades forward with surgical efficiency. Only using the amounts of energy required to exploit defensive weaknesses and manipulating their opponents energy against themselves, the Landsknechts threw their opponents off balance, striking with deadly mechanical efficiency as they began to cut Spaniards to pieces like domesticated animals in a slaughter house.
The wooden floor atop the tower was covered in a thick, slick coating of blood that began to flow and drip into the stairwell opening down upon the assaulting Spanish soldiers coming up from below. Piles of Spanish bodies lay all about the tower. Only a few Germans lay among them. The Spanish Cabo below ordered the men down from the stairs. A couple of Sergentos conferenced and motioned with hand gestures to a young soldier carrying a large, dark canvas bag. Pulling two bombs from the bag, they cut two short lengths of salt peter match cords and primed the large heavy grenades. Using one of the harquebusiers’ matches, they lit the bomb matches. The two men cautiously ascended the stairs with their bombs smoking in hand.
This particular type of bomb had spikes protruding from their cases for the purpose of sticking into wood surfaces. They blew on the matches to advance the burn more quickly. As they neared the top of the stairs they didn’t dare wait any longer and threw the grenades up out of the stairwell opening onto the deck above. One woody “thunck” was heard.
Above on the platform, two round spikey balls were seen popping up from below. One stuck into the wood deck in the middle of the platform and another sunk into the body of a dead Spanish soldier.
The Landsknechts immediately knew what was happening. Several of the men ran and lept over the wall clearing the barbican and fell, splashing into the sea below. One of the other soldiers swung into action and pulled the bomb from the dead Spaniard’s throat and hurled it back down into the stairwell. The bomb in the middle of the deck exploded in a firey cloud of thick, black, sulpherous smoke and instantly killed or disabled the remaining men on the tower. The bomb below had a longer delay, but still caught several Spaniards unaware – killing one of the Sergentos and disabling another half dozen men. In addition, it had damaged several of the wooden stairs badly.
The Spaniards crept back up the damaged stairs cautiously and emerged to see the Captain of the Landsknechts bloodied and wounded, reclining, laying slightly on one side next to one of the large Dutch cannon. A dozen Spaniards climbed onto the roof of the tower, taking in the spectacle of the old wounded German commander still holding a dag in his left hand. As the Spanish moved closer, they noticed he was holding a smouldering matchstick in his right hand. With renewed action, the bloody captain suddenly sat up and discharged the small wheellock pistol into the Spanish soldiers, bringing one of them down. He then lit the touch-hole of the bronze culverine with the matchstick, blowing the spiked gun to kingdom come and many of the men atop the tower with it.
Hawkins looked up at the explosion atop the tower and could see the parapet was a smouldering ruin. He watched the black smoke continue to rise and a few moment later, could see Spanish soldiers hauling down the Cross of St. George he’d had run up the previous day. He knew the island was now taken. The only reason he hadn’t cut cables was in the hopes that the men on the island could return to their ships. He now ordered the bosun’s mate to cut the Jesus’ cables and sent Crosby to the foc’sle to communicate with the men still in control of the Minion’s forward fighting castle to do the same.
Spanish soldiers were now attempting to climb up onto the Jesus. Through the din of battle, Hawkins could see ladders being moved through the masses of living and dead Spaniards onto the main deck of the Minion – coming towards the larboard side of the Jesus. As the soldier made fast the ladders and began ascending, Hawkins men fought for their lives. The Spanish soldiers slowly started to overcome the resistance in the waist of the Jesus and began forming up to attack the fighting castles. Hawkins ordered musketeers to the railing of the quarterdeck, firing down upon the Spanish boarders with devastating effects. Hawkins drew his “S”-curve, ring-hilted longsword and motioned for a group of his own heavily armored English infantry to follow him down the stairs. Hawkin’s men drove into the Spanish like a steel wedge into a rotten log.
Only a few of the better skilled fighters remained on the Jesus’ main deck, and Hawkins fought a determined duel with a skillful young officer half his age. The two men dueled without interference from any others around them. As their thin blades scraped and rang metallically in quick deadly combinations of thrusts, slashes and parries, Hawkins was hardpressed to better his young opponent. Seeing the man was much more skilled than he had thought, Hawkins resorted to old soldier’s dirty tricks to beat him. With a quick movement, Hawkins pulled out his main-gauche with his left hand and feinted forward with the dagger. This forced the young Spaniard to commit to a block, while Hawkins proceeded to non-challantly skewer the man through his foot with longsword. The man reeled back in pain and Hawkins didn’t have the heart to run him through, momentarily dropping his weapons to throw the boy off the deck into his comrades below.
On the Grace of God, Captain Blondel had gotten clear of the other ships and had set sails. The Judith and Angel were just behind, and had gotten far enough out, that there was no chance the Spaniards on the island could attempt to take any of them. However, just as the Grace cleared the sinking Swallow, the Venganza de Dios opened fire on her with crushing, splintering fire. The large bronze guns of the Venganza were putting holes right through the well built Portugues barque. What was worse, Admiral Lujan aboard the Santa Clara could see that the assault on the Jesus had failed and signalled the San Pedro and other galleons to open fire. The San Pedro trained her guns on both the Grace and Jesus, and random white-yellow muzzle flashes erupted from her two decks of larboard guns. Other galleons joined in, and the poor Grace was smashed and riddled with cannon fire as she started to get the wind.
The Santa Clara opened fire focused squarely on the sterns of the Jesus and Minion as gaps started to open between the ships with cables cut. The two English ships gently swayed with the currents, slowly moving ever so slightly westward. The cannon fire smashed into the tall rear galleries of the aged ships. Hawkins looked around at his squadron, attempting to get clear into the harbor, nearly all vessels being riddled with cannon fire. His men continued to fire down into the waist of the Minion at the still fierce battle for possession of the ship. He gave the order to make sail, but with the provision of the lateens only being set for the moment, hoping to scavenge some wind to pull the good old ship free. He intentionally did not want to set the mains or topsails yet, as he knew they would obscure the continuing supporting fire of his arbalesters and bowmen in the fighting tops from assisting the Minion.
Hawkins knew that if he could just get beyond the Minion, he could shield her from cannon fire using the Jesus. He knew the hardy old oak could take immense punishment, and still believed it might be possible to make an escape from this one sided battle. Just as movement began to be felt underfoot, a cannonball from the San Pedro flew through the air from starboard-abaft and smashed into the Jesus’ mainmast. He looked in great concern at the mainmast. All aboard could hear the mast slowly crack, popping and creaking like kindling in a hot fire. The mast sagged forward just slightly, but the extra standing lines held it firm. Hawkins looked to heaven, sighed, and quitely muttered a prayer, “Thank you O’Lord. Now if you could see your way fit to give your poor servants some wind and a miracle.”
Part 6 of Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa
From last week…
Hawkins knew that if he could just get beyond the Minion, he could shield her from cannon fire using the Jesus. He knew the hardy old oak could take immense punishment, and still believed it might be possible to make an escape from this one sided battle. Just as movement began to be felt underfoot, a cannonball from the San Pedro flew through the air from starboard-abaft and smashed into the Jesus’ mainmast. He looked in great concern at the mainmast. All aboard could hear the mast slowly crack, popping and creaking like kindling in a hot fire. The mast sagged forward just slightly, but the extra standing lines held it firm. Hawkins looked to heaven, sighed, and quitely muttered a prayer, “Thank you O’Lord. Now if you could see your way fit to give your poor servants some wind and a miracle.”
(and now continued for Part 5)
As bad as things were, it was clear that the English were finally getting the better of the Spaniards that had attempted storming the sqadron. Because of the Jesus’ much higher overwatch advantage, her arbalesters and musketmen alone had brought down scores of Spanish soldiers and sailors. The Spanish attackers initially had an advantage in the press of of heavy infantry down into the waist of the Minion, but their heavy halbards were soon rendered largely ineffective once their front ranks were dispersed and a flood of desperate, random, individual fights ensued. The common English soldiers and sailors armed with swords and daggers made deadly work against their Spanish attackers in close quarters. The flow of Spaniards from the belly of the old carrack had stopped. There were no more coming, and the old hulk’s decks were now covered with many more dead and wounded than living men. A gap had now opened between the Jesus and Minion, and before it became too wide Hawkins ordered a large complement of men to jump over the side onto the Minion in a counter attack. Dozens of Englishmen jumped and swung down onto the beleagured ship into the besieging Spaniards.
With the Minion’s cables now severed, the stout old English ship was also drifting west and away from the San Salvador. The boarding ramps shifted their angles and position, becoming unstable as some of them fell into the ocean below. The men on the Fort streamed back down onto the shore to assist their Spanish brothers on the old carrack, but met with dreadfully accurate fire from the Jesus’ foretop.
Hawkin’s men were now pressing the Spanish back onto the carrack. The Spanish began to panic as their only way off the ship started giving way, with many scurrying back aboard the San Salvador.
Ubilla stepped into the breach to try to rally his men and beat back the English counter attack. The old Spanish General now found himself fighting against a young English sailor armed with a club. Ubilla quickly cut the man’s belly out. The man gasped, – air weezing out of his gut, falling between two of the ramps to his death. The man was replaced by a much better armed English Sergeant. The old soldier was armed with a dented, Dutch munitions grade cabasset and peascod breastplate, his short, chipped sword red with blood. His fearless, half toothless smile on a visably scarred, experienced face caused the old General to immediately loose heart with the Englishman pressing forward his advantage ever stronger – noticeably enjoying crossing blades with a Spanish officer.
After a brief exchange of swordplay, the sergeant’s blade slashed beyond the angle of protection offered by Ubilla’s swept hilt rapier’s guard, slicing deep into the Don’s unarmored hand – causing him to drop his sword and pull back his hand in pain. Before the old soldier could render the coup de grace, a musket ball struck hard into Don Juan de Ubilla’s left shoulder, putting a large inch wide hole into his fine armor and knocking him to the ground unconscious. The old sergeant scowled as he looked back in the direction of the arquebusiers that had robbed him of his kill.
The Spanish soldiers on the shore were steadily climbing back aboard the old carrack. The fighting in the waist of the San Salvador had degraded into a stalemate, with more dead men than living laying about the feet of the small groups of remaining combatants. The English soldiers were out of time, needing to get back to their ship before the gap became too wide. Englishmen jumped for their lives back aboard the Minion as the remaining ramps collapsed into the widening space. Hawkins had ordered men into the boats below to tow the Minion and Jesus out. A light southern breeze caught the Jesus’ lateens, speeding her exit aft beyond the Minion.
The Grace of God, Judith and Angel were now free of the wreck of the Swallow and all tacking southeast towards the southern inlet, braving a gauntlet of cannon fire. The larger Grace was taking the worst of it. The Venganza de Dios and San Pedro were pouring cannon fire into the stout barque with crippling results. Her recently mended sails were in tatters and her gunwales were now full of jaged holes. Although she wasn’t as well armed as her opponents, Grace’s gunners were acquiting themselves well, putting several of the San Pedro’s guns out of action and exchanging well placed fire on the Venganza from her port battery. Blondel could feel his ship begin to settle slightly as they continued to move forward, and he knew she must have been holed. He knew there was no getting her out now and ordered his helmsman to set a course directly towards the San Pedro.
The Angel was following close behind, and the Venganza shifted her fire upon the tiny yacht-like barque as she came directly under the predatory vessel’s formidable broadside. Splinters and debris rose from the little ship as the Venganza’s guns pierced their target with brutal impacts. Half way through the second salvo, the Angel was finished, listing badly and burying her bow into the water as she rolled over onto her port side. Her small crew abandoned ship as Drake made a bee line to pick up her survivors.
Blondel ordered his ship’s powder casks be placed amidships and had his crew place buckets of the recently procured sealing tar into the beakhead. He ordered the ship’s forward sails be set afire and the crew to begin abandoning ship. Grace’s crew commenced boarding a large open boat being towed behind. Once Blondel saw that the ship was on course for the San Pedro, and the fire was burning hot, he tied a rope to the whipstaff and straddled the railing as he moved his lean body over the side. He paused and sighed with regret, briefly looking up to survey the burning wreckage of his formerly proud ship, and jumped down into the large awaiting boat. The now flaming derelect continued alone on a doomed course as her former crew rowed for all they were worth towards the Judith.
Light south winds spread the rising black smoke from the burning tar and wood of the enflamed Grace wide across the horizon, high into the morning sky. A wall of thick expanding smoke settled upon the water as well, almost completely obscuring the gunners of the San Pedro and other galleons beyond, from continuing their barrage against the Jesus and Minion. The smells of burning wood and sulfurous black powder had settled across the harbor.
Still moving rearwards out of their former berths, the Jesus and Minion let loose their forward topsails, canting them as far port possible to catch the south wind. The Jesus had gained a ship’s length on the Minion and began bringing her bows futher larboard. The boats, filled with rowers and a few arquebusiers, had changed positions from towing the ships by their sterns, to now grasping lines and cables from their foc’sles. The rowers strained hard at their oars pulling for their lives, bringing the bows of the two ships pointing roughly northward.
The boatmen winced and jumped in their seats, as splinters flew up around them and comrades slumped-over, dead at their oars from Spanish matchlock balls. The English boats braved almost continuous Spanish musket-fire from the stern of the San Salvador as they began pulling north beyond her port abaft. The little groups of musketeers stood in their boats pointing their heavy weapons almost strait up at the Spanish sharpshooters high above them in the tall old carrack’s sterncastle. Many more Spanish fell than English as the arbalesters and musketeers in the fighting tops and foc’sle of the Minion continued to pour fire upon the San Salvador’s marksmen.
Francis Drake reduced sail as his men pulled the Angel’s swimming crew from the water. Concurrently, Robert Blondel urged his men to row with all of their strength as they slowly reduced the distance to the Judith. The Venganza futher south, and out of the way of the heavy smoke, now turned her wrath upon the little Judith, exhaling hot iron balls toward the English enemy. The Judith was small but a had a single full deck of fine small bronze guns. Even though she was barely over fifty tons, the little Spanish built barque looked more like a miniature galleon. Drake had already ordered both batteries of cannon loaded and run out through their open semi-circular arched gun-ports. “Fire as your guns bear!” Drake cried. The little ship answered the Venganza round for round, launching steely salvoes into her amidships, severing one her central port guns from its tackle, taking it out of action. Delgadillo ordered the pinnace to come about to make straight for the Judith, while Drake continued west to retrieve Blondel’s men. The Judith continued to pour fire into the Venganza’s bow, heaving to, allowing Blondel’s men to come aboard.
Captain Drake knew Delgadillo meant to board her based on his aggressive course and seeming disregard of the Judith’s continuing accurate cannon fire. Drake was weary of Delgadillo, knowing that he could not defeat a boarding party. Even though he had picked up the men of the Angel and Grace, Drake knew that he probably had only sixty able bodied men fit for a fight. Instead he decided on an alternative tactic.
Once the last of Grace’s crew were aboard, he ordered the Bosun to let fall all canvas, but trim sails to quickly steer north upon his order. The helmsman was on a slow beam reach while the Judith’s gunners continued to pepper the Venganza with damaging fire. Finally the Venganza came about mirroring the Judith’s course and bringing her starboard battery to bear upon the Judith. Drake did not expect this move and knew that Delgadillo must be frustrated with the continuing fire Judith had poured into her attacker. “Judith must have done more damage than expected”, Drake thought to himself smiling. Instead of steering north, Drake ordered the helmsman to bring her two points to port. The helmsman thought his Captain crazy, but complied as the distance between the two ships rapidly narrowed.
Drake shared his plan with some of his companions. The young captain was noticeably angry, thirsty for revenge against Delgillo as he had watched helplessly when the Venganza tore the other English ships apart. Drake was determined to somehow even the score. The young English gentlemen adventurer had brought an interesting little group of specialists with him on this expedition, and it was time for them to earn their pay. Besides several professional, stealthy English thieves and cutthroats, Drake’s soldiers of fortune also consisted of four elite Italian marksmen, two German Zweihanders, and even a couple of Irish Gallowglass. Everyone nodded and understood the plan, smiling at one another at the boldness of the operation.
Both ships were on a beam reach west by south west. As the distance became less and less, Judith lead Venganza with her stern parrallel to her pursuer’s bow. Once the distance between the two ships had narrowed to half a ships length, Drake quickly ordered the Judith hard to port, coming into irons. Delgadillo countered, ordering the Venganza hard to starboard. As she answered her helm turning north, the Judith changed her helm as well, steering to starboard and grappling with the Venganza’s stern – bringing the two ships together in a sort of “T” shape. Judith fired her starboard guns into the Venganza’s length as Drake led a small group of men aboard the brightly colored Flemish pinnace. The Englishmen rushed onto the quarterdeck taking the Spanish completely by surprise. Before they could counter, Drake’s cutthroats were disemboweling and slicing the thoats of several Spanish soldiers. The Zweihanders took positions on the two sets of stairs starboard and port, defending the only approaches to the quarterdeck and cutting down all Spanish attempts to assist their embattled captain. The Italians began quickly aiming and firing their wheellocks into the waist and foc’sle, killing Spanish marksmen and reloading twice as fast as any of their enemies could manage.
Capitan Ernesto Delgadillo drew his rapier and main gauche, and turned to face Captain Francis Drake. Drake smiled like a mad man with his swept-hilt broadsword and dagger already drawn, pacing the deck sizing up his opponent. “You will feel English steel in your flesh now, thou Dago cullion slubbering flapdragon!” Delgadillo lunged deep and Drake side stepped parrying with his dagger and laughed. Drake countered with a synchronized combination of dagger and sword strokes as the Spanish noble was hard pressed to defend himself. As the sword play ensued, the two Gallowglass set to work on the mission they’d been given.
The huge Irishmen raised their long oversized trademark axes into the air and with a couple of swarthy blows reduced the pilot house to kindling. While one Gallowglass split the whipstaff itself, the other chopped into the deck, and after a few well placed strokes, reached the upped fulcrum, destroying the large, round, wooden, center axis-pin and housing, as well as the exposed wound tiller lines. With no useable helm remaining the mercenaries rushed to assist the Zweihanders, leaving the two Captains to battle on alone for control of the quarterdeck. One of Drake’s cutthroats was dead and another wounded lying on the deck. One of the Zweihanders fell as a Gallowglass took his place, fighting off a half dozen men trying to force their way up the stairs.
Drake and Delgadillo continued to duel, locked in ringing, steely combat. Drake had slightly underestimated his opponent and was impressed with the man’s prowess. He wished he had time to kill the man properly and even considered fighting him to the death. His command awareness of the situation alerted him that he had only minutes remaining before the Venganza’s crew would beat off the surprise attack and retake their ship. With this in mind, he knew he must end the duel and make a quick retreat to the Judith. Drake pressed forward the attack with a half combination of thrusts and slashes, deliberately letting his dagger fall low, dropping his guard and exposing his left side momentarily. Delgadillo, seeing the opening thrust forward with his rapier as Drake turned, swivelling his body to the right to avoid the lunge while simulataneously wrapping his blade behind Delgadillo’s left knee – slicing deep with his delivery of the Coup de Jarnac.
Delgadillo collapsed to the deck with his sword still at the ready, dropping his main gauche and grasping his gushing bloody wound with his left hand. “Back to the ship men!” Drake yelled, looking down at his defeated opponent. The bold English captain saluted his wounded opponent with his sword and spoke, “Until our next meeting Dago.” He spat on the deck and turned, running up to the stern, grabbing a line, and swinging back down into the Judith. With sails still set, Drake ordered grappling lines cut and steered the Judith hard to port until she was on a northerly course. They now made for the Jesus and used the smokescreen of the burning Grace to cover their retreat. Drake watched as the last remaining man, one of his Gallowglass, bravely fought up the stairs to the stern of the Venganza before he was cut down. The Venganza de Dios continued forward helplessly westward with no helm to steer her. Drake sighed heavily, sad to have lost men he had come to know well over the last year. Drake’s daring plan had finally taken the formidable enemy ship and her captain out of the fight.
Part 7 of Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa
The Jesus of Lubeck’s bow traversed the last short painful distance bringing her ninety degrees from her former berthed position now pointing due north. The Minion, leading the Jesus a little further north, but still a bit more east had been towed parallel to her, pointing north by two points west, overlapping the Jesus’s bow with a quarter of her own stern. The Minion’s starboard broadside now had a clear field of fire upon the stern of the San Salvador. The English had the wind behind them and let fall all canvas to try to make a running fight for the north inlet as they attempted escape. Both of the large old English ships, (after what seemed like an eternity) were finally in position to bring their massive larboard broadsides to bear upon the attacking Spanish flagships in the harbor.
The Minion had gun crews enough to man only one full side of cannon at a time. A few crews remained on her starboard side to continue punishing the San Salvador’s stern. All others ran out Minion’s full port broadside and began to unleash a vengeful torrent of large caliber fire upon the San Pedro. Aboard the Jesus, Hawkins preached, “and now they shall have our answer friends – Gunner’s Mate, focus your fires upon those large Dago flagships – FIRE AT WILL!”
The two English ships combined fire was thunderous, echoing across the harbor and far inland. The large stone and iron balls hit home their targets with devastingly shattering impacts. Splinters and debris rose and flew from the full lengths of the Spanish hulls and decks. Splinters ranging anywhere from a few small inches to a few large feet, split off of their original planking, becoming fast-flying, chaotic, airborn, projectiles of death of their own accord. The woody fragments stuck into numerous fleeing Spanish sailors and soldiers, maiming and killing as they found new homes in eyes, necks, and fleshy thighs.
The punishing English fire was extremely accurate. More and more numerous visible holes could be observed in the two large War Galleon’s larboard sides. Aboard the Santa Clara, Admiral Luzan felt only frustration as he could barely bring half of his larboard guns to respond. This cannon duel had not been expected and he had ordered over half of his ship’s crew complement under Ubilla’s command to participate in the failed assault on the Minion. Surprisingly enough, the continued punishment of the Minion’s guns upon the San Salvador had caused her to slowly fill with water below, and she began to list. Over the course of only a quarter hour, her musketeers and remaining crew had to abandon ship for the island shore, as she turned over onto her starboard side, still afloat.
Aboard San Pedro, near panic had almost taken over. The War Galleon could not worry about responding to the English carracks. The flaming fireball of the Grace of God was nearing her intended target, and San Pedro’s acting captain ordered her cables cut and all cannon fire focused upon the Grace. Desperately trying to save their ship, the San Pedro’s crew made sail. Every Spanish gun poured focused salvoes upon the fiery hot pyre of the approaching Grace. The Grace moved slower and slower, her freeboard now very low with her hull full of ever increasing seawater. The San Pedro’s fire now holed the bow of the Grace so badly, that it gave way and buried itself into the water. The tall, hot flames on Grace’s foc’sle and beakhead were extingushed in a moment, replaced with clouds of white and grey steam belching up from the water now mixing and contrasting with the black smoke continuing to rise from Grace’s stern still above water. Grace’s approach had been stopped and she now just sat, drifting ever so slightly north, burning and sinking.
San Pedro’s acting captain breathed a sigh of relief and ordered his gun crews to resume fire upon the Jesus. He knew the English heretics were trying to make for the north inlet with the wind. He thought to himself, “they musn’t be allowed to escape”, and ordered his gunners to target the old German carrack’s masts and rigging. Aboard Jesus, several more cannonballs impacted the masts almost simultaneously. The main mast cracked and creaked, but continued to stay upright. Suddenly, a cannonshot hit home right in the center of the lower foremast. The foremast splintered and collapsed down upon itself. The whole mass of thick wood posts, heavy lines, and hanging spars and canvas slowly groaned, leaning forward and starboard. The ungainly collapsing assembly suddenly pulled its larboard standing rigging and shrouds free of their anchoring points and the whole shivering weighty mass fell over the port railings of the Jesus’ forecastle with a great splash. The large stays of the foremast attached to the main now pulled tight and the increasing, incredible weight of the falling mass pulled hard upon the damaged mainmast. The mainmast creaked and snapped. Men ran for the port side of the Jesus to avoid being hurt by the collapsing rigging above. The great main mast finally gave way in a loud woody pop and yawned like some great tree felled in the forest as it came tumbling down to starboard, joining the foremast below in the water making a great loud rolling wave.
Aboard the San Pedro, the Spaniards cheered. Her acting captain smiled in jubilation and lifted the brim of his morion helmet slighly upon his brow. He wiped off sweat from his forehead with a small silken cloth and sighed deeply. Suddenly a deafening, low, vibrous thunder burst from below him. As all went silent, only a high ringing tone could be heard within his head, and the Spanish officer felt himself being lifted high into the air as his feet burned white hot with fire. The Minion’s ravaging cannon fire had buried itself deep into the San Pedro striking and igniting her powder magazine. The entire large War Galleon erupted like a giant powder keg in an immense white hot explosion of large broken pieces of wooden ship and debris. Fiery debris rose high into the air, some falling onto the smaller treasure galleons beyond and lighting them afire. Nothing was left of the formerly proud Spanish flagship but the great burning timbers of her remaining lower hull below her now non-existent gunports. The burning remains of the San Pedro sent thick, black smoke across the water and high into the air, completely obscuring the views of the galleons and other ships beyond her position to the west.
The Jesus, now with only her mizzen standing, continued to pour fire into the Santa Clara, the remaining flota flagship becoming the single focus of English gunnery. Not five minutes had passed since the explosion of the San Pedro when numerous fires could be seen spreading around the decks of the Capitana. The Santa Clara clearly had a fire aboard as black smoke could be seen flowing out from her forward gun ports. She was beginning to list and was settling heavy in the water at her bow. Her crew could be seen abandoning her for boats below. Her guns were now silent.
Hawkins was numb with adrenaline knowing he would never get the Jesus home now, but at the same time exuberant as he looked upon the amazing destruction his outnumbered ships had wrought upon his enemies. “Ha-Hah!” Hawkins cried. “How do you like our agreement now Viceroy?” “Well done my boys! Treachery well repaid.” “Mr. Crosby, signal the Minion to heave to. Bosun, cut loose the wreckage and get towing crews back into the boats.”
Even with wreckage hanging over the side, the mizzen lateens were filled with wind and still pushing the Jesus slowly northward. Captain Hawkins’ plan was to bring Jesus along side Minion and have the boats pull them the last distances required to bring them closely back together. Just as this was being accomplished, the Judith eased up aft to Jesus’ starboard side and tied off just to the stern of the Minion.
Hawkins now ordered all treasure in the hold of the Jesus to be tranferred to the Minion and Judith. Their current situation was not bad considering what they had just been through. To their port side were burning ships and a giant smokescreen that obscurred any of the other galleons from effectively targetting them. To their starboard, the remaining Spanish on the island had taken cover in the fort and shore batteries. The replaced Spanish shore battery crews were obviously trying to undo the damage the English had done, and could be seen attempting to salvage and clean out any available guns that could be brought to bear against the English. Sporadic matchlockfire exchanges continued from Spanish and English marksmen between the barbican and the fighting tops of the Minion. However, the range had become far too wide for the fire to be at all accurate with neither side scoreing any hits.
Hawkins knew they only had limitted time before the Spanish would reorganize and redouble their attacks from the numerous remaining Spanish galleons. He knew the Jesus could shield the Minion and Judith from their cannonfire once the smoke cleared for a good amount of time, but they needed to be quick. Spanish boats full of soldiers could vaguely be seen through the lifting smoke, rowing south in the direction of the anchored treasure galleons. He hoped the wind would continue and God-willing increase. Captain Hawkins left about a quarter of his crew watchful at their stations, and all others worked diligently to move everything they had gained in the last year – the combined cargo of gold and profits from the whole venture, into the hoped for safety and escape in the holds of the Minion and Judith.
About an hour and a half later, all guns were silent. The Grace had sunk and the San Pedro and Santa Clara continued to burn, but were both sinking. The remaining lower hull of the San Pedro was almost below the water and the Santa Clara had capsized and she was going down bow first. The smoke was beginning to clear.
Hawkins was overseeing the moving of the cargo and had managed to get all of the gold bullion into the Judith and Minion when a lookout cried, “Sail approaching larboard-abaft!” Hawkins dashed to the port waist gunwale. Through the smoke he could make out four of the medium galleons sailing north by northeast in line coming upon a path roughly parallel with the Jesus not five hundred yards west. As they came almost into alignment with their waists, the two forward galleons opened fire. The fourth galleon to the rear was not on the same course. Only her bow could be seen and it was clear that she was sailing northeast, straight at the English ships. Suddenly, black smoke could be seen coming from her bows, and then building yellow-hot flames from below. She was a fireship certain sure, making a course straight for them with the wind behind her. “My God” Hawkins whispered. “She will be the end of us.” The Spaniards were now using their own trick against them.
And now Part 8 of Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa:
Hawkins ordered the Jesus’ larboard gun crews to return fire on the galleons and the approaching fire ship. He also ordered men into some of the large Spanish boats to make towards the fire ship in an attempt to grapple and pull it off course from the Jesus. Hawkins climbed up to the sterncastle to watch the fire ship’s progress. The Jesus had two mizzens. The mizen proper had two lateens, with a small top lateen above the main lateen. The bonaventure mizzen was the furthest aft with a single lateen sail. Hawkins ordered the sails furled to reduce potential combustable material. He was talking to the bosun about possibly cutting down and using the bonaventure-mizzen as a giant boom rigged off of the mizzen-proper, to stay off the fire ship, when Francis Drake climbed up onto the sterncastle. Drake quickly clod up the deck and approached John Hawkins.
Captain Drake appealed to his commander, “Sir, we have most of it transferred. We must cut our loses and run for our lives now.” Captain Hawkins gruffly replied, “Not yet Drake. The gold may all be moved, but I’ll be damned if I leave behind the silver.” Drake replied, “Judith is nearly loaded to bursting. I cannot fill little Judith too much more or I fear we may lose her on our return voyage. We may need to leave some silver behind to save ourselves. I must get free for the north channel now, while we still have the weather.” Drake was angry and Hawkins could see it. Drake’s words caused Hawkins to momentarily flash back to the dream he had a few nights before. He remembered his sister’s words, “you must leave something behind to save me.” Hawkins calmly responded, “See to the moving of that large chest of silver forward in the hold and then get yourself loose and make for the channel.” Francis and John shook hands and young Captain Drake quickly turned away and ran to the castle stairs.
Drake and a few of his strongest men descended into the deep, huge cave-like hold of the Jesus of Lubeck. It was dark and cool and the noises above were muffled by the mass of wood beams and decks of planking above them. Small dusty rays of sunlight shone into the hull through a few of the holes put there by Spanish cannonballs. Through the small amount of natural light and latern light combined, Drake could see the monstrous chest Hawkins wanted him to move. He’d forgotten just how big it was. The chest was as large as any six combined that they had previously hauled. Drake knew they would not be able to move the chest without more men, tackle and booms. Just hauling it aft to below the main hatch, where it could be lifted by crane would take over half an hour. Drake cursed loudly, “Damn-blast the lumbering devil-wooded goliath!” He ordered his men to fill a few canvas bags full of silver ingots and get them aboard the Judith.
Topside, the wind was shifting northwest. Before the boats could even get close to the fire ship, the wind alone caused her to change course due north and then a short time later slighty northwest. Hawkins and his officers smiled and nodded their heads with relief. “God is with us still”, Hawkins commented. The firey derelict was now headed back towards the galleons in line. The galleon furthest north, came about and began heading east straight for the Jesus to avoid the flaming vessel. The galleons behind her were not so bold, turning about and heading west for the harbor docks across from them. This now gave the Englishmen a respite from Spanish cannonfire.
Captain Drake and his men now back aboard Judith, untethered her from the Jesus, pushed off, and began to make sail, as they guided the small ship around the stern and starboard side of the Minion. The wind was freshening, and Judith’s sails formed into large billowing white cloth cups, filled with wind as she pitched and bobbed forward, swiftly narrowing the distance to the north channel. Drake too was happy that the Spaniard’s own fire ship had thwarted their renewed attack and even more glad that the expanding black smoke rising from her burning timbers seemed to be preventing any further Spanish cannonfire. Drake was still full of concealed fear. He hoped Hawkins wouldn’t wait much longer to get Minion underway. He also was fearfully aware of large dark grey clouds covering the sky and blowing in from the eastern horizon. A storm was approaching certain sure. Drake hoped the wind wouldn’t shift to the west again and he knew, while the storm would prevent any Spanish pursuit, that the English would no longer have the safety of a harbor to shield them from nature’s fury.
Aboard the Jesus, Hawkins could also see the freshening weather coming and knew he must leave soon. He popped open his glass. He smiled as he saw the Judith starting into the channel, but still a little angry that Drake’s men hadn’t helped more with getting the last of the silver aboard the Minion. Hawkins went below to see what was still left. When he saw the giant chest of silver still in the hold, he exploded in anger. “That peevish base-court pignut!”, Hawkins scowled, “The man clearly is unable to carry out orders!” He turned to the Master Carpenter. “Master Tocks, get this chest aboard the Minion!” “Eye Cap’n”, Tocks replied. Unexpectantly, Mr. Crosby quickly appeared, noisely cluttering down the stair-ladder. “Captain Hawkins, better come up on deck, Sir!”, Crosby nervously spouted. “What is it man?”, Hawkins replied. “Dago’s closin on us fast Sir!” Hawkins could hear the Jesus’ guns suddenly begin echoing through the hull and vibrating the deck wood above him, loudly reporting to some new threat.
Hawkins hurried up the hold’s large primary stairs out onto the main deck and quickly stepped to the port gunwale. Now in the center waist of the Jesus, Hawkins surveyed the situation. The freshing weather had quickly pushed the fire ship nor-norwest and she was now out of the way of the Spanish. The three previously attacking galleons were all making straight for the Jesus. The northernmost galleon was much closer than the others and was quickly narrowing the distance, now no more than 150 yards away. The southernmost galleon changed course again pointing due north and opened fire once more. Hawkins ordered his gunners to target the closing galleon. As the Captain observed her closely, he could see her foc’sle was filled with Spanish soldiers. He knew they meant to try to board again.
For the first time Hawkins began to doubt whether they could repel another Spanish attack. As the experienced soldier quickly reviewed his options, his nephew Paul approached him. “Uncle, I’ve helped move all the victuals aboard the Minion as the bosun ordered, what should I do now?” Hawkins put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and began to speak. He paused for a moment. He was going to tell the boy to get to the Minion’s great cabin and stay there, but now he remembered that he had forgotten to transfer his own articles from the main cabin of the Jesus. “Paul, run to my quarters and get my sea chest to the great cabin of the Minion. If it’s too heavy for you, carry the contents seperately. Get my charts and astrolabe first and then the gold, silver and crystal after. Can you do that for me boy?” Paul answered, “You can depend on me Sir.” The boy scurried off to his new task.
The closing Spanish galleon’s bow had taken immense punishment from the Jesus’ guns, with large, gaping holes above and below her beakhead visable, but still she came. As she closed to under fifty yards distance, the Spanish ship changed course pointing south and brought her larboard guns to bear. She opened fire with thunderous noise. At close range her shot pierced the Jesus’ side like steel lances. Splinters burst from the great English ship’s port side. The Spanish arquebusiers in the tops of the Galleon began firing down upon the English carrack’s decks. With no fighting tops left on the Jesus, Spanish fire went largely unanswered as splinters flew from the deck – musket balls lodging themselves deep within the Jesus’ planking and a few wounded men who collapsed to the deck. English marksmen busy in the work of loading, dropped what they were doing and hurriedly moved back to the gunwales, some climbing over into the Minion’s fighting tops to return fire across the decks of the Jesus.
Master Tocks and a small crew of men began to rig tackle to the stub of the main mast and rigged a large pole across the hold’s main hatch. Hawkins moved to the carpenter and questioned, “What are you doing Tocks?” Master Tocks replied, “I cannot get the chest out without a boom and tackle Captain.” Hawkins who had been preoccupied with the current fight had assumed the chest was already moved. However, the men had spent all that time straining below just to move the giant chest to the large opening in the center of the hold under the main hatch. Hawkins paused in anger, about to tell them to be quick about their work, and then remembered the dream again, the words of his young sister echoing in his mind, “you must leave something behind”. Suddenly, Hawkins was snapped back to reality. A musket ball wizzed by and popped into the wood of the approximately ten foot tall broken stub of mainmast next to them. The men flinched slightly. Hawkins with stern resolve, gave new instructions, “Leave the damned chest behind. Start cutting the Minion loose, get aboard her and tell the Captain to prepare to make sail.”
Suddenly, cannon fire erupted from the island. The Spanish had managed to put several of the previously spiked guns back into action and were now firing into the starboard side of the Minion. Aboard the Jesus, the distance between the English carrack and Spanish galleon continued to close. The cannon and musket fire became even more intense as grey, sulpherous smoke billowed and rose in the narrowing gap. There was a fire on the quarter deck and and a moderate explosion could be heard below, probably from a broken gun or a powder keg. In an instance, grappling hooks lobbed over the Jesus’ railing from the approaching Spanish galleon, sounded with familiar multiple dull iron “thunk-thunk-thunks” into the wood of the embattled English flagship. “Cut those lines men!” Hawkins yelled. Captain Hawkins knew he must act now – this was the decisive moment. Hawkins screamed out at the top of his lungs, “Abandon ship men! Abandon ship! All hands to the Minion!” Men scurried from their stations and scrambled to get aboard the Minion, jumping and running over the ramps. Hawkins ran for the quarter-deck of the Minion.
Spanish boarders began to jump onto the steep sides of the Jesus, climbing over her side as the galleon’s crew pulled the two ships together. The last remnants of retreating Englishmen fought for their lives trying to get to the departing Minion. Hawkins had ordered all lines cut and to push off. The gap was slowly growing as the ships seperated – two feet, three feet, four. Hawkins observed intently as men continued to jump aboard the Minion. Suddenly and oddly, a large, bright ray of sunlight poured out of a gap in the grey sky directly onto the main deck and starboard side of the Jesus like a spotlight on a stage. Hawkins glanced at the lighted area to his left just in time to see a diminuative figure climb into the light and onto the rail of an aft segment of the waist gunwale. The ship’s boy was holding a small bag and large silver plate in one hand and a crystal goblet in the other. Hawkins neck hair stood up on end in panic as he realized it was his young nephew Paul Horsewell still attempting to get his personal effects aboard the Minion.
Paul stared across the gap in confusion at his Uncle, obviously not sure what to do. “Jump Paul!” Hawkins cried. Others yelled with their captain, “jump – JUMP!” Another late debarker jumped up onto the rail next to Paul and put his arm on the boy’s back in reasurrance. The man yelled back to the men on the Minion, “throw us a line!” Suddenly a Spanish musket ball entered the man’s back and exited his chest. The mortally wounded sailor looked down at the large bloody hole in his heart as he slumped and fell overboard into the gap between the English ships. Paul panicked and dropped the bag onto the top of the rail. The bag fell open and roughly thirty silver coins glinted in the light as they cascaded and bounced (almost in slow motion) metallically off of the side of the Jesus into the water below. More musketballs wizzed by and Paul dropped the plate and goblet over the side as well. He glanced one last time into his Uncle’s eyes before jumping back down onto the deck and running for the cable tier of the Jesus. It was the last time the relatives would ever see one another. “My God, what have I done? What will I tell the boy’s mother?”, Hawkins quietly muttered to himself. The gap had become far to large to attempt going back for him now and the ship was fully underway, all sails set and the wind propelling her quickly towards the north channel.
A few men could be seen to the rear still jumping overboard trying to swim in vain for the speeding Minion. Across the increasing distance, Spaniards could be seen swarming over the Jesus of Lubeck. However, their hard won prize was now on fire and they would have a difficult time putting it out. The wind was blowing even more and feeding the rising flames ever higher aboard the captured Jesus, while at the same time speeding the Minion away faster and faster from the carnage as she entered the north channel. Minion exchanged a few salvoes with the hastily refurbished shore guns as she exited the channel, but could not achieve any accuracy as the water had degraded into a heavy stormy chop. They were now beyond cannon range and none of the other galleons were in pursuit. Hawkins knew they wouldn’t follow him in the worsening weather. They were in for a stormy night.
As the Minion emerged into the open sea, the waves were cresting at over ten feet and the wind was still increasing. Hawkins could see the spec of the Judith a few miles ahead also struggling in the advancing storm. Just as both captains had worried, the wind shifted to the west now blowing them towards a lee shore. It appeared the Judith had no sails set with the exception of a scrap of the lateen to keep them in line on the wind. As evening approached, the coastline was only a little over a mile or two distance, and the port of San Juan de Ulloa could still be seen. Captain Hawkins was not willing to be blown any further inland and ordered Minion’s sails furled and anchors dropped. He followed Drake’s lead and set a scrap of their own lateen pulled taught to keep them stabilized in line with the wind. He would not allow the Minion to be a beached prize for the Spanish to seize the coming day. They would have to ride it out.
Luck, fate or providence had allowed the English to escape, but they were in a dire situation nonetheless. Hawkins wondered how many of his men were left. He knew he had probably lost half of his total compliment in the battle. Despite this, he knew both remaining ships were overloaded with both cargo and men. He also knew there were not enough provisions to get the now over-crowded and over-crewed Minion back to England. There were so many wounded aboard that there was not enough room below for them and some were forced to wait on deck while the men below were worked on by only a handful of medically savy sailors and soldiers. Over the course of the night, men that had died of their wounds were unceremoniously thrown overboard to make room for the living. After wandering about the ship and inspecting the situation, Captain Hawkins went to his quarters. Upon his table, were his charts and astrolabe, as well as a coffer full of gold escudos. Tears came to his eyes as he knew Paul had put them there in accordance with his orders. The captain knelt at his bunk, burying his head in his hands. Captain Hawkins quietly wept and prayed as exhaustion and sleep finally overcame him.
And now Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa (Part 9)
Suddenly Hawkins found himself in chains. “I must have been captured”, he thought. There were soldiers all about him in a spacious, dimly lit, gothic rib vaulted stone hall. “Bring the accused forward”, a youthful judge ordered. Two flanking soldiers pulled Hawkins forward by his chains to a tall wide judge’s bench. Hawkins looked up at the tall podium to see a shadowy but very youthful figure in judges robes above him. “We the court of the righteous inquisition adjudge Captain John Hawkins guilty of the crimes of slavery, piracy, avarice, idolotry, heresy, hypocracy, dereliction of duty, and abandonment. We herby order that his person be taken to a remote place of marooning and there be burned at the stake until dead.” Hawkins was shocked at the sentence and cleared his throat to speak. “If it please your honor, might I answer your charges and defend myself?” Hawkins querried. The judge leaned over out of the shadows into the dim light above the podium allowing his face to become descernable. It was his nephew Paul. “No Uncle, you left me to die!” Hawkins suddenly found himself tied to a stake above increasingly hot burning faggots of wood. Nothing could be seen but wide bleak scrubby desert as far as the eye could see. As he looked down he could see through the rising smoke that he was surrounded by emaciated starving and wounded men staring at him accusingly.
Hawkins awoke suddenly with a cluttering noise. He hadn’t slept long. The pitching of the ship riding the storm tossed his body from it’s kneeling position. Hawkins found himself in a disorganized heap next to a large aft bulkhead beam. It was still dark, but he realized immediately where he actually was and that he still wore his armor. Hawkins groaned as he picked his achey bones up off of the cabin deck and stood in the chaotically moving space. He snapped the catch on his helmet, pulled the buffe forward and slipped it off of his head. He pulled on the buckles of the cuirass, relieving their tension, then pulled the sweaty harness from his body and threw the whole thing into the corner. He opened the door to his quarters and moved down the stair-ladder forward into the hold. He could see men crowded around a surgeon ahead. As he made his way into the throng, he could see that several men were holding lanterns above the surgery. Crosby, holding a lantern himself, turned his head to meet his approaching commander’s eyes with a grim countenance.
It was a grisly scene. The current wounded patient laid upon a blood soaked table secured to a deck support. John looked down as the surgeon plopped another lead ball with a tinney dull ring into a small brass bowl. Hawkins looked into the bowl. It was full of blood covered lead balls of several sizes as well as a few broken arbalest bolt broadheads and bodkin points abased in a small pool of residual blood underneath. The floor was heavily sanded and the sand was red with blood. On one side of the table was a pile of blood soaked splinters of varying sizes from three to over twenty inches in length. On the other side was a large old bucket half full of severed limbs. Hawkins knew the surgeon well. He’d been with him for years and Hawkins had watched him mend his men many times. He was one of his old sergeants. He smiled slightly, remembering briefly listening to the man brag to another as they were getting underway, that he’d nearly killed the Spanish General himself, if the slingers hadn’t have got him first. “Probably an idle boast” John thought to himself, but he was glad that the man was aboard and greatly valued his skills.
Further forward, Captain Hawkins could see another lantern lit table with a similar scene unfolding simultaneously. Hawkins saw that the old sergeant would wait for the short steady lulls in the pitching of the hull to cut or extract. With the anchors dropped and a shred of lateen set, the motion of the ship was mostly steady side to side. However, forward to rear she rose and fell with a significant and haphazard pattern as the large waves passed below the hull. Sailors assisted in keeping patients steady while the surgeons operated in these poor conditions. Many would have preferred just to find a spot to ride out the storm and perform the necessary treatment when the weather got better. However, the experienced crew knew that men would bleed to death and wounds could fester causing sickness and death if not immediately treated right after a battle, so waiting was not an option – especially considering that no one could ever predict how long bad weather would last.
Hawkins pulled Crosby aside. “Do we have an accounting?” he asked. Crosby replied, “Not an accurate one as yet Sir.” Captain Hawkins thought for a moment. “We will wait for the morning then Crosby”, the captain said, as he turned away and slowly walked up the stair-ladder for the main deck. The rain had mostly subsided and just a fearsome wind assailed the ship – still, blowing spray from the sea wetted the decks. Hawkins looked north and could see the flickering lantern of the Judith appearing and disappearing a few miles off in the darkness. He was worried enough that the Minion would drag her anchors for the lee shore, but even more worried that the little Judith would surely drag her much lighter anchors. From the current poor view, it didn’t appear at least that they had gotten closer to land, but it was very hard to tell in the darkness. All he could do was hope and pray. After making an inspection of the trim of his vessel and the cables, Hawkins made his way back towards his quarters. He sat upon his bunk and pulled off his boots. He sighed deeply, knelt briefly to ask for God to bless his wounded men and grant him a northeast wind in the morning, and then crawled into his bunk. He stared at the ceiling as the ship rocked him to sleep.
The next morning John arose at first light and went out onto the quarter-deck to assess the situation. His crew was busy. They were repairing and replacing running rigging that had been damaged during the fight. Hammers and mallets could be heard pounding away both above and below decks. The waves had declined by a couple of feet, but the chop was still significant and it was clear that they were indeed now closer to shore. They had easily dragged their anchors half a mile or more over the course of the night. The wind had shifted from east blowing west, to now blowing northwest which was good, but John could not make out the Judith. He was terrified that she’d dragged her anchors and been beached, but after scanning the shoreline, he could not see her. He knew Drake would not have let her sink. He would have lightened the ship if necessary. Judith was gone. Hawkins was very angry that Drake had made sail without waiting for the Minion, but understood that Drake had probably been dragging his anchors through the night closer and closer to the beach. The young captain had probably stayed up all night looking for any advantage. When the wind had shifted northwest, Drake probably set the Judith close hawled on a course east by northeast. Hawkins begrudgingly thought to himself that he probably would have done the same thing in his situation.
Hawkins called for the bosun. “Aye Sir,” Mr. Smythe reported. “No Smythe, where is Mr. Tanner?” Smythe who was the bosun for the Minion had not been able to find his good friend the bosun of the now lost Jesus. “Sir, Mr. Tanner is not aboard”, Smythe replied. Hawkins paused thinking for a long time, wondering how he would manage without Tanner. “Where is Captain Moon?” Hawkins asked. “The Captain was wounded awful bad when we attacked the Dago carrack, Sir. The surgeon tried to stop the bleeding. We bound up his wounds good Sir, but as tight as the dressings were, the captain bled out from his leg. He gave up the ghost just a few hours ago Sir.” Hawkins bit his lip hard. “Smythe, bring me Tocks and what officers you can to the great cabin.” “Aye Sir”, Smythe replied with a salute and went off to his orders.
About twenty minutes later. Master Tocks, Mr. Crosby and and an assortment of less than ten surviving lieutenants, sergeants and corporals assembled. “Is this all Smythe?” Hawkins querried. “Aye Sir, all others are left behind, wounded beyond duty or are gone to the grave Sir”, Smythe replied. Hawkins emotions were now completely frayed. He could barely keep his composure as his hatred for the Spanish and their deceit seethed within him. At that moment he thought about horrible ways to punish the entire Spanish race by putting them to the sword. Hawkins sat down at the large table and asked everyone to be seated. “The wind has shifted somewhat favorably. Are we ready to get underway?”, the captain asked. Master Tocks answered, “the darkness prevented us from completely sealing the hull – repairing all of the worst battle damage. We are taking on very little water and I think we can be safely ready to get underway by mid day.”
Hawkins further querried, “so what is the accounting Mr. Crosby.” Crosby answered, “Sir, we escaped the fight with over three hundred aboard. Fifty three died of their wounds during the night. We currently have two hundred and fifty-four souls aboard. Fifteen others are not expected to recover Sir.”
Hawkins wondered how many Drake got out with on the Judith. She was only fifty tons but her decks were full of men. She had to have had at least eighty men aboard, Hawkins thought. The English commander now knew that almost half of his men had been left behind at San Juan de Ulloa – some living, most dead. He was sorely agrieved. Crosby continued, “Sir, some twenty of our dead are still aboard. We thought that you might want to address the crew both in prayer and words for our dead and give us our new orders.” Hawkins was taken aback, but understood the need to follow the advice. Both hope and good order was now of the utmost importance if the Englishmen were to make it home. “Of course Crosby. Yes, I will address the men”, Hawkins replied.
“And what of the larder – how long will our provisions last us with the number of mouths aboard?”, Hawkins asked. Crosby replied, “Sir, the victualing was not complete when the Dagos cut our cables. We have three score days of provisions. Even with best speed, it will last us only half the journey.” Hawkins added, “and we in our weakened state and but a single ship stand no chance of safety to add to our victuals in any Dago port west of here. No, we must make straight for England. I shall put it to the men. Assemble the ships company at noon hour.”
Noon came and Hawkins walked out to the quarter-deck railing to address the men crowded on the main deck. The weather had gradually become much calmer over the course of the last few hours. Captain Hawkins yelled out over the wind and noise of creaking timbers and lines. “Men, you have accounted yourselves well to your Captain, to your Sovereign and to God. The Dagos at that harbor and fort will forever remember what it is to face Englishmen in battle. By my accounting they lost twice our numbers and your formidable gunnery and lethal arms brought low many of their greatest ships and men. You can be proud to know that because of our brave actions back there, King Phillip has been deprived of his treasure fleet this year. I am proud to have fought and bled with you and I vow my boys that WE WILL HAVE REVENGE!” The Spaniard’s have not yet realized that with their demonstrated deceipt they incite great warlike workings against them. Knowing how badly we bloodied them back their – how badly do you think they will have it when the manhood of our whole great island nation is arrayed against them? Now we must bury our dead and pray to God for their souls who richly deserve paradise for the good they have done in dispatching so many papists to everlasting hellfire.”
Selected men began solemny depositing the remaining dead over the railings to their final watery graves as the crew recited the Lord’s Prayer. With the ceremony finished, Hawkins now prayed aloud thanking God for their deliverance and beseeching Him to bless them on their journey homeword. He then continued to address the crew. “Men we have not victuals enough for the journey home and dare not to venture into another Dago port in our poor weakened state. We must make for home. As things stand now, we will be eating our shoe leather halfway through this journey. I will not turn one man of you from this ship and will rely on providence to deliver us all. However, if there are some of you that would rather take your chances ashore, I will not hold it against them and will debark them at a safe point of land. I put it to you to decide. Now men, we must get underway. MAKE SAIL!”
Two days later, the Minion made landfall. Over a hundred men chose to leave ship to take their chances on land at the southernmost tip of what is now the State of Texas. They were exhausted. Some of the more experienced seamen had starved on previous journeys and wanted no part of doing it again. The seriously wounded were left with them, as their chances for recovery were much better on land. The men were given a meager amount of supplies, canvas for shelters, a little gold for purchasing, and firearms for defense. With good-byes said, the Minion now again made way for England.
and now the conclusion of Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa
Captain Hawkins had reassured the men left behind that a ship would come back for them. The castaways knew they would have to wait many months before that happened, so they attempted to build themselves a camp. Foragers went out to look for wild game and timber for fires and defense. The men returned largely empty handed. No good timber could be found to build a fort and the game was sparse. Foragers had already found fresh water that was used to reprovision the Minion before her departure, but the natural shelter and defense on the sandy point was very bad. Hawkins himself had camped there with them for three days, helplessly watching as the Minion bounced and rode atop the chop as she battled yet another gale before the weather finally calmed again and he was able to depart.
After Hawkins departure, the men moved their camp inland a few miles along the river to a new location and stayed until the remaining wounded died or recovered enough to move. The food was meager. Rodents and scrub fowl were caught in traps and some luck with fishing had barely allowed the men to subsist. Out of over a hundred men put ashore a month before, over twenty were dead. A small cemetery had slowly grown next to the riverbank. Foragers finally managed to kill some wandering cattle. The men knew they could not survive there much longer and agreed they must move again. Not everyone could agree on where to go, but all were agreed that the time was right to move. Over a final meal of the remaining meager rations the men shook hands as they went their opposite ways. A group of twenty three men wanted to move north along the gulf coast to find what they could. They had heard tales of friendly Indians to the north. The other eighty or so went south towards Tampico. Of the twenty three that went north, only three managed to live and eventually return to England.
The men that went south continued to butcher cattle as they wandered for almost a month, covering the three hundred miles to Tampico. A local rancher complained to the authorities about his losses, and a military patrol was dispatched to find the wandering Englishmen. Early one evening about two months after the battle, the Englishmen were surrounded by Spanish cavalry who had found their makeshift camp just north of Tampico. They were captured without a struggle and were then marched south another three hundred miles back to Vera Cruz.
After the battle at San Juan de Ulloa, most of the remaining English soldiers and sailors were slaughtered while the Spaniards searched the island for survivors and looted the Jesus of Lubeck for any treasure left behind. The Spaniards had managed to extinguish the fires and saved the great, hard won, English prize ship. Historically, the Jesus would be one of only two ships belonging to the crown of England to be captured by the Spanish. Between the hostages that had been exchanged as part of the broken agreement, Robert Barrett who had been captured while trying to gain an audience with the Viceroy just before the battle, and the handful of prisoners captured after the battle (to include young Paul Horsewell), there were a little over thirty odd Englishmen thrown into the prison vaults within the fort on the island that had been the scene of so much recent carnage. They were joined about three months later by approximately seventy additional survivors caught by the Spanish and forced to march south back to the Vera Cruz area. After some correspondence between the Viceroys of Vera Cruz and Mexico City, it was decided that these hundred or more English prisoners would be forced to march the roughly two hundred and fifty miles to Mexico City, to be put on trial there.
Back at sea, the hardships were just as bad. Captain Hawkins barely kept his crew functioning through numerous storms and outbursts of anger. Hawkins did an eloquent job of keeping his crew calm and focused, even talking them out of mutiny on a couple of occasions. About two months into the journey back to Europe, scurvy broke out. Men’s hands turned black, their gums bled and they spit out their teeth. They became too weak to work and many died. In some ways it was a blessing as the ship had run dangerously low on provisions and as Hawkins had predicted, they began boiling their leather goods (to include their shoes) to make soup. There was not a rat aboard. They had all been found and eaten. At about the same time that the Englishmen in Vera Cruz began their death march for Mexico City, the ghost ship Minion limped into the European port city of Vigo Spain. With the crew weakened almost unto death, the task of navigation had all but been given up with the knowledge that they would hit land if they just continued to sail east. The handful of crew able enough to reduce sail, dropped the Minion’s only remaining anchor. All of the other anchors had been lost in the storms after the battle as they tried to hold positions on lee shores outside of San Juan de Ulloa and when they put half their crew ashore north of Tampico.
Spain and England were not at war and no one yet knew of the great battle that had occurred at San Juan de Ulloa. Captain John Hawkins stumbled down the gangway to visit the harbor master. He swallowed his hatred for the Spanish as he begged the man to assist him with victuals and medical attention for his disabled crew. The harbor master was shocked by Hawkins gaunt, emaciated appearance. Still, John held his pride high, and forbade his men to drink with the Spanish ashore, or let Spaniards (other than a few physicians) come aboard the Minion. Captain Hawkins revictualed the ship, made necessary repairs, and nursed his remaining crew back to health. A month later, the Minion set sail, on course for England once again.
Back in Mexico, the surviving English prisoners limped and hobbled into Mexico City. Deprived of food and water, many had died on the journey. The Viceroy, Don Enriquez wanted to hang the whole lot of them as soon as they marched into the center square. However, he was persuaded by his religious advisors to be fair and just and instead put the men on trial, not for piracy, but instead heresy – giving them the chance to recant their heretical ways. The Englishmen were led before the assembled court of Judges, Priests and Dons. Many of the younger prisoners like Paul Horsewell were simply flogged and then thrown into prison for two or three years. Those that recanted and recited the Credo (becoming Roman Catholic) were also flogged and thrown into prison, but for longer terms. Nineteen of the men were sentenced to serve out the rest of their natural lives aboard the King’s galleys as slave oarsmen. The older Englishmen, those that were the obvious leaders in the group and those that openly refused to recite the Credo, like Robert Barrett, were flogged viciously, thrown into prison, and sentenced to go before the Holy Inquistion in Seville Spain, when transportation could be made convenient. Of those that were not sentenced to be transported to Spain, only one, Miles Philips would eventually make his way back to England.
After another week at sea, the men aboard the Minion cheered as they sighted the shores of England again for the first time in over seventeen months. The crew reduced sail as Minion entered Plymouth harbor. As they got closer and closer to land, John smiled as he could clearly make out the unmistakeable profile of the Judith moored at the main dock – Drake had made it safely home as well.
John sighed deeply and closed his eyes, quietly muttering a prayer of thanks as the ship closed the final distance to the awaiting slipway. He had often wondered if he would actually make it back to England alive this time, and as he stepped onto the dry land of his homeland once again, he had already resolved to himself that this was the end of his last expedition. He brooded at his losses and resolved to send ships back for the men left behind, but he would not command the venture. His guilt at failing so many men had caused him to have more nightmares than ever before. As he shook hands with the waiting harbor master, he learned that Drake had only made port a week before. Between the Judith and Minion, less than seventy men remained to step off of the ships with Drake and Hawkins. Captain John Hawkins was now a very rich man. After he paid off his investors with four draft horses laden with gold, paid his crews generously (making them all rich men themselves) and dismissed them, Hawkins finally realized that he was wealthy beyond reckoning.
Each of Hawkins investors easily made a hundred-fold their original investments in gold pesos and escudos. However, John was never able to reconcile his loses. He obsessed about his loss for the rest of his life. He had petitioned the Queen and courts for restitution, covering the loss of the Jesus of Lubeck and her armaments. His grievances were never answered, but John did eventually get his revenge in many other ways. Despite his riches, as John continued to get older and wiser, he often thought to himself that his affluence was not worth the high cost of flesh and blood that had been exacted. That high cost, continued to haunt him for all of his remaining years.
In 1571, after over two years in prison, Robert Barrett and his comrades finally boarded a ship at Boca del Rio, just south of the port at San Juan de Ulloa, to make the Atlantic passage for Spain. Barrett was glad to breathe the sea air again and hoped that he could somehow make it back to England someday. Surprisingly, the Englishmen were given free access to the decks of the ship and even assisted the crew in their daily routine. As the ship entered the channels east of Florida off modern Cape Canaveral into the Bahama straits, Barrett being somewhat familiar with the waters knew the ship was in danger on it’s current course. Barrett loudly ordered the helmsman to bear off to the east. His actions saved the ship and the captain thankful for Barretts help entered the event into the log. Additionally, the captain sent a letter praising his actions to the Inquisition in the hopes it would help his case. Regardless, Barrett found himself in another prison for months in the Azores. His frustration caused him to attempt escape and that did nothing to help him before he finally made it to the Spanish Inquisition’s prison in Seville. Instead of the promised trial, most of the Englishmen were simply thrown into prison once again and forgotten about. During this time, one man was able to get a letter to Hawkins letting him know about what had transpired with the surviving crew. The letter did nothing but further amplify Hawkins guilt.
Though Hawkins was at home in Plymouth, his duties over the years had seen him spend more time in London than at his home. At court, Hawkins had tried to get approval in forming another expedition to go back for his men as he had promised, but it was impossible the first years after his return. His actions were under investigation and after the initial reports trickled in as to the English prisoner’s fates, John gave up on the venture after a few years. In London, John would go to an old pub, The Devil’s Tavern. Several times a year he would meet there with a few of his surviving comrades to talk about the ill fated expedition, the fierce battle, and the fates of the known survivors. Croniclers fell in with their company and wrote about Hawkins story. It became widely read. During the years after the battle, Hawkins was promoted to more and more important positions within the government and he was instrumental in the redesign of the navy to meet the needs of English colonial expansion, national defense and in challenging ever increasing Spanish regional and global domination. Hawkins had made sure that the navy that faced the Great Armada of 1588 was made up of ships that were faster than any Spanish galleon afloat and could out-range them with more accurate and lethal ordinance as well. Although Hawkins had been brevetted a knight in action many years before by his own father – for his actions in the channel against the Spanish, as well as his management of the navy to allow it to so well meet the threat of the Armada, the Queen herself knighted Hawkins making him a peer of the realm.
Twenty-three years after the battle at San Juan de Ulloa, and some three years after the great Armada had been defeated in the English channel, Captain Crosby met with Old Hawkins at The Devil’s Tavern once again. The men embraced as old friends and were glad to see each other. It was clear to all present that the men were very fond of one another. Crosby had command of his own fine race-built galleon now in the Queen’s service. Hawkins was on the Navy board and in the Queen’s highest confidence in outfitting the navy, as well as reviewing and collecting funds for the crown gained from privateering expeditions.
The men spoke fondly of Drake and talked of his latest ventures. They laughed and spoke warmly of men long gone. Crosby perked up with anticipation and Hawkins could see he was withholding something. “What is it Crosby”, Hawkins asked, “you’re acting like a brand new powder monkey.” Crosby responded, “I have a surprise for you Captain – speaking of powder monkeys, do you remember young Job Hartop?” Hawkins smiled and stared a thousand years into the past. A tear came to his eye. “Of course I remember Hartop”, Hawkins responded, “a good friend of Paul’s. Only fourteen years when we went to Guinea last if I recall.” Crosby stood, “Aye, he was just a lad Sir. Yet here he is returned to us My Lord”. Crosby motioned a signal with his right hand and a man wearing a grey cloak came out of the shadows. Hawkins face lit up as the man appoached.
The man pulled his hood off and Hawkins was struck dumb with surprise by his countenance. Although Hawkin’s could recognize Hartop, he was now bald, his face was weathered and leathery, and his eyes were sunken and tired. His eyebrows were as white as snow and the man looked older than Hawkins even though he was half his age. “Captain, it’s good to see you.” Hartop exclaimed. “It took me twenty three years to get home, but I finally made it.” Hawkins was thirsty for answers to questions that had plagued him for years. “Let me buy you as much food and drink as you can quell and tell me your story man.” he pleaded.
Job Hartop told a long sad tale of flogging and years of endured hardship. He had been whipped like the rest, but refused to recant his beliefs and recite the Credo in Mexico City. He was subsequently shipped back with Robert Barrett and nineteen others to be judged by the Inquisition in Seville. “Do you know what happened to Paul, Job?” Hawkins asked. “They whipped him awful bad Sir, and he took the Credo. The Dagos let him go after two years in prison Sir. I don’t know what became of him after that”, Hartop responded.
“And what of Barrett, Job?” Hawkins enquired. “Aww Sir, Robert Barrett kept us together and going. He saved our ship. We were all sentenced together. Fifteen of us survived to be sentenced by the Dago court. They sent twelve of us to King Phillip’s galleys. The Dago bastards burned Barrett and two others at the stake Sir. They made us watch Sir. It was the most horrible thing I ever saw Sir. Barrett never even screamed Sir. They garrotted the others before they burned them Sir, but Barrett argued with the Dagos about purgatory, and prayin to the Virgin Mary and the saints. He said Christ’s grace and forgiveness was all he needed and not the judgement of corrupt men sitting on a court of the devil. The damned Dago bastards burned him alive for it Sir.” There was a long silent pause. Hawkins was shocked. He had wondered for years about what had became of Barrett, but never thought he would have come to such a cruel and painful end.
Hawkins eyes were filled with tears as he listened to Hartop drone on about his story. He was the only survivor of the twelve sentenced to the galleys. The Spaniards couldn’t believe he had survived so long, and so sentenced him to take up the cloth as a penitent. Hartop spent four more years in a prison before finally being released to work as a servant for an affluent Spanish family. Hartop found an opportunity to escape, made his way north and signed on as a hand on a merchant vessel bound for England. After twenty-three years, he was finally home. Even though his conscience was clear, his nightmares were even worse than Hawkins.
Almost five thousand miles away across the Atlantic, in a hot, arid valley, a man behind a plow ceased work for a moment. He pushed up the wide brimmed straw hat to wipe the sweat from his brow. An attractive sturdy Mexican woman called from a small adobe hovel, “Paulo, la comida esta lista.” The food was ready and the farmer had been hard at work since sunrise. It was time for siesta he thought. As he entered the hovel he kissed a fat brown-skinned baby girl on the cheek. He very much enjoyed the meager meal. He drank to his satisfaction from his well and then lay down in the shade for his siesta. He pulled his wide brimmed hat down over his eyes. His dreams were of his mother and home of long ago. He had almost forgotten how to think in English. He hoped everyone was well and often wondered if his great Uncle John had ever made it back to Plymouth safely, and if so, if he ever still thought of him.
Stay tuned next week for Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa: Epilogue and Author’s notes. MK
Debacle at San Juan de Ulloa: EPILOGUE and Authors Notes
The Battle of San Juan de Ulloa is one of those largely neglected historical subjects that has had a much greater impact upon history than anyone gives it credit for now. I see the battle as something of an origin point to which a great many modern military and political concepts are distantly tied. The ripple effects were global in scope. Arguably, they can even still be felt now in our own age. Among the first order of effects were that it clearly served as a violent display and message for the expanding world that the Spanish had no intentions of sharing any part of their Papally sanctioned claimed possessions in the New World, to include trade – even in time of peace. Also, the event poisoned both Hawkins and Drake so viciously against the Spanish that they subsequently bred an entire generation of privateers, fighting men, sea dogs, and sea beggars that would espouse the opinions of their mentors and take on the might of the Spanish Empire around the globe in a very militant way. Hawkins not only shaped decades of naval policy, improvements and expansion, but also convinced influential political colleagues and the Queen’s own council in shaping national policy that opposed the Spanish in every theater. In short, that path set Spain and England on an inevitable collision course that ultimately led to the destruction of two Spanish Armadas and crippled Spain’s abilities to defend her global trade with an appropriate level of naval power for over a generation.
The Netherlands which became an eighty year battle-ground starting the very year of our story, saw the apex of European conflict of the times, in the Thirty Years War, which left Europe a giant cemetary. Many historians have argued that this was the true “First World War”. It was a culmination of religious differences, dynastic struggles, trading policy, and national movements of independence all roled into one great war. Englishmen flocked to the Dutch cause to assist their Protestant brothers in their fight against their Habsburg Catholic Spanish overlords. There has never been such agressive privateering before or since, as that which occured off the waters of Dunkirk, Ostend, and the mouth of the Scheldt into the North Sea. English captains and men actively served aboard those ships opposing the Oostenders and were funded by wealthy English investors and even the crown. Those men learned their skills and trade there. On land as the tides of war slowly shifted in favor of the Dutch, modern warfare had emerged. The Dutch military reforms of Prince Maurice were mimicked and attempted by every land force on the continent. English officers served as some of the highest level commanders and advisors in the Dutch Army, and English monarchs sent numerous regiments to assist the Dutch throughout their eighty year long struggle for independence.
Drake surely remembered San Juan de Ulloa his entire illustrious career of raiding around the globe. His brother captains and their trained progeny of subsequent generations learned to optimize the English and Flemish race-built galleons of the time for hard hit and run raiding. This model of trading/raiding was the norm for a quarter of a century until companies and crowns recognized far greater profits could be made from occupying the areas and establishing garrisons, factories, plantations, and colonies. A sort of arms race of fortification began to entrench the competitors into their claims. This race could be said to have had its beginnings at San Juan de Ulloa. Indeed the embarrassment of losing great ships and having local fortifications seized by wandering pirates that were but a fraction comparitively to the local troop strength and population, made hardening Spanish towns to future depredations a top priority of King Phillip. Millions of escudos were spent over the next century fortifying every Spanish port. The building program was implemented within months after the battle and in just a decade towns and ports with no forts suddenly had them, and larger more important cities and ports like those around the Vera Cruz area found themselves with immense bristling fortresses, long wide sea walls, and adjustable chain booms across strategic channels and inlets. It could be said that this factor along with others like increasingly larger and improved cannon, led to the standardization and building of increasingly large gun platforms in the way of ever larger and larger warships to challenge fortification.
Additionally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Hawkins’ expeditions established the infamous triangle trade that became the standard method for abducting and enslaving Africans from their homelands and so cruelly displacing them to a foreign continent to work their lives away in mines and on plantations. Millions subsequently were abducted into bondage, kept barely alive contained in the worst accomodations imaginable, and sold like a commodity to work like animals. Countless thousands died in just the transport process alone. However, one must acknowledge the impact these countless souls made in building this new world and shaping the societys that lived there culturally, socially, and politically from the time of their bondage to their hard one freedom, and continuing up to modern times.
I must add that I don’t think that Hawkins thought of himself as an evil man for plying the slave trade, nor do I think most of his contemporaries found his actions wrong. Its clear from my study of Hawkins that he was an extremely religious man and prayed often. Because of this, I personally believe that the human, core parts of John Hawkins psyche caused internal guilt over what he had done, and I tried to capture that aspect in my story, however, I think that Hawkins, despite his actions was not evil, but quite simply a product of his times. His actions however, had evil consequences that clearly and dramatically affected both himself and the many souls around him – many that relied on him. In some ways this is the ultimate Karma story.
One final thought is that Hawkins fourth expedition wasn’t actually his last. His sense of adventure and desire for revenge, drove him to make one last venture in 1594 – three years after our fictional meeting the the Devils Tavern. He is buried at sea somewhere north of Cuba and south of Turks. But that is another story…..
As a disclaimer, I would like to say first that I have not edited any of the writing above and it is all first draft, so any mispellings or odd sentence structures will be edited later once I have a few stories ready for a compilation. I do plan to compile groups of four to five short stories together in books. I write very quickly and spent no more than an hour or two on any single part. I find everything flows well when I write quickly. All this to say that I will probably change a lot of content before I actually publish. I spend much more time researching and going over available material on the subject which is really my passion as a historian, than the writing afterwords. I love to fill the unknown gaps in the historical record/material with the fictional “it could have happened like that” content that I make up myself, or assume.
I will also say that I quickly play through the events in my mind prior to writing anything after I research the material. Often historical record leaves a lot of areas very vague and you only have shreds of evidence to put the story together. I realize that I went a little crazy in a few areas for the sake of a good story. I also admit to a few historical inaccuracies, however, I really feel that 95 percent of what I wrote is how the events at San Juan de Ulloa played out. From researching multiple accounts written by others and looking at logs and anecdotes, I have found that the existing accounts do not agree on many areas. Also there is some clear confusion as to how the battle actually unfolded spatially that can only be clerified by taking a hard look at maps (both modern and contemporary) and the few surviving period illustrations (wood-cuts, etc.) of the area as well. Other authors clearly failed to fully understand how all the events unfolded because they didn’t study the geography well enough taking into consideration how the port was laid out in 1568.
The first inaccuracy in my story is obvious. The spyglass or telescope was not documented as invented until 1608 by a Dutch spectacle maker named Hans Lippershey. I couldn’t resist though. I wanted to set the stage with Hawkins not knowing what he was in for, but getting the best looks at things possible. Its amazing to think that seamen only relied on the naked eye before 1608. Keep in mind that you can only see about seven miles at sea before the horizon curves beyond our view. It only appears further because it’s the ocean with no discernable features, unless objects are placed there by man or the viewer is in proximity to land. At any rate the telescopes in existence until the 19th century only provided a 3X view – still a great advantage.
There is actually some evidence that there may have been a few existing scopes before 1608 invented by unknowns. There is no concrete proof other than secondary anecdotal mentions. We do know that some early proto-type telescopes were possibly invented in England by Leonard Digges as early as the 1560’s, however, no existing pieces of these survive and all we are left with are vague descriptions. Some say they were never made. I believe that with as many obscure mentions of special observational devices to aid in discerning details at distance existing, that is it entirely possible that there were a handful of non-standard “one-off” scopes made before 1608. With Hawkins venture being sanctioned by the Queen, a meeting could have occurred at court, where the well known adventurer could have been introduced to the excentric inventor Digges by the Queen herself, and been given the early telescope as a gift – with the desire by the inventor to report back on the advantages of it’s workings.
Indeed if I were ever given the opportunity to make the story into a movie, I would start in the darkness with jungle noises and the clutter of of people moving with weapons and armor jostling about. The first image seen would be the fiersom torchlit face of an African Lusitanian warrior in dotted white warpaint, leading Hawkins on a village slave raid. He would first use the scope to look at the village at first light and then after the raid peer back through it at the burning village. Then he would be writing in his log aboard ship and would flash back to the court scene where he first received the scope and then briefly flash forward to cover the loading of the ships and good-byes to family as well as the receiving of his nephew Paul by his sister Judith at the dock with a plea to take good care of her boy.
Tobacco is given by Hawkins as a gift to Campodilla after the initial negotiations. This is not North American tobacco as no English colonies would be established in the Americas capable of exporting tobacco for another fifty years. However, tobacco sellers were already well established in Lisbon and the new vice had been seen, exported and used by the gentlemen of many European courts during this time. Many people incorrectly assume it was the Dutch or English that established tobacco use, but this simply is not true. The Portuguese of Brazil were the first to export the addictive leaf as a major commodity. I wasn’t able to find out if Hawkins was a pipe smoker or not. I have even checked his earlier portraits. I took writer’s license here – he may have never touched the stuff.
The next area of uncertainty was the geography of the place itself. I spent a lot of time looking at modern google maps and comparing them with the few surving historical renderings of what the port formerly looked like. If you look at a modern map you will see that the northern inlet no longer exists. They filled it in with modern dock space and warehouses enclosing the harbor to where it can now only be approached from the south. The historical drawings of the port show it with a clearly separated island away from the mainland. Now on the naming of the island proper and where Hawkins actually landed, the differing accounts are confusing. I think a lot of this has to do with what we think of as Vera Cruz now and what they considered it then. Vera Cruz would seem to be the town across from the dock, but the old maps show different. I assert that no town existed where modern Vera Cruz is now except the small port harbor town across from the island that was actually considered part of San Juan de Ulloa. In fact I believe that was the original true name of the harbor town, and the island simply followed suit.
The modern town of Boca del Rio exists on the southernmost part of modern Vera Cruz on the river inlet. I believe this to be where the disappearing Spanish galleons mysteriously left to for reinforcments. This town was nine miles away and beyond site of the horizon. It had a deep river and well established port improved enough to embark the hundreds of Spanish soldiers that would be deployed in the attack. Vera Cruz proper was actually an extensive region around both ports at this time. I believe that trade and administration were conducted at Boca del Rio as there was a well established town there, a good water way, an improved port and a road network that terminated there. This I think is were the Vice Roy of Vera Cruz would have hung his hat. When we say New York City we often think of Manhattan island. In the same way I think Boca del Rio/Rivera del Rio was referred to as Vera Cruz five hundred years ago.
Vera Cruz is an absolutely fascinating area and chalked full of deep interesting history. The great conquistador Hernan Cortez himself debarked near the same area and burned his fleet there to prevent deserters from attempting to abandon his enterprise of Mexican conquest. Numerous battles and raids occurred there after Hawkins escape by much larger better equipped fleets of Dutch and English. I’m half tempted to go all James Mitchener about the place. I can’t believe more hasn’t been written about it – Very bloody place full of 500 years of wrecks, graves, and heavily concentrated, redolent echos of the full human experience.
Several of the modern accounts say that when Hawkins entered the harbor that he immediately moored to the island. I KNOW this is not true. 1. The fort and facilities on the island were far too meager and inadequate at that time to have been capable of resupplying and refitting Hawkins ships. We know that there was no sea wall yet built on the island, yet Hawkins initially moored at a sea wall. Last, we know from Hawkins own log that the fleets cables were cut and that his flotilla was adrift. We know the battle occurred on the island, so Hawkins made the best of things and moved his fleet to the great sand bar adjacent to the small fort after this event.
The fort was indeed fairly small as I describe, but many writers have seen the fort that is currently there or pictures of the construction in the 17th century and so have over exagerated its role in the action. An interesting side effect of San Juan de Ulloa was that a building program was started in every Spanish city in the Caribbean afterword. The Spanish were determined that what happened there would never happen again in any Spanish colony. Overkill is an understatement with regards to the fortifications the Spanish built there afterwords.
The Venganza de Dios is a creation of my own. We know that Delgadillo was real, but the accounts seem to confuse his role. He is said to have been the key leader that did the most to prevent Hawkins from escaping with his whole fleet. Some have said he was in charge of the harbor or fort. The timeline I came up with made it difficult for Delgadillo to take back the fort and thwart Hawkins. The duel that takes place in the story between Drake and Delgadillo is my own creation added to bring the story to and exciting climax and explain how the fictional Venganza that had caused so much damage was taken out of action. As a student of Western Martial Arts, I couldn’t resist adding a couple of dirty fence moves like the ankle skewer and the Coup de Jarnac.
I do not believe the fort was used to the degree that many writers have said. I have two reasons for believing this. One – was that the fort itself was not large at all and we know it didn’t have that many guns. Even though there is no historical records to prove it, I know Hawkins men would have spiked the guns. This was just common practice. I didn’t go so far as to say they used actual spikes though, as if they were planning it. These were seaborne soldiers/sailors, not land soldiers, so it’s doubtful they had spikes with them. They would have improvised as I discuss.
Raids to spike guns on land were common. The spike was often soft metal like lead that could be hammered into a touch hole. See Alatriste clip:
This made the gun impossible to fire until the touch hole was drilled out again. The gun on the tower I describe was spiked by tripple loading it and shoving a bunch of debris in the bore in front of the last ball. That would have certainly caused the destructive explosion I describe. The event itself was invented by me….but hey it could of happened. Bottom line, is that I don’t think the fort’s cannon played the decisive role they have been commonly credited with. There weren’t enough of them and they would have been damaged, and if they were in working order from the time the transfer of cargo began until its completion (we’re talking about hours of loading here) the guns of the fort/shore batteries would have sunk the whole fleet. I believe from the shreds of evidence I’ve found, that Captain Delgadillo led a fast, formidably armed ship in a decisive action against Hawkins smaller ships, hence the quick rakish brightly colored Flemish Pinnace, the Venganza de Dios which appropriately enough means Vengeance of God. Again, she is purely my invention.
Mercenaries: Some may think I went a little far out here, but I don’t think so. I’ve spent nearly a quarter century as a professional Army officer and a student of military history. I like to think at least that my experience comes through in my writing. I don’t know if Hawkins and Drake actually had the numbers of mercenaries with them I describe, but I am certain there would have been some. I focused on German and Irish mercenaries because they were the most common. The Irish and Scots were spread all around the Europeon continent’s armies. The huge, axe wielding Gallowglas warriors I mention are noted in historical records as fighting as far east as Byzantium and Poland against the Swedes and Tartars. The landsknechts were actually fairly common in Spanish armies on the European continent and would have been found in every major European army of the times – both Catholic and Protestant. I have not been able to find any evidence that they ever made their way to the Americas. It would have actually been more likely to find them on the Spanish side, but I don’t think specialized troops would have been brought over just to garrison colonial outposts. So I don’t think its too much of a stretch to believe that Landsknechts and Zweihanders could have been on Hawkins venture. Hawkins had good capital going in and would have hired good men – whoever was available. Some accounts say he left England with only four hundred. I don’t believe that. I don’t think his raids would have been effective with that number. Half that number would have been required aboard ship. Its clear from the record that he had heavy infantry, arbalesters, and arquebusiers. For any one of these types to be effective both in raiding and the latter battle, there must have been more men. Also we know he picked up more men in Guinea. Guinea had become a bustling European outpost.
The Portuguese, English and Dutch all fought over West Africa’s increasingly large forts and towns for a hundred and fifty years after our story. Men would have been available for recruitment there. I have always seen Ireland as England’s training ground and model for military expedition and colonial expansion prior to the European migration. Indeed the battles in Ireland were in full swing during the time of our story. Most English soldiers had served there. An interesting cost of that conflict is that one of every two English soldiers of the time were buried there. By the time Elizabeth was dead in 1603 and the Irish nobles finally abandoned Ireland for the continent a short time later, the Irish War had completely depleted the English treasury. Colonial expansion and exploitation was badly needed to bring treasure into English coffers and offer continuing opportunities to English soldiers. If Ireland was England’s first modern war/training area, (besides the Netherlands during the Eighty and Thirty Years Wars)West Africa became really the first battle ground in colonial struggle between European powers, but is commonly neglected in historical journalism and modern histories. The ivory coast and gold coast were named aptly because of the commodities the Europeans were exploiting there. I have never seen an old map with a label of “Slave coast”, but have often wondered if the country of Niger got it’s name from that type of similar exploitation. The coastal tribes assisted the Europeans in expeditions to extract/abduct slaves further inland from what is now modern Angola and Niger. I believe that considering the size of Hawkins ships, the battles he was involved in – in Africa before making the Atlantic crossing, the capturing of prizes, the strong armed tactics he used in numerous South American ports to forcibly sell his cargoes and take what he liked from the cities, and the resilience his forces showed when horribly outnumbered at the battle San Juan de Ulloa, that four hundred is too small of a number. Also when you consider the mortality rate at sea in those times, expeditions would try to fill the ships with as many men possible. A common historical statistic that has always stayed with me is from the Dutch VOC. Many East Indiamen would leave with two or three hundred men aboard a single ship for a two year voyage to the Indies. It was not unusual for the ship to make it back to Amsterdam with only fifteen to twenty survivors. I have no idea where the writers got the number seven hundred from and have not been able to find anything like a manefest or an entry in Hawkins log discussing his numbers. I have erred on the side of the higher discovered number.
Characters: Campodilla is fictional, but I believe from the log entries that Hawkins met with an initial group of representatives. Some have said it was Delgadillo, but I don’t believe this as I think he was with the treasure fleet and was one of Luzan’s officers. I needed someone to be the initial Spanish spokesman before the treasure fleet arrived.
Lieutenant/Captain Crosby is fictional. I needed someone to be Hawkins’ gofer. There are some historical mentions of a Mr. Hamilton, but from what I could dig up, I think he had a different position. Hawkins also had a manservant named Sulan. I thought about developing that character more and may even write him in at some point. I believe he is of some foreign persuasion, but have not been able to find out if he was indeed an African slave himself. Crosby was an easy, lazy way out – a young professional man that looked up to Hawkins and carried his instructions forward where necessary. Certainly someone filled this role. I could not find out who, so I made up Crosby. I used Crosby at the end to tie up loose ends and bring the stories conclusion.
Master Tocks is fictional. I needed someone to fill the crucial role of being a carpenter and an advisor on the ships health to Hawkins. I couldn’t write the story without having this critical aspect in play. Indeed the whole reason Hawkins sought shelter at San Juan de Ulloa was to make repairs. I saw the carpenter in my head as an experienced, brutally honest, prickly old Scottish craftsman. I couldn’t resist a comparison to the old chief engineer on board the USS Enterprise in Star Trek, Mr. Scott. So if you haven’t got it Tocks is just Scott turned backwards.
Smythe, Tanner and Moon are all fictional, but a good sampling of names that I’ve seen repeated many times over several centuries of historical record.
Hawkins’ knighthood: I have my own reasons for believing Hawkins had already been knighted. Several of the older narratives describe Hawkins arguing with the Spanish authorities when he landed saying that he was an “equal” of the Viceroy. We know the Queen knighted him after the first Armada campaign. It was very common for gentlemen adventurers to be knighted on campaign as young men by their commanders or relatives. I cannot prove Hawkins was knighted prior, but many other gentlemen of the era with careers not nearly as extensive or illustrious as Hawkins were knighted before they were even twenty years old.
The Devil’s Tavern is a real place. It is one of London’s oldest pubs built in 1543. It was infamous in the 17th century as the nafarious hang out of smugglers and pirates. Commonly called “the Devil”, it is known in modern times as The Prospect of Whitby. I have no idea if Hawkins actually stepped foot there. I do know from historical record that Hawkins was very interested in the fates of his men and did indeed meet with some of them years later.
Dreams are the most interesting viewer into a persons heart and emotions. I can use dreams to convey hidden characteristics that you would never see attributed to a cold hard pirate any other way. If you read any of my other stories, you will see that I use both dreams and ghosts to add an ethereal flavor. I used Hawkins’ dreams to paint a picture of foreshadowing, deep religious symbolism, and guilt.
Robert Barrett actually fulfilled the role I described as Hawkins’ translator, he saved the Spanish ship conveying him back to Spain, and met his end by being burned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition in Seville Spain.
Paul Horsewell was really Hawkins’ nephew, was really left behind, and really became Catholic and married a Mexican woman. His descendents still live in Mexico today.
You will have to buy the book to see my list of sources and the illustrations and maps I’ve put together. Also I have made some of my own illustrations. I am not a bad artist and will post some teasers. So more stories are coming. I get the feeling I’m writing them for myself. If anyone has any good observations, I am interested to hear them. At any rate. I hope you enjoyed my story.
Also I’m adding a couple of my own illustrations. These are just sketches really and when I actually publish the first larger book of five stories together it will have pen and ink and painted illustrations as well.
by modernknight1 with 2 comments.