In due course Morgan sent his men ashore, and marched them through the wood towards the town. They found the woodland trackways blocked by the timber baulks, so they made a detour, hacking paths for themselves with their machetes, until they got clear of the wood. When they got out of the jungle they found themselves on an immense green field, covered with thick grass, which bowed and shivered in the wind. A few pale cattle grazed here and there on the savannah; a few birds piped and twittered in the sunshine. In front of them, at some little distance, was the town they had come to pillage. It lay open to them—a cluster of houses, none of them very large, with warehouses and tobacco drying-rooms and churches with bells in them. Outside the town, some of them lying down, some standing so as to get a view of the enemy, were the planters and townsfolk, with their pikes and muskets, waiting for the battle to begin. Right in the pirates' front was a troop of horsemen armed with lances, swords, and pistols, drawn up in very good order, and ready to advance. The pirates on their coming from the wood formed into a semicircle or half-moon shape, the bow outwards, the horns curving to prevent the cavalry from taking them in flank. They had drums and colours in their ranks. The drums beat out a bravery, the colours were displayed. The men halted for a moment to get their breath and to reprime their guns. Then they advanced slowly, to the drubbing of the drums, just as the Spanish horsemen trotted forward. As the Spaniards sounded the charge, the buccaneers fired a volley of bullets at them, which brought a number of cavaliers out of their saddles. Those horsemen who escaped the bullets dashed down upon the line, and fired their pistols at close quarters, afterwards wheeling round, and galloping back to reform. They charged again and again, "like valiant and courageous soldiers," but at every charge the pirates stood firm, and withered them with file-firing. As they retired after each rush, the marksmen in the ranks picked them off one by one, killing the Governor, in his plumed hat, and strewing the grass with corpses. They also manoeuvred during this skirmish so as to cut off the horsemen from the town. After four hours of battle the cavalry were broken and defeated, and in no heart to fight further. They made a last charge on their blown horses, but their ranks went to pieces at the muzzles of the pirates' guns. They broke towards the cover of the woods, but the pirates charged them as they ran, and cut them down without pity. Then the drums beat out a bravery, and the pirates rushed the town in the face of a smart fire. The Spaniards fought in the streets, while some fired from the roofs and upper windows. So hot was the tussle that the pirates had to fight from house to house. The townsmen did not cease their fire, till the pirates were gathering wood to burn the town, in despair of taking it.
As soon as the firing ceased, the townsfolk were driven to the churches, and there imprisoned under sentinels. Afterwards the pirates "searched the whole country round about the town, bringing in day by day many goods and prisoners, with much provision." The wine and spirits of the townsfolk were set on tap, and "with this they fell to banqueting among themselves, and making great cheer after their customary way." They feasted so merrily that they forgot their prisoners, "whereby the greatest part perished." Those who did not perish were examined in the Plaza, "to make them confess where they had hidden their goods." Those who would not tell where they had buried their gold were tortured very barbarously by burning matches, twisted cords, or lighted palm leaves. Finally, the starving wretches were ordered to find ransoms, "else they should be all transported to Jamaica" to be sold as slaves. The town was also laid under a heavy contribution, without which, they said, "they would turn every house into ashes."
It happened that, at this juncture, some buccaneers, who were raiding in the woods, made prisoner a negro carrying letters from the Governor of the Havana. The letters were written to the citizens, telling them to delay the payment of their ransoms as long as possible, for that he was fitting out some soldiers to relieve them. The letters warned Henry Morgan that he had better be away with the treasure he had found. He gave order for the plunder to be sent aboard in the carts of the townsfolk. He then called up the prisoners, and told them very sharply that their ransoms must be paid the next day, "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." As it was plainly impossible for the townsfolk to produce their ransoms at this short notice he graciously relieved their misery by adding that he would be contented with 500 beeves, "together with sufficient salt wherewith to salt them." He insisted that the cattle should be ready for him by the next morning, and that the Spaniards should deliver them upon the beach, where they could be shifted to the ships without delay. Having made these terms, he marched his men away towards the sea, taking with him six of the principal prisoners "as pledges of what he intended." Early the next morning the beach of Santa Maria bay was thronged with cattle in charge of negroes and planters. Some of the oxen had been yoked to carts to bring the necessary salt. The Spaniards delivered the ransom, and demanded the six hostages. Morgan was by this time in some anxiety for his position. He was eager to set sail before the Havana ships came round the headland, with their guns run out, and matches lit, and all things ready for a fight. He refused to release the prisoners until the vaqueros "had helped his men to kill and salt the beeves." The work of killing and salting was performed "in great haste," lest the Havana ships should come upon them before the beef was shipped. The hides were left upon the sands, there being no time to dry them before sailing. A Spanish cowboy can kill, skin, and cut up a steer in a few minutes. The buccaneers were probably no whit less skilful. By noon the work was done. The beach of Santa Maria was strewn with mangled remnants, over which the seagulls quarrelled. But before Morgan could proceed to sea, he had to quell an uproar which was setting the French and English by the ears. The parties had not come to blows, but the French were clamouring for vengeance with drawn weapons. A French sailor, who was working on the beach, killing and pickling the meat, had been plundered by an Englishman, who "took away the marrowbones he had taken out of the ox." Marrow, "toute chaude," was a favourite dish among these people. The Frenchman could not brook an insult of a kind as hurtful to his dinner as to his sense of honour. He challenged the thief to single combat: swords the weapon, the time then. The buccaneers knocked off their butcher's work to see the fight. As the poor Frenchman turned his back to make him ready, his adversary stabbed him from behind, running him quite through, so that "he suddenly fell dead upon the place." Instantly the beach was in an uproar. The Frenchmen pressed upon the English to attack the murderer and to avenge the death of their fellow. There had been bad blood between the parties ever since they mustered at the quays before the raid began. The quarrel now raging was an excuse to both sides. Morgan walked between the angry groups, telling them to put up their swords. At a word from him, the murderer was seized, set in irons, and sent aboard an English ship. Morgan then seems to have made a little speech to pacify the rioters, telling the French that the man should be hanged ("hanged immediately," as they said of Admiral Byng) as soon as the ships had anchored in Port Royal bay. To the English, he said that the criminal was worthy of punishment, "for although it was permitted him to challenge his adversary, yet it was not lawful to kill him treacherously, as he did." After a good deal of muttering, the mutineers returned aboard their ships, carrying with them the last of the newly salted beef. The hostages were freed, a gun was fired from the admiral's ship, and the fleet hove up their anchors, and sailed away from Cuba, to some small sandy quay with a spring of water in it, where the division of the plunder could be made. The plunder was heaped together in a single pile. It was valued by the captains, who knew by long experience what such goods would fetch in the Jamaican towns.
To the "resentment and grief" of all the 700 men these valuers could not bring the total up to 50,000 pieces of eight—say L12,000—"in money and goods." All hands were disgusted at "such a small booty, which was not sufficient to pay their debts at Jamaica." Some cursed their fortune; others cursed their captain. It does not seem to have occurred to them to blame themselves for talking business before their Spanish prisoners. Morgan told them to "think upon some other enterprize," for the ships were fit to keep the sea, and well provisioned. It would be an easy matter, he told them, to attack some town upon the Main "before they returned home," so that they should have a little money for the taverns, to buy them rum with, at the end of the cruise. But the French were still sore about the murder of their man: they raised objections to every scheme the English buccaneers proposed. Each proposition was received contemptuously, with angry bickerings and mutterings. At last the French captains intimated that they desired to part company. Captain Morgan endeavoured to dissuade them from this resolution by using every flattery his adroit nature could suggest. Finding that they would not listen to him, even though he swore by his honour that the murderer, then in chains, should be hanged as soon as they reached home, he brought out wine and glasses, and drank to their good fortune. The booty was then shared up among the adventurers. The Frenchmen got their shares aboard, and set sail for Tortuga to the sound of a salute of guns. The English held on for Port Royal, in great "resentment and grief." When they arrived there they caused the murderer to be hanged upon a gallows, which, we are told, "was all the satisfaction the French Pirates could expect."
Note.—If we may believe Morgan's statement to Sir T. Modyford, then Governor of Jamaica, he brought with him from Cuba reliable evidence that the Spaniards were planning an attack upon that colony (see State Papers: West Indies and Colonial Series). If the statements of his prisoners were correct, the subsequent piratical raid upon the Main had some justification. Had the Spaniards matured their plans, and pushed the attack home, it is probable that we should have lost our West Indian possessions.
Authorities.—A. O. Exquemeling: "Bucaniers of America," eds. 1684-5 and 1699. Cal. State Papers: "West Indies."
THE SACK OF PORTO BELLO
The Gulf of Maracaibo—Morgan's escape from the Spaniards
It was a melancholy home-coming. The men had little more than ten pounds apiece to spend in jollity. The merchants who enjoyed their custom were of those kinds least anxious to give credit. The ten pounds were but sufficient to stimulate desire. They did not allow the jolly mariner to enjoy himself with any thoroughness. In a day or two, the buccaneers were at the end of their gold, and had to haunt the street corners, within scent of the rum casks, thinking sadly of the pleasant liquor they could not afford to drink. Henry Morgan took this occasion to recruit for a new enterprise. He went ashore among the drinking-houses, telling all he met of golden towns he meant to capture. He always "communicated vigour with his words," for, being a Welshman, he had a certain fervour of address, not necessarily sincere, which touched his simplest phrase with passion. In a day or two, after a little talk and a little treating, every disconsolate drunkard in the town was "persuaded by his reasons, that the sole execution of his orders, would be a certain means of obtaining great riches." This persuasion, the writer adds, "had such influence upon their minds, that with inimitable courage they all resolved to follow him." Even "a certain Pirate of Campeachy," a shipowner of considerable repute, resolved to follow Morgan "to seek new fortunes and greater advantages than he had found before." The French might hold aloof, they all declared, but an Englishman was still the equal of a Spaniard; while after all a short life and a merry one was better than work ashore or being a parson. With this crude philosophy, they went aboard again to the decks they had so lately left. The Campeachy pirate brought in a ship or two, and some large canoas. In all they had a fleet of nine sail, manned by "four hundred and three score military men." With this force Captain Morgan sailed for Costa Rica.
When they came within the sight of land, a council was called, to which the captains of the vessels went. Morgan told them that he meant to plunder Porto Bello by a night attack, "being resolved" to sack the place, "not the least corner escaping his diligence." He added that the scheme had been held secret, so that "it would not fail to succeed well." Besides, he thought it likely that a city of such strength would be unprepared for any sudden attack. The captains were staggered by this resolution, for they thought themselves too weak "to assault so strong and great a city." To this the plucky Welshman answered: "If our number is small, our hearts are great. And the fewer persons we are, the more union and better shares we shall have in the spoil." This answer, with the thought of "those vast riches they promised themselves," convinced the captains that the town could be attempted. It was a "dangerous voyage and bold assault" but Morgan had been lucky in the past, and the luck might still be with him. He knew the Porto Bello country, having been there with a party (perhaps Mansvelt's party) some years before. At any rate the ships would be at hand in the event of a repulse.
It was something of a hazard, for the Spanish garrison was formed of all the desperate criminals the colonial police could catch. These men made excellent soldiers, for after a battle they were given the plunder of the men they had killed. Then Panama, with its great garrison, was perilously near at hand, being barely sixty miles away, or two days' journey. Lastly, the town was strongly fortified, with castles guarding it at all points. The garrison was comparatively small, mustering about three companies of foot. To these, however, the buccaneers had to add 300 townsfolk capable of bearing arms. Following John Exquemeling's plan, we add a brief description of this famous town, to help the reader to form a mental picture of it.
Porto Bello stands on the south-eastern side of a fine bay, "in the province of Costa Rica." At the time when Morgan captured it (in June 1668) it was one of the strongest cities in the possession of the King of Spain. It was neglected until 1584, when a royal mandate caused the traders of Nombre de Dios to migrate thither. It then became the port of the galleons, where the treasures of the south were shipped for Spain. The city which Morgan sacked was built upon a strip of level ground planted with fruit-trees, at a little distance from the sea, but within a few yards of the bay. The westward half of the town was very stately, being graced with fine stone churches and the residence of the lieutenant-general. Most of the merchants' dwellings (and of these there may have been 100) were built of cedar wood. Some were of stone, a thing unusual in the Indies, and some were partly stone, with wooden upper storeys. There was a fine stone convent peopled by Sisters of Mercy, and a dirty, ruinous old hospital for "the sick men belonging to the ships of war." On the shore there was a quay, backed by a long stone custom-house. The main street ran along the shore behind this custom-house, with cross-streets leading to the two great squares. The eastward half of the city, through which the road to Panama ran, was called Guinea; for there the slaves and negroes used to live, in huts and cottages of sugar-cane and palm leaves. There, too, was the slave mart, to which the cargoes of the Guinea ships were brought. A little river of clear water divided the two halves of the town. Another little river, bridged in two places, ran between the town and Castle Gloria. The place was strongly fortified. Ships entering the bay had to pass close to the "Iron Castle," built upon the western point. Directly they stood away towards the town they were exposed to the guns of Castle Gloria and Fort Jeronimo—the latter a strong castle built upon a sandbank off the Guinea town. The constant population was not large, though probably 300 white men lived there all the year round, in addition to the Spanish garrison. The native quarter was generally inhabited by several hundred negroes and mulattoes. When the galleons arrived there, and for some weeks before, the town was populous with merchants, who came across from Panama to buy and sell. Tents were pitched in the Grand Plaza, in front of the Governor's house, for the protection of perishable goods, like Jesuits'-bark. Gold and silver bars became as common to the sight as pebbles. Droves of mules came daily in from Panama, and ships arrived daily from all the seaports in the Indies. As soon as the galleons sailed for Spain, the city emptied as rapidly as it had filled. It was too unhealthy a place for white folk, who continued there "no longer than was needful to acquire a fortune."
[Footnote 16: With reservations. See p. 13, note.]
Indeed, Porto Bello was one of the most pestilential cities ever built, "by reason of the unhealthiness of the Air, occasioned by certain Vapours that exhale from the Mountains." It was excessively hot, for it lay (as it still lies) in a well, surrounded by hills, "without any intervals to admit the refreshing gales." It was less marshy than Nombre de Dios, but "the sea, when it ebbs, leaves a vast quantity of black, stinking mud, from whence there exhales an intolerable noisome vapour." At every fair-time "a kind of pestilential fever" raged, so that at least 400 folk were buried there annually during the five or six weeks of the market. The complaint may have been yellow fever; (perhaps the cholera), perhaps pernicious fever, aggravated by the dirty habits of the thousands then packed within the town. The mortality was especially heavy among the sailors who worked aboard the galleons, hoisting in or out the bales of merchandise. These mariners drank brandy very freely "to recruit their spirits," and in other ways exposed themselves to the infection. The drinking water of the place was "too fine and active for the stomachs of the inhabitants," who died of dysentery if they presumed to drink of it. The town smoked in a continual steam of heat, unrelieved even by the torrents of rain which fall there every day. The woods are infested with poisonous snakes, and abound in a sort of large toad or frog which crawls into the city after rains. The tigers "often make incursions into the street," as at Nombre de Dios, to carry off children and domestic animals. There was good fishing in the bay, and the land was fertile "beyond wonder," so that the cost of living there, in the tiempo muerto, was very small. There is a hill behind the town called the Capiro, about which the streamers of the clouds wreathe whenever rain is coming. The town was taken by Sir Francis Drake in 1595, by Captain Parker in 1601, by Morgan in 1668, by Coxon in 1679, and by Admiral Vernon in 1740.
Having told his plans, the admiral bade his men make ready. During the afternoon he held towards the west of Porto Bello, at some distance from the land. The coast up to the Chagres River, and for some miles beyond, is low, so that there was not much risk of the ships being sighted from the shore. As it grew darker, he edged into the land, arriving "in the dusk of the evening" at a place called Puerto de Naos, or Port of Ships, a bay midway between Porto Bello and the Chagres, and about ten leagues from either place.
They sailed westward up the coast for a little distance to a place called Puerto Pontin, where they anchored. Here the pirates got their boats out, and took to the oars, "leaving in the ships only a few men to keep them, and conduct them the next day to the port." By the light of lamps and battle lanterns the boats rowed on through the darkness, till at midnight they had came to a station called Estera longa Lemos, a river-mouth a few miles from Porto Bello, "where they all went on shore." After priming their muskets, they set forth towards the city, under the guidance of an English buccaneer, who had been a prisoner at Porto Bello but a little while before. When they were within a mile or two of the town, they sent this Englishmen with three or four companions to take a solitary sentry posted at the city outskirts. If they could not take him, they were to kill him, but without giving the alarm to the inhabitants. By creeping quietly behind him, the party took the sentry, "with such cunning that he had no time to give warning with his musket, or make any other noise." A knife point pressing on his spine, and a gag of wood across his tongue, warned him to attempt no outcry. Some rope-yarn was passed about his wrists, and in this condition he was dragged to Captain Morgan. As soon as he was in the admiral's presence, he was questioned as to the number of soldiers then in the forts, "with many other circumstances." It must have been a most uncomfortable trial, for "after every question, they made him a thousand menaces to kill him, in case he declared not the truth." When they had examined him to their satisfaction, they recommenced their march, "carrying always the said sentry bound before them." Another mile brought them to an outlying fortress, which was built apparently between Porto Bello and the sea, to protect the coast road and a few outlying plantations. It was not yet light, so the pirates crept about the fort unseen, "so that no person could get either in or out." When they had taken up their ground, Morgan bade the captured sentry hail the garrison, charging them to surrender on pain of being cut to pieces. The garrison at once ran to their weapons, and opened a fierce fire on the unseen enemy, thus giving warning to the city that the pirates were attacking. Before they could reload, the buccaneers, "the noble Sparks of Venus," stormed in among them, taking them in their confusion, hardly knowing what was toward. Morgan was furious that the Spaniards had not surrendered at discretion on his challenge. The pirates were flushed with the excitement of the charge. Someone proposed that they "should be as good as their words, in putting the Spaniards to the sword, thereby to strike a terror into the rest of the city." They hustled the Spanish soldiers "into one room," officers and men together. The cellars of the fort were filled with powder barrels. Some ruffian took a handful of the powder, and spilled a train along the ground, telling his comrades to stand clear. His mates ran from the building applauding his device. In another moment the pirate blew upon his musket match to make the end red, and fired the train he had laid, "and blew up the whole castle into the air, with all the Spaniards that were within." "Much the better way of the two," says one of the chroniclers, who saw the explosion.
"This being done," says the calm historian, "they pursued the course of their victory" into the town. By this time, the streets were thronged with shrieking townsfolk. Men ran hither and thither with their poor belongings. Many flung their gold and jewels into wells and cisterns, or stamped them underground, "to excuse their being totally robbed." The bells were set clanging in the belfries; while, to increase the confusion, the Governor rode into the streets, calling on the citizens to rally and stand firm. As the dreadful panic did not cease, he rode out of the mob to one of the castles (Castle Gloria), where the troops were under arms. It was now nearly daybreak, or light enough for them to see their enemy. As the pirates came in sight among the fruit-trees, the Governor trained his heavy guns upon them, and opened a smart fire. Some lesser castles, or the outlying works of Castle Gloria, which formed the outer defences of the town, followed his example; nor could the pirates silence them. One party of buccaneers crept round the fortifications to the town, where they attacked the monastery and the convent, breaking into both with little trouble, and capturing a number of monks and nuns. With these they retired to the pirates' lines.
For several hours, the pirates got no farther, though the fire did not slacken on either side. The pirates lay among the scrub, hidden in the bushes, in little knots of two and three. They watched the castle embrasures after each discharge of cannon, for the Spaniards could not reload without exposing themselves as they sponged or rammed. Directly a Spaniard appeared, he was picked off from the bushes with such precision that they lost "one or two men every time they charged each gun anew." The losses on the English side were fully as severe; for, sheltered though they were, the buccaneers lost heavily. The lying still under a hot sun was galling to the pirates' temper. They made several attempts to storm, but failed in each attempt owing to the extreme gallantry of the defence. Towards noon they made a furious attack, carrying fireballs, or cans filled with powder and resin, in their hands "designing, if possible, to burn the doors of the castle." As they came beneath the walls, the Spaniards rolled down stones upon them, with "earthen pots full of powder" and iron shells filled full of chain-shot, "which forced them to desist from that attempt." Morgan's party was driven back with heavy loss. It seemed to Morgan at this crisis that the victory was with the Spanish. He wavered for some minutes, uncertain whether to call off his men. "Many faint and calm meditations came into his mind" seeing so many of his best hands dead and the Spanish fire still so furious. As he debated "he was suddenly animated to continue the assault, by seeing the English colours put forth at one of the lesser castles, then entered by his men." A few minutes later the conquerors came swaggering up to join him, "proclaiming victory with loud shouts of joy."
Leaving his musketeers to fire at the Spanish gunners, Morgan turned aside to reconnoitre. Making the capture of the lesser fort his excuse, he sent a trumpet, with a white flag, to summon the main castle, where the Governor had flown the Spanish standard. While the herald was gone upon his errand, Morgan set some buccaneers to make a dozen scaling ladders, "so broad that three or four men at once might ascend by them." By the time they were finished, the trumpeter returned, bearing the Governor's answer that "he would never surrender himself alive." When the message had been given, Captain Morgan formed his soldiers into companies, and bade the monks and nuns whom he had taken, to place the ladders against the walls of the chief castle. He thought that the Spanish Governor would hardly shoot down these religious persons, even though they bore the ladders for the scaling parties. In this he was very much mistaken. The Governor was there to hold the castle for his Catholic Majesty, and, like "a brave and courageous soldier," he "refused not to use his utmost endeavours to destroy whoever came near the walls." As the wretched monks and nuns came tottering forward with the ladders, they begged of him, "by all the Saints of Heaven," to haul his colours down, to the saving of their lives. Behind them were the pirates, pricking them forward with their pikes and knives. In front of them were the cannon of their friends, so near that they could see the matches burning in the hands of the gunners. "They ceased not to cry to him," says the narrative; but they could not "prevail with the obstinacy and fierceness that had possessed the Governor's mind"—"the Governor valuing his honour before the lives of the Mass-mumblers." As they drew near to the walls, they quickened their steps, hoping, no doubt, to get below the cannon muzzles out of range. When they were but a few yards from the walls, the cannon fired at them, while the soldiers pelted them with a fiery hail of hand-grenades. "Many of the religious men and nuns were killed before they could fix the ladders"; in fact, the poor folk were butchered there in heaps, before the ladders caught against the parapet. Directly the ladders held, the pirates stormed up with a shout, in great swarms, like a ship's crew going aloft to make the sails fast. They had "fireballs in their hands and earthen pots full of powder," which "they kindled and cast in among the Spaniards" from the summits of the walls. In the midst of the smoke and flame which filled the fort the Spanish Governor stood fighting gallantly. His wife and child were present in that house of death, among the blood and smell, trying to urge him to surrender. The men were running from their guns, and the hand-grenades were bursting all about him, but this Spanish Governor refused to leave his post. The buccaneers who came about him called upon him to surrender, but he answered that he would rather die like a brave soldier than be hanged as a coward for deserting his command, "so that they were enforc'd to kill him, nothwithstanding the cries of his Wife and Daughter."
The sun was setting over Iron Castle before the firing came to an end with the capture of the Castle Gloria. The pirates used the last of the light for the securing of their many prisoners. They drove them to some dungeon in the castle, where they shut them up under a guard. The wounded "were put into a certain apartment by itself," without medicaments or doctors, "to the intent their own complaints might be the cure of their diseases." In the dungeons of the castle's lower battery they found eleven English prisoners chained hand and foot. They were the survivors of the garrison of Providence, which the Spaniards treacherously took two years before. Their backs were scarred with many floggings, for they had been forced to work like slaves at the laying of the quay piles in the hot sun, under Spanish overseers. They were released at once, and tenderly treated, nor were they denied a share of the plunder of the town.
"Having finish'd this Jobb" the pirates sought out the "recreations of Heroick toil." "They fell to eating and drinking" of the provisions stored within the city, "committing in both these things all manner of debauchery and excess." They tapped the casks of wine and brandy, and "drank about" till they were roaring drunk. In this condition they ran about the town, like cowboys on a spree, "and never examined whether it were Adultery or Fornication which they committed." By midnight they were in such a state of drunken disorder that "if there had been found only fifty courageous men, they might easily have retaken the City, and killed the Pirats." The next day they gathered plunder, partly by routing through the houses, partly by torturing the townsfolk. They seem to have been no less brutal here than they had been in Cuba, though the Porto Bello houses yielded a more golden spoil than had been won at Puerto Principe. They racked one or two poor men until they died. Others they slowly cut to pieces, or treated to the punishment called "woolding," by which the eyes were forced from their sockets under the pressure of a twisted cord. Some were tortured with burning matches "and such like slight torments." A woman was roasted to death "upon a baking stone"—a sin for which one buccaneer ("as he lay sick") was subsequently sorry.
While they were indulging these barbarities, they drank and swaggered and laid waste. They stayed within the town for fifteen days, sacking it utterly, to the last ryal. They were too drunk and too greedy to care much about the fever, which presently attacked them, and killed a number, as they lay in drunken stupor in the kennels. News of their riot being brought across the isthmus, the Governor of Panama resolved to send a troop of soldiers, to attempt to retake the city, but he had great difficulty in equipping a sufficient force. Before his men were fit to march, some messengers came in from the imprisoned townsfolk, bringing word from Captain Morgan that he wanted a ransom for the city, "or else he would by fire consume it to ashes." The pirate ships were by this time lying off the town, in Porto Bello bay. They were taking in fresh victuals for the passage home. The ransom asked was 100,000 pieces of eight, or L25,000. If it had not been paid the pirates could have put their threat in force without the slightest trouble. Morgan made all ready to ensure his retreat in the event of an attack from Panama. He placed an outpost of 100 "well-arm'd" men in a narrow part of the passage over the isthmus. All the plunder of the town was sent on board the ships. In this condition he awaited the answer of the President.
As soon as that soldier had sufficient musketeers in arms, he marched them across the isthmus to relieve the city. They attempted the pass which Morgan had secured, but lost very heavily in the attempt. The buccaneers charged, and completely routed them, driving back the entire company along the road to Panama. The President had "to retire for that time," but he sent a blustering note to Captain Morgan, threatening him and his with death "when he should take them, as he hoped soon to do." To this Morgan replied that he would not deliver the castles till he had the money, and that if the money did not come, the castles should be blown to pieces, with the prisoners inside them. We are told that "the Governor of Panama perceived by this answer that no means would serve to mollify the hearts of the Pirates, nor reduce them to reason." He decided to let the townsfolk make what terms they could. In a few days more these wretched folk contrived to scrape together the required sum of money, which they paid over as their ransom.
Before the expedition sailed away, a messenger arrived from Panama with a letter from the Governor to Captain Morgan. It made no attempt to mollify his heart nor to reduce him to reason, but it expressed a wonder at the pirates' success. He asked, as a special favour, that Captain Morgan would send him "some small patterns" of the arms with which the city had been taken. He thought it passing marvellous that a town so strongly fortified should have been won by men without great guns. Morgan treated the messenger to a cup of drink, and gave him a pistol and some leaden bullets "to carry back to the President, his Master." "He desired him to accept that pattern of the arms wherewith he had taken Porto Bello." He requested him to keep them for a twelvemonth, "after which time he promised to come to Panama and fetch them away." The Spaniard returned the gift to Captain Morgan, "giving him thanks for lending him such weapons as he needed not." He also sent a ring of gold, with the warning "not to give himself the trouble of coming to Panama," for "he should not speed so well there" as he had sped at Porto Bello.
"After these transactions" Captain Morgan loosed his top-sail, as a signal to unmoor. His ships were fully victualled for the voyage, and the loot was safely under hatches. As a precaution, he took with him the best brass cannon from the fortress. The iron guns were securely spiked with soft metal nails, which were snapped off flush with the touch-holes. The anchors were weighed to the music of the fiddlers, a salute of guns was fired, and the fleet stood out of Porto Bello bay along the wet, green coast, passing not very far from the fort which they had blown to pieces. In a few days' time they raised the Keys of Cuba, their favourite haven, where "with all quiet and repose" they made their dividend. "They found in ready money two hundred and fifty thousand pieces of eight, besides all other merchandises, as cloth, linen, silks and other goods." The spoil was amicably shared about the mast before a course was shaped for their "common rendezvous"—Port Royal.
A godly person in Jamaica, writing at this juncture in some distress, expressed himself as follows:—"There is not now resident upon this place ten men to every [licensed] house that selleth strong liquors ... besides sugar and rum works that sell without license." When Captain Morgan's ships came flaunting into harbour, with their colours fluttering and the guns thundering salutes, there was a rustle and a stir in the heart of every publican. "All the Tavern doors stood open, as they do at London, on Sundays, in the afternoon." Within those tavern doors, "in all sorts of vices and debauchery," the pirates spent their plunder "with huge prodigality," not caring what might happen on the morrow.
Shortly after the return from Porto Bello, Morgan organised another expedition with which he sailed into the Gulf of Maracaibo. His ships could not proceed far on account of the shallowness of the water, but by placing his men in the canoas he penetrated to the end of the Gulf. On the way he sacked Maracaibo, a town which had been sacked on two previous occasions—the last time by L'Ollonais only a couple of years before. Morgan's men tortured the inhabitants, according to their custom, either by "woolding" them or by placing burning matches between their toes. They then set sail for Gibraltar, a small town strongly fortified, at the south-east corner of the Gulf. The town was empty, for the inhabitants had fled into the hills with "all their goods and riches." But the pirates sent out search parties, who brought in many prisoners. These were examined, with the usual cruelties, being racked, pressed, hung up by the heels, burnt with palm leaves, tied to stakes, suspended by the thumbs and toes, flogged with rattans, or roasted at the camp fires. Some were crucified, and burnt between the fingers as they hung on the crosses; "others had their feet put into the fire."
When they had extracted the last ryal from the sufferers they shipped themselves aboard some Spanish vessels lying in the port. They were probably cedar-built ships, of small tonnage, built at the Gibraltar yards. In these they sailed towards Maracaibo, where they found "a poor distressed old man, who was sick." This old man told them that the Castle de la Barra, which guarded the entrance to the Gulf, had been mounted with great guns and manned by a strong garrison. Outside the channel were three Spanish men-of-war with their guns run out and decks cleared for battle.
The truth of these assertions was confirmed by a scouting party the same day. In order to gain a little time Morgan sent a Spaniard to the admiral of the men-of-war, demanding a ransom "for not putting Maracaibo to the flame." The answer reached him in a day or two, warning him to surrender all his plunder, and telling him that if he did not, he should be destroyed by the sword. There was no immediate cause for haste, because the Spanish admiral could not cross the sandbanks into the Gulf until he had obtained flat-bottomed boats from Caracas. Morgan read the letter to his men "in the market-place of Maracaibo," "both in French and English," and then asked them would they give up all their spoil, and pass unharmed, or fight for its possession. They agreed with one voice to fight, "to the very last drop of blood," rather than surrender the booty they had risked their skins to get. One of the men undertook to rig a fireship to destroy the Spanish admiral's flagship. He proposed to fill her decks with logs of wood "standing with hats and Montera caps," like gunners standing at their guns. At the port-holes they would place other wooden logs to resemble cannon. The ship should then hang out the English colours, the Jack or the red St George's cross, so that the enemy should deem her "one of our best men of war that goes to fight them." The scheme pleased everyone, but there was yet much anxiety among the pirates. Morgan sent another letter to the Spanish admiral, offering to spare Maracaibo without ransom; to release his prisoners, with one half of the captured slaves; and to send home the hostages he brought away from Gibraltar, if he might be granted leave to pass the entry. The Spaniard rejected all these terms, with a curt intimation that, if the pirates did not surrender within two more days, they should be compelled to do so at the sword's point.
Morgan received the Spaniard's answer angrily, resolving to attempt the passage "without surrendering anything." He ordered his men to tie the slaves and prisoners, so that there should be no chance of their attempting to rise. They then rummaged Maracaibo for brimstone, pitch, and tar, with which to make their fireship. They strewed her deck with fireworks and with dried palm leaves soaked in tar. They cut her outworks down, so that the fire might more quickly spread to the enemy's ship at the moment of explosion. They broke open some new gun-ports, in which they placed small drums, "of which the negroes make use." "Finally, the decks were handsomely beset with many pieces of wood dressed up in the shape of men with hats or monteras, and likewise armed with swords, muskets, and bandoliers." The plunder was then divided among the other vessels of the squadron. A guard of musketeers was placed over the prisoners, and the pirates then set sail towards the passage. The fireship went in advance, with orders to fall foul of the Spanish Admiral, a ship of forty guns.
When it grew dark they anchored for the night, with sentinels on each ship keeping vigilant watch. They were close to the entry, almost within shot of the Spaniards, and they half expected to be boarded in the darkness. At dawn they got their anchors, and set sail towards the Spaniards, who at once unmoored, and beat to quarters. In a few minutes the fireship ran into the man-of-war, "and grappled to her sides" with kedges thrown into her shrouds. The Spaniards left their guns, and strove to thrust her away, but the fire spread so rapidly that they could not do so. The flames caught the warship's sails, and ran along her sides with such fury that her men had hardly time to get away from her before she blew her bows out, and went to the bottom. The second ship made no attempt to engage: her crew ran her ashore, and deserted, leaving her bilged in shallow water. As the pirates rowed towards the wreck some of the deserters hurried back to fire her. The third ship struck her colours without fighting.
Seeing their advantage a number of the pirates landed to attack the castle, where the shipwrecked Spaniards were rallying. A great skirmish followed, in which the pirates lost more men than had been lost at Porto Bello. They were driven off with heavy loss, though they continued to annoy the fort with musket fire till the evening. As it grew dark they returned to Maracaibo, leaving one of their ships to watch the fortress and to recover treasure from the sunken flagship. Morgan now wrote to the Spanish admiral, demanding a ransom for the town. The citizens were anxious to get rid of him at any cost, so they compounded with him, seeing that the admiral disdained to treat, for the sum of 20,000 pieces of eight and 500 cattle. The gold was paid, and the cattle duly counted over, killed, and salted; but Morgan did not purpose to release his prisoners until his ship was safely past the fort. He told the Maracaibo citizens that they would not be sent ashore until the danger of the passage was removed. With this word he again set sail to attempt to pass the narrows. He found his ship still anchored near the wreck, but in more prosperous sort than he had left her. Her men had brought up 15,000 pieces of eight, with a lot of gold and silver plate, "as hilts of swords and other things," besides "great quantity of pieces of eight" which had "melted and run together" in the burning of the vessel.
Morgan now made a last appeal to the Spanish admiral, telling him that he would hang his prisoners if the fortress fired on him as he sailed past. The Spanish admiral sent an answer to the prisoners, who had begged him to relent, informing them that he would do his duty, as he wished they had done theirs. Morgan heard the answer, and realised that he would have to use some stratagem to escape the threatened danger. He made a dividend of the plunder before he proceeded farther, for he feared that some of the fleet might never win to sea, and that the captains of those which escaped might be tempted to run away with their ships. The spoils amounted to 250,000 pieces of eight, as at Porto Bello, though in addition to this gold there were numbers of slaves and heaps of costly merchandise.
When the booty had been shared he put in use his stratagem. He embarked his men in the canoas, and bade them row towards the shore "as if they designed to land." When they reached the shore they hid under the overhanging boughs "till they had laid themselves down along in the boats." Then one or two men rowed the boats back to the ships, with the crews concealed under the thwarts. The Spaniards in the fortress watched the going and returning of the boats. They could not see the stratagem, for the boats were too far distant, but they judged that the pirates were landing for a night attack. The boats plied to and from the shore at intervals during the day. The anxious Spaniards resolved to prepare for the assault by placing their great guns on the landward side of the fortress. They cleared away the scrub on that side, in order to give their gunners a clear view of the attacking force when the sun set. They posted sentries, and stood to their arms, expecting to be attacked.
As soon as night had fallen the buccaneers weighed anchor. A bright moon was shining, and by the moonlight the ships steered seaward under bare poles. As they came abreast of the castle on the gentle current of the ebb, they loosed their sails to a fair wind blowing seaward. At the same moment, while the top-sails were yet slatting, Captain Morgan fired seven great guns "with bullets" as a last defiance. The Spaniards dragged their cannon across the fortress, "and began to fire very furiously," without much success. The wind freshened, and as the ships drew clear of the narrows they felt its force, and began to slip through the water. One or two shots took effect upon them before they drew out of range, but "the Pirates lost not many of their men, nor received any considerable damage in their ships." They hove to at a distance of a mile from the fort in order to send a boat in with a number of the prisoners. They then squared their yards, and stood away towards Jamaica, where they arrived safely, after very heavy weather, a few days later. Here they went ashore in their stolen velvets and silks to spend their silver dollars in the Port Royal rum shops. Some mates of theirs were ashore at that time after an unlucky cruise. It was their pleasure "to mock and jeer" these unsuccessful pirates, "often telling them: Let us see what money you brought from Comana, and if it be as good silver as that which we bring from Maracaibo."
Note.—On his return from Maracaibo, Morgan gave out that he had met with further information of an intended Spanish attack on Jamaica. He may have made the claim to justify his actions on the Main, which were considerably in excess of the commission Modyford had given him. On the other hand, a Spanish attack may have been preparing, as he stated; but the preparations could not have gone far, for had the Spaniards been prepared for such an expedition Morgan's Panama raid could never have succeeded.
Authorities.—Exquemeling's "History of The Bucaniers of America"; Exquemeling's "History" (the Malthus edition), 1684. Cal. State Papers: West Indian and Colonial Series.
For my account of Porto Bello I am indebted to various brief accounts in Hakluyt, and to a book entitled "A Description of the Spanish Islands," by a "Gentleman long resident in those parts." I have also consulted the brief notices in Dampier's Voyages, Wafer's Voyages, various gazetteers, and some maps and pamphlets relating to Admiral Vernon's attack in 1739-40. There is a capital description of the place as it was in its decadence, circa 1820, in Michael Scott's "Tom Cringle's Log."
MORGAN'S GREAT RAID
Chagres castle—Across the isthmus—Sufferings of the buccaneers—Venta Cruz—Old Panama
Some months later Henry Morgan found his pirates in all the miseries of poverty. They had wasted all their silver dollars, and longed for something "to expend anew in wine" before they were sold as slaves to pay their creditors. He thought that he would save them from their misery by going a new cruise. There was no need for him to drum up recruits in the rum shops, for his name was glorious throughout the Indies. He had but to mention that "he intended for the Main" to get more men than he could ship. He "assigned the south side of the Isle of Tortuga" for his rendezvous, and he sent out letters to the "ancient and expert Pirates" and to the planters and hunters in Hispaniola, asking them, in the American general's phrase, "to come and dip their spoons in a platter of glory." Long before the appointed day the rendezvous was crowded, for ships, canoas, and small boats came thronging to the anchorage with all the ruffians of the Indies. Many marched to the rendezvous across the breadth of Hispaniola "with no small difficulties." The muster brought together a grand variety of rascaldom, from Campeachy in the west to Trinidad in the east. Hunters, planters, logwood cutters, Indians, and half-breeds came flocking from their huts and inns to go upon the grand account. Lastly, Henry Morgan came in his fine Spanish ship, with the brass and iron guns. At the firing of a gun the assembled captains came on board to him for a pirates' council, over the punch-bowl, in the admiral's cabin.
It was decided at this council to send a large party to the Main, to the de la Hacha River, "to assault a small village" of the name of La Rancheria—the chief granary in all the "Terra Firma." The pirates were to seize as much maize there as they could find—enough, if possible, to load the ships of the expedition. While they were away their fellows at Tortuga were to clean and rig the assembled ships to fit them for the coming cruise. Another large party was detailed to hunt in the woods for hogs and cattle.
In about five weeks' time the ships returned from Rio de la Hacha, after much buffeting at sea. They brought with them a grain ship they had taken in the port, and several thousand sacks of corn which the Spaniards had paid them as "a ransom for not burning the town." They had also won a lot of silver, "with all other things they could rob"—such as pearls from the local pearl beds. The hunters had killed and salted an incredible quantity of beef and pork, the ships were scraped and tallowed, and nothing more was to be done save to divide the victuals among all the buccaneers. This division did not take much time. Within a couple of days the admiral loosed his top-sail. The pirates fired off their guns and hove their anchors up. They sailed out of Port Couillon with a fair wind, in a great bravery of flags, towards the rendezvous at Cape Tiburon, to the south-west of the island Hispaniola. When they reached Cape Tiburon, where there is a good anchorage, they brought aboard a store of oranges, to save them from the scurvy. While the men were busy in the orange groves Henry Morgan "gave letters patent, or commissions," to all his captains, "to act all manner of hostility against the Spanish nation." For this act he had the sealed authority of the Council of Jamaica. He was no longer a pirate or buccaneer, but an admiral leading a national enterprise. As we have said, he had heard, on the Main, of an intended Spanish attack upon Jamaica; indeed, it is probable that his capture of Porto Bello prevented the ripening of the project. There is no need to whitewash Morgan, but we may at least regard him at this juncture as the saviour of our West Indian colonies. After the serving out of these commissions, and their due sealing, the captains were required to sign the customary articles, allotting the shares of the prospective plunder. The articles allotted very liberal compensation to the wounded; they also expressly stated the reward to be given for bravery in battle. Fifty pieces of eight were allotted to him who should haul a Spanish colour down and hoist the English flag in its place. Surgeons received 200 pieces of eight "for their chests of medicaments." Carpenters received one half of that sum. Henry Morgan, the admiral of the fleet, was to receive one-hundredth part of all the plunder taken. His vice-admiral's share is not stated. As a stimulus to the pirates, it was published through the fleet that any captain and crew who ventured on, and took, a Spanish ship should receive a tenth part of her value as a reward to themselves for their bravery. When the contracts had been signed Morgan asked his captains which town they should attempt. They had thirty-seven ships, carrying at least 500 cannon. They had 2000 musketeers, "besides mariners and boys," while they possessed "great quantity of ammunition, and fire balls, with other inventions of powder." With such an armament, he said, they could attack the proudest of the Spanish cities. They could sack La Vera Cruz, where the gold from Manila was put aboard the galleons, as they lay alongside the quays moored to the iron ring-bolts; or they could go eastward to the town of Cartagena to pillage our Lady's golden altar in the church there; or they could row up the Chagres River, and keep the promise Morgan had made to the Governor of Panama. The captains pronounced for Panama, but they added, as a rider, that it would be well to go to Santa Katalina to obtain guides. The Santa Katalina fort was still in the possession of the Spaniards, who now used it as a convict settlement, sending thither all the outlaws of the "Terra Firma." It would be well, they said, to visit Santa Katalina to select a few choice cut-throats to guide them over the isthmus. With this resolution they set sail for Santa Katalina, where they anchored on the fourth day, "before sunrise," in a bay called the Aguada Grande.
Some of the buccaneers had been there under Mansvelt, and these now acted as guides to the men who went ashore in the fighting party. A day of hard fighting followed, rather to the advantage of the Spaniards, for the pirates won none of the batteries, and had to sleep in the open, very wet and hungry. The next day Morgan threatened the garrison with death if they did not yield "within few hours." The Governor was not a very gallant man, like the Governor at Porto Bello. Perhaps he was afraid of his soldiers, the convicts from the "Terra Firma." At anyrate he consented to surrender, but he asked that the pirates would have the kindness to pretend to attack him, "for the saving of his honesty." Morgan agreed very gladly to this proposition, for he saw little chance of taking the fort by storm. When the night fell, he followed the Governor's direction, and began a furious bombardment, "but without bullets, or at least into the air." The castles answered in the like manner, burning a large quantity of powder. Then the pirates stormed into the castles in a dramatic way; while the Spaniards retreated to the church, and hung out the white flag.
Early the next morning the pirates sacked the place, and made great havoc in the poultry-yards and cattle-pens. They pulled down a number of wooden houses to supply their camp fires. The guns they nailed or sent aboard. The powder they saved for their own use, but some proportion of it went to the destruction of the forts, which, with one exception, they blew up. For some days they stayed there, doing nothing but "roast and eat, and make good cheer," sending the Spaniards to the fields to rout out fresh provisions. While they lay there, Morgan asked "if any banditti were there from Panama," as he had not yet found his guides. Three scoundrels came before him, saying that they knew the road across the isthmus, and that they would act as guides if such action were made profitable. Morgan promised them "equal shares in all they should pillage and rob," and told them that they should come with him to Jamaica at the end of the cruise. These terms suited the three robbers very well. One of them, "a wicked fellow," "the greatest rogue, thief and assassin among them," who had deserved rather "to be broken alive upon a wheel than punished with serving in a garrison," was the spokesman of the trio. He was the Dubosc of that society, "and could domineer and command over them," "they not daring to refuse obedience." This truculent ruffian, with his oaths and his knives and his black moustachios, was elected head guide.
After several days of ease upon the island Morgan sent a squadron to the Main, with 400 men, four ships, and a canoa, "to go and take the Castle of Chagre," at the entrance to the Chagres River. He would not send a larger company, though the fort was strong, for he feared "lest the Spaniards should be jealous of his designs upon Panama"—lest they should be warned, that is, by refugees from Chagres before he tried to cross the isthmus. Neither would he go himself, for he was still bent upon establishing a settlement at Santa Katalina. He chose out an old buccaneer, of the name of Brodely or Bradly, who had sailed with Mansvelt, to command the expedition. He was famous in his way this Captain Brodely, for he had been in all the raids, and had smelt a quantity of powder. He was as brave as a lion, resourceful as a sailor, and, for a buccaneer, most prudent. Ordering his men aboard, he sailed for the Chagres River, where, three days later, he arrived. He stood in towards the river's mouth; but the guns of the castle opened on him, making that anchorage impossible. But about a league from the castle there is a small bay, and here Captain Brodely brought his ships to anchor, and sent his men to their blankets, warning them to stand by for an early call.
The castle of San Lorenzo, which guarded the Chagres River's mouth, was built on the right bank of that river, on a high hill of great steepness. The hill has two peaks, with a sort of natural ditch some thirty feet in depth between them. The castle was built upon the seaward peak, and a narrow drawbridge crossed the gully to the other summit, which was barren and open to the sight. The river swept round the northern side of the hill with considerable force. To the south the hill was precipitous, and of such "infinite asperity," that no man could climb it. To the east was the bridged gully connecting the garrison with the isthmus. To the west, in a crook of the land, was the little port of Chagres, where ships might anchor in seven or eight fathoms, "being very fit for small vessels." Not far from the foot of the hill, facing the river's mouth, there was a battery of eight great guns commanding the approach. A little way beneath were two more batteries, each with six great guns, to supplement the one above. A path led from these lower batteries to the protected harbour. A steep flight of stairs, "hewed out of the rock," allowed the soldiers to pass from the water to the summit of the castle. The defences at the top of the hill were reinforced with palisadoes. The keep, or inner castle, was hedged about with a double fence of plank—the fences being six or seven feet apart, and the interstices filled in with earth, like gabions. On one side of the castle were the storesheds for merchandise and ammunition. On the other, and within the palisadoes everywhere, were soldiers' huts, built of mud and wattle, thatched with palm leaves, "after the manner of the Indians." Lastly, as a sort of outer defence, a great submerged rock prevented boats from coming too near the seaward side.
Early in the morning Captain Bradly turned his hands up by the boatswain's pipe, and bade them breakfast off their beef and parched corn. Maize and charqui were packed into knapsacks for the march, and the pirates rowed ashore to open the campaign. The ruffians from Santa Katalina took their stations at the head of the leading company, with trusty pirates just behind them ready to pistol them if they played false. In good spirits they set forth from the beach, marching in the cool of the morning before the sun had risen. The way led through mangrove swamps, where the men sank to their knees in rotting grasses or plunged to their waists in slime. Those who have seen a tropical swamp will know how fierce the toil was. They were marching in a dank world belonging to an earlier age than ours. They were in the age of the coal strata, among wet, green things, in a silence only broken by the sound of dropping or by the bellow of an alligator. They were there in the filth, in the heat haze, in a mist of miasma and mosquitoes. In all probability they were swearing at themselves for coming thither.
At two o'clock in the afternoon the buccaneers pushed through a thicket of liane and green cane, and debouched quite suddenly upon the barren hilltop facing San Lorenzo Castle. As they formed up, they were met with a thundering volley, which threw them into some confusion. They retreated to the cover of the jungle to debate a plan of battle, greatly fearing that a fort so strongly placed would be impregnable without great guns to batter it. However, they were a reckless company, careless of their lives, and hot with the tramping through the swamp. Give it up they could not, for fear of the mockery of their mates. The desperate course was the one course open to them. They lit the fireballs, or grenades, they had carried through the marsh; they drew their swords, and "Come on!" they cried. "Have at all!" And forward they stormed, cursing as they ran. A company in reserve remained behind in cover, firing over the storming party with their muskets.
As the pirates threw themselves into the gully, the walls of San Lorenzo burst into a flame of gun fire. The Spaniards fought their cannon furiously—as fast as they could fire and reload—while the musketeers picked off the leaders from the loopholes. "Come on, ye English dogs!" they cried. "Come on, ye heretics! ye cuckolds! Let your skulking mates behind there come on too! You'll not get to Panama this bout." "Come on" the pirates did, with great gallantry. They flung themselves down into the ditch, and stormed up the opposite slope to the wooden palings. Here they made a desperate attempt to scale, but the foothold was too precarious and the pales too high. In a few roaring minutes the attack was at an end: it had withered away before the Spanish fire. The buccaneers were retreating in knots of one or two, leaving some seventy of their number on the sun-bleached rocks of the gully.
When they got back to the jungle they lay down to rest, and slept there quietly while the daylight lasted, though the Spaniards still sent shots in their direction. As soon as it was dark, they made another furious assault, flinging their fireballs against the palings in order to burst the planks apart. While they were struggling in the ditch, a pirate ran across the gully with his body bent, as is natural to a running man. As he ran, an arrow took him in the back, and pierced him through to the side. He paused a moment, drew the arrow from the wound, wrapped the shaft of it with cotton as a wad, and fired it back over the paling with his musket. The cotton he had used caught fire from the powder, and it chanced that this blazing shaft drove home into a palm thatch. In the hurry and confusion the flame was not noticed, though it spread rapidly across the huts till it reached some powder casks. There was a violent explosion just within the palisadoes, and stones and blazing sticks came rattling down about the Spaniards' ears. The inner castle roared up in a blaze, calling the Spaniards from their guns to quench the fire—no easy task so high above the water. While the guns were deserted, the pirates ran along the bottom of the ditch, thrusting their fireballs under the palisadoes, which now began to burn in many places. As the flames spread, the planking warped, and fell. The outer planks inclined slightly outward, like the futtocks of a ship, so that, when they weakened in the fire, the inner weight of earth broke them through. The pirates now stood back from the fort, in the long black shadows, to avoid the showers of earth—"great heaps of earth"—which were falling down into the ditch. Presently the slope from the bottom of the gully was piled with earth, so that the pirates could rush up to the breaches, and hurl their firepots across the broken woodwork. The San Lorenzo fort was now a spiring red flame of fire—a beacon to the ships at sea. Before midnight the wooden walls were burnt away to charcoal; the inner fort was on fire in many places; yet the Spaniards still held the earthen ramparts, casting down "many flaming pots," and calling on the English dogs to attack them. The pirates lay close in the shadows, picking off the Spaniards as they moved in the red firelight, so that many poor fellows came toppling into the gully from the mounds.
When day dawned, the castle lay open to the pirates. The walls were all burnt, and fallen down, but in the breaches stood the Spanish soldiers, manning their guns as though the walls still protected them. The fight began as furiously as it had raged the day before. By noon most of the Spanish gunners had been shot down by the picked musketeers; while a storming party ran across the ditch, and rushed a breach. As the pirates gained the inside of the fort, the Spanish Governor charged home upon them with twenty-five soldiers armed with pikes, clubbed muskets, swords, or stones from the ruin. For some minutes these men mixed in a last desperate struggle; then the Spaniards were driven back by the increasing numbers of the enemy. Fighting hard, they retreated to the inner castle, cheered by their Governor, who still called on them to keep their flag aloft. The inner castle was a ruin, but the yellow flag still flew there, guarded by some sorely wounded soldiers and a couple of guns. Here the last stand was made, and here the gallant captain was hit by a bullet, "which pierced his skull into the brain." The little band of brave men now went to pieces before the rush of pirates. Some of them fell back, still fighting, to the wall, over which they flung themselves "into the sea," dying thus honourably rather than surrender. About thirty of them, "whereof scarce ten were not wounded," surrendered in the ruins of the inner fortress. These thirty hurt and weary men were the survivors of 314 who had stood to arms the day before. All the rest were dead, save "eight or nine," who had crept away by boat up the Chagres to take the news to Panama. No officer remained alive, nor was any powder left; the Spaniards were true soldiers. The pirates lost "above one hundred killed" and over seventy wounded, or rather more than half of the men engaged. While the few remaining Spaniards dug trenches in the sand for the burial of the many dead, the pirates questioned them as to their knowledge of Morgan's enterprise. They knew all about it, they said, for a deserter from the pirate ships which raided the Rio de la Hacha (for grain) had spoken of the scheme to the Governor at Cartagena. That captain had reinforced the Chagres garrison, and had sent a warning over the isthmus to the Governor at Panama. The Chagres was now well lined with ambuscades. Panama was full of soldiers, and the whole Spanish population was ready to take up arms to drive the pirates to their ships, so they knew what they might look to get in case they persisted in their plan. This information was sent to Henry Morgan at the Santa Katalina fort, with news of the reduction of the Chagres castle. Before he received it, Captain Joseph Bradly died in the castle, of a wound he had received in the fighting.
When Morgan received the news that San Lorenzo had been stormed, he began to send aboard the meat, maize, and cassava he had collected in Santa Katalina. He had already blown the Spanish forts to pieces, with the one exception of the fort of St Teresa. He now took all the captured Spanish guns, and flung them into the sea, where they lie still, among the scarlet coral sprays. The Spanish town was then burnt, and the Spanish prisoners placed aboard the ships. It was Morgan's intention to return to the island after sacking Panama, and to leave there a strong garrison to hold it in the interests of the buccaneers. When he had made these preparations he weighed his anchors, and sailed for the Chagres River under the English colours.
Eight days later they came sailing slowly up towards the river's mouth. Their joy was so great "when they saw the English colours upon the castle, that they minded not their way into the river," being gathered at the rum cask instead of at the lead, and calling healths instead of soundings. As a consequence, four ships of the fleet, including the admiral's flagship, ran foul of the ledge of rocks at the river's entry. Several men were drowned, but the goods and ships' stores were saved, though with some difficulty. As they got out warps to bring the ships off, the north wind freshened. In shallow water, such as that, a sea rises very quickly. In a few hours a regular "norther" had set in, and the ships beat to pieces on the ledge before the end of the day.
As Morgan came ashore at the port, the guns were fired in salute, and the pirates lined the quay and the castle walls to give him a triumphant welcome. He examined the castle, questioned the lieutenants, and at once took steps to repair the damage done by the fire. The thirty survivors of the garrison and all the prisoners from Santa Katalina, were set to work to drive in new palisadoes in the place of those burnt in the attack. The huts were rethatched and the whole place reordered. There were some Spanish ships in the port whose crews had been pressed into the Spanish garrison at the time of the storm. They were comparatively small, of the kind known as chatas, or chatten, a sort of coast boat of slight draught, used for river work and for the conveyance of goods from the Chagres to the cities on the Main. They had iron and brass guns aboard them, which were hoisted out, and mounted in the fort. Captain Morgan then picked a garrison of 500 buccaneers to hold the fort, under a buccaneer named Norman. He placed 150 more in the ships in the anchorage, and embarked the remainder in flat-bottomed boats for the voyage up the Chagres.
It was the dry season, so that the river, at times so turbulent, was dwindled to a tenth of its volume. In order that the hard work of hauling boats over shallows might not be made still harder, Morgan gave orders that the men should take but scanty stock of provisions. A few maize cobs and a strip or two of charqui was all the travelling store in the scrips his pilgrims carried. They hoped that they would find fresh food in the Spanish strongholds, or ambuscades, which guarded the passage over the isthmus.
The company set sail from San Lorenzo on the morning of the 12th (one says the 18th) of January 1671. They numbered in all 1200 men, packed into thirty-two canoas and the five chatas they had taken in the port. His guides went on ahead in one of the chatas, with her guns aboard her and the matches lit, and one Robert Delander, a buccaneer captain, in command. The first day's sailing against a gentle current was pleasant enough. In spite of the heat and the overcrowding of the boats, they made six leagues between dawn and sunset, and anchored at a place called De los Bracos. Here a number of the pirates went ashore to sleep "and stretch their limbs, they being almost crippled with lying too much crowded in the boats." They also foraged up and down for food in the plantations; but the Spaniards had fled with all their stores. It was the first day of the journey over the isthmus, yet many of the men had already come to an end of their provisions. "The greatest part of them" ate nothing all day, nor enjoyed "any other refreshment" than a pipe of tobacco. The next day, "very early in the morning," before the sun rose, they shoved off from the mooring-place. They rowed all day, suffering much from the mosquitoes, but made little progress. The river was fallen very low, so that they were rowing or poling over a series of pools joined by shallow rapids. To each side of them were stretches of black, alluvial mud, already springing green with shrubs and water-plants. Every now and then, as they rowed on, on the dim, sluggish, silent, steaming river, they butted a sleeping alligator as he sunned in the shallows, or were stopped by a fallen tree, brought by the summer floods and left to rot there. At twilight, when the crying of the birds became more intense and the monkeys gathered to their screaming in the treetops, the boats drew up to the bank at a planter's station, or wayside shrine, known as Cruz de Juan Gallego. Here they went ashore to sleep, still gnawed with famine, and faint with the hard day's rowing. The guides told Henry Morgan that after another two leagues they might leave the boats, and push through the woods on foot.
Early the next morning the admiral decided to leave the boats, for with his men so faint from hunger he thought it dangerous to tax them with a labour so severe as rowing. He left 160 men to protect the fleet, giving them the strictest orders to remain aboard. "No man," he commanded, "upon any pretext whatsoever, should dare to leave the boats and go ashore." The woods there were so dark and thick that a Spanish garrison might have lain within 100 yards of the fleet, and cut off any stragglers who landed. Having given his orders, he chose out a gang of macheteros, or men carrying the sharp sword-like machetes, to march ahead of the main body, to cut a trackway in the pulpy green stuff. They then set forward through the forest, over their ankles in swampy mud, up to their knees sometimes in rotting leaves, clambering over giant tree trunks, wading through stagnant brooks, staggering and slipping and swearing, faint with famine; a very desperate gang of cut-throats. As they marched, the things called garapatadas, or wood-ticks, of which some six sorts flourish there, dropped down upon them in scores, to add their burning bites to the venom of the mosquitoes. In a moist atmosphere of at least 90 deg., with heavy arms to carry, that march must have been terrible. Even the buccaneers, men hardened to the climate, could not endure it: they straggled back to the boats, and re-embarked.
With a great deal of trouble the pirates dragged the boats "to a place farther up the river, called Cedro Bueno," where they halted for the stragglers, who drifted in during the evening. Here they went ashore to a wretched bivouac, to lie about the camp fires, with their belts drawn tight, chewing grass or aromatic leaves to allay their hunger. After Cedro Bueno the river narrowed, so that there was rather more water to float the canoas. The land, too, was less densely wooded, and easier for the men to march upon. On the fourth day "the greatest part of the Pirates marched by land, being led by one of the guides." Another guide led the rest of them in the canoas; two boats going ahead of the main fleet, one on each side of the river, to discover "the ambuscades of the Spaniards." The Spaniards had lined the river-banks at intervals with Indian spies, who were so "very dexterous" that they brought intelligence of the coming of the pirates "six hours at least before they came to any place." About noon on this day, as the boats neared Torna Cavallos, one of the guides cried out that he saw an ambuscade. "His voice caused infinite joy to all the Pirates," who made sure that the fastness would be well provisioned, and that at last they might "afford something to the ferment of their stomachs, which now was grown so sharp that it did gnaw their very bowels." The place was carried with a rush; but the redoubt was empty. The Spaniards had all fled away some hours before, when their spies had come in from down the river. There had been 500 Spaniards there standing to arms behind the barricade of tree trunks. They had marched away with all their gear, save only a few leather bags, "all empty," and a few crusts and bread crumbs "upon the ground where they had eaten." There were a few shelter huts, thatched with palm leaves, within the barricade. These the pirates tore to pieces in the fury of their disappointment. They fell upon the leather bags like hungry dogs quarrelling for a bone. They fought and wrangled for the scraps of leather, and ate them greedily, "with frequent gulps of water." Had they taken any Spaniards there "they would certainly in that occasion [or want] have roasted or boiled" them "to satisfy their famine."
Somewhat relieved by the scraps of leather, they marched on along the river-bank to "another post called Torna Munni." Here they found a second wall of tree trunks, loopholed for musketry, "but as barren and desert as the former." They sought about in the woods for fruits or roots, but could find nothing—"the Spaniards having been so provident as not to leave behind them anywhere the least crumb of sustenance." There was nothing for them but "those pieces of leather, so hard and dry," a few of which had been saved "for supper" by the more provident. He who had a little scrap of hide, would slice it into strips, "and beat it between two stones, and rub it, often dipping it in the water of the river, to render it by these means supple and tender." Lastly, the hair was scraped off, and the piece "roasted or broiled" at the camp fire upon a spit of lance wood. "And being thus cooked they cut it into small morsels, and eat it," chewing each bit for several minutes as though loth to lose it, and helping it down "with frequent gulps of water." There was plenty of fish in the Chagres, but perhaps they had no lines. It seems strange, however, that they made no attempt to kill some of the myriads of birds and monkeys in the trees, or the edible snakes which swarm in the grass, or, as a last resource, the alligators in the river.
Gaunt with hunger, they took the trail again after a night of misery at Torna Munni. The going was slightly better, but there was still the wood-ticks, the intense, damp heat, and the lust for food to fight against. About noon they staggered in to Barbacoas, now a station on the Isthmian Railway. There were a few huts at Barbacoas, for the place was of some small importance. A native swinging bridge, made of bejuco cane, was slung across the river there for the benefit of travellers going to Porto Bello. An ambush had been laid at Barbacoas, but the Spaniards had left the place, after sweeping it as bare as Torna Munni. The land was in tillage near the huts, but the plantations were barren. "They searched very narrowly, but could not find any person, animal or other thing that was capable of relieving their extreme and ravenous hunger." After a long search they chanced upon a sort of cupboard in the rocks, "in which they found two sacks of meal, wheat, and like things, with two great jars of wine, and certain fruits called Platanos," or large bananas. Morgan very firmly refused to allow the buccaneers to use this food. He reserved it strictly for those who were in greatest want, thereby saving a number of lives. The dying men were given a little meal and wine, and placed in the canoas, "and those commanded to land that were in them before." They then marched on "with greater courage than ever," till late into the night, when they lay down in a plundered bean patch.
"On the sixth day" they were nearly at the end of their tether. They dragged along slowly, some in boats, some in the woods, halting every now and then in despair of going farther, and then staggering on again, careless if they lived or died. Their lips were scummy with a sort of green froth, caused by their eating grass and the leaves of trees. In this condition they came at noon to a plantation, "where they found a barn full of maize." They beat the door in in a few minutes, "and fell to eating of it dry," till they were gorged with it. There was enough for all, and plenty left to take away, so they distributed a great quantity, "giving to every man a good allowance." With their knapsacks full of corn cobs they marched on again, in happier case than they had been in for several days. They soon came to "an ambuscade of Indians," but no Indians stayed within it to impeach their passage. On catching sight of the barricade many buccaneers flung away their corn cobs, with the merry improvidence of their kind, "with the sudden hopes they conceived of finding all things in abundance." But the larder was as bare as it had been in the other strongholds: it contained "neither Indians, nor victuals, nor anything else." On the other side of the river, however, there were many Indians, "a troop of a hundred," armed with bows, "who escaped away through the agility of their feet." Some of the pirates "leapt into the river" to attack these Indians, and to bring them into camp as prisoners. They did not speed in their attempt, but two or three of them were shot through the heart as they waded. Their corpses drifted downstream, to catch in the oars of the canoas, a horrible feast for the caymans. The others returned to their comrades on the right or northern bank of the river among the howls of the Indians: "Hey, you dogs, you, go on to the savannah; go on to the savannah, to find out what's in pickle for you."
They could go no farther towards the savannah for that time, as they wished to cross the river, and did not care to do so, in the presence of an enemy, without due rest. They camped about big fires of wood, according to their custom, but they slept badly, for the hunger and toil had made them mutinous. The growling went up and down the camp till it came to Morgan's ears. Most of the pirates were disgusted with their admiral's "conduct," or leadership, and urged a speedy return to Port Royal. Others, no less disgusted, swore savagely that they would see the job through. Some, who had eaten more burnt leather than the others, "did laugh and joke at all their discourses," and so laid a last straw upon their burden. "In the meanwhile" the ruffian guide, "the rogue, thief, and assassin," who had merited to die upon a wheel, was a great comfort to them. "It would not be long," he kept saying, "before they met with folk, when they would come to their own, and forget these hungry times." So the night passed, round the red wood logs in the clearing, among the steaming jungle.