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The Buccaneers of America by  John Esquemeling
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THE TAKING OF CHAGRES CASTLE

Captain Morgan takes the Castle of Chagres, with four hundred men sent to this purpose from St. Catherine's.

[187] CAPTAIN MORGAN sending this little fleet to Chagres, chose for vice-admiral thereof one Captain Brodely, who had been long in those quarters, and committed many robberies on the Spaniards, when Mansvelt took the isle of St. Catherine, as was before related; and therefore was thought a fit person for this exploit, his actions likewise having rendered him famous among the pirates, and their enemies the Spaniards. Captain Brodely being made commander, in three days after his departure arrived in sight of the said castle of Chagres, by the Spaniards called St. Lawrence. This castle is built on a high mountain, at the entry of the river, surrounded by strong palisades, or wooden walls, filled with earth, which secures them as well as the best wall of stone or brick. The top of this mountain is, in a manner, divided into two parts, between which is a ditch thirty feet deep. The castle hath but one entry, and that by a drawbridge over this ditch. To the land it has four bastions, and to the sea two more. [188] The south part is totally inaccessible, through the cragginess of the mountain. The north is surrounded by the river, which here is very broad. At the foot of the castle, or rather mountain, is a strong fort, with eight great guns, commanding the entry of the river. Not much lower are two other batteries, each of six pieces, to defend likewise the mouth of the river. At one side of the castle are two great storehouses of all sorts of warlike ammunition and merchandise, brought thither from the island country. Near these houses is a high pair of stairs hewn out of the rock, to mount to the top of the castle. On the west is a small port, not above seven or eight fathoms deep, fit for small vessels, and of very good anchorage; besides, before the castle, at the entry of the river, is a great rock, scarce to be described but at low tides.

No sooner had the Spaniards perceived the pirates, but they fired incessantly at them with the biggest of their guns. They came to an anchor in a small port, about a league from the castle. Next morning, very early, they went ashore, and marched through the woods, to attack the castle on that side. This march lasted till two of the clock in the afternoon, before they could reach the castle, by reason of the difficulties of the way, and its mire and dirt; and though their guides served them very exactly, yet they came so nigh the castle at first, that they lost many of their men by its shot, they being in an open place without covert. This much perplexed [189] the pirates, not knowing what course to take; for on that side, of necessity, they must make the assault: and being uncovered from head to foot, they could not advance one step without danger: besides that, the castle, both for its situation and strength, made them much doubt of success. But to give it over they dared not, lest they should be reproached by their companions.

At last, after many doubts and disputes, resolving to hazard the assault and their lives desperately, they advanced towards the castle with their swords in one hand, and fireballs in the other. The Spaniards defended themselves very briskly, ceasing not to fire at them continually; crying withal, "Come on, ye English dogs! enemies to God and our king; and let your other companions that are behind come on too, ye shall not go to Panama this bout." The pirates making some trial to climb the walls, were forced to retreat, resting themselves till night. This being come, they returned to the assault, to try, by the help of their fire-balls, to destroy the pales before the wall; and while they were about it, there happened a very remarkable accident, which occasioned their victory. One of the pirates being wounded with an arrow in his back, which pierced his body through, he pulled it out boldly at the side of his breast, and winding a little cotton about it, he put it into his musket, and shot it back to the castle; but the cotton being kindled by the powder, fired two or three houses in the castle, being thatched with palm-leaves, [190] which the Spaniards perceived not so soon as was necessary; for this fire meeting with a parcel of powder, blew it up, thereby causing great ruin, and no less consternation to the Spaniards, who were not able to put a stop to it, not having seen it time enough.

The pirates perceiving the effect of the arrow, and the misfortunes of the Spaniards, were infinitely glad; and while they were busied in quenching the fire, which caused a great confusion for want of water, the pirates took this opportunity, setting fire likewise to the palisades. The fire thus seen at once in several parts about the castle, gave them great advantage against the Spaniards, many breaches being made by the fire among the pales, great heaps of earth falling into the ditch. Then the pirates climbing up, got over into the castle, though those Spaniards, who were not busy about the fire, cast down many flaming pots full of combustible matter, and odious smells, which destroyed many of the English.

The Spaniards, with all their resistance, could not hinder the palisades from being burnt down before midnight. Meanwhile the pirates continued in their intention of taking the castle; and though the fire was very great, they would creep on the ground, as near as they could, and shoot amidst the flames against the Spaniards on the other side, and thus killed many from the walls. When day was come, they observed all the movable earth that lay betwixt the pales, to be fallen into [191] the ditch; so that now those within the castle lay equally exposed to them without, as had been on the contrary before; whereupon the pirates continued shooting very furiously, and killed many Spaniards; for the governor had charged them to make good those posts, answering to the heaps of earth fallen into the ditch, and caused the artillery to be transported to the breaches.

The fire within the castle still continuing, the pirates from abroad did what they could to hinder its progress, by shooting incessantly against it; one party of them was employed only for this, while another watched all the motions of the Spaniards. About noon the English gained a breach, which the governor himself defended with twenty-five soldiers. Here was made a very courageous resistance by the Spaniards, with muskets, pikes, stones, and swords; but through all these the pirates fought their way, till they gained the castle. The Spaniards, who remained alive, cast themselves down from the castle into the sea, choosing rather to die thus (few or none surviving the fall) than to ask quarter for their lives. The governor himself retreated to the corps du gard, before which were placed two pieces of cannon: here he still defended himself, not demanding any quarter, till he was killed with a musket-shot in the head.

The governor being dead, and the corps du gard  surrendering, they found remaining in it alive thirty men, whereof scarce ten were not wounded: these informed [192] the pirates that eight or nine of their soldiers had deserted, and were gone to Panama, to carry news of their arrival and invasion. These thirty men alone remained of three hundred and fourteen wherewith the castle was garrisoned, among which not one officer was found alive. These were all made prisoners, and compelled to tell whatever they knew of their designs and enterprises. Among other things, that the governor of Panama had notice sent him three weeks ago from Carthagena, that the English were equipping a fleet at Hispaniola, with a design to take Panama; and, beside, that this had been discovered by a deserter from the pirates at the river De la Hacha, where they had victualled. That upon this, the governor had sent one hundred and sixty-four men to strengthen the garrison of that castle, with much provision and ammunition; the ordinary garrison whereof was only one hundred and fifty men, but these made up two hundred and fourteen men, very well armed. Besides this, they declared that the governor of Panama had placed several ambuscades along the river of Chagres; and that he waited for them in the open fields of Panama with three thousand six hundred men.

The taking of this castle cost the pirates excessively dear, in comparison to what they were wont to lose, and their toil and labour was greater than at the conquest of the isle of St. Catherine; for, numbering their men, they had lost above a hundred, beside seventy [193] wounded. They commanded the Spanish prisoners to cast the dead bodies of their own men from the top of the mountain to the seaside, and to bury them. The wounded were carried to the church, of which they made an hospital, and where also they shut up the women.

Captain Morgan remained not long behind at St. Catherine's, after taking the castle of Chagres, of which he had notice presently; but before he departed, he embarked all the provisions that could be found, with much maize, or Indian wheat, and cazave, whereof also is made bread in those ports. He transported great store of provisions to the garrison of Chagres, whencesoever they could be got. At a certain place they cast into the sea all the guns belonging thereto, designing to return, and leave that island well garrisoned, to the perpetual possession of the pirates; but he ordered all the houses and forts to be fired, except the castle of St. Teresa, which he judged to be the strongest and securest wherein to fortify himself at his return from Panama.

Having completed his arrangements, he took with him all the prisoners of the island, and then sailed for Chagres, where he arrived in eight days. Here the joy of the whole fleet was so great, when they spied the English colours on the castle, that they minded not their way into the river, so that they lost four ships at the entry thereof, Captain Morgan's being one; yet they saved all the men and goods. The ships, too, had been preserved, if a strong northerly wind had not risen, [194] which cast them on the rock at the entry of the river.

Captain Morgan was brought into the castle with great acclamations of all the pirates, both of those within, and those newly come. Having heard the manner of the conquest, he commanded all the prisoners to work, and repair what was necessary, especially to set up new palisades round the forts of the castle. There were still in the river some Spanish vessels, called chatten, serving for transportation of merchandise up and down the river, and to go to Puerto Bello and Nicaragua. These commonly carry two great guns of iron, and four small ones of brass. These vessels they seized, with four little ships they found there, and all the canoes. In the castle they left a garrison of five hundred men, and in the ships in the river one hundred and fifty more. This done, Captain Morgan departed for Panama at the head of twelve hundred men. He carried little provisions with him, hoping to provide himself sufficiently among the Spaniards, whom he knew to lie in ambuscade by the way.


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