Historical Background
The 16th century Spanish fortress at San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz. Although the fortress was built after John Hawkins’ fleet entered the port of Veracruz, in September 1568, it was at this site where the battle took place that resulted in Ingram, Twide, & Browne making their epic 4,000-mile walk. 


“David Ingram, Richard Twide, and Richard Browne were three ordinary sailors who were part of an ill-fated trading mission that left Plymouth in September 1567 under the command of the illustrious English sea dog, Sir John Hawkins. As Hawkins puts it in his own record of the voyage, “we were driven by storms into the Port of San Juan d’Uloa (Veracruz, Mexico) where, being treacherously betrayed by the Spaniards, we escaped with only one ship and a small bark.” In a fight with a much larger Spanish fleet, most of his ships were lost and the survivors were crammed like sardines aboard the ‘one ship.’ The sudden departure from Veracruz had also robbed Hawkins of his opportunities to make the essential repairs to his ships – most now beyond repair! – and to stock up with food and fresh water. The two hundred souls aboard the Minion now faced lingering starvation, assuming that death did not come sooner, courtesy of the seasonal hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. “The weather waxed reasonable,” Hawkins continues, which is a quaint Elizabethan way of saying there were terrible storms, so that “hope of life waxed lesse and lesse.” After fourteen days of living hell, the men were so hungry that “rats, cats, mice & dogs, parrats & monkeys that were had in great price, were thought there very profitable if they served the turn of one dinner,” thus providing us with the bizarre image that an Elizabethan sailing ship was also a traveling menagerie.

 As a result, on October 8, 1568, 100 men elected to be set ashore on the beach, somewhere close to where I would find Barra del Tordo.  The majority of these men went south, 50 miles to Tampico, hoping for charity from the Spaniards. But, led by David Ingram, about twenty started walking north, into what was mostly uncharted wilderness; this was forty years before the first English settlement in America. Eleven months later, in September 1569, David Ingram, Richard Twide and Richard Browne ended up near Cape Breton, in Acadia, as Nova Scotia was then called, where they found a French cod-fishing boat that took them back to Europe. So, in taking a long walk after my own fashion, as an Englishman living in America, I would retrace the steps of those first Englishmen who walked this vast continent. But I would do it in reverse.

 First, I wanted favorable climate. Once I had decided to take this walk, I wanted to set off at the first opportunity, which happened to be mid-August, a time of unbearable heat in northern Mexico and Texas. The reverse route, starting from the north in the summer, would bless me at most times with relatively mild and often very pleasant weather. In this I was being faithful to the journey of the three sailors, who also had the benefit of favorable weather, setting off from Mexico in October and arriving in Nova Scotia the following year, just before the onset of winter. Secondly, I wanted to end my journey in Mexico, where I could then stay to write a book. I had no idea when I would be earning money again, so it was important to be somewhere I could live quite inexpensively. I was also attracted to the idea of learning Spanish and becoming more familiar with the rich culture of Mexico.
 After a little bit of research, I planned my route, beginning in Guysborough, Nova Scotia. This was a likely spot where the three intrepid Elizabethan sailors might have found the French fishing boat, one of hundreds that came out each summer to fish the then abundant supply of cod in the Grand Banks.  Between there and Barra del Tordo would be almost 4,000 miles of the eastern seaboard of North America, much of it ground that Ingram, Twide, and Browne would have trodden. As illiterate sailors they kept no journals, and it is impossible to know exactly where they were at any particular point. But we can make reasonable guesses, and at various points in this narrative I will return to them; they were never very far from my thoughts.”

From Walking With Time by Richard Nathan
 
 
Bolognini Zaltieri’s map of North America, published in Venice in 1566; the year before John Hawkins’ ill-fated fleet set sail from England. It represents the “best knowledge” of the North American coastline available to mariners at the time Ingram,Twide, and Browne made their epic walk, though it is highly unlikely that these simple, illiterate sailors actually saw this map. 

Crux Santo is the port of Veracruz, where Hawkins’ fleet was mostly destroyed in late September 1568.

Panuco is near the Spanish settlement of Tampico, about 50 miles south of where Hawkins put one hundred of his men ashore on October 8, 1568.

C. Berton is Cape Breton (Nova Scotia) where Ingram, Twide, and Browne arrived in September 1569, eleven months and 4,000 miles from northern Mexico.
 


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