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The Buccaneers of America
THE term Buccaneer, in French Boucanier, is usually applied to certain pirates who during the seventeenth century committed great ravages upon the Spanish settlements in the West Indies, the adjacent main land, and the coast of Chili and Peru, and whose exploits it will be our province to describe in the following pages. Such term was, however, more accurately applied to a body of cattle hunters of all nations, but mainly French, who pursued their avocations in the forests of the Western and North Western districts of the Island of Hispaniola — circumstances to be described hereafter caused these hunters to combine the trade in cattle with that of piracy, and the name, in consequence, lost its first significance of hunter and acquired its modern and better known one of pirate.
Our readers living in the present age of highly organized communications with all parts of the globe, cannot sufficiently realize the magnitude of the task undertaken by the first explorers and colonisers of the New Continent, still less the extraordinary rapidity with which the work of exploration and colonisation was carried on by the Spanish and Portuguese, upon means that to us would appear ludicrously inadequate, to the enormous extent of the newly discovered territories. Scant justice has been done by posterity to the enthusiastic energy and perseverance of the natives of the Iberian peninsula, who during the first half of the sixteenth century, at least fifty years in advance of any other European nation, established their rule over the West India Islands, Central and South America, subdued the great and powerful empires of Mexico and Peru, and filled the conquered territories with numerous and flourishing settlements, extending from Florida to the River Plate on the one side, and from California to Chili on the other. Nor does the enormous emigration consequent on the conquests and occupation the less appeal to the imagination, when we come to consider that it took place simultaneously with large discoveries and settlements in the East Indies, and with prolonged warfare upon a very large scale against the principal nations of Europe. Rapid and striking as was the success of the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors and colonists, it has in the long run proved to be ephemeral, and other nations, who entered the field many years later with inferior advantages in soil and climate, have achieved greater and more enduring results, as must be manifest upon a comparison of the United States and Canada with the Central and South American Republics. This failure, apart from religious and racial causes, must be attributed to the commercial policy (conspicuous for its selfishness in an age of extreme selfishness) adopted by the mother country, Spain, in its relations with its colonies. Even at the present day much useful experience may be gained by the colonial ministers of the greatest powers from a study of a fiscal system specially constructed to protect the interests of a few merchants at the expense and in disregard of the expressed wishes of the colonists.
Soon after the discovery of America, with a view to settle disputes between Spain and Portugal as to their title to the newly found regions, Pope Alexander the Sixth issued his famous donation by which he gave to Spain the whole of America, except the Brazils, which was assigned to Portugal, and under which the Kings of Spain claimed to exclude not merely foreigners but also their own subjects not Spanish from access to the American continent and islands, and for a time practically succeeded in preventing all other nations from trading or even landing in the New World. This exclusion could not however be kept up, and we find traders from the Netherlands and England visiting the islands at a very early period, followed by Hawkins, Drake, and others in their capacity of slavers and merchant adventurers, the French appearing later still. It stands to reason that the foreign traders would not have undertaken voyages so long and hazardous without considerable encouragement from the colonists, who, dependent otherwise on the fleets annually despatched to Europe, found no doubt their advantage in evading the fiscal regulations of their own government, to obtain not merely European goods at low prices, but also what was to them of paramount importance, a supply of labour in the shape of negro slaves from Africa.
To put down the foreign traders ,or interlopers the Spanish government employed armed revenue cruiser3, or guarda costas, and were accustomed to instruct their officers to destroy every strange ship they mei with, and to take no prisoners; and in the case of foreign settlements on unoccupied lands, soldiers were sent to destroy the buildings and plantations and massacre the inhabitants. Harsh measures like these produced their natural effect, and in no long time the interlopers learnt to meet force by force, to combine for mutual defence, and to treat every Spaniard as an enemy. Not unnaturally the foreign seamen, traders and colonists drifted into a state of perpetual warfare with the various local governments, and in comparatively a short time the marine carrying trade between the various colonies, excepting the annual fleets, which were usually strongly manned and heavily armed, was either annihilated or passed into the hands of the foreign interlopers.
To applications addressed to the various European princes for redress of injuries committed by their subjects in American waters, the usual answer was to the effect that the King of Spain was at liberty to proceed as he pleased against all persons acting without their commission. Elizabeth of England, with greater frankness, replied that the Spaniards themselves were to blame for the depredations complained of, which were brought on solely by their own severe and unjust dealing. She did not understand why her subjects should be debarred from traffic in America, nor would she acknowledge titles given by the Bishop of Rome to lands of which Spain was not in actual possession. This unsatisfactory state of affairs (further aggravated by religious differences) lasted from the early visits of Hawkins, Drake, and others, to the end of the Thirty Years' War, during which period the interlopers were continually reinforced, first by the buccaneers proper from Hispaniola, and secondly by corsairs of all nations serving under the Protestant flag, such as the Gucux de la Aler, or sea beggars, from the revolted Netherlands, French Huguenots, etc.
The island of Hispaniola, or Hayti, was described by the original discoverers in glowing terms, as being of great beauty and fertility, and containing a population of at least a million, but twenty years of Spanish government (so miscalled) reduced the aboriginal inhabitants to less than sixty thousand in number, and the land (beyond the limits of a few small towns and scattered plantations) to a state of primeval forest tenanted only by wild cattle and a few wandering Indian hunters. The foreign traders soon began to appreciate the attractions offered by the seclusion of these districts, and by the facility of victualling and obtaining wood and water. Among other articles of food supplied by the Indians, beef and pork cured by the boucan process obtained a high repute, and many of the sailors finding it to their interest to adopt the hunters' life, a large trade in boucaned meat soon sprang up. The charm of the wild life attracted to the region increasing numbers of Europeans, who pursued indifferently the trade of hunters and corsairs. Many also became planters, and the latter (among whom the French element. predominated) spread over the western portion of the island. Eventually this district became entirely French, and for a long time was the most flourishing colonial possession of the crown of France, its prosperity lasting until the Revolution of 1789, when the negro inhabitants, under Toussaint L'Ouverture, revolted, and having massacred or expelled the whites, established a republic; this gave way to an empire, and again to d republic; finally the French and Spanish negroes each established republican governments of their own, which have lasted down to the present day.
A few words will not be here out of place by way of description of the manners and customs of the buccaneers, and of illustration of the simple yet effective means by which they organized victory over a nation which at that period enjoyed the highest military reputation.
The term buccaneer is the English version of the French word boucanier (i.e., one who cures meat by the boucan process). It is curious that the English pirates should have adopted the term from their French comrades and made it their own, while the latter simultaneously took the title of Flibustier, which is the English word " freebooter" pronounced in the French manner. Another and very common appellation by which they were known was Brethren of the Coast, and by these rude warriors of all races, who were accustomed to work together irrespective of nationality, this last title was deemed peculiarly appropriate and expressive.
For the pursuit of the wild oxen and swine that pastured in the Haytian forests the hunters used to form parties of five or six in number, each member provided with musket, bullet-bag, powder-horn, and knife, and dressed in garments made out of the skin, and stained with the blood of the slain animals; horses were never used, the tangled nature of the country rendering a pursuit on foot more practicable. The flesh, when obtained, was cut into long strips (sometimes salted, when required for a long voyage). The special feature of the process consisted in laying the meat upon boucans or barbecues (i.e., gratings constructed of green sticks), and exposing it to the smoke of wood, fed with the fat, bones and offal of the carcass, and the trimmings of the hide. By this means a very appetising flavour was imparted to the flesh, which, when cured, was usually of a bright red colour, and kept good for a long time. Pork was generally considered the best of the boucaned meats, except by the savage Caribs of the Lesser Antilles, to whom the barbecued flesh of an enemy was thought to be the food most grateful to a warrior. The charqui or jerked beef, so frequently alluded to in contemporary accounts, was prepared by cutting the meat into strips and drying it in the sun--this process being better suited to a dry climate was chiefly made use of in Peru, Chili, and the River Plate.
Analogous in their habits to the buccaneers of Hispaniola were the logwood cutters and cattle hunters in the peninsula of Yucatan or Honduras. Like them they were used to vary the monotony of timber-felling and bullock-driving by an, occasional foray upon the Spanish settlements in the immediate neighbourhood. It must, however, in justice to the logwood cutters be admitted that they were not the original aggressors, but for the molestation inflicted upon them by the Spanish forces they would have been content to pursue their avocation in obscurity and peace. The colony of British Honduras was founded by their descendants, who still carry on the trade in logwood and mahogany. It would be unjust to omit allusion to the Mosquito Indians, the attached friends and allies of the buccaneers, who, from their strong affection to the English, their knowledge of pilotage, and their extraordinary dexterity in the arts of the fisherman, particularly in the use of the fish spear, were almost indispensable members of every expedition to the South Sea. Their chief Cacique usually received a kind of investiture from the governors of Jamaica, and numerous English planters settled among them, mostly in the neighbourhood of Blewfields. The territory has for some time past been absorbed into the adjacent republic of Honduras.
Previous to embarking upon an expedition it was the universal custom of these freebooters to hold a preliminary meeting to determine the object of attack, to raise funds, to elect officers, and generally to discuss all minor details. The next step was to draw up articles of association for signature by the adventurers, binding them to contribute a fixed minimum sum to the common fund, to observe due order and discipline, and to allot the spoil in the manner pointed out in the articles. A certain number of shares, from two to eight according to rank, was assigned to each officer, and one to each adventurer, but before apportioning the plunder among individuals preferential shares were almost invariably set aside as compensation for wounds, and losses of eyes and limbs; the representatives of the slain were not forgotten, generally received the share that the adventurer would have taken if he had survived. It was not an uncommon practice for two buccaneers to swear brotherhood, to stand by each other during life, and each to make the other his heir, and these curious partnerships once entered into were observed with a fidelity almost touching. Rewards were also given to the first man who sighted the chase, to the first who boarded an enemy, and for other services of distinction.
Great honesty and integrity usually characterized their dealings with each other, and with the Indians with whom they were frequently brought into contact; to their prisoners also they behaved with much greater humanity than was usual at the period, and from their considerate treatment of Indians and captives they frequently derived much information and advantage in war.
To this rule, however, a few marked exceptions, such as Montbars and L'Ollonais, must be made, and it must also be admitted that towards the end of their career a great change for the worse took place in this respect, the ferocity and bad faith characteristic of the vulgar pirate becoming painfully conspicuous. The earlier freebooters were content to wage war against Spain only, but their successors evinced no such nice discrimination, and impartially plundered and burnt the ships of all nations whenever a favourable opportunity occurred.
Offensive operations were carried on for the most part in the following manner. In the early days of buccaneering notice of an intended expedition, naming a rendezvous, would be sent to the principal resorts of the pirates, and if the suggested commanders were popular the summons would be freely responded to. The usual place of meeting was the west end of the island of Tortuga, off the northern coast of Hayti, but after the capture of Jamaica in 1654 by Cromwell's forces, the English pirates generally made that island their centre, while the French remained constant to Tortuga, their old place of resort. Nor were the Dutch, French, and English colonies in the West Indies afflicted with many scruples as to the propriety of allowing filibusters to build, fit out, and repair in their ports armed vessels intended to cruise against their Spanish neighbours, with whom their respective mother countries were nominally at peace. The traders and planters of Martinique, Curacoa, St. Kitts, Barbados, and especially Jamaica, greatly encouraged the trade, on account of the large profits made on the purchase of plunder from the pirates and the prodigality with which the successful adventurers scattered their hardly won spoils — to such cause doubtless was owing much of the early prosperity of these colonies. In many cases even the precise and pious New Englanders did not disdain to participate the gains of the atrocious Blackbeard and his associates, who flourished in the first quarter of the eighteenth century.
But to return to the early days of buccaneering, when the aspirations of the pirates were more modest, and captains were content to start in business in a very humble way. The mode of procedure was — mutatis mutandis — nearly always the same, irrespective of the numbers engaged. A party, varying in number from twenty to fifty men, would meet to discuss ways and means, to sign agreements, and to choose officers; this done, they would put to sea in canoes or small vessels, and cruise on the usual trade routes. If fortunate enough to discover a Spanish vessel, the pirates were not likely to be deterred from the attack by any disparity in force, however great, apparently trusting by superior seamanship and discipline to place themselves at least on an equality with the enemy. Their first approach was generally made with great judgment, their tiny craft being so steered as to avoid the direct fire of the heavy artillery, while their picked marksmen attempted to strike down the helmsman first, and next the men attending to the sails. This effected, they would get under the stern, or other part of the ship where the guns could not be sufficiently depressed to reach them, the crew of one of the boats would proceed to wedge up the rudder, while the others would keep up a fire of musketry directed at the portholes and bulwarks, so accurately aimed as to prevent any of the Spanish crew from showing themselves.1
When the guns had been thus silenced, and the crew forced to seek shelter, the assailants would board from several quarters at once; the deck once reached, their personal dexterity in the use of their weapons, and their activity and courage were so marked that they rarely failed to overpower their opponents. A very good example of their mode of fighting may be found in the action off Panama, between the buccaneer flotilla of Captain Sawkins and the Spanish squadron, described in chapter 7 of the last part of the present work. The prisoners, except officers and others whose means enabled them to pay a ransom, were either put ashore or set adrift in one of the captured craft otherwise useless to the captors, and left to find their way to the land. The prizes, if adapted for the purpose, were often manned and armed for a further cruise. Vessels of large size were seldom used — those employed rarely carried more than four to six small guns, although ships of thirty to forty guns are occasionally mentioned as taking part in the larger expeditions. On or previous to the return to port a general meeting of the adventurers would be held, and the spoil duly divided; if the voyage happened to be a long one dividends were frequently declared after the capture of each considerable prize. Large amounts, £700, £800, or £1,000, were frequently realized even by the common seamen, only to be rapidly dissipated in gambling and debauchery. Their money spent the buccaneers would either take to the woods or go upon a fresh cruise, as their inclination prompted. A popular and successful captain had only to announce his intention to fit out a squadron to attract any number of followers; and in the latter part of their career, when all the smaller craft had been driven from the sea, and the Spaniards never dared to put to sea except in large and well armed fleets, the large towns situated even at a considerable distance from the coast became the object of attack, and expeditions comprising thirty or forty ships, conveying from one to two thousand men, were not at all unusual. The varied training of this mixed body of soldiers, sailors, lumberers, etc., produced in them great skill in the use of arms, and immense strength and agility, together with an extraordinary power of enduring hunger, thirst and exposure; while the rude sense of honour and integrity, and the obedience to discipline which so long distinguished them, enabled them to live together in brotherly harmony, and carry on with nearly uniform success their eternal warfare against the common enemy — the Spaniard. For many years, and indeed up to the very last, they were constantly victorious by sea and land, and their organization broke down in the end from internal dissension, arising from the following causes: —
Firstly and chiefly from the fact that Spain, instead of being confronted, as heretofore, by the protestant nations, now found it to her interest to seek alliance against the increasing influence of France under Louis XIV. among the northern powers. Hence the treaty of peace with England in 1670, already alluded to, which, however, had but little effect at the time.
The various quarrels between French, English, and Dutch, were an additional cause of disintegration, the final blow being probably given by the accession of a Bourbon to the throne of Spain in 1700. By this time the greater part of the freebooters had ranged themselves under the flags of their respective nationalities, had settled down as planters or returned to Europe, while the residuum became ordinary pirates, preying upon the trade of all nations alike.
Secondly, from the decay of the strong spirit of religious antagonism which all the protestant nations (from whom the buccaneer community received at least nine-tenths of their recruits) bore to Spain. Spain was Antichrist, the Bulwark of the Inquisition, the enemy of Freedom, in short the embodiment of religious and political tyranny to the descendants of Hollanders oppressed by Alva, of Huguenots who had battled with the League, and of English to whom the memory of the great struggle with Philip II. was a source of national pride.
This spirit was emphasized in the minds of all protestant nations by the great struggle of the Thirty years' war, still in progress in the first part of the century and exemplified in the religious and law-abiding habits, almost universal among the brethren in early days, and in some crews existing almost to the last.2
A third cause of antagonism was the fiscal tyranny already spoken of. Had a more enlightened commercial policy been adopted towards protestant traders and colonists, it is not unlikely that the tide of emigration might have been turned from the inhospitable districts of New England and the Canadas to the more genial districts on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, extending from Texas to Florida. It would be here out of place to speculate as to what would have been the position of the United States under such altered circumstances, but their development would probably have been considerably affected.
It now becomes necessary to give a short summary of the principal incidents of the history of the buccaneers, founded chiefly upon the narratives of Esquemeling and Ringrose, but also including circumstances unknown to or omitted by these writers, in order that the reader may have a complete account of the epoch before him.
For the present purpose it will be sufficient to commence with the year 1625, by which time the organization or confederacy of the brethren had probably assumed the shape which it maintained until the close, and to take as a starting point the joint settlement of the Island of St. Christopher, or St. Kitts, by the English and French.3
In consequence of the increasing importance of the trade carried on by the interlopers in the West Indies, England and France agreed to plant each a colony side by side, and the island of St. Kitts being chosen for the purpose, in 1625 the colonists landed and divided the territory between them. The two colonies, in spite of occasional disputes, were very successful, and the English also took possession of the adjacent Island of Nevis.
In 1629, however, a large fleet from Spain, without warning or provocation, attacked and totally dispersed the colonists, and then proceeded on their voyage to the Brazils. The fugitives soon returned, the English for the most part settling in Nevis; a few of the French reoccupied their old settlements in St. Kitts, but the greater portion of the dispossessed planters in 1630 removed to Tortuga, an island on the north coast of Hispaniola, and not far from the toucan establishments already existing. Here they seem to have enjoyed considerable prosperity, so much so as to induce the Governor-General of the French West Indies, who had been previously stationed in St. Kitts, to transfer in 1634 his seat of government to Tortuga. In 1638 the Spaniards attacked Tortuga, and temporarily expelled the inhabitants, who, however, very shortly recaptured the place, and the French party so improved their position as to be strong enough to expel their English allies in 1641. These latter maintained a precarious existence partly among the buccaneer settlements on the main island, and partly by piracy, until the capture of Jamaica by Penn in 1654, and Venables (in which the English freebooters took part and greatly distinguished themselves), provided them with a new settlement and base of operations; the western part of Hispaniola being then wholly abandoned to the French Tortuga was again captured by the Spaniards in 1654, and remained in their possession for six years, after which it was finally recovered by the French.
During the period between 1625 and 1655 constant maritime warfare had been carried on, and as an almost necessary consequence the commerce of the Spanish colonies with each other and with the mother country dwindled down almost to nothing, and the piratical community, deprived of the plunder of the local mercantile marine was obliged, in sheer necessity, to turn their arms against the large towns on shore, New Segovia, in Honduras, being the first victim, in 1654.
Among numerous smaller exploits which it is not here necessary to describe, must be especially noted that of Pierre le Grand (perhaps deservedly so named) who, with a small boat containing twenty-eight men, was skilful and fortunate enough to capture the Spanish Vice Admiral himself, and his galleon; that of Alexandre, who, with means equally inadequate, also took a large man-of-war; of Montbars, surnamed the Exterminator; of Bartholomew Portuguez, Michael le Basque and Roche Brasiliano; of Lewis Scot, who took and pillaged the city of Campeche; of John Davis, who plundered Nicaragua, and especially of Van Horn, Granmont and De Graaf, who in 1683 sacked the town of Vera Cruz and carried away an immense booty.
In 1664, Mansveldt, perhaps the ablest of all the pirate chiefs, formed a project of founding an independent buccaneer settlement with a government and flag of its own,4 at Santa Katalina, or Old Providence (so named to distinguish it from New Providence in the Bahamas, a place noted as the resort, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of pirates and in the nineteenth of blockade runners), but his death and the pronounced opposition of the Governor of Jamaica, deterred his successor Morgan from pursuing the subject further. It may indeed be doubted whether Morgan, although equally eminent as a leader, was possessed of abilities to comprehend, much less to carry out, what to him would have seemed plans of colonisation of a visionary character which did not appeal to his self interest. To go out of his way to establish a new base of operation was to him a waste of time. Jamaica was a place which fully suited his convenience for purpose of refitting and of disposing of his plunder, and that was all he cared about.5 Under the leadership of Morgan the buccaneers reached the zenith of their reputation. Never had their plundering raids been organized on a larger scale or with more success. Even in Mansvelt's time many of the largest towns only escaped destruction by the payment of heavy blackmail to the freebooters, and the new commander apparently had only to march against the remaining colonies successively in order to extinguish them.
Morgan's first independent enterprise of any importance after the death of Mansvelt was the capture and sack of the town of Puerto del Principe, in Cuba; he next surprised and took the city of Porto Bello on the mainland. He then proceeded to attack the unfortunate towns of Maracaibo and Gibraltar, which had been not long before plundered by L'Ollonais. They were taken for the second time by Michael le Basque, while Morgan was engaged at Puerto del Principe. This last raid did not however save them from Morgan, who for the third time harried these wretched cities. In order to wring from the inhabitants their last coins he remained so long in possession as to enable the Spaniards to send a strongly armed squadron to occupy the mouth of the Lake of Maracaibo, to prevent his retreat. The skilful manner in which he totally destroyed the Spanish ships, and evaded the forts at the entrance, gained him great credit, and was said to have caused the Spanish court to make very strong applications for redress to England. Upon the conclusion of a treaty of peace in 1670,6 between the two nations, which confirmed England in her possessions in the West Indies, but forbade her subjects to trade to any Spanish port without a license; a proclamation was issued in pursuance of such arrangement which greatly exasperated the freebooting community and the direct result of which was the assemblage of the largest fleet ever brought together by the buccaneers, amounting to 37 ships of all sizes, manned by more than 2,000 pirates. They met in December, 1670, at Cape Tiburon, and held a council to decide whether their forces should be directed upon Carthagena, Vera Cruz, or Panama. The last was chosen, as being the richest, and Morgan was elected Admiral; and the island of Santa Katalina, or Old Providence, was, after a feigned resistance, occupied as a base of operations. A detachment was next despatched against Fort San Lorenzo at the mouth of the Chagre river, which was taken after a most gallant defence by the Spanish garrison. Having securely garrisoned Old Providence and the Chagre forts, the main body, then numbering about 1,200 men, marched across the isthmus, and after nine days of severe hardship, in consequence of the enemy having laid waste the country over which they were obliged to advance, came in sight of Panama. Another day of severe fighting against a force of 2,500 men, which was defeated and put to flight, gave them possession of the coveted city. A large number of the pirates were strongly disposed to pursue their advantage against Peru, which lay temptingly open and almost defenceless before them. Morgan, however, was able to induce his companions to forego any further enterprise in the South Sea, and (after a stay of about three weeks) to evacuate Panama and return across the isthmus. The amount of spoil obtained being very unsatisfactory, he was, with some justice, suspected of embezzling a large part of the booty, and his consequent unpopularity led to his abandoning his comrades and accepting the post of Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. He was subsequently knighted and made Governor of the Island, in which capacity he showed considerable energy in suppressing piracy. His secession from the buccaneer community just when there was no other leader of capacity to succeed him was a severe blow to their cause. From this time forth the harmony, which up to this time had prevailed between the various nations hitherto united against the Spaniards, was much weakened, and an increasing disposition among individuals to identify themselves with the disputes of their several mother countries took its place. From this point the account of the various occurrences on the Atlantic side of the Isthmus will be carried on to its close, and the narrative of the proceedings of the freebooters in the South Sea reserved for the conclusion.
About 1673 the French buccaneers took part (as privateers under their national flag in the war between France and Holland) in two unsuccessful expeditions against the Dutch Island of Curacoa; soon after the latter of which, Puerto del Principe, in Cuba, and the ever unfortunate towns of Maracaibo and Gibraltar, were again pillaged.
In 1679 the Spaniards almost exterminated the French settlers at Samana, in Hispaniola, and in the same year Porto Bello was again plundered. In 1683, a body of 1,200 French pirates took Vera Cruz by stratagem, and carried off an immense spoil. In 1684 negotiations to induce the French flibustiers, then about 3,000 in number, to settle in Hispaniola were entered into, but met with only moderate success. In 1686, Grammont and De Graaf plundered and burnt Campeche. The former of these two chiefs put to sea on a fresh expedition soon afterwards, but was never again heard of, the latter entered the service of France, and became in his way as useful as Morgan in putting down his former companions. In 1688, the English settlers were driven out of St. Kitts by the French. War, however, broke out between France and Spain. England soon afterwards joined the latter, and the buccaneers ranged themselves under the flags of their respective countries. St. Kitts was retaken in the following year, and the remaining French colonists expelled.
Almost the last enterprise in which the buccaneers, as such, were engaged, was directed against Carthagena by the governor of the French possessions in Hispaniola, about a third of the attacking forces on this occasion being buccaneers. Considerable booty was obtained on the capture of the city, but the freebooters being unable to obtain their portion from the French commander, returned and put the city to ransom. On their return they were chased by a combined English and Dutch squadron, were obliged to disperse, and lost a considerable proportion of their gains.
After the Peace of Ryswick, in 1697, buccaneers became practically extinct, the major part of the adventurers either taking service with their respective governments, returning home, or settling down as planters. The balance, becoming pirates pure and simple, long infested the Gulf of Mexico (the coasts of Virginia, the Carolinas, and the Bahama islands serving them as ports of cali), and were not finally put down till early in the r9th century; the Lafittes of Barataria, near the mouth of the Mississippi, being probably the last in the trade.7
It now only remains to chronicle the events in the South Sea subsequent to the capture of Panama by Morgan. For several years after his retreat no fresh attempts were made to carry the war in that direction until early in 1680, when a party of 330, under Coxon, Sawkins, Sharp, and others, landed in Darien, and under the guidance of Indians marched to the town of Santa Maria, and thence proceeded in canoes upon the river of the same name to the sea. With two small captured vessels and the canoes, they engaged and took a small Spanish squadron, three of which they fitted out and with them blockaded Panama. Disputes however arising, Coxon, with seventy of the men and most of the Indians, returned across the isthmus, while the remainder pursued their voyage to the south. On the death of Captain Sawkins, killed soon afterwards in a skirmish, further disputes arose, another party broke off and returned to the Gulf, leaving Sharp in command, with about 140 men. They took a few prizes, put one or two small towns to ransom, and on Christmas Day, 1680, anchored at Juan Fernandez to refit. In February they attacked Arica, but were repulsed with loss. On their arrival at the isle of La Plata differences again arose, and forty-four more (among whom were William Dampier and Lionel Wafer) quitted the ship and returned north. The ship sailed to the Gulf of Nicoya, then back to La Plata, during which interval some valuable prizes were made,8 and finally round Cape Horn to Antigua, where the crew dispersed. Sharp and others on reaching England were, at the instance of the Spanish ambassador, tried for piracy. but acquitted on the ground that the Spanish ships captured by them had fired first, and that therefore the pirates had acted in self-defence.
In August, 1683, the ship Revenge, of eighteen guns and seventy men, among whom were Dampier, Wafer, Cook, Davis, and several other noted buccaneers, sailed from the Chesapeake. Near Sierra Leone they took a Danish ship of thirty-six guns, into which they shifted their crew, christening her the Bachelor's Delight, and reached in March, 1684, Juan Fernandez, accompanied by another English privateer, the Nicholas, Captain Swan, that fell in with them shortly before their arrival. Having taken a few prizes the ships proceeded in company to the Galapagos and then to the Gulf of Nicoya, where Captain Cook died and Davis was elected in his place. After cruising for some time together with moderate success the two vessels separated, the Nicholas proceeding to England, by way of the East Indies, while the Bachelor's Delight sailed to the island of La Plata, where she encountered the Cygnet, Captain Swan, a vessel which (fitted out in London as a trader) had come round Cape Horn and thence up the coast to the Gulf of Nicoya, where she had filled up her crew by a number of buccaneers, who had crossed the isthmus to that point. The two crews at once agreed to keep company, and accordingly sailed to Payta, Guayaquil9 and Panama, taking several prizes during the voyage. After blockading the latter town for some weeks, they were reinforced by Captains Grogniet and L'Escayer, with 200 French and 80 English freebooters from the isthmus, then by Townley, with 180 English from the same quarter, and again by 260 Frenchmen more, which raised their total strength to 960 men, distributed in ten vessels of various sizes, but (with the exception of the Bachelor's Delight and the Cycnel) carrying no cannon, Davis being elected Admiral. On the 28th May, 1685, the Spanish Treasure Fleet from Lima, numbering six heavily armed vessels, six smaller ones, and two fire ships, hove in sight; but having received information that the buccaneers' fleet was cruising in the neighbourhood, they had found an opportunity of landing the greater part of the specie and other valuables with which they were laden. A distant cannonade took place between the two fleets, but the buccaneers were daunted by the heavy armament of the Spaniards, who, on their side, were too prudent to provoke an action by which they had nothing to gain. The former then withdrew to the Island of Quibo, where they found another body of pirates. Disputes soon arising between English and French, the former, under Davis, went north and plundered Leon and Rio Lexa, in Nicaragua. Here a fresh split took place, Swan and Townley going in search of the French, while Davis went to the Galapagos, and then cruised along the coast of Peru till the end of 1686, taking several vessels and sacking two or three small towns with profitable results. Some of his men, who desired to secure their plunder, now returned to the West Indies vid Cape Horn, while the remainder who still adhered to Davis remained on the coast till April, 1687, when they encountered first a Spanish frigate, which they drove ashore and burnt, and shortly afterwards a squadron of very superior force, from which they successfully escaped after a running fight which lasted for seven days. In May they once more fell in with Townley and the French buccaneers, and with their re-united forces succeeded in capturing Guayaquil. This was practically the last exploit of Davis and his companions in the South Sea, for after a short visit to the Galapagos to refit they followed Knight round the Horn to the West Indies, where they arrived in the spring of 1688.
It may be interesting here to note that Lionel Wafer, from whose journal an account of this voyage is derived, accompanied Davis in the capacity of surgeon; also that Dampier in Swan's vessel, the Cygnet, occupied the post of pilot or quartermaster, a post analogous to that of navigating lieutenant or staff-commander in a man-of-war of the present day, and Ringrose, the author of the last part of this history, that of supercargo and pilot on the same vessel.
On leaving Rio Lexa the Cygnet, with two tenders and 340 men, cruised along the coast of Mexico and Central America for some time, her crew landing and skirmishing at intervals with the inhabitants, but they were not fortunate enough to meet the galleon from Manila, the capture of which had been their principal reason for visiting the coast. This disappointment resulted in the usual quarrel, and Townley accordingly went south to join Grogniet. Swan remained on the coast a short time, but more than sixty of his men being cut off10 on shore by the Spaniards, the most severe defeat in the South Seas ever experienced by the buccaneers, he thought it better to retire, and the Cygnet therefore proceeded to Mindanao, in the Philip. pines, where a mutiny took place which caused Swan and thirty-six others to be left behind, the rest, among whom was Dampier, pursuing their voyage and visiting Celebes, Timor, and New Holland, or Northern Australia. Dampier and some others left her at the Nicobar Islands, and somehow managed to reach England. The Cygnet meanwhile just succeeded in reaching Madagascar but in so crazy a condition that she sank at her anchors immediately after her arrival. Some of the crew settled or took service with the petty chiefs, the remainder returning home as opportunity offered.11
Grogniet and the 340 French who had parted company with Davis at Quibo in July, 1685, plundered several towns, and then unfortunately revisited Quibo, where they were discovered by a Spanish squadron in January, 1686, which burnt their vessel while the crew were on shore. They were, however, rescued from their difficulties by Townley, in whose company they went northward to Nicaragua, and sacked Granada. In May, Grogniet and half the French took the opportunity to recross the isthmus. The other adventurers, however, came back to Panama, disembarked, and, took the neighbouring town of Lavelia, at which place the valuable cargo of the Lima fleet had been landed the previous year to avoid capture by the buccaneer fleet under Davis. With almost incredible carelessness the viceroy, and the merchants to whom this immense mass of treasure had been consigned, had taken no trouble to remove it to a place of safety, and it consequently fell an easy prey to Townley and his companions, who however lost several of their number in conveying it to the ships. In August they were attacked by three Spanish men-of-war, but were able to give a very good account of them by capturing two and burning the third. They lost, however, the gallant Townley, who died of his wounds a short time afterwards.
In January, Grogniet appeared, and the united forces once more plundered Guayaquil, but their leader was so severely wounded that he died soon after the assault.
In May, Davis rejoined them and remained until his retreat from the South Sea, whereupon, under the command of Le Picard, they set sail for New Spain and landed at Amapalla Bay. I lere they destroyed their ships and marched across to New Segovia, which they took. This was their last exploit. We only know that they finally reached Cape Gracias a Dios, on the Gulf of Mexico, about February, 1688, and that the last buccaneers of the South Sea gradually dispersed and were heard of no more.
The first three parts of this volume, written in Dutch by John Esquemeling, and originally published in Amsterdam in 1678, under the title of De Amerieaveche Zee Roovers, became at once very popular, and were quickly translated into the principal European languages. The translators, however, allowed themselves considerable latitude in incorporating into their respective versions considerable additional matter, chiefly to bring into prominence the special merits of their compatriots, e.g., the French version embodiing many exploits of the French filibusters not referred to by the Dutch author, while the English edition makes Morgan the principal hero of the story. Esquemeling's book gives a very reliable account of the principal exploits of the buccaneers down to their final disappearance, with the notable exception of their adventures in the South Sea, of which he makes no mention. This defect is, however, amply supplied by the journal of Mr. Basil Ringrose, published in London, which is now extremely scarce and difficult to meet with. Ringrose in the capacity of pilot personally took part in Sharp's voyage and was killed in a plundering raid; his account is extremely curious and accurate. He also added several sketches and outlines of the principal points and islands along the coast, which have been faithfully reproduced. Captains Sharp and Cowley, a buccaneer well known in his time, also published their journals, but they add but little to what has already been narrated by Ringrose, Dampier, or Wafer.
1 It will be within the memory of our readers that during the Crimean War the forts at Bomarsund, in the Baltic, were captured chiefly through their guns being silenced by the sharp shooters of the Allies. At the siege of Sebastopol also, the Russian riflemen so annoyed the advanced batteries of the besiegers by firing into the embrasures, that strong rope screens filling up the whole of the embrasure and closely surrounding the muzzle of the gun (which would otherwise have been quickly silenced by the rifle fire), had to be devised, and were employed on both sides during the remainder of the siege.
2 Divine service was by the English nearly always celebrated each Sunday at least, and rules prohibiting profane language, gaming, etc., were frequently included in the articles signed by the adventurers.
3 The island of St. Kitts (to make use of its popular designation) was at this time covered by forests, which have since disappeared, and inhabited by Caribs, a race who then extended from the coast of Caraccas over the whole of the Lesser Antilles. A few are still to be found in the island of Grenada, but the largest body of representatives of the nation are now dwelling in the island of Dominica; to the inaccessible mountains and tangled forests of which they owe their preservation They number at present about 300, are steadily dwindling away, and another generation will probably see them everywhere extinct.
4 This is by no means the only instance of an attempt to found a piratical state. The sea rovers who infested the Indian Ocean in the early part of the eighteenth century often possessed large establishments on the coast of Madagascar, and were very successful in conciliating and governing the natives. Several small states, administered directly and indirectly by pirates, were established on that island, but no attempt at confederation was made, and none lasted beyond the lives of their founders. Given, however, a leader capable of uniting the various chiefs under one rule, and a colony equal to Java might have been created with ease.
5 Jamaica was the resort of the English freebooters until their extinction at the end of the century. The pirates of the next generation under Teach and others made the town of New Providence in the Bahamas their principal base of operations.
6 It may be here noted that the existence of a continual war between Spaniards and English is virtually admitted in the treaty; which indeed practically condones the offences of the buccaneers antecedent to the date thereof.
7 Teach (or Blackbeard), England, Low, Roberts, Kidd and Avery were the principal pirate heroes of the 18th century. Their depredations were on a very large scale, and extended from the Atlantic coast of America and the Gulf of Mexico to the west coast of Africa, Madagascar, and the Indian Ocean.
8 One of these prizes, the San Rosario, contained no less than loo pigs or large ingots of silver, which were taken to be tin, and (with one exception only) thrown overboard by the ignorant sailors.
9 Several hundred negroes were taken in vessels at Guayaquil, the greater part of which were set at liberty, against the advice of Dampier, who wished them to be employed in working the gold mines at Darien for the benefit of the adventurers.
10 Among the slain on this occasion was Basil Ringrose, above mentioned.
11 See note, p. xviii.