Chronicles of America 

The Lisbon Expedition

The next year, 1589, is famous for the unsuccessful Lisbon Expedition. Drake had the usual troubles with Elizabeth, who wanted him to go about picking leaves and breaking branches before laying the axe to the root of the tree. Though there were in the Narrow Seas defensive squadrons strong enough to ward off any possible blow, yet the nervous landsmen wanted Corunna and other ports attacked and their shipping destroyed, for fear England should be invaded before Drake could strike his blow at Lisbon. Then there were troubles about stores and ammunition. The English fleet had been reduced to the last pound of powder twice during the ten-days' battle with the Armada. Yet Elizabeth was again alarmed at the expense of munitions. She never quite rose to the idea of one supreme and finishing blow, no matter what the cost might be.

This was a joint expedition, the first in which a really modern English fleet and army had ever taken part, with Sir John Norreys in command of the army. There was no trouble about recruits, for all men of spirit flocked in to follow Drake and Norreys. The fleet was perfectly organized into appropriate squadrons and flotillas, such as then corresponded with the battleships, cruisers, and mosquito craft of modern navies. The army was organized into battalions and brigades, with a regular staff and all the proper branches of the service.

The fleet made for Corunna, where Norreys won a brilliant victory. A curious little incident of exact punctilio is worth recording. After the battle, and when the fleet was waiting for a fair wind to get out of the harbor, the ships were much annoyed by a battery on the heights. Norreys undertook to storm the works and sent in the usual summons by a "parlementaire" accompanied by a drummer. An angry Spaniard fired from the walls and the drummer fell dead. The English had hostages on whom to take reprisals. But the Spaniards were too quick for them. Within ten minutes the guilty man was tried inside the fort by drum-head court-martial, condemned to death, and swung out neatly from the walls, while a polite Spanish officer came over to assure the English troops that such a breach of discipline should not occur again.

Lisbon was a failure. The troops landed and marched over the ground north of Lisbon where Wellington in a later day made works whose fame has caused their memory to become an allusion in English literature for any impregnable base--the Lines of Torres Vedras. The fleet and the army now lost touch with each other; and that was the ruin of them all. Norreys was persuaded by Don Antonio, pretender to the throne of Portugal which Philip had seized, to march farther inland, where Portuguese patriots were said to be ready to rise "en masse". This Antonio was a great talker and a first-rate fighter with his tongue. But his Portuguese followers, also great talkers, wanted to see a victory won by arms before they rose.

Before leaving Lisbon Drake had one stroke of good luck. A Spanish convoy brought in a Hanseatic Dutch and German fleet of merchantmen loaded down with contraband of war destined for Philip's new Armada. Drake swooped on it immediately and took sixty well-found ships. Then he went west to the Azores, looking for what he called 'some comfortable little dew of Heaven,' that is, of course, more prizes of a richer kind. But sickness broke out. The men died off like flies. Storms completed the discomfiture. And the expedition got home with a great deal less than half its strength in men and not enough in value to pay for its expenses. It was held to have failed; and Drake lost favor.

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