Original Tweet by @Guille_Nicieza

After Drake’s resounding failure in the assault on the Canary Islands and San Juan de Puerto Rico, the corsair set sail for Panama with what was left of his fleet, but he did not count on the fact that a Spanish war squad had sailed from Lisbon to intercept him. The end of Drake.

The English had set course for Panama with the objective of establishing a permanent colony from which to threaten the Spanish possessions in America, using it as a supply and refreshment base to loot both ports and the maritime and commercial routes of Spain.

Desperate for the lack of food after the failure of the Canary Islands and San Juan where they had not only failed to get supplies but had suffered casualties, they disembarked in every Spanish town they saw, but the news of their presence had already spread throughout the Caribbean.

The Spanish colonists had abandoned the defenseless villages, taking all the provisions with them, and forming guerrilla parties deep into the inhospitable Central American jungles, supported by the native Indians as guides.

Drake, powerless, ordered the burning of all the abandoned settlements that he encountered, obtaining as the only result new casualties due to the action of the guerrillas. In addition to having to suffer logistical deficiencies and the appearance of epidemic outbreaks.

Without success, they continued sailing to Cartagena de Indias, but the governor of the city, Don Pedro de Acuña, had already received notice of the English presence and had carefully prepared the defenses by mobilizing his men before the imminent attack by Drake.

The English admiral, after recognizing the important defensive disposition of the city, with casualties, few officers, and with Hawkins already dead, gave up the attack and continued sailing towards Panama. On January 6, 1596, the English reached Nombre de Dios.

However, the settlement had also been abandoned by its inhabitants since the captain-general of the region, Don Alonso de Sotomayor had assumed that Drake would try to attack by going up the Chagres river, he already knew that the English had a large number of barges.

Sotomayor devoted most of his scant forces to the Chagres fortress, but, preventing a possible attack by land, he ordered the construction of a small wooden fort, called San Pablo, on a hill overlooking the road that came from the coast to Nombre de Dios.

He assigned 70 men to the fort under the command of Captain Juan Enríquez. As Don Alonso had supposed, Drake ordered the landing of some 1,000 men under the command of Thomas Baskerville who would advance by land, after which he prepared to go up the Chagres River with a fleet of barges.

The intention was to form a pincer and take Panama. Thus, after two days of marching, the Baskerville troops reached Fort San Pablo, defended by the 70 men of Captain Enriquez.

At dawn on January 8, the English launched the assault on the Spanish fort.

But Enríquez’s men, well protected and maintaining strict fire discipline, managed to resist until noon, Captain Hernando de Liermo arrived with a reinforcement of 50 men. Liermo, a tactician skilled in guerrillas, calmly studied the situation.

After verifying the overwhelming enemy superiority, he devised a stratagem that would be successful: he ordered his 50 men to form in an area of ​​high vegetation near the place of the fighting, and distributed all the drums and bugles that he had among his soldiers.

After this, he ordered the advance through the undergrowth making as much noise as possible, so as to give the impression that the Spanish reinforcement was much more numerous than it actually was. The English were already discouraged by the frustrated attacks on the small fort.

Also hit by tropical diseases and some starving, they fell into the trap and Baskerville ordered an immediate withdrawal. During the three days it took Baskerville to return to their ships, the English suffered an endless trickle of casualties.

Most of the deaths were due to attacks by Spanish guerrillas, disease, and even attacks by hostile Indians. Upon reaching Nombre de Dios, the English troops had suffered 400 casualties among dead, wounded, missing, and seriously ill.

After hearing of the disaster in Baskerville and returning to the place where the English fleet was anchored, checking the magnitude of the new defeat, Francis Drake ordered to set sail, after setting fire to Nombre de Dios, on January 15, sick and demoralized.

Shortly after Drake’s order, just before sapping, while trying to collect drinking water, a party made up of residents of the small town of Santiago del Príncipe and the militias of the place surprised the English, killing 37 of them in one pond.

After new attempts to supply themselves and new casualties due to the Spanish guerrillas and diseases, the English pirate died on January 28, 1596, a victim of dysentery, contracted by the consumption of water in poor condition that the English were forced to drink.

Drake’s corpse was thrown into the sea in a weighted coffin, near the Panamanian coast. The command of the English squad then fell to Thomas Baskerville. Drake died fully aware that his mission had failed miserably in its objectives.

In addition to the two admirals, Francis Drake and John Hawkins, 15 English commanders and captains and 22 other officers had been killed, along with 2,500 dead soldiers and sailors, and another 500 prisoners. Almost 3/4 of the expedition’s endowments.

The Spanish had suffered 200 casualties, between dead and wounded in all these combats. For this reason, Baskerville decided to head to the island of Pinos to make repairs and prepare the return to England, but there they would run into Don Bernardino de Avellaneda’s fleet.

So far today’s thread, but on the next one we will talk about the battle of the island of Pinos where Avellaneda nailed the coffin of the English expedition of Drake and Hawkins.

Assorted prints and paintings, some by Carlos Parrilla.

Thank you for reading.

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