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each with twenty-five armed men, besides negroes to row them, under the command of Captain John de Ortega, in search of Oxenham. He fell in with the two prizes which Oxenham had so indiscreetly dismissed, and learned from them that he was gone up the river. He followed till he came to a place where two smaller streams fell into it. Ortega was here in doubt which of the rivers he should take: the largest appeared to be the most likely; but it was observed incidentally that a quantity of fowl-feathers were floating down one of the streams, and that these had, in all probability, been plucked, by the English, from fowls to be dressed and eaten. The hint was immediately taken, and so was the route up that branch of the river.

After rowing four days against the stream, the pinnace of Oxenham was found upon the sand, with only six men in her, one of whom Ortega slew, but the other five escaped, leaving the pinnace in possession of the Spaniards, who however found only a small quantity of provisions in her. This booty of course did not satisfy the Spanish commander; he therefore left twenty of his men to guard the pinnace and his own barks, and with the other eighty marched up the country in search of Oxenham and his party. He had not gone above a league when a hut made of boughs was discovered, in which were found the various articles belonging to Oxenham and his party, together with


the gold and silver, which they were in the act of conveying across the isthmus. Satisfied with having recovered the treasure, and supposing the Englishmen to have suddenly abandoned it through fear, Ortega was preparing to depart with his booty, when suddenly Oxenham came down upon him with his men and about two hundred negroes, or persons generally called Symerons, and attacked Ortega and his party with great fury. The Spaniards, however, got the better of the English, killed eleven, together with five of the Symerons, and took seven prisoners, having only two of their men killed and five wounded. Oxenham escaped, and made the best of his way to his ship.

The Spaniards were curious to know from their prisoners what could have been the object of their delay on the journey. They were told that a difference had arisen between their captain and themselves : they were to have carried the booty down to the ship for a certain reward beyond their wages, but they required immediate payment; he was enraged at this demand, as implying a distrust of him, said they should not carry it at all, and went out in search of negroes to transport it overland to Porto Bello. The five men who had escaped from the Spaniards at the pinnace, had fallen in with Oxenham, and from them he learned what had happened. Supposing that Ortega would be satisfied with the capture of the pinnace, he determined to pack up his booty, promising those who were with him that he would divide the whole spoil with them, provided they would promise, on their part, to stand by him, and the negroes did the same. The result, however, turned out most unfortunate, as has been seen.

On reaching Nombre de Dios, Oxenham found his ship there, but, to add to his misfortunes, in possession of the Spaniards. Intelligence had reached Peru; and the viceroy sent a party of one hundred and fifty soldiers to scour the mountains, into which about fifty had escaped ; they were speedily found, some sick, others made prisoners, and a few escaped ; but these were also soon taken, the negroes having betrayed them into the hands of the Spaniards, who conveyed the whole of them to Panama, to which place Oxenham was also sent. Here he was examined as to what authority he had from the Queen; and being unable to produce any power or commission, he and his comrades were sentenced to suffer death, as pirates and common enemies of mankind. They were accordingly executed, with the exception of Oxenham, his master, pilot, and five boys, who were so far pardoned, for the present, that they were sent to Lima to be disposed of by the authorities there. Oxenham and the two men suffered death, but the boys were pardoned.* Had Drake been caught, he would not only have suffered death,

* Hakluyt-Camden.


but would have undergone every species of torment by the remorseless Inquisition.

The brave but unfortunate Oxenham certainly deserved a better fate. Seduced by the example of Drake and others, he, like them, conceived that to plunder the Spaniards was a meritorious service. Drake thought highly of him, and he appears to have been much beloved by all his comrades in the former voyage, and by his crew on the present one. Prince* says there is a family of this name at South Towton, near Okehampton, respecting which is the following strange and wonderful thing recorded :—“That, at the death of any of them, a bird with a white breast is seen for a while fluttering about the bed, and then suddenly to vanish away.” The same thing is told in the “ Beauties of England” (article, Devon), and Southey mentions that there are several inscriptions on a tomb-stone, giving the names of the family to whom the bird had appeared

-to the mother, a son, two sisters, and some others; 6 to all of these there be divers witnesses, both squires and ladies, whose names are engraven upon the stone.”+

It may be feared that poor Oxenham, the subject of this memoir, departed this life without experiencing the consolation of a visit from the whitebreasted bird.


* Worthies of Devon.

† Southey, from Howell.




1577 to 1588. This officer appears to have borne a distinguished name, though without much service, and none of a brilliant character. He was descended from an old and respectable family in Nottinghamshire, and is said to have done good service in Ireland against the rebels, as is recorded in the inscription on his monument, but whether by sea or land, or both, is not stated : judging, however, from his future service in the navy, he must have been considered an active seaman. As such he was regarded by Frobisher, who appointed him, on his second Arctic voyage (1577), as captain of the Gabriel; and in the following year, he again accompanied that distinguished officer on his third voyage, as captain and rear-admiral of the Judith, one of the fifteen ships that were destined to form a settlement on Meta Incognita, under the command of Frobisher. Ten years after his return from this voyage, he had the good fortune to be selected (by Frobisher's recommendation probably) to command one of the ships in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and is well spoken of by the Lord High Admiral.


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