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Some account of the Island of Cuba. Capt. Morgan attempts to preserve the Isle of St. Catharine as a refuge and nest to Pirates; but fails of his designs. He arrives at and takes the village El Puerto del Principe.
CAPTAIN MORGAN, seeing his predecessor and Admiral Mansvelt was dead, endeavoured as much as he could, and used all the means that were possible, to preserve and keep in perpetual possession the Isle of St. Catharine, seated near that of Cuba. His principal intent was to consecrate it as a refuge and sanctuary to the Pirates of those parts, putting it in a sufficient condition of being a convenient receptacle or storehouse of their preys and robberies. To this effect he left no stone unmoved whereby to compass his designs, writing for the same purpose to several merchants that lived in Virginia and New England, and persuading them to send him provisions and other necessary things towards the putting the said island in such a posture of defence as it might neither fear any external dangers nor be moved at any suspicions of invasion from any side that might attempt to disquiet it. At last all his thoughts and cares proved ineffectual by the Spaniards retaking the said island. Yet, notwithstanding, Captain Morgan retained his ancient courage, which instantly put him upon new designs. Thus he equipped at first a ship, with intention to gather an entire fleet, both as great and as strong as he could compass. By degrees he put the whole matter in execution, and gave order to every member of his fleet, they should meet at a certain port of Cuba. Here he determined to call a council, and deliberate concerning what were best to be done, and what place first they should fall upon. Leaving these new preparations in this condition, I shall here give my reader some small account of the aforementioned Isle of Cuba, in whose ports this expedition was hatched, seeing I omitted to do it in its proper place.
The Island of Cuba lies from East to West, in the latitude and situation of twenty to three and twenty degrees North, being in length one hundred and fifty German leagues and about forty in breadth. Its fertility is equal to that of the Island of Hispaniola. Besides which, it affords many things proper for trading and commerce, such as are hides of several beasts, particularly those that in Europe are called Hides of Havana. On all sides it is surrounded with a great number of small islands, which go altogether under the name of Cayos. Of these little islands the Pirates make great use, as of their own proper ports of refuge. Here most commonly they make their meetings and hold their councils, how to assault more easily the Spaniards. It is thoroughly irrigated on all sides with the streams of plentiful and pleasant rivers, whose entries form both secure and spacious ports, besides many other harbours for ships, which along the calm shores and coasts adorn many parts of this rich and beautiful island; all which contribute very much to its happiness, by facilitating the exercise of trade, whereunto they invite both natives and aliens. The chief of these ports are Santiago, Bayame, Santa Maria, Espiritu Santo, Trinidad, Xagoa, Cabo de Corrientes and others, all which are seated on the south side of the island. On the northern side hereof are found the following: La Havana, Puerto Mariano, Santa Cruz, Mata Ricos and Barracoa.
This island has two principal cities, by which the whole country is governed, and to which all the towns and villages thereof give obedience. The first of these is named Santiago, or St. James, being seated on the south side, and having under its jurisdiction one half of the island. The chief magistrates hereof are a Bishop and a Governor, who command over the villages and towns belonging to the half above-mentioned. The chief of these are, on the southern side Espiritu Santo, Puerto del Principe and Bayame; on the north side it has Barracoa and the town called De los Cayos. The greatest part of the commerce driven at the aforementioned city of Santiago comes from the Canary Islands, whither they transport great quantity of tobacco, sugar, and hides: which sorts of merchandize are drawn to the head city from the subordinate towns and villages. In former times the city of Santiago was miserably sacked by the Pirates of Jamaica and Tortuga, notwithstanding that it is defended by a considerable castle.
The city and port De la Havana lies between the north and west side of the island. This is one of the most renowned and strongest places of all the \Vest Indies. Its jurisdiction extends over the other half of the island, the chief places under it being Santa Cruz on the northern side and La Trinidad on the south. Hence is transported huge quantity of tobacco, which is sent in great plenty to New Spain and Costa Rica, even as far as the South Sea; besides many ships laden with this commodity that are consigned to Spain and other parts of Europe, not only in the leaf but also in rolls. This city is defended by three castles, very great and strong; two of which lie towards the port, and the other is seated upon a hill that commands the town. 'Tis esteemed to contain ten thousand families, more or less; among which number of people the merchants of this place trade in New Spain, Campeche, Honduras and Florida. All the ships that come from the parts aforementioned, as also from Caracas, Cartagena and Costa Rica, are necessitated to take their provisions in at Havana, wherewith to make their voyage for Spain; this being the necessary and straight course they ought to steer for the South of Europe and other parts. The plate-fleet of Spain, which the Spaniards call Fl˘ta, being homeward bound, touches here yearly, to take in the rest of their full cargo, as hides, tobacco and Campeche-wood.
Captain Morgan had been no longer than two months in the above-mentioned ports of the South of Cuba, when he had got together a fleet of twelve sail, between ships and great boats; wherein he had seven hundred fighting men, part of which were English and part French. They called a council, and some were of opinion 'twere convenient to assault the city of Havana, under the obscurity of the night. Which enterprize, they said, might easily be performed, especially if they could but take a few of the ecclesiastics, and make them prisoners. Yea, that the city might be sacked, before the castles could put themselves in a posture of defence. Others propounded, according to their several opinions, other attempts. Notwithstanding, the former proposal was rejected, because many of the Pirates had been prisoners at other times in the said city; and these affirmed nothing of consequence could be done, unless with fifteen hundred men. Moreover, that with all this number of people they ought first to go to the island De los Pinos, and land them in small boats about M atamano, fourteen leagues distant from the aforesaid city, whereby to accomplish by these means and order their designs.
Finally, they saw no possibility of gathering so great a fleet; and hereupon, with that they had, they concluded to attempt some other place. Among the rest was found, at last, one who propounded they should go and assault the town of El Puerto del Principe. This proposition he endeavoured to persuade, by saying he knew that place very well, and that, being at a distance from the sea, it never was sacked by any Pirates; whereby the inhabitants were rich, as exercising their trade for ready money with those of Havana, who kept here an established commerce which consisted chiefly in hides. This proposal was presently admitted by Captain Morgan and the chief of his companions. And hereupon they gave order to every captain to weigh anchor and set sail, steering their course towards that coast that lies nearest to El Puerto del Principe. Hereabouts is to be seen a bay, named by the Spaniards El Puerto de Santa Maria. Being arrived at this bay, a certain Spaniard, who was prisoner on board the fleet, swam ashore by night, and came to the town of Puerto del Principe, giving account to the inhabitants of the design the Pirates had against them. This he affirmed to have overheard in their discourse, while they thought he did not understand the English tongue. The Spaniards, as soon as they received this fortunate advice, began instantly to hide their riches, and carry away what movables they could. The Governor also immediately raised all the people of the town, both freemen and slaves; and with part of them took a post by which of necessity the Pirates were to pass. He commanded likewise many trees to be cut down and laid amidst the ways to hinder their passage. In like manner he placed several ambuscades, which were strengthened with some pieces of cannon, to play upon them on their march. He gathered in all about eight hundred men, of which he distributed several into the aforementioned ambuscades, and with the rest he begirt the town, displaying them upon the plain of a spacious field, whence they could see the coming of the Pirates at length.
Captain Morgan, with his men, being now upon the march, found the avenues and passages to the town impenetrable. Hereupon they took their way through the wood, traversing it with great difficulty, whereby they escaped divers ambuscades. Thus at last they came into the plain aforementioned, which, from its figure, is called by the Spaniards, La Savana, or the Sheet. The Governor, seeing them come, made a detachment of a troop of horse, which he sent to charge them in the front, thinking to disperse them, and, by putting them to flight, pursue them with his main body. But this design succeeded not as it was intended. For the Pirates marched in very good rank and file, at the sound of their drums and with flying colours. When they came near the horse, they drew into the form of a semicircle, and thus advanced towards the Spaniards, who charged them like valiant and courageous soldiers for some while. But seeing that the Pirates were very dextrous at their arms, and their Governor, with many of their companions, killed, they began to retreat towards the wood. Here they designed to save themselves with more advantage; but, before they could reach it, the greatest part of them were unfortunately killed by the hands of the Pirates. Thus they left the victory to these new-come enemies, who had no considerable loss of men in this battle, and but very few wounded, howbeit the skirmish continued for the space of four hours. They entered the town, though not without great resistance of such as were within; who defended themselves as long as was possible, thinking by their defence to hinder the pillage. Hereupon many, seeing the enemy within the town, shut themselves up in their own houses, and thence made several shot against the Pirates, who, perceiving the mischief of this disadvantage, presently began to threaten them, saying: If you surrender not voluntarily, you shall soon see the town in a flame, and your wives and children torn in pieces before your faces. With these menaces the Spaniards submitted entirely to the discretion of the Pirates, believing they could not continue there long, and would soon be forced to dislodge.
As soon as the Pirates had possessed themselves of the town, they enclosed all the Spaniards, both men, women, children and slaves, in several churches; and gathered all the goods they could find by way of pillage. Afterwards they searched the whole country round about the town, bringing in day by day many goods and prisoners, with much provision. With this they fell to banqueting among themselves and making great cheer after their customary way, without remembering the poor prisoners, whom they permitted to starve in the churches. In the meanwhile they ceased not to torment them daily after an inhuman manner, thereby to make them confess where they had hid their goods, moneys and other things, though little or nothing was left them. To this effect they punished also the women and little children, giving them nothing to eat; whereby the greatest part perished.
When they could find no more to rob, and that provisions began to grow scarce, they thought it convenient to depart and seek new fortunes in other places. Hence they intimated to the prisoners: They should find moneys to ransom themselves, else they should be all transported to Jamaica. Which being done, if they did not pay a second ransom for the town, they would turn every house into ashes. The Spaniards, hearing these severe menaces, nominated among themselves four fellow-prisoners to go and seek for the above-mentioned contributions. But the Pirates, to the intent they should return speedily with the ransoms prescribed, tormented several in their presence, before they departed, with all rigour imaginable. After few days, the Spaniards returned from the fatigue of their unreasonable commissions, telling Captain Morgan: We have run 20 and down, and searched all the neighbouring woods and places we most suspected, and yet have not been able to find any of our own party, nor consequently any fruit of our embassy. But if you are pleased to have a little longer patience with us, we shall certainly cause all that you demand to be paid within the space of fifteen days. Captain Morgan was contented, as it should seem, to grant them this petition. But, not long after, there came into the town seven or eight Pirates, who had been ranging in the woods and fields, and got thereabouts some considerable booty. These brought among other prisoners a certain negro, whom they had taken with letters about him. Captain Morgan having perused them, found they were from the Governor of Santiago, being written to some of the prisoners; wherein he told them: They should not make too much haste to pay any ransom for their town or persons, or any other pretext. But, on the contrary, they should put of the Pirates as well as they could with excuses and delays; expecting to be relieved by him within a short while, when he would certainly come to their aid. This intelligence being heard by Captain Morgan, he immediately gave orders that all they had robbed should be carried on board the ships. And, withal, he intimated to the Spaniards that the very next day they should pay their ransom, forasmuch as he would not wait one moment longer, but reduce the whole town to ashes in case they failed to perform the sum he demanded.
With this intimation Captain Morgan made no mention to the Spaniards of the letters he had intercepted. Whereupon they made him answer, that it was totally impossible for them to give such a sum of money in so short a space of time; seeing their fellow-townsmen were not to be found in all the country thereabouts. Captain Morgan knew full well their intentions, and, withal, thought it not convenient to remain there any longer time. Hence he demanded of them only five hundred oxen or cows, together with sufficient salt wherewith to salt them. Hereunto he added only this condition, that they should carry them on board his ships, which they promised to do. Thus he departed with all his men, taking with him only six of the principal prisoners, as pledges of what he intended. The next day the Spaniards brought the cattle and salt to the ships, and required the prisoners. But Captain Morgan refused to deliver them till such time as they had helped his men to kill and salt the beeves. This was likewise performed in great haste, he not caring to stay there any longer, lest he should be surprised by the forces that were gathering against him. Having received all on board his vessels, he set at liberty the prisoners he had kept as hostages of his demands. While these things were in agitation, there happened to arise some dissensions between the English and the French. The occasion of their discord was as follows: A certain Frenchman being employed in killing and salting one of the beeves, an English Pirate came to him and took away the marrow-bones he had taken out of the ox; which sort of meat these people esteem very much. Hereupon they challenged one another. Being come to the place of duel, the Englishman drew his sword treacherously against the Frenchman, wounding him in the back, before he had put himself into a just posture of defence; whereby he suddenly fell dead upon the place. The other Frenchmen, desirous to revenge this base action, made an insurrection against the English. But Captain Morgan soon extinguished this flame, by commanding the criminal to be bound in chains, and thus carried to Jamaica; promising to them all he would see justice done upon him. For although it was permitted him to challenge his adversary, yet it was not lawful to kill him treacherously, as he did.
As soon as all things were in readiness, and on board the ships, and likewise the prisoners set at liberty, they sailed thence, directing their course to a certain island, where Captain Morgan intended to make a dividend of what they had pillaged in that voyage. Being arrived at the place assigned, they found near the value of fifty thousand pieces of eight, both in money and goods. The sum being known, it caused a general resentment and grief, to see such a small booty; which was not sufficient to pay their debts at Jamaica. Hereupon Captain Morgan propounded to them, they should think upon some other enterprize and pillage before they returned home. But the Frenchmen not being able to agree with the English, separated from their company, leaving Captain Morgan alone with those of his own nation; notwithstanding all the persuasions he used to induce them to continue in his company. Thus they parted with all external signs of friendship; Captain Morgan reiterating his promises to them that he would see justice done upon the criminal. This he performed: for being arrived at Jamaica, he caused him to be hanged; which was all the satisfaction the French Pirates could expect.