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The Buccaneers of America by  John Esquemeling
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THE RETAKING OF ST. CATHERINES

Captain Morgan leaves Hispaniola and goes to St. Catherine's, which he takes.

[179] CAPTAIN MORGAN and his companions weighed anchor from the Cape of Tiburon, December 16, 1670. Four days after they arrived in sight of St. Catherine's, now in possession of the Spaniards again, as was said before, to which they commonly banish the malefactors of the Spanish dominions in the West-Indies. Here are huge quantities of pigeons at certain seasons. It is watered by four rivulets, whereof two are always dry in summer. Here is no trade or commerce exercised by the inhabitants; neither do they plant more fruits than what are necessary for human life, though the country would make very good plantations of tobacco of considerable profit, were it cultivated.

As soon as Captain Morgan came near the island with his fleet, he sent one of his best sailing vessels to view the entry of the river, and see if any other ships were there, who might hinder him from landing; as also fearing lest they should give intelligence of his arrival to the inhabitants, and prevent his designs.

[180] Next day, before sunrise, all the fleet anchored near the island, in a bay called Aguade Grande. On this bay the Spaniards had built a battery, mounted with four pieces of cannon. Captain Morgan landed about one thousand men in divers squadrons, marching through the woods, though they had no other guides than a few of his own men, who had been there before, under Mansvelt. The same day they came to a place where the governor sometimes resided: here they found a battery called the Platform, but nobody in it, the Spaniards having retired to the lesser island, which, as was said before, is so near the great one, that a short bridge only may conjoin them.

This lesser island was so well fortified with forts and batteries round it, as might seem impregnable. Hereupon, as soon as the Spaniards perceived the pirates approach, they fired on them so furiously, that they could advance nothing that day, but were content to retreat, and take up their rest in the open fields, which was not strange to these people, being sufficiently used to such kind of repose. What most afflicted them was hunger, having not eat anything that whole day. About midnight it rained so hard, that they had much ado to bear it, the greatest part of them having no other clothes than a pair of seaman's trousers or breeches, and a shirt, without shoes or stockings. In this great extremity they pulled down a few thatched houses to make fires [181] withal; in a word, they were in such a condition, that one hundred men, indifferently well armed, might easily that night have torn them all in pieces. Next morning, about break of day, the rain ceased, and they dried their arms and marched on: but soon after it rained afresh, rather harder than before, as if the skies were melted into waters; which kept them from advancing towards the forts, whence the Spaniards continually fired at them.

The pirates were now reduced to great affliction and danger, through the hardness of the weather, their own nakedness, and great hunger; for a small relief hereof, they found in the fields an old horse, lean, and full of scabs and blotches, with galled back and sides: this they instantly killed and flayed, and divided in small pieces among themselves, as far as it would reach (for many could not get a morsel) which they roasted and devoured without salt or bread, more like ravenous wolves than men. The rain not ceasing, Captain Morgan perceived their minds to relent, hearing many of them say they would return on board. Among these fatigues of mind and body, he thought convenient to use some sudden remedy: to this effect, he commanded a canoe to be rigged in haste, and colours of truce to be hanged out. This canoe he sent to the Spanish governor, with this message: "That if within a few hours he delivered not himself and all his men into his hands, he did by that [182] messenger swear to him, and all those that were in his company, he would most certainly put them to the sword, without granting quarter to any."

In the afternoon the canoe returned with this answer: "That the governor desired two hours' time to deliberate with his officers about it, which being past, he would give his positive answer." The time being elapsed, the governor sent two canoes with white colours, and two persons to treat with Captain Morgan; but, before they landed, they demanded of the pirates two persons as hostages. These were readily granted by Captain Morgan, who delivered them two of the captains for a pledge of the security required. With this the Spaniards propounded to Captain Morgan, that the governor, in a full assembly, had resolved to deliver up. the island, not being provided with sufficient forces to defend it against such an armada. But withal, he desired Captain Morgan would be pleased to use a certain stratagem of war, for the better saving of his own credit, and the reputation of his officers both abroad and at home, which should be as follows:—That Captain Morgan would come with his troops by night to the bridge that joined the lesser island to the great one, and there attack the fort of St. Jerome: that at the same time all his fleet would draw near the castle of Santa Teresa, and attack it by land, landing, in the meanwhile, more troops near the battery of St. Matthew: that these troops being newly landed, should by this means inter- [183] cept the governor as he endeavoured to pass to St. Jerome's fort, and then take him prisoner; using the formality, as if they forced him to deliver the castle; and that he would lead the English into it, under colour of being his own troops. That on both sides there should be continual firing, but without bullets, or at least into the air, so that no side might be hurt. That thus having obtained two such considerable forts, the chiefest of the isle, he need not take care for the rest, which must fall of course into his hands.

These propositions were granted by Captain Morgan, on condition they should see them faithfully observed; otherwise they should be used with the utmost rigour: this they promised to do, and took their leave, to give account of their negotiation to the governor. Presently after, Captain Morgan commanded the whole fleet to enter the port, and his men to be ready to assault, that night, the castle of St. Jerome. Thus the false battle began, with incessant firing from both the castles, against the ships, but without bullets, as was agreed. Then the pirates landed, and assaulted by night the lesser island, which they took, as also both fortresses; forcing the Spaniards, in appearance, to fly to the church. Before this assault, Captain Morgan sent word to the' governor, that he should keep all his men together in a body; otherwise, if the pirates met any straggling Spaniards in the streets, they should certainly shoot them.

[184] This island being taken by this unusual stratagem, and all things put in order, the pirates made a new war against the poultry, cattle, and all sorts of victuals they could find, for some days; scarce thinking of anything else than to kill, roast, and eat, and make what good cheer they could. If wood was wanting, they pulled down the houses, and made fires with the timber, as had been done before in the field. Next day they numbered all the prisoners they had taken upon the island, which were found to be in all four hundred and fifty-nine persons, men, women, and children; viz., one hundred and ninety soldiers of the garrison; forty inhabitants, who were married: forty-three children, thirty-four slaves, belonging to the king; with eight children, eight banditti, thirty-nine negroes belonging to private persons; with twenty-seven female blacks, and thirty-four children. The pirates disarmed all the Spaniards, and sent them out immediately to the plantations to seek for provisions, leaving the women in the church to exercise their devotions.

Soon after they reviewed the whole island, and all the fortresses thereof, which they found to be nine in all, viz., the fort of St. Jerome, next the bridge, had eight great guns, of twelve, six, and eight pounds carriage; with six pipes of muskets, every pipe containing ten muskets. Here they found still sixty muskets, with sufficient powder and other ammunition. The second fortress, called St. Matthew, had three guns, of eight [185] pounds each. The third, and chiefest, named Santa Teresa, had twenty great guns, of eighteen, twelve, eight, and six pounds; with ten pipes of muskets, like those before, and ninety muskets remaining, besides other ammunition. This castle was built with stone and mortar, with very thick walls, and a large ditch round it, twenty feet deep, which, though it was dry, yet was very hard to get over. Here was no entry, but through one door, to the middle of the castle. Within it was a mount, almost inaccessible, with four pieces of cannon at the top; whence they could shoot directly into the port. On the sea side it was impregnable, by reason of the rocks round it, and the sea beating furiously upon them. To the land it was so commodiously seated on a mountain, as there was no access to it but by a path three or four feet broad. The fourth fortress was named St. Augustine, having three guns of eight and six pounds. The fifth, named La Plattaforma de la Conception, had only two guns, of eight pounds. The sixth, by name San Salvador, had likewise no more than two guns. The seventh, called Plattaforma de los Artilleros, had also two guns. The eighth, called Santa Cruz, had three guns. The ninth, called St. Joseph's Fort, had six guns, of twelve and eight pounds, besides two pipes of muskets, and sufficient ammunition.

In the storehouses were above thirty thousand pounds of powder, with all other ammunition, which was carried by the pirates on board. All the guns were stopped [186] and nailed, and the fortresses demolished, except that of St. Jerome, where the pirates kept guard and resistance. Captain Morgan inquired for any banditti from Panama or Puerto Bello, and three were brought him, who pretended to be very expert in the avenues of those parts. He asked them to be his guides, and show him the securest ways to Panama, which, if they performed, he promised them equal shares in the plunder of that expedition, and their liberty when they arrived in Jamaica. These propositions the banditti readily accepted, promising to serve him very faithfully, especially one of the three, who was the greatest rogue, thief, and assassin among them, who had deserved rather to be broken alive on the wheel, than punished with serving in a garrison. This wicked fellow had a great ascendant over the other two, and domineered over them as he pleased, they not daring to disobey his orders.

Captain Morgan commanded four ships and one boat to be equipped, and provided with necessaries, to go and take the castle of Chagres, on the river of that name; neither would he go himself with his whole fleet, lest the Spaniards should be jealous of his farther design on Panama. In these vessels he embarked four hundred men, to put in execution these his orders. Meanwhile, himself remained in St. Catherine's with the rest of the fleet, expecting to hear of their success.


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