Sir Walter Ralegh vpon commission receiued from her Maiesty for an expedition to be made to the West Indies, slacked not his vttermost diligence to make full prouision of all things necessary, as both in his choise of good ships, and sufficient men to performe the action euidently appeared. For his shippes which were in numbre 14 or 15, those two of her Maiesties, the Garland and the Foresight were the chiefest; the rest either his owne or his good friends or aduenturers of London. For the gentlemen his consorts and officers, to giue them their right, they were so well qualited in courage, experience, and discretion, as the greatest prince might repute himselfe happy to be serued with their like. The honor of Lieutenant generall was imposed vpon sir Iohn Burrough, a gentleman, for his manifold good and heroicall parts, thought euery way worthy of that commandement: with whom after sir W. R. returned was ioyned in commission sir Martin Frobisher, who for his speciall skill and knowledge in marine causes had formerly caried imploiments of like or greater place. The rest such as heretofore had giuen to the world sufficient proofe of their valour in diuers seruices of the like nature. With these ships thus manned sir Walter Ralegh departed towards the West countrey, there to store himselfe with such further necessaries as the state of his voyage did needfully require: where the Westerly windes blowing for a long time contrary to his course, bound and constrained him to keepe harborough so many weeks, that the fittest season for his purpose was gone, the mindes of his people much altered, his victuals consumed: and withall, her Maiesty vnderstanding how crosly all this sorted, began to call the proceeding of this preparation into question: insomuch that, whereas the sixt of May was first come before sir Walter could put to sea, the very next day sir Martin Frobisher in a pinnesse of my lord Admirals called The Disdaine, met him, and brought to him from her Maiesty letters of reuocation, with commandement to relinquish (for his owne part) the intended attempt, and to leaue the charge and conduct of all things in the hands of sir Iohn Burrough and sir Martin Frobisher, But sir Walter finding his honor so farre engaged in the vndertaking of this voyage, as without proceeding he saw no remedy either to salue his reputation, or to content those his friends which had put in aduentures of great summes with him; and making construction of the Queenes letters in such sort as if her commandement had bene propounded in indifferent termes, either to aduance forward or to retire, at his owne discretion; would in no case yeeld to leaue his fleet now vnder saile. Wherefore continuing his course into the sea, he met within a day or two, with certaine sailes lately come from Spaine: among which was a ship appertaining to Monsieur Gourdon gouernor of Caleis, and found aboord her one M. Neuel Dauies an Englishman, who hauing endured a long and miserable captiuity for the space of twelue yeeres, partly in the inquisition in Spaine, was now by good fortune escaped, and vpon returne to his countrey. This man, among other things, reported for certaine, that there was little hope of any good this yeere to be done in the West India; considering that the king of Spaine had sent expresse order to all the Ports both of the Ilands and of Terra firma, that no ship should stirre that yeere, nor any treasure be layed aboord for Spaine. But neither this vnpleasant relation nor ought els could stay his proceedings, vntill a tempest of strange and vncouth violence arising vpon Thursday the 11 of May, when he was athwart the Cape Finister, had so scattered the greater part of the fleet, and sunke his boats and pinnesses, that as the rest were driuen and seuered, some this way and some that, sir Walter himselfe being in the Garland of her Maiesty was in danger to be swallowed vp of the Sea. Whereupon sir W. Ralegh finding that the season of the yere was too farre gone to proceed with the enterprise which he had vpon Panama, hauing bene held on the English coast from February till May, and thereby spent three moneths victuals; and considering withall, that to lie vpon the Spanish coast or at the Ilands to attend the returne of the East or West Indian fleets was rather a worke of patience then ought els: he gaue directions to sir Iohn Burgh and sir M. Frobisher to diuide the fleet in two parts; sir M. with the Garland, cap. George Gifford, cap. Henry Thin, cap. Grenuile and others to lie off the South cape, thereby to amaze the Spanish fleet, and to holde them on their owne coast; while sir I. Burgh, capt. Robert Crosse, capt. Tomson, and others should attend at the Ilands for the caraks or any other Spanish ships comming from Mexico or other parts of the West Indies. Which direction tooke effect accordingly; for the king of Spaines Admirall receiuing intelligence that the English fleet was come on the coast, attended to defend the South parts of Spaine, and to keepe himselfe as nere sir Mart. Frobisher as he could, to impeach him in all things which he might vndertake; and thereby neglected the safeconduct of the caraks, with whom it fared as hereafter shall appeare. Before the fleet seuered themselues they mette with a great Biscain on the Spanish coast called Santa Clara a ship of 600 tunnes.
The noise of the artillery on both sides being heard, immediatly they drew to their fleet; where after a reasonable hot fight, the ship was entred and mastered, which they found freighted with all sorts of small yron-worke, as horse shoes, nailes, plough-shares, yron barres, spikes, boults, locks, gimbols, and such like, valued by vs at 6000 or 7000 li. but woorth to them treble the value. This Biscain was sailing towards S. Lucar, there to take in some further prouision for the West India. This ship being first roomaged, and after sent for England, our fleet coasted along towards the Southcape of S. Vincent, and by the way about the Rocke neere Lisbon, sir Iohn Burrough in the Robucke spying a saile a farre off, gaue her present chase; which being a flieboat and of good saile, drew him farre Southwards before he could fetch her; but at last she came vnder his lee and strooke saile. The master of which flieboat comming aboord him, confessed that the king indeed had prepared a great fleet in S. Lucar and Cadiz, and (as the report in Spaine was currant) for the West Indies. But indeed the Spanish king had prouided this fleet vpon this counsell. He receiued intelligence, that sir Walter Ralegh was to put out strong for the West India: to impeach him, and to ranconter his force he appointed this fleet; although looking for the arriuall of his East Indian caraks, he first ordained those ships to waft them from the Açores. But perswading himselfe, that if the fleet of sir Walter Ralegh did go for the West India, then the Ilands should haue none to infest them but some small men of warre, which the caraks of themselues would be well able to match; his order was to Don Alonso de Baçan brother to the Marques of Santa Cruz, and Generall of his armada, to pursue sir Walters fleet, and to confront him, what course soeuer he held. Sir Iohn Burrough in great danger of the Spanish fleet. And that this was true, our men in short time by proofe vnderstood: for sir Iohn Burrough, not long after the taking of his last prize the flieboat, as he sailed backe againe towards the rest of his company, discouered the Spanish fleet to sea-ward of him: which hauing likewise espied him betwixt them and the shore, made full account to bring him safe into Spanish harbour; and therefore spred themselues in such sort before him, that indeed his danger was very great: for both the liberty of the sea was brought into a narrow straight, and the shore being enemy could giue him no comfort of reliefe: so that trusting to Gods helpe onely and his good saile, he thrust out from among them in spight of all their force, and to the notable illusion of all their cunning, which they shewed to the vttermost, in laying the way for his apprehension. The Ile of S. Michael. But now sir Iohn Burrough hauing happily escaped their clouches, finding the coast guarded by this fleet, and knowing it was but folly to expect a meeting there with sir Martin Frobisher (who vnderstanding of this armada aswell as himselfe, would be sure not to come that way) beganne to shape his course to the Açores according to sir W. Raleghs direction, and came in sight of S. Michael, running so neere by Villa Franca, that he might easily discerne the shippes lying there at anker. Diuers small ships taken. Diuers small carauels both here and betweene S. Georges and the Pike in his course towards Flores he intercepted; of which no great intelligence for his affaires could be vnderstood. Santa Cruz a village in the Ile of Flores. Arriuing before Flores vpon Thursday the 21 of Iune, towards euening, accompanied onely with captaine Caufield and the Master of his shippe, the rest not being yet arriued, he made towards the shore with his boat, finding all the people of Santa Cruz, a village of that Iland, in armes, fearing their landing, and ready marshalled to defend their towne from spoile. Sir Iohn contrariwise made signes of amity vnto them by aduancing a white flagge, a common token of peace, which was answered againe of them with the like: whereupon ensued entercourses of good friendship; and pledges were taken on both sides, the captaine of the towne for them, and captaine Caufield for our: so that whatsoeuer our men wanted, which that place could supply either in fresh water, victuals, or the like, was very willingly granted by the inhabitants; and good leaue had they to refresh themselues on shore as much and as oft as they would without restraint. Newes of the East Indian caraks. At this Santa Cruz sir Iohn Burrough was informed, that indeed there was among them no expectation of any fleet to come from the west, but from the East, that no longer since then three dayes before his arriuall a carak was passed by for Lisbon, and that there were foure carafes more behinde, of one consort. Sir Iohn being very glad of this newes, stayed no longer on shore, but presently imbarqued himselfe, hauing onely in company a small barke of threescore tunnes belonging to one M. Hopkins of Bristoll. In the meane while that these things thus passed at Flores, part of the rest of the English fleet, which sir Iohn Burrough had left vpon the coast of Spaine, drew also towards the Açores: and whereas he quickly at sea had discouered one of the caraks, the same euening he might descry two or three of the Earle of Cumberlands ships (whereof one M. Norton was captaine) which hauing in like sort kenned the carak, pursued her by that course which they saw her to runne towards the Ilands. But on no side was there any way made by reason of a great calme which yeelded no breath to spread a saile. Insomuch that fitly to discouer her what she was, of what burthen, force, and countenance sir Iohn Burrough tooke his boat, and rowed the space of three miles, to make her exactly: and being returned, he consulted with the better sort of the company then present, vpon the boording her in the morning. A carak called The Santa Cruz set on fire. But a very mighty storme arising in the night, the extremity thereof forced them all to wey ankers, yet their care was such in wrestling with the weather not to lose the carak, that in the morning the tempest being qualified, and our men bearing againe with the shore, they might perceiue the carak very neere the land, and the Portugals confusedly carrying on shore such things as they could any maner of way conuey out of her; and seeing the haste our men made to come vpon them, forsook her; but first, that nothing might be left commodious to our men, set fire to that which they could not cary with them, intending by that meanes wholly to consume her; that neither glory of victory nor benefit of shippe might remaine to ours. And least the approch and industry of the English should bring meanes to extinguish the flame, thereby to preserue the residue of that which the fire had not destroyed; being foure hundred of them in number and well armed, they entrenched themselues on land so neere to the carak, that she being by their forces protected, and our men kept aloofe off, the fire might continue to the consumption of the whole. This being noted by sir Iohn Burrough he soone prouided a present remedy for this mischiefe. An hundred of our men land. For landing one hundred of his men, whereof many did swim and wade more then brest high to shore, and easily scattering those that presented themselues to guard the coast, he no sooner drew toward their new trenches, but they fled immediatly, leauing as much as the fire had spared to be the reward of our mens paines. Here was taken among others one Vincent Fonseca a Portugall, Purser of the carak, with two others, one an Almaine and the second a Low-dutchman, canoniers: who refusing to make any voluntary report of those things, which were demanded of them, had the torture threatened, the feare whereof at the last wrested from them this intelligence, that within fifteene dayes three other greater caraks then that lately fired would arriue at the same Iland: and that being fiue caraks in the fleet at their departure from Goa, to wit, the Buen Iesus admirall, the Madre de Dios, the S. Bernardo, the S. Christophoro, and the S. Cruz, (whose fortune you haue already heard) they had receiued speciall commandement from the king not to touch in any case at the Iland of S. Helena, where the Portugall caraks in their returne from the East India were alwayes till now woont to arriue to refresh themselues with water and victuals. And the kings reason was; because of the English men of warre, who (as he was informed) lay there in wait to intercept them. Angola a new watering place for caraks. If therefore their necessity of water should driue them to seeke supply any where, he appointed them Angola in the maine of Africa, with order there to stay onely the taking in of water to auoid the inconuenience of infections where unto that hot latitude is dangerously subiect. The last rendeuous for them all was the Iland of Flores, where the king assured them not to misse of his armada thither sent of purpose for their wafting to Lisbon. Vpon this information sir Iohn drew to counsel, meeting there Captaine Norton, captain Dountain, captain Abraham Cocke, captaines of three ships of the Earle of Cumberland, M. Tomson of Harwich cap. of the Dainty of sir Iohn Haukins, one of sir W. Raleghs fleet, and M. Christopher Newport cap. of the Golden dragon newly returned from the West India, and others. These being assembled, he communicated with them what he had vnderstood of the foresaid examinates, and what great presumptions of trueth their relation did cary: wishing that forasmuch as God and good fortune had brought them together in so good a season, they would shew the vttermost of their indeuors to bring these Easterlings vnder the lee of the English obedience. Hereupon a present accord on all sides followed not to part company or leaue of those seas till time should present cause to put their consultations in execution. The next day her Maiesties good ship the Foresight commanded by sir Rob. Crosse came in to the rest: and he likewise informed of the matter was soone drawen into this seruice. Thus sir Iohn with al these ships departing thence 6 or 7 leagues to the West of Flores, they spread themselues abroad from the North to the South, ech ship two leagues at the least distant from another. By which order of extension they were able to discouer the space of two whole degrees at sea. In this sort they lay from the 29 of Iune to the third of August, what time cap. Thomson in the Dainty had first sight of the huge carak called the Madre de Dios, one of the greatest receit, belonging to the crowne of Portugall. The Dainty being of excellent saile got the start of the rest of our fleet, and begun the conflict somewhat to her cost, with the slaughter and hurt of diuers of her men. Within a while after, sir Iohn Burrough in the Robucke of sir W. Raleghs, was at hand to second her, who saluted her with shot of great ordinance, and continued the fight within musket shot assisted by cap. Tomson and cap. Newport till sir R. Crosse viceadmirall of the fleet came vp being to leeward, at whose arriuall sir I. Burgh demanded of him what was best to be done, who answered, that if the carak were not boorded she would recouer the shore and fire herselfe as the other had done. Whereupon sir I. Burgh concluded to entangle her; and sir R. Crosse promised also to fasten himselfe to her together at the instant; which was performed: but after a while sir Iohn Burgh receiuing a shot with a canon perier vnder water and ready to sinke, desired sir R. C. to fall off, that he might also cleere himselfe, and saue his ship from sinking, which with difficulty he did: for both the Roebucke and the Foresight were so intangled, as with much adoe could they cleere themselues.
The Madre de Dios taken. The same euening sir R. Crosse finding the carak then sure and drawing neere the Iland perswaded his company to boord her againe, or els there was no hope to recouer her: who after many excuses and feares, were by him incouraged, and so fell athwart her foreships all alone; and so hindered her sailing that the rest had time to come vp to his succour, and to recouer the carak yer she recouered the land: and so toward the euening after he had fought with her alone three houres single, my lord of Cumberlands two ships came vp, and with very little losse entred with sir R. Crosse, who had in that time broken their courages, and made the assault easie for the rest.
The generall hauing disarmed the Portugals, and stowed them for better security on all sides, first had presented to his eyes the true proportion of the vast body of this carak, which did then and may still iustly prouoke the admiration of all men not formerly acquainted with such a sight. But albeit this first apparance of the hugenesse thereof yeelded sights enough to entertaine our mens eyes: yet the pitifull obiect of so many bodies slaine and dismembred could not but draw ech mans eye to see, and heart to lament, and hands to helpe those miserable people, whose limnes were so torne with the violence of shot, and paine made grieuous with the multitude of woundes. No man could almost steppe but vpon a dead carkase or a bloody floore, but specially about the helme, where very many of them fell suddenly from stirring to dying. For the greatnesse of the stirrage requiring the labour of twelue or fourteene men at once, and some of our shippes beating her in at the sterne with their ordinance often times with one shot slew foure or fiue labouring on either side of the helme; whose roomes being still furnished with fresh supplies, and our artillery still playing vpon them with continuall volleys, it could not be but that much bloud should be shed in that place. Exceeding humanity shewed to the enemy. Whereupon our Generall moued with singular commiseration of their misery, sent them his owne chyrurgions, denying them no possible helpe or reliefe that he or any of his company could affoord them. Among the rest of those, whose state this chance had made very deplorable, was Don Fernando de Mendoça Grand captaine and Commander of this Carake: who indeed was descended of the house of Mendoça in Spaine; but being married into Portugall, liued there as one of that nation; a gentleman well stricken in yeeres, well spoken, of comely personage, of good stature, but of hard fortune. In his seuerall seruices against the Moores he was twise taken prisoner, and both times ransomed by the king. In a former voyage of returne from the East India he was driuen vpon the Baxos or sands of Iuda nere the coast of Cephala, being then also captaine of a caracke which was there lost, and himselfe, though escaping the sea-danger, yet fell into the hands of infidels on land; who kept him vnder long and grieuous seruitude. Once more the king carying a louing respect to the man, and desirous to better his condition, was content to let him try his fortune in this Easterly nauigation, and committed vnto him the conduct of this caracke, wherein he went from Lisbon Generall of the whole fleet, and in that degree had returned, if the Vice-rey of Goa embarked for Portugall in the Bon Iesus had not, by reason of his late office, bene preferred. Sir Iohn intending not to adde too much affliction to the afflicted, moued with pity and compassion of humane misery, in the end resolued freely to dismisse this captaine and the most part of his followers, to their owne countrey, and for the same purpose bestowed them in certaine vessels furnished with all kindes of necessary prouision. This businesse thus dispatched, good leasure had he to take such view of the goods as conueniency might affoord. And hauing very prudently (to cut off the vnprofitable spoile and pillage whereunto he saw the minds of many inclined) seised vpon the whole to her Maiesties vse, after a short and slender romaging and searching of such things as first came to hand, he perceiued that the wealth would arise nothing disanswerable to expectation; but that the variety and grandure of all rich commodities would be more then sufficient to content both the aduenturers desire and the souldiers trauell. And here I cannot but enter into the consideration and acknowledgement of Gods great fauor towards our nation, who by putting this purchase into our hands hath manifestly discouered those secret trades and Indian riches, which hitherto lay strangely hidden, and cunningly concealed from vs; whereof there was among some few of vs some small and vnperfect glimse onely, which now is turned into the broad light of full and perfect knowledge. Whereby it should seeme that the will of God for our good is (if our weaknesse could apprehend it) to haue vs communicate with them in those East Indian treasures, and by the erection of a lawfull traffike to better our meanes to aduance true religion and his holy seruice. The caracke being in burden by the estimation of the wise and experienced no lesse then 1600 tunnes had full 900 of those stowed with the grosse bulke of marchandise, the rest of the tunnage being allowed, partly to the ordinance which were 32 pieces of brasse of all sorts, partly to the passengers and the victuals, which could not be any small quantity, considering the number of the persons betwixt 600 and 700, and the length of the nauigation. To giue you a taste (as it were) of the commodities, it shall suffice to deliuer you a generall particularity of them, according to the catalogue taken at Leadenhall the 15 of September 1592. A briefe catalogue of the sundry rich commodities of the Madre de Dios. Where vpon good view it was found, that the principall wares after the iewels (which were no doubt of great value, though they neuer came to light) consisted of spices, drugges, silks, calicos, quilts, carpets and colours, &c. The spices were pepper, cloues, maces, nutmegs, cinamom, greene ginger: the drugs were beniamin, frankincense, galingale, mirabolans, aloes zocotrina, camphire: the silks, damasks, taffatas, sarcenets, altobassos, that is, counterfeit cloth of gold, vnwrought China silke, sleaued silke, white twisted silke, curled cypresse. The calicos were book-calicos, calico-launes, broad white calicos, fine starched calicos, course white calicos, browne broad calicos, browne course calicos. There were also canopies, and course diaper-towels, quilts of course sarcenet and of calico, carpets like those of Turky; whereunto are to be added the pearle, muske, ciuet, and amber-griece. The rest of the wares were many in number, but lesse in value; as elephants teeth, porcellan vessels of China, coco-nuts, hides, eben-wood as blacke as iet, bedsteads of the same, cloth of the rindes of trees very strange for the matter, and artificiall in workemanship. All which piles of commodities being by men of approued iudgement rated but in reasonable sort amounted to no lesse then 150000 li. sterling, which being diuided among the aduenturers (whereof her Maiesty was the chiefe) was sufficient to yeeld contentment to all parties. The capacity and dimensions of the Madre de Dios. The cargazon being taken out, and the goods fraighted in tenne of our ships sent for London, to the end that the bignesse, heigth, length, bredth, and other dimensions of so huge a vessell might by the exact rules of Geometricall obseruations be truly taken, both for present knowledge, and deriuation also of the same vnto posterity, one M. Robert Adams, a man in his faculty of excellent skill, omitted nothing in the description, which either his arte could demonstrate, or any mans iudgement thinke woorthy the memory. After an exquisite suruey of the whole frame he found the length from the beak-head to the sterne (whereupon was erected a lanterne) to containe 165 foote. The breadth in the second close decke whereof she had three, this being the place where there was most extension of bredth, was 46 feet and ten inches. She drew in water 31 foot at her departure from Cochin in India, but not aboue 26 at her arriual in Dartmouth, being lightened in her voyage by diuers meanes some 5 foote. She caried in height 7 seuerall stories, one maine Orlop, three close decks, one fore-castle, and a spar-decke of two floores a piece. The length of the keele was 100 foote, of the maine-mast 121 foot, and the circuite about at the partners 10 foote 7 inches, the maine-yard was 106 foote long. By which perfect commensuration of the parts appeareth the hugenesse of the whole, farre beyond the mould of the biggest shipping vsed among vs either for warre or receit.
Don Alonso de Baçan hauing a great Fleet and suffering these two caraks, the Santa Cruz to be burnt, and the Madre de Dios to be taken, was disgraced by his prince for this negligence.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51