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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 28

The Launching of Cortez’ Ships

By Kinahan Cornwallis (1839–1917)

  • From “The Conquest of Mexico”
  • The first navy built on the continent of America was a fleet of small boats built by Cortez and launched on the waters of Lake Tezcuco on April 28, 1521, in Mexico.

  • THE MORNING of the launch was fair and bright,

    And all the army hailed it with delight.

    To Cortez ’twas a solemn, great event—

    First of its kind upon the continent—

    And in its celebration Mass was said,

    While banners to the winds were gayly spread,

    And on the air the cannon loudly boomed,

    As if to say that Mexico was doomed.

    Then, one by one, before rejoicing eyes—

    Amid a chorus of exulting cries—

    The stately vessels glided towards the lake,

    With silver ripples sparkling in their wake.

    Down the canal, for half a league, they sped

    Ere they were to the lake’s broad waters wed.

    Then, with expanded wings, to catch the breeze,

    They sailed as proudly as if on the seas,

    With music, and with musketry, and cheers

    Resounding in a hundred thousand ears.

    ’Twas then that Spanish breasts with rapture swelled,

    And Cortez conquest, in his fleet, beheld,

    And all an anthem sang with one accord—

    The grand Te Deum—glory to the Lord.