The New International Encyclopædia/Drake, Francis

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DRAKE, Sir Francis (c.1540-96). An English admiral and navigator, born at Crowndale, near Tavistock, in Devonshire. He was apprenticed at an early age to a sea-captain and later engaged in the coasting trade for a few years. In 1565-66 Drake extended the field of his operations to Guinea and the Spanish Main. In 1567-68 he commanded a ship in the last expedition of Hawkins against the Spaniards, which ended so disastrously. After this he made two voyages to the West Indies, undertaken for the purpose of obtaining information preparatory to the execution of a plan of revenge for Hawkins's ill-fated squadron. This done, Drake set out on a third voyage in 1572, having with him three ships and seventy-three men, and with this force captured the Spanish town of Nombre de Dios, on the Isthmus of Panama, with an enormous store of treasure, took a Spanish galleon in the harbor of Cartagena, and burned the town of Porto Bello. Finally, the indefatigable adventurer, with eighteen Englishmen and thirty Indians, crossed the Isthmus of Panama and saw the South Sea, praying God that he “might sail once in an English ship in that sea.” Laden with spoil, he sailed homeward, and reached Plymouth on Sunday, August 9, 1573. From 1573 to 1576 Drake served in Ireland; but in the latter year his thoughts turned to the sea, and in December, 1577, he sailed from Plymouth for the Spanish Main with a squadron consisting of his own ship, the Pelican, of 100 tons, the Elizabeth, of 80 tons, and three smaller vessels. That this expedition against a nominally friendly power was encouraged, if not sanctioned, by Queen Elizabeth, is undoubted. Drake sailed for South America, entered the Rio de la Plata, and went south to the straits of Magellan. After battling with the currents for sixteen days, he entered the Pacific. A furious storm separated the fleet. The Elizabeth returned to England, another vessel was lost with all on board, and the Pelican—renamed the Golden Hind—was alone left to explore the unknown Pacific. The voyage was a series of successful exploits. The Spanish towns on the coasts of Chile and Peru were sacked and a treasure ship was captured. Drake then steered for the northeast, hoping to find a passage back to the Atlantic, but finding his crew unwilling to encounter the cold of the high latitudes, he turned south and refitted his ships in a small harbor just north of the Golden Gate, receiving the homage of the natives in the name of Queen Elizabeth. He then steered across the Pacific, touched probably at what are the Pelew Islands and at Ternate, in the Moluccas, and after many hazardous experiences anchored off the southwest coast of Java on March 10, 1580. Thence he struck across the Indian Ocean, doubled the Cape of Good Hope on June 15, and finally arrived at Plymouth on September 26, 1580, laden with treasure and spices. Queen Elizabeth sanctioned Drake's ‘reprisals,’ visited the Golden Hind, and knighted her bold commander.

Between 1581 and 1585 Drake was Mayor of Plymouth, and during a part of the year 1585 and the whole of 1586 he commanded a fleet of twenty-one ships in a successful plundering expedition against the Spanish West Indies. From the West Indies and Florida Drake made his way up the coast to Virginia, whence he sailed for England, taking with him the disheartened Raleigh colonists whom he had found at Roanoke. It is said that he brought back to England on this voyage both the potato and the tobacco-leaf. In the spring of 1587 Drake was sent with a fleet to raid the formidable Armada which Philip was collecting for the invasion of England. He entered the harbor of Cadiz, destroyed the shipping in the roadsteads (10,000 tons), secured much booty, and withdrew to plunder the coast towns, destroying ships and fortifications as he went. From the Spanish coast he sailed for the Azores in the hope of meeting any homeward-bound ships, and was fortunate enough to secure a Portuguese East Indiaman with a precious cargo, the first intimation England had of the vast possibilities in the East India trade. He strongly urged the Queen and her Ministers to follow up the blow already given Spain without allowing it time to recuperate, and served as vice-admiral under Lord Howard in the fighting which resulted in the destruction of the Armada (q.v.). The story is told that he kept Lord Howard from putting to sea until they had finished their game of bowls, saying: “There's plenty of time to win the game and thrash the Spaniards too.” The wreck of the great Armada quieted all fears of invasion in England, and by way of reprisal a fleet was sent under Drake and Sir John Norreys to the coasts of Spain and Portugal, in the spring of 1589. A large amount of booty was taken and the enemy's stores and shipping were so effectually destroyed as to prevent all possibility of a future attempt against England. A few years of quiet were followed, in 1595, by an expedition to the West Indies. The Spaniards had received intelligence of the attempt, and the Englishmen were repulsed in an attack upon Porto Rico and other places. Drake died off Porto Bello, January 28, 1596. Consult: Corbett, Drake and the Tudor Navy (London, 1898); id., Sir Francis Drake, in “English Men of Action Series” (London, 1890). The intensely interesting original narrations of Drake's exploits may be found in the Hakluyt volumes (London, 1848, 1850, and 1865); in Arber, An English Garner, No. V. (7th ed., Birmingham, 1880-83); and in the Camden Miscellany, vol. v. (London, 1863).