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Panama's Sir Francis The Dragon Drake

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Written by Editor   
Monday, 27 November 2006 10:10
Drake had a burning hatred of the Spanish and Catholicism. Part of this hatred was inspired by his father who was an Anglican preacher back in England. The other reason why he disliked the Spanish was that he was betrayed by the them when he was fixing his ships in a port somewhere in Mexico. The authorities in Mexico told him it would be fine if he made repairs in their harbor. Instead they ambushed him and Drake lost several men in the foray. During the 1570`s Drake made it his business to disrupt the Spanish shipping enterprise on the Caribbean. Due to all of his meddling in Spanish affairs he became the scourge of the Spanish territories in Latin America during this period. He was also one of the first pirates of Caribbean. He was so feared, the Spanish nicknamed him the dragon. Drake is a very important figure to the world since he is one of the first people to circumnavigate the globe. His ship the 'Golden Hind had over 35,000 miles under her keel and many people think he was the first person to sail into San Francisco Bay. However, most importantly he is unique to the history of Panama since he was the first buccaneer to sack the country.

In order to finance his last trip to the isthmus he sold his 71 year old lease of his home the “Herbar” in the Downgate area of London. They set off from Plymouth in May of 1572 with 73 men aboard two ships, the Pasha and the Swan. The destination: Cuba. The goal of the voyage was to recover 2,000,000 ducats aboard a galleon awaiting repairs in San Juan after damage it had received at sea.

After 2 months at sea they reached San Juan. However, the attack failed due to San Juan's impregnable defenses. Demoralized and upset, Drake and his men decided to press south to obtain the riches that lied in the Darien. Returning back to England empty handed and disappointing Queen Elizabeth was not an option. They had to press on to reach their goal of obtaining riches. Their goal: to raid the jewels stored at Nombre de Dios.

After months of scouting for good ports around the northern coast of Panama. They found a good one near Nombre de Dios. They spent the next three days putting together the three small pinnaces that lay unassembled in the ships hull. They lowered them into the water during the middle of the day. With several men watching the ships, Drake and his brother John separated the men into two groups. Because their boats had such a shallow draft, they were allowed to hug the coastline with their boats which gave them cover. They stopped on an island where Drake drilled the men and then they moved further up the coast. When they reached the San Francisco River they ate a small dinner and waited for night to fall.

As Drake and his men entered the harbor under the moon light they were spotted by a sentry in the watch tower. As church bells rang to warn the inhabitants of an impending attack, the people of Nombre de Dios ran frantically in all directions. Some ran into the surrounding jungle with their most prized belongings, while others stayed behind to take their chances with Drake's men.

The men leapt from their pinnaces onto the beach armed with flaming pikes, swords, and muskets. Even for the men of the town it must have been a frightening sight. With drums beating, they entered the main square and were greeted with volleys of musket fire. Drake's leg was pierced with a musket ball and many of his men were killed or wounded. They ransacked most houses looking for treasure. Drake led his men to the Governor's house where they took off with plenty of bars of Silver. The raid also gave Drake much needed supplies.

Despite some losses, Drake's raid was a success. After settling for a few days to allow Drake's leg to heal, they made contact with the Cimarrones or escaped black slaves. The Cimarrones also loathed the Spanish and were spiteful of having been once been enslaved. As a result, they were overly eager to participate on a raid against a mule train traveling to the Caribbean coast. Drake and his men had success in this endeavor as well and they captured more silver than they could even carry back.

After traveling around the world, helping the settlers of Roanoke in 1586, subduing an Irish revolt, and fighting the Spanish Armada, he returned to Panama where he died of what was called the 'bloody flux' in 1596. It was probably yellow fever or dysentery that killed him. His body still lies near somewhere off the coast of Portobello.

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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 23:40