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The fame of this Voyage round the World, with the wealth brought home by Sir Francis Drake, and the desire of rivalling him in riches and reputation, inspired numbers of young men of all ranks with the inclination of trying their fortunes at sea. Men of rank and fortune fitted out ships at their own expence, manning them with their dependants. Others, in lower situations, hazarded their persons as subaltern officers in these ships, or in men-of-war belonging to the queen. This spirit grew to such a height, that honest John Stowe informs us that there were many youths, from eighteen to twenty years of age, towards the close of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, who were capable of taking charge of any ship, and navigating to most parts of the world.
So alarmed were the Spaniards by the courage and conduct of Sir Francis, and his maritime skill, that they ordered that no draughts or discourses should be published of their discoveries in America, lest they might fall into his hands. What most surprised them was, that he should find his way so easily through the Straits of Magellan, which they had hitherto been unable to perform. They therefore resolved immediately to have these straits completely explored and discovered, by means of ships fitted out in Peru. For this purpose, Don Pedro Sarmiento, who was thought the best seaman in the Spanish service, was sent from Lima, and actually passed from the South Sea into the Atlantic, and thence to Spain. He there proposed to plant a colony in the straits, and to fortify them in such a manner as might prevent all other nations from passing through them. This project was so well relished by Philip II that a fleet of twenty-three ships was fitted out, with 3,500 men, under the command of Don Diego Floris de Valdez; and Sarmiento, with 500 veterans, was appointed to form a settlement in the straits.
This fleet was extremely unfortunate, insomuch that it was between two and three years before Sarmiento arrived with his people in the straits of Magellan. On the north side, and near the eastern entrance, he built a town and fort, which he named Nombre de Jesus, and in which he left a garrison of 150 men. Fifteen leagues farther on, at the narrowest part of the straits, and in lat. 53 deg. 18’ S. he established his principal settlement, which he named Ciudad del Rey Felippe, or the City of King Philip. This was a regularly fortified square fortress, having four bastions; and is said to have been in all respects one of the best-contrived settlements ever made by the Spaniards in America. At this place Sarmiento left a garrison of 400 men and thirty women, with provisions for eight months, and then returned into the Atlantic. These transactions took place in the years 1584, 5, and 6. Sarmiento, after several fruitless attempts to succour and relieve his colony, was taken by an English vessel, and sent prisoner to London.