Plan of Cartagena (Columbia)

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According to the compass rose, this map is ‘upside down’ with south at the top.

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According to the compass rose, this map is ‘upside down’ with south at the top. The city of Cartagena is described as ‘a most convenient port for merchants trading between Spain and Peru’ because of its position on the north coast of South America. It is shown here arranged around inner and outer lagoons. Having had warning of Drake’s attack on Santo Domingo, the inhabitants were able to make some preparations. These measures included sending their families and valuables to the country, hanging a chain to block the entrance to the inner harbour and digging a trench across the neck of the Caleta, the narrow stretch of land extending westwards (to the right on this map). Poisoned stakes were planted along the way, and two galleys (shown on the plan with their oars, pennants and thundering cannon) positioned to further defend this territory.

While Drake’s fleet lay at anchor in the outer harbour, Carleill’s men disembarked (point B on plan) and set out to march eastwards along the Caleta shore. Although there were setbacks because of obstacles, the decision to attack before dawn under cover of darkness was a wise one; the Spanish were taken by surprise. The two royal galleys were ineffective: like the large galleass also in the inner harbour, they could not move to the outer harbour to fire on the English because of low water. To add to these difficulties, the African galley slaves mutinied, some escaping to the English. One of these vessels caught fire after an explosion of gunpowder, and, in the end, both were burnt by order of the Spanish commander to prevent them falling into Drake’s hands.

The English did not have long to enjoy their triumph. With delays caused by haggling over ransom payments, both land and sea forces were becoming victims of an epidemic of fever. Moreover, there was news of the imminent arrival of a fleet from Spain. Pressurised by his military captains, Drake was forced to accept a lower ransom payment and hasten to his next port of call: the Spanish colony at St Augustine.

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» England


» Dallas Pratt Collection of Historical Maps



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