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The Buccaneers of America by  John Esquemeling
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THE ISLAND OF CUBA

Of the Island of Cuba—Captain Morgan attempts to preserve the Isle of St. Catherine as a refuge to the nest of pirates, but fails of his design—He arrives at and takes the village of El Puerto del Principe.

[112] CAPTAIN MORGAN seeing his predecessor and Admiral Mansvelt were dead, used all the means that were possible, to keep in possession the isle of St. Catherine, seated near Cuba. His chief intent was to make it a refuge and sanctuary to the pirates of those parts, putting it in a condition of being a convenient receptacle of their preys and robberies. To this effect he left no stone unmoved, writing to several merchants in Virginia and New England, persuading them to send him provisions and necessaries, towards putting the said island in such a posture of defence, as to fear no danger of invasion from any side. But all this proved ineffectual, by the Spaniards retaking the said island: yet Captain Morgan retained his courage, which put him on new designs. First, he equipped a ship, in order to gather a fleet as great, and as strong as he could. By degrees he effected it, [113] and gave orders to every member of his fleet to meet at a certain port of Cuba, there determining to call a council, and deliberate what was best to be done, and what place first to fall upon. Leaving these preparations in this condition, I shall give my reader some small account of the said isle of Cuba, in whose port this expedition was hatched, seeing I omitted to do it in its proper place.

Cuba lies from east to west, in north latitude, from 20 to 23 deg. in length one hundred and fifty German leagues, and about forty in breadth. Its fertility is equal to that of Hispaniola; besides which, it affords many things proper for trading and commerce; such as hides of several beasts, particularly those that in Europe are called hides of Havana. On all sides it is surrounded with many small islands, called the Cayos: these little islands the pirates use as ports of refuge. Here they have their meetings, and hold their councils, how best to assault the Spaniards. It is watered on all sides with plentiful and pleasant rivers, whose entries form both secure and spacious ports; beside many other harbours for ships, which along the calm shores and coasts adorn this rich and beautiful island; all which contribute much to its happiness, by facilitating trade, whereto they invited both natives and aliens. The chief of these ports are San Jago, Byame, Santa Maria, Espiritu Santo, Trinidad, Zagoa, Cabo de Corientes, and others, on the south side of the island: on the north side [114] are, La Havana, Puerto Mariano, Santa Cruz, Mata Ricos, and Barracoa.


[Illustration]

CAPTAIN MORGAN RECRUITING HIS FORCES.

This island hath two chief cities, to which all the towns and villages thereof give obedience. The first is Santa Jago, or St. James, 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 the villages and towns of the said half. The chief of these are, on the south side, Espiritu Santo, Puerto del Principe, and Bayame. On the north it has Barracoa, and De los Cayos. The greatest part of the commerce driven here comes from the Canaries, whither they transport much tobacco, sugar, and hides, which sort of merchandise are drawn to the head city from the subordinate towns and villages. Formerly the city of Santa Jago was miserably sacked by the pirates of Jamaica and Tortuga, though 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 strongest places of the West-Indies; its jurisdiction extends over the other half of the island; the chief places under it being Santa Cruz on the north side, and La Trinidad on the south. Hence is transported huge quantities of tobacco, which is sent 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, [115] but 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 on a hill that commands the town. It is esteemed to contain about ten thousand families. The merchants of this place trade in New Spain, Campeche, Honduras, and Florida. All ships that come from the parts before mentioned, as also from Caracas, Carthagena and Costa Rica, are necessitated to take their provisions in at Havana to make their voyage for Spain; this being the necessary and straight course they must steer for the south of Europe, and other parts. The plate-fleet of Spain, which the Spaniards call Flota, being homeward bound, touches here yearly to complete their cargo with hides, tobacco, and Campeche wood.

Captain Morgan had been but two months in these ports of the south of Cuba, when he had got together a fleet of twelve sail, between ships and great boats, with seven hundred fighting men, part English and part French. They called a council, and some advised to assault the city of Havana in the night, which they said might easily be done, if they could but take any of the ecclesiastics; 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; but the former proposal was rejected, because many of the pirates, who had been prisoners at other times in the said city, affirmed noth- [116] ing of consequence could be done with less than one thousand five hundred men. Moreover, that with all these people, they ought first go to the island De los Pinos, and land them in small boats about Matamona, fourteen leagues from the said city, whereby to accomplish their designs.

Finally, they saw no possibility of gathering so great a fleet, and hereupon, with what they had, they concluded to attempt some other place. Among the rest, one propounded they should assault the town of El Puerto del Principe. This proposition he persuaded to, by saying he knew that place very well, and that being at a distance from sea, it never was sacked by any pirates, whereby the inhabitants were rich, exercising their trade by ready money, with those of Havana who kept here an established commerce, chiefly in hides. This proposal was presently admitted by Captain Morgan, and the chief of his companions. Hereupon they ordered every captain to weigh anchor and set sail, steering towards that coast nearest to El Puerto del Principe. Here is a bay named by the Spaniards El Puerto de Santa Maria: being—arrived at this bay, a Spaniard, who was prisoner aboard the fleet, swam ashore by night to the town of el Puerto del Principe, giving an account to the inhabitants of the design of the pirates, which he overheard in their discourse, while they thought he did not understand English. The Spaniards upon this advice began to hide their riches, [117] and carry away their movables; the governor immediately raised all the people of the town, freemen and slaves, and with part of them took a post by which of necessity the pirates must pass, and commanded many trees to be cut down and laid cross the ways to hinder their passage, placing several ambuscades strengthened with some pieces of cannon to play upon them on their march. He gathered in all about eight hundred men, of which detaching part into the said ambuscades, with the rest he begirt the town, drawing them up in a spacious field, whence they could see the coming of the pirates at length.

Captain Morgan, with his men, now on the march, found the avenues to the town unpassable; hereupon they took their way through the wood, traversing it with great difficulty, whereby they escaped diverse ambuscades; at last they came to the plain, from its figure called by the Spaniards La Savanna, or the Sheet. The governor seeing them come, detached a troop of horse to charge them in the front, thinking to disperse them, and to pursue them with his main body: but this design succeeded not, for the pirates marched in very good order, at the sound of their drums, and with flying colours; coming near the horse they drew into a semicircle, and so advanced towards the Spaniards, who charged them valiantly for a while; but the pirates being very dexterous at their arms, and their governor, with many of their companions, being killed, they retreated to- [118] wards the wood, to save themselves with more advantage; but before they could reach it, most of them were unfortunately killed by the pirates. Thus they left the victory to these new-come enemies, who had no considerable loss of men in the battle, and but very few wounded. The skirmish lasted four hours: they entered the town not without great resistance of such as were within, who defended themselves as long as possible, and many seeing the enemy in the town, shut themselves up in their own houses, and thence made several shots upon the pirates; who thereupon threatened them, saying, "If you surrender not voluntarily, you shall soon see the town in a flame, and your wives and children torn to pieces before your faces." Upon these menaces the Spaniards submitted to the discretion of the pirates, believing they could not continue there long.

As soon as the pirates had possessed themselves of the town, they enclosed all the Spaniards, men, women, children, and slaves, in several churches, and pillaged all the goods they could find; then they searched the country round about, bringing yin daily many goods and prisoners, with much precision. With this they fell to making great cheer, after their old custom, without remembering the poor prisoners, whom they let starve in the churches; though they tormented them daily and inhumanly to make them confess where they had hid their goods, money, &c., though little or nothing was left them, not sparing the women and little [119] children, giving them nothing to eat, whereby the greatest part perished.

Pillage and provisions growing scarce, they thought convenient to depart and seek new fortunes in other places; they told the prisoners, "they should find money to ransom themselves, else they should be all transported to Jamaica; and beside, if they did not pay a second ransom for the town, they would turn every house into ashes." The Spaniards hereupon nominated among themselves four fellow-prisoners to go and seek for the above-mentioned contributions; but the pirates, to the intent that they should return speedily with those ransoms, tormented several cruelly in their presence, before they departed. After a few days, the Spaniards returned, telling Captain Morgan, "We have ran up 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 fifteen days;" which Captain Morgan granted. But not long after, there came into the town seven or eight pirates who had been ranging in the woods and fields, and got considerable booty. These brought amongst other prisoners, a negro, whom they had taken with letters. Captain Morgan having perused them, found that they were from the governor of Santa Jago, being written [120] 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 off the pirates as well as they could with excuses and delays, expecting to be relieved by him in a short time, when he would certainly come to their aid." Upon this intelligence Captain Morgan immediately ordered all their plunder to be carried aboard; and withal, he told the Spaniards, that the very next day they should pay their ransoms, for he would not wait a moment longer, but reduce the whole town to ashes, if they failed of the sum he demanded.


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BEING COME TO THE PLACE OF THE DUEL, THE ENGLISHMEN STABBED THE FRENCHMAN IN THE BACK.

With this intimation, Captain Morgan made no mention to the Spaniards of the letters he had intercepted. They answered, "that it was 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, but thought it not convenient to stay there any longer, demanding of them only five hundred oxen or cows, with sufficient salt to powder them, with this condition, that they should carry them on board his ships. Thus he departed with all his men, taking with him only six of the principal prisoners as pledges. Next day the Spaniards brought the cattle and salt to the ships, and required the prisoners; but Captain Morgan refused to deliver them, till they had helped his men to kill and salt the beeves: this was performed in [121] great haste, he not caring to stay there any longer, lest he should be surprised by the forces that were gathering against him; and having received all on board his vessels, he set at liberty the hostages. Meanwhile there happened some dissensions between the English and the French: the occasion was as follows: A Frenchman being employed in killing and salting the beeves, an English pirate took away the marrow-bones he had taken out of the ox, which these people esteem much; hereupon they challenged one another: being come to the place of duel, the Englishman stabbed the Frenchman in the back, whereby he fell down dead. The other Frenchmen, desirous of revenge, made an insurrection against the English; but Captain Morgan soon appeased them, by putting the criminal in chains to be carried to Jamaica, promising he would see justice done upon him; for though he might challenge his adversary, yet it was not lawful to kill him treacherously, as he did.

All things being ready, and on board, and the prisoners set at liberty, they sailed thence to a certain island, where Captain Morgan intended to make a dividend of what they had purchased in that voyage; where being arrived, they found nigh the value of fifty thousand pieces of eight in money and goods; the sum being known, it caused a general grief to see such a small purchase, not sufficient to pay their debts at Jamaica. Hereupon Captain Morgan proposed they should think on some other enterprise and pillage before they re- [122] turned. But the French not being able to agree with the English, left Captain Morgan with those of his own nation, notwithstanding all the persuasions he used to reduce 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 on that 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.


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