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Ill fated Drake Expedition Leaves England by Jeff Provine

Author says: we're very pleased to present a new story from Jeff Provine's excellent blog This Day in Alternate History. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

On November 13th 1577,

Please click the icon to follow us on Facebook.on this day the ill-fated Drake Expedition leaves England. The privateer Francis Drake had been a useful asset to the English Crown through his lifelong (however short) wrath against the Spanish. As was a young sailor, he was captured with his cousin Sir John Hawkins by the Spanish, only to escape and supposedly vow revenge.

Sailing in the West Indies, Drake built a career in piracy, eventually falling in with the French buccaneer Le Testu. The two formed a raid on the Spanish Main, during which Le Testu would be captured and executed, but Drake and his men would escape laden with as much gold and silver as they could carry.

In 1577, Drake was given a mission by Queen Elizabeth to attack the Spanish along the Pacific coast. Magellan had crossed into the quieter waters of the Pacific for Spain some fifty years before, and conquests by Pizarro had spurred great wealth from the fallen Inca. While the treasure would have to sail through the screen of pirates past the Spanish Main, its transport in the Pacific was all but peaceful. Setting out of Plymouth on November 15, the expedition was immediately plagued with problems.

Foul weather forced them to Cornwall, and the fleet returned to Plymouth, setting out again that December. Many might have taken the bad start as a sign, but Drake was reputedly not a man of superstition (unless it worked into his favor). They added a sixth ship to their fleet that had been captured from the Portuguese, the first and nearly only good luck of the voyage. Upon crossing the Atlantic, Drake scuttled two of his ships due to the loss of manpower.

"Given Philip's religious zeal and the Catholic Church's formal declarations that England was a nation of heretics which must be forcibly returned to "the True Faith," I suspect it would have been only a matter of time before hostilities erupted. And with Drake out of the picture, the Spanish Armada might have succeeded in invading England--especially if it had attacked either a year earlier or a year later, rather than in 1588, which was marked by a series of freakish storms, one of which was instrumental in wrecking the Armada. Drake's ruse of sending burning ships among the Artmada's vessels panicked the Spanish, who suspected the English ships were "hellburners" packed with gunpowder which might explode among them like gigantic bombs; another commander might not have thought of such a trick. " - reader's commentIn what is today Argentina, Drake and his remaining men came to San Julian, the same bay where Ferdinand Magellan had executed mutinous men decades before. Their bleached bones still hung from gibbets, and Drake took advice Magellan's legacy. He executed a mutinous commander, Thomas Doughty, a former friend who had been with Drake since their participation in fending off Scottish ships during the Rathlin Island massacre in Ireland. Doughty had caught Drake's brother stealing, and Drake had turned against him since. Without producing a writ from the Crown to prove his powers or giving Doughty a trial, Drake pronounced him guilty of mutiny, treason, and witchcraft, having him beheaded.

Further bad luck followed as the captured Portuguese ship Mary was found to be rotted, and two more ships were lost passing through the Strait of Magellan. Drake's remaining men on the one last ship, Golden Hind, waned in morale (believing that God was punishing them because of what had been done to Thomas Doughty) until they began to attack Spanish towns and capture ships. They were seemingly invincible until Drake gave chase to the treasure ship Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, which turned out to be a Spanish trap. The English privateers were captured, and many, including Drake, were killed in the fighting. A few survived as prisoners of war or joined the Spanish as sailors, and enough trickled back to England to tell the tale of the failed Drake expedition.

While Spain and England continued to prey upon one another at sea, they would never fully go to war. Much of the infantry battles would be fought vicariously in the Netherlands, and war would rarely be formally declared upon the high seas. Spain grew in is colonies to the south, and England began to establish its own colonial plantations in the north, rarely making profit until the implement of tobacco. Spain maintained the upper hand in what became a war of attrition between Protestant and Catholic kingdoms in Europe. The colonies grew, but gradual setbacks in Atlantic trade rights kept England on par with the colonial aspirations in North America of the Dutch and Swedes. By the time the American colonial period waned through the Liberty Rebellions of Europe, North America was a hodgepodge of countries of varying nationalities and dependencies upon their mother countries.

Author says in reality Drake's capture of the ship nicknamed Cagafuego was a great success, taking some 26 tons of silver, 80 pounds of gold, a golden crucifix, jewels, and chests of valuables. Drake would sail as far north as California (claimed as New Albion) and circumnavigate the Earth, arriving in Plymouth on September 26, 1580. He would be knighted, enter politics, and return to the seas in raiding the city of Cadiz on the Spanish mainland. Such audacity of war would spur King Phillip II of Spain to launch the Spanish Armada aimed at transporting troops to an invasion of England. Drake would be instrumental in the English defeat of the Armada, signaling the end of Spanish dominance upon the high seas. To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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