Early in the morning of the seventh day they cleaned their arms, wiping away the rust and fungus which had grown upon them. "Every one discharged his pistol or musket, without bullet, to examine the security of their firelocks." They then loaded with ball, and crossed the river in the canoas. At midday they sighted Venta Cruz, the village, or little town, which Drake had taken. The smoke was going up to heaven from the Venta Cruz chimneys—a sight very cheering to these pirates. They had "great joy and hopes of finding people in the town ... and plenty of good cheer." They went on merrily, "making several arguments to one another [like the gravediggers in Hamlet] upon those external signs"—saying that there could be no smoke without a fire, and no fire in such a climate save to cook by, and that, therefore, Venta Cruz would be full of roast and boiled by the time they marched into its Plaza. Thus did they cheer the march and the heavy labour at the oars as far as the Venta Cruz jetty.
As they entered Venta Cruz at the double, "all sweating and panting" with the hurry of their advance, they found the town deserted and in a blaze of fire. There was nothing eatable there, for the place had been swept clean, and then fired, by the retreating Spaniards. The only houses not alight were "the store-houses and stables belonging the King." These, being of stone, and Government property, had not been kindled. The storehouses and stables were, however, empty. Not a horse nor a mule nor an ass was in its stall. "They had not left behind them any beast whatsoever, either alive or dead." Venta Cruz was as profitless a booty as all the other stations. A few pariah dogs and cats were in the street, as was perhaps natural, even at that date, in a Central-American town. These were at once killed, and eaten half raw, "with great appetite." Before they were despatched, a pirate lighted on a treasure in a recess of the King's stables. He found there a stock of wine, some fifteen or sixteen jars, or demijohns, of good Peruvian wine, "and a leather sack full of bread." "But no sooner had they begun to drink of the said wine when they fell sick, almost every man." Several hundreds had had a cup or two of the drink, and these now judged themselves poisoned, and "irrecoverably lost." They were not poisoned, as it happened, but they had gone hungry for several days, living on "manifold sorts of trash." The sudden use of wine and bread caused a very natural sickness, such as comes to all who eat or drink greedily after a bout of starving. The sickness upset them for the day, so that the force remained there, at bivouac in the village, until the next morning. During the halt Morgan landed all his men ("though never so weak") from the canoas. He retained only one boat, which he hid, for use as an advice boat, "to carry intelligence" to those down the river. The rest of the canoas were sent downstream to the anchorage at Bueno Cedro, where the chatas lay moored under a guard. He gave strict orders to the rest of the pirates that they were not to leave the village save in companies of 100 together. "One party of English soldiers stickled not to contravene these commands, being tempted with the desire of finding victuals." While they straggled in the tilled ground outside Venta Cruz they were attacked "with great fury" by a number of Spaniards and Indians, "who snatched up" one of them, and carried him off. What was done to this one so snatched up we are not told. Probably he was tortured to give information of the pirates' strength, and then hanged up to a tree.
On the eighth day, in the early morning, the sick men being recovered, Morgan thought they might proceed. He chose out an advance-guard of 200 of the strongest of his men, and sent them forward, with their matches lighted, to clear the road. The road was a very narrow one, but paved with cobble stones, and easy to the feet after the quagmires of the previous week. The men went forward at a good pace, beating the thickets on each side of the road. When they had marched some seven or eight miles they were shot at from some Indian ambush. A shower of arrows fell among them, but they could not see a trace of the enemy, till the Indians, who had shot the arrows, broke from cover and ran to a second fastness. A few stood firm, about a chief or cacique, "with full design to fight and defend themselves." They fought very gallantly for a few moments; but the pirates stormed their poor defence, and pistolled the cacique, losing eight men killed and ten wounded before the Indians broke. Shortly after this skirmish, the advance-guard left the wood, coming to open, green grass-land "full of variegated meadows." On a hill at a little distance they saw a number of Indians gathered, watching their advance. They sent out a troop to capture some of these, but the Indians escaped again, "through the agility of their feet," to reappear a little later with their howls of scorn: "Hey, you dogs, you English dogs, you. Get on to the savannah, you dogs, you cuckolds. On to the savannah, and see what's coming to you." "While these things passed the ten pirates that were wounded were dressed and plastered up."
In a little while the pirates seized a hilltop facing a ridge of hill which shut them from the sight of Panama. In the valley between the two hills was a thick little wood, where Morgan looked to find an ambush. He sent his advance-guard of 200 men to search the thicket. As they entered, some Spaniards and Indians entered from the opposite side, but no powder was burnt, for the Spaniards stole away by a bypath, "and were seen no more." That night a drenching shower of rain fell, blotting out the landscape in a roaring grey film. It sent the pirates running hither and thither to find some shelter "to preserve their arms from being wet." Nearly all the huts and houses in the district had been fired by the Indians, but the pirates found a few lonely shepherds' shealings, big enough to hold all the weapons of the army and a few of the men. Those who could not find a place among the muskets were constrained to lie shivering in the open, enduring much hardship, for the rain did not slacken till dawn.
At daybreak Morgan ordered them to march "while the fresh air of the morning lasted"; for they were now in open country, on the green savannah, where they would have no treetops to screen them from the terrible sun. During their morning march they saw a troop of Spanish horse, armed with spears, watching the advance at a safe distance, and retiring as the pirates drew nearer. Shortly after this they topped a steep rise, and lo! the smoke of Panama, and the blue Pacific, with her sky-line trembling gently, and a ship under sail, with five boats, going towards some emerald specks of islands. The clouds were being blown across the sky. The sun was glorious over all that glorious picture, over all the pasture, so green and fresh from the rain. There were the snowy Andes in the distance, their peaks sharply notched on the clear sky. Directly below them, in all her beauty, was the royal city of Panama, only hidden from sight by a roll of green savannah.
Just at the foot of the rise, in a wealth of fat pasture, were numbers of grazing cattle, horses, and asses—the droves of the citizens. The pirates crept down, and shot a number of these, "chiefly asses," which they promptly flayed, while some of their number gathered firewood. As soon as the fires were lit the meat was blackened in the flame, and then greedily swallowed in "convenient pieces or gobbets." "They more resembled cannibals than Europeans at this banquet," for the blood ran down the beards of many, so hungry were they for meat after the long agony of the march. What they could not eat they packed in their satchels. After a long midday rest they fell in again for the march, sending fifty men ahead to take prisoners "if possibly they could," for in all the nine days' tramp they had taken no one to give them information of the Spaniards' strength. Towards sunset they saw a troop of Spaniards spying on them, who hallooed at them, but at such a distance that they could not distinguish what was said. As the sun set "they came the first time within sight of the highest steeple of Panama."
This was a stirring cordial to the way-weary men limping down the savannah. The sight of the sea was not more cheering to the Greeks than the sight of the great gilt weathercock, shifting on the spire, to these haggard ruffians with the blood not yet dry upon their beards. They flung their hats into the air, and danced and shouted. All their trumpets shouted a levity, their drums beat, and their colours were displayed. They camped there, with songs and laughter, in sight of that steeple, "waiting with impatience," like the French knights in the play, for the slowly coming dawn. Their drums and trumpets made a merry music to their singing, and they caroused so noisily that a troop of horsemen rode out from Panama to see what was the matter. "They came almost within musket-shot of the army, being preceded by a trumpet that sounded marvellously well." They rode up "almost within musket-shot," but made no attempt to draw the pirates' fire. They "hallooed aloud to the Pirates, and threatened them," with "Hey, ye dogs, we shall meet ye," in the manner of the Indians. Seven or eight of them stayed "hovering thereabouts," riding along the camp until the day broke, to watch the pirates' movements. As soon as their main body reached the town, and reported what they had seen, the Governor ordered the city guns to open on the pirates' camp. The biggest guns at once began a heavy fire, from which one or two spent balls rolled slowly to the outposts without doing any damage. At the same time, a strong party took up a position to the rear of the camp, as though to cut off the retreat.
Morgan placed his sentries, and sent his men to supper. They feasted merrily on their "pieces of bulls' and horses' flesh," and then lay down on the grass to smoke a pipe of tobacco before turning in. That last night's camp was peaceful and beautiful: the men were fed and near their quarry, the sun had dried their wet clothes; the night was fine, the stars shone, the Panama guns were harmless. They slept "with great repose and huge satisfaction," careless of the chance of battle, and anxious for the fight to begin.
Old Panama, the chief Spanish city in South America, with the one exception of Cartagena, was built along the sea-beach, fronting the bay of Panama, between the rivers Gallinero and Matasnillos. It was founded between 1518 and 1520 by Pedrarias Davila, a poor adventurer, who came to the Spanish Indies to supersede Balboa, having at that time "nothing but a sword and buckler." Davila gave it the name of an Indian village then standing on the site. The name means "abounding in fish." It soon became the chief commercial city in those parts, for all the gold and silver and precious merchandise of Peru and Chili were collected there for transport to Porto Bello. At the time of Morgan's attack upon it, it contained some 7000 houses, with a number of huts and hovels for the slaves. The population, counting these latter, may have been as great as 30,000. Many of the houses were of extreme beauty, being built of an aromatic rose wood, or "native cedar," ingeniously carved. Many were built of stone in a Moorish fashion, with projecting upper storeys. It had several stone monasteries and convents, and a great cathedral, dedicated to St Anastasius, which was the most glorious building in Spanish America. Its tower still stands as a landmark to sailors, visible many miles to sea. The stones of it are decorated with defaced carvings. Inside it, within the ruined walls, are palm and cedar trees, green and beautiful, over the roots of which swarm the scarlet-spotted coral snakes. The old town was never properly fortified. The isthmus was accounted a sufficient protection to it, and the defences were consequently weak. It was a town of merchants, who "thought only of becoming rich, and cared little for the public good." They lived a very stately life there, in houses hung with silk, stamped leather, and Spanish paintings, drinking Peruvian wines out of cups of gold and silver. The Genoese Company, a company of slavers trading with Guinea, had a "stately house" there, with a spacious slave market, where the blacks were sold over the morning glass. The Spanish King had some long stone stables in the town, tended by a number of slaves. Here the horses and mules for the recuas were stabled in long lines, like the stables of a cavalry barrack. Near these were the royal storehouses, built of stone, for the storage of the gold from the King's mines. There were also 200 merchants' warehouses, built in one storey, round which the slaves slept, under pent roofs.
Outside the city was the beautiful green savannah, a rolling sea of grass, with islands of trees, cedar and palm, thickly tangled with the many-coloured bindweeds. To one side of it, an arm of the sea crept inland, to a small salt lagoon, which rippled at high tide, at the back of the city. The creek was bridged to allow the Porto Bello carriers to enter the town, and a small gatehouse or porter's lodge protected the way. The bridge is a neat stone arch, still standing. The streets ran east and west, "so that when the sun rises no one can walk in any of the streets, because there is no shade whatever; and this is felt very much as the heat is intense; and the sun is so prejudicial to health, that if a man is exposed to its rays for a few hours, he will be attacked with a fatal illness [pernicious fever], and this has happened to many." The port was bad for shipping, because of the great rise and fall of the tides. The bay is shallow, and ships could only come close in at high water. At low water the town looked out upon a strip of sand and a mile or more of very wet black mud. "At full moon, the waves frequently reach the houses and enter those on that side of the town." The roadstead afforded safe anchorage for the great ships coming up from Lima. Loading and unloading was performed by launches, at high water, on days when the surf was moderate. Small ships sailed close in at high tide, and beached themselves.
To landward there were many gardens and farms, where the Spaniards had "planted many trees from Spain"—such as oranges, lemons, and figs. There were also plantain walks, and a great plenty of pines, guavas, onions, lettuces, and "alligator pears." Over the savannah roamed herds of fat cattle. On the seashore, "close to the houses of the city," were "quantities of very small mussels." The presence of these mussel beds determined the site of the town, "because the Spaniards felt themselves safe from hunger on account of these mussels."
The town is all gone now, saving the cathedral tower, where the sweet Spanish bells once chimed, and the little stone bridge, worn by so many mules' hoofs. There is dense tropical forest over the site of it, though the foundations of several houses may be traced, and two or three walls still stand, with brilliant creepers covering up the carved work. It is not an easy place to reach, for it is some six miles from new Panama, and the way lies through such a tangle of creepers, over such swampy ground, poisonous with so many snakes, that it is little visited. It can be reached by sea on a fine day at high tide if the surf be not too boisterous. To landward of the present Panama there is a fine hill, called Mount Ancon. A little to the east of this there is a roll of high land, now a fruitful market-garden, or farm of orchards. This high land, some five or six miles from the ruins, is known as Buccaneers' Hill. It was from the summit of this high land that the pirates first saw the city steeple. Local tradition points out a few old Spanish guns of small size, brass and iron, at the near-by village of El Moro, as having been left by Morgan's men. At the island of Taboga, in the bay of Panama, they point with pride to a cave, the haunt of squid and crabs, as the hiding-place of Spanish treasure. In the blackness there, they say, are the golden sacramental vessels and jewelled vestments of the great church of St Anastasius. They were hidden there at the time of the raid, so effectually that they could never be recovered. We can learn of no other local tradition concerning the sack and burning.
What old Panama was like we do not know, for we can trace no picture of it. It was said to be the peer of Venice, "the painted city," at a time when Venice was yet the "incomparable Queene." It could hardly have been a second Venice, though its situation on that beautiful blue bay, with the Andes snowy in the distance, and the islands, like great green gems, to seaward, is lovely beyond words. It was filled with glorious houses, carved and scented, and beautiful with costly things. The merchants lived a languorous, luxurious life there, waited on by slaves, whom they could burn or torture at their pleasure. It was "the greatest mart for gold and silver in the whole world." There were pearl fisheries up and down the bay, yielding the finest of pearls; and "golden Potosi"—the tangible Eldorado, was not far off. The merchants of old Panama were, perhaps, as stately fellows and as sumptuous in their ways of life as any "on the Rialto." Their city is now a tangle of weeds and a heap of sun-cracked limestone; their market-place is a swamp; their haven is a stretch of surf-shaken mud, over which the pelicans go quarrelling for the bodies of fish.
Authorities.—Exquemeling's "History"; "The Bucaniers of America." Don Guzman's Account, printed in the "Voyages and Adventures of Captain Bartholomew Sharp." Cal. State Papers: West Indies and Colonial Series. "Present State of Jamaica," 1683. "New History of Jamaica," 1740.
For my account of Chagres I am indebted to friends long resident on the isthmus, and to Dampier's and Wafer's Voyages.
THE SACK OF PANAMA
The burning of the city—Buccaneer excesses—An abortive mutiny—Home—Morgan's defection
"On the tenth day, betimes in the morning," while the black and white monkeys were at their dawn song, or early screaming, the pirates fell in for the march, with their red flags flying and the drums and trumpets making a battle music. They set out gallantly towards the city by the road they had followed from Venta Cruz. Before they came under fire, one of the guides advised Morgan to attack from another point. The Spaniards, he said, had placed their heavy guns in position along the probable line of their advance. Every clump of trees near the trackway would be filled with Spanish sharpshooters, while they might expect earth-works or trenches nearer to the city. He advised Morgan to make a circuit, so as to approach the city through the forest—over the ground on which new Panama was built, a year or two later. Morgan, therefore, turned rather to the west of the highway, through some tropical woodland, where the going was very irksome. As they left the woodland, after a march of several hours, they again entered the savannah, at a distance of about a mile and a half from the town. The ground here was in sweeping folds, so that they had a little hill to climb before the town lay open to them, at the edge of the sea, to the eastward of the salt lagoon. When they topped this rise they saw before them "the forces of the people of Panama, extended in battle array," between them and the quarry.
The Spanish strength on this occasion, according to the narrative, was as follows:—400 horse, of the finest horsemen in the world; twenty-four companies of foot, each company mustering a full 100 men; and "sixty Indians and some negroes." These last were "to drive two thousand wild bulls and cause them to run over the English camp, and thus, by breaking their files, put them into a total disorder and confusion." Morgan gives the numbers as 2100 foot and 600 horse, with "two Droves of Cattel of 1500 apiece," one for each flank or for the angles of the rear. The Spanish Governor, who had been "lately blooded 3 times for an Erysipelas," had not done as well as he could have wished in the preparation of an army of defence. He says that he had brought together 1400 coloured men, armed with "Carbins, Harquebusses, and Fowling Pieces," the muskets having been lost at Chagres. He gives the number of cavalry as 200, "mounted on the same tired Horses which had brought them thither." He admits that there were "50 cow-keepers" and an advance-guard of 300 foot. He had also five field-guns "covered with leather." To these forces may be added the townsfolk capable of bearing arms. These were not very numerous, for most of the inhabitants, as we have seen, "thought only of getting rich and cared little for the public good." They were now, however, in a cold sweat of fear at the sight of the ragged battalion trooping down from the hilltop. They had dug trenches for themselves within the city and had raised batteries to sweep the important streets. They had also mounted cannon on the little stone fort, or watchman's lodge, at the town end of the bridge across the creek.
The sight of so many troops drawn out in order "surprised" the pirates "with great fear." The droves of "wild bulls" pasturing on the savannah grass were new to their experience; the cavalry they had met before in Cuba and did not fear, nor did they reckon themselves much worse than the Spanish foot; but they saw that the Spaniards outnumbered them by more than two to one, and they recognised the advantage they had in having a defensible city to fall back upon. The buccaneers were worn with the long march, and in poor case for fighting. They halted at this point, while Morgan formed them into a tertia, or division of three battalions or troops, of which he commanded the right wing. The sight of so many Spaniards halted below them set them grumbling in the ranks. "Yea few or none there were but wished themselves at home, or at least free from the obligation of that Engagement." There was, however, nothing else for it. A "wavering condition of Mind" could not help them. They had no alternative but "to fight resolutely, or die." They might not look to get quarter "from an Enemy against whom they had committed so many Cruelties."
Morgan formed his men in order, and sent out skirmishers to annoy the Spanish troops, and to draw them from their position. A few shots were exchanged; but the Spaniards were not to be tempted, nor was the ground over which the skirmishers advanced at all suitable for moving troops. Morgan, therefore, edged his men away to the left, to a little hill beyond a dry gut or water-course—a position which the Spaniards could not attack from more than one side owing to the nature of the ground, which was boggy. Before they could form upon the lower slopes of the hill the Spanish horse rode softly forward, shouting: "Viva el Rey!" ("Long live the King"), with a great display of courage. "But the field being full of quaggs, and very soft under foot, they could not ply to and fro, and wheel about, as they desired." When they had come to a little beyond musket-shot "one Francisco Detarro," the colonel of the cavalry, called out to his troopers to charge home upon the English van. The horses at once broke into a gallop, and charged in "so furiously" that Morgan had to strengthen his ranks to receive them, "we having no Pikes" with which to gall the horses. As the men galloped forward, the line of buccaneers made ready to fire. Each musketeer put one knee to the ground, and touched off his piece, blasting the Spanish regiment almost out of action at the one discharge. The charge had been pressed so nearly home that the powder corns burnt the leading horses. Those who survived the shock of the volley swung off to the right to re-form, while the foot came on in their tracks "to try their Fortunes." They were received with such a terrible fire that they never came to handystrokes. They disputed the point for some hours, gradually falling into disorder as their losses became more and more heavy. The cavalry re-formed, and charged a second and a third time, with the result that after two hours' fighting "the Spanish Horse was ruined, and almost all killed." During the engagement of the foot, the Indians and negroes tried their stratagem of the bulls. They drove the herds round the flanking parties to the rear, and endeavoured to force them through the English lines. "But the greatest part of that wild cattle ran away, being frighted with the noise of the Battle. And some few, that broke through the English Companies, did no other harm than to tear the Colours in pieces; whereas the Buccaneers shooting them dead, left not one to Trouble them thereabouts."
Seeing the Spanish foot in some disorder, with many of their officers killed and few of the men firing, Morgan plied them with shot and sent his left wing forward as they fell back. The horse made one last gallant attempt to break the English line, but the attempt caused their complete destruction. At the same moment Morgan stormed down upon the foot with all his strength. The Spaniards fired "the Shot they had in their Muskets," and flung their weapons down, not caring to come to handystrokes. They ran "everyone which way he could run"—an utter rout of broken soldiers. The pirates were too fatigued to follow, but they picked them off as they ran till they were out of musket-shot.
The buccaneers apparently then cleared away the stragglers, by pistolling them wherever they could find them. In this employment they beat through the shrubs by the sea, where many poor citizens had hidden themselves after the final routing of the troops. Some monks who were brought in to Captain Morgan were treated in the same manner, "for he, being deaf to their Cries, commanded them to be instantly pistolled," which order was obeyed there and then. A captain or colonel of troops was soon afterwards taken, and held to ransom after a strict examination. He told Morgan that he might look to have great trouble in winning the city, for the streets were all dug about with trenches and mounted with heavy brass guns. He added that the main entrance to the place was strongly fortified, and protected by a half company of fifty men with eight brass demi-cannon.
Morgan now bade his men rest themselves and take food before pushing on to the town. He held a review of his army before he marched, and found that he had lost heavily—perhaps 200 men—while the Spaniards had lost about three times that number. "The Pirates," we read, "were nothing discouraged, seeing their number so much diminished but rather filled with greater pride than before." The comparative heaviness of the Spanish loss must have been very comforting. After they had rested and eaten they set out towards the town, "plighting their Oaths to one another in general, they would fight till never a man were left alive." A few prisoners, who seemed rich enough to be held to ransom, were marched with them under a guard of musketeers.
Long before they trod the streets of Panama, they were under fire from the batteries, "some of which were charged with small pieces of iron, and others with musket-bullets."
They lost men at every step; but their ranks kept steady, and street by street the town was won. The main agony of the fight took place between two and three o'clock, in the heat of the day, when the last Spanish gunners were cut to pieces at their guns. After the last gun was taken, a few Spaniards fired from street corners or from upper windows, but these were promptly pistolled or knocked on the head. The town was in the hands of the pirates by the time the bells chimed three that afternoon.
As Morgan rested with his captains in the Plaza, after the heat of the battle, word was brought to him that the city was on fire in several places. Many have supposed that the town was fired by his orders, or by some careless and drunken musketeer of his. It was not the buccaneer custom to fire cities before they had sacked them, nor is it in the least likely that Morgan would have burnt so glorious a town before he had offered it to ransom. The Spaniards have always charged Morgan with the crime, but it seems more probable that the Spanish Governor was the guilty one. It is yet more probable that the fire was accidental. Most of the Spanish houses were of wood, and at that season of the year the timber would have been of extreme dryness, so that a lighted wad or match end might have caused the conflagration. At the time when the fire was first noticed, the pirates were raging through the town in search of plunder. They may well have flung away their lighted matches to gather up the spoils they found, and thus set fire to the place unwittingly.
Hearing that the town was burning, Morgan caused his trumpeters to sound the assembly in the Plaza. When the pirates mustered, Morgan at once told off men to quench the fire "by blowing up houses by gunpowder, and pulling down others to stop its progress." He ordered strong guards to patrol the streets and to stand sentry without the city. Lastly, he forbade any member of the army "to dare to drink or taste any wine," giving out that it had all been poisoned beforehand by the Spaniards. He feared that his men would get drunk unless he frightened them by some such tale. With a drunken army rolling in the streets he could hardly hope to hold the town against an enemy so lightly beaten as the Spaniards. He also sent some sailors down to the beach to seize "a great boat which had stuck in the mud of the port."
For all that the pirates could do, the fire spread rapidly, for the dry cedar beams burned furiously. The warehouses full of merchandise, such as silks, velvets, and fine linen, were not burned, but all the grand houses of the merchants, where the life had been so stately, were utterly gutted—all the Spanish pictures and coloured tapestries going up in a blaze. The splendid house of the Genoese, where so many black men had been bought and sold, was burned to the ground. The chief streets were ruined before midnight, and the fire was not wholly extinguished a month later when the pirates marched away. It continued to burn and smoulder long after they had gone.
Having checked the riot among his army, Morgan sent a company of 150 men back to the garrison at the mouth of the Chagres with news of his success. Two other companies, of the same strength, he sent into the woods, "being all very stout soldiers and well-armed," giving them orders to bring in prisoners to hold to ransom. A third company was sent to sea under a Captain Searles to capture a Spanish galleon which had left the port, laden with gold and silver and the jewels of the churches, a day or two before. The rest of his men camped out of doors, in the green fields without the city, ready for any attack the Spaniards might make upon them. Search parties rummaged all day among the burning ruins, "especially in wells and cisterns," which yielded up many jewels and fine gold plates. The warehouses were sacked, and many pirates made themselves coats of silk and velvet to replace the rags they came in. It is probable that they committed many excesses in the heat of the first taking of the town, but one who was there has testified to the comparative gentleness of their comportment when "the heat of the blood" had cooled. "As to their women," he writes, "I know [not] or ever heard of anything offered beyond their wills; something I know was cruelly executed by Captain Collier [commander of one of the ships and one of the chief officers of the army] in killing a Frier in the field after quarter given; but for the Admiral he was noble enough to the vanquished enemy." In fact, the
"Want of rest and victual Had made them chaste—they ravished very little"
—which matter must be laid to their credit.
A day or two was passed by the pirates in rummaging among the ruins, eating and drinking, and watching the Spaniards as they moved in the savannahs. Troops of Spaniards prowled there under arms, looking at their burning houses and the grey smoke ever going upward. They did not attack the pirates; they did not even fire at them from a distance. They were broken men without a leader, only thankful to be allowed to watch their blazing city. A number of them submitted to the armed men sent out to bring in prisoners. A number lingered in the near-by forests in great misery, living on grass and alligator eggs, the latter tasting "like half-rotten musk"—a poor diet after "pheasants" and Peruvian wine.
Morgan soon received word from Chagres castle that all was very well with the garrison. Captain Norman, who had remained in charge, under oath to keep the "bloody flag," or red pirates' banner, flying, "had sent forth to sea two boats, to exercise piracy." These had hoisted Spanish colours, and set to sea, meeting with a fine Spanish merchantman that very same day. They chased this ship into the Chagres River, where "the poor Spaniards" were caught in a snare under the guns of the fort. Her cargo "consisted in victuals and provisions, that were all eatable things," unlike the victuals given usually to sailors. Such a prize came very opportunely, for the castle stores were running out, while the ship's crew proved useful in the bitter work of earth carrying then going on daily on the ramparts for the repairing of the palisado. Hearing that the Chagres garrison was in such good case, and so well able to exercise piracy without further help, Admiral Morgan resolved to make a longer stay in the ruins of old Panama. He arranged "to send forth daily parties of two hundred men" to roam the countryside, beating the thickets for prisoners, and the prisoners for gold. These parties ranged the country very thoroughly, gathering "in a short time, a huge quantity of riches, and no less number of prisoners." These poor creatures were shut up under a guard, to be brought out one by one for examination. If they would not confess where they had hidden their gold, nor where the gold of their neighbours lay, the pirates used them as they had used their prisoners at Porto Bello. "Woolding," burning with palm leaves, and racking out the arm-joints, seem to have been the most popular tortures. Many who had no gold were brutally ill treated, and then thrust through with a lance.
Among these diversions Admiral Morgan fell in love with a beautiful Spanish lady, who appears to have been something of a paragon. The story is not worth repeating, nor does it read quite sincerely, but it is very probably true. John Exquemeling, who had no great love for Morgan, declares that he was an eye-witness of the love-making, "and could never have judged such constancy of mind and virtuous chastity to be found in the world." The fiery Welshman did not win the lady, but we gather from the evidence that he could have had the satisfaction of Matthew Arnold's American, who consoled himself, in similar circumstances, with saying: "Well, I guess I lowered her moral tone some."
During the first week of their stay in Panama, the ship they had sent to sea returned with a booty of three small coast boats. Captain Searles had sailed her over Panama Bay to the beautiful island of Taboga, in order to fill fresh water and rob the inhabitants. Here they took "the boatswain and most of the crew" of the Trinity, a Spanish galleon, "on board which were the Friers and Nuns, with all the old gentlemen and Matrons of the Town, to the number of 1500 souls, besides an immense Treasure in Silver and Gold." This galleon had seven small guns and ten or twelve muskets for her whole defence. She was without provisions, and desperately short of water, and she had "no more sails than the uppermost sails of the mainmast." Her captain was "an old and stout Spaniard, a native of Andalusia, in Spain, named Don Francisco de Peralta." She was "very richly laden with all the King's Plate and great quantity of riches of gold, pearl, jewels, and other most precious goods, of all the best and richest merchants of Panama. On board of this galleon were also the religious women, belonging to the nunnery of the said city, who had embarked with them all the ornaments of their church, consisting in great quantity of gold, plate, and other things of great value." This most royal prize was even then slowly dipping past Taboga, with her sea-sick holy folk praying heartily for the return of the water casks. She could have made no possible defence against the pirates had they gone at once in pursuit of her. But this the pirates did not do. In the village at Taboga there was a wealthy merchant's summer-house, with a cellar full of "several sorts of rich wines." A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or as a bibulous wit once said to the present writer: "A bottle now is worth a bath of it to-morrow." Captain Searles and his men chose to drink a quiet bowl in the cabin rather than go sail the blue seas after the golden galleon. They made a rare brew of punch, of which they drank "logwood-cutters' measure," or a gallon and a half a man. After this they knocked out their tobacco pipes, and slept very pleasantly till the morning. They woke "repenting of their negligence" and "totally wearied of the vices and debaucheries aforesaid." With eyes red with drink they blinked at the empty punch-bowls. Then with savage "morning-tempers" they damned each other for a lot of lunkheads, and put to sea (in one of the Taboga prizes) "to pursue the said galleon" with all speed. However, by this time Don Peralta, a most gallant and resourceful captain, had brought the golden Trinity to a place of safety. Had she been taken, she would have yielded a spoil hardly smaller than that taken by Cavendish in the Madre de Dios or that which Anson won in the Manila galleon. Several waggon loads of golden chalices and candlesticks, with ropes of pearls, bags of emeralds and bezoars, and bar upon bar of silver in the crude, were thus bartered away for a sup of punch and a drunken chorus in the cabin. Poor Captain Searles never prospered after. He went logwood cutting a year or two later, and as a logwood cutter he arrived at the Rio Summasenta, where he careened his ship at a sandy key, since known as Searles Key. He was killed a few days afterwards, "in the western lagune" there, "by one of his Company as they were cutting Logwood together." That was the end of Captain Searles.
[Footnote 17: They had come ashore to get water.]
Morgan was very angry when he heard of the escape of the galleon. He at once remanned the four prizes, and sent them out, with orders to scour the seas till they found her. They cruised for more than a week, examining every creek and inlet, beating up many a sluggish river, under many leafy branches, but finding no trace of the Trinity. They gave up the chase at last, and rested at Taboga, where, perhaps, some "rich wines" were still in bin. They found a Payta ship at anchor at Taboga, "laden with cloth, soap, sugar and biscuit, with twenty thousand pieces of eight in ready money." She was "a reasonable good ship," but the cargo, saving the money, was not much to their taste. They took the best of it, and loaded it aboard her longboat, making the Taboga negroes act as stevedores. They then set the negroes aboard the prize, and carried her home to Panama, "some thing better satisfied of their voyage, yet withal much discontented they could not meet with the galleon." It was at Taboga, it seems, that the lady who so inflamed Sir Henry was made prisoner.
At the end of three weeks of "woolding" and rummaging, Admiral Morgan began to prepare for the journey home. He sent his men to look for mules and horses on which to carry the plunder to the hidden canoas in the river. He learned at this juncture that a number of the pirates intended to leave him "by taking a ship that was in the port," and going to "rob upon the South Sea." They had made all things ready, it seems, having hidden "great quantity of provisions," powder, bullets, and water casks, with which to store their ship. They had even packed the good brass guns of the city, "where with they designed not only to equip the said vessel but also to fortify themselves and raise batteries in some island or other, which might serve them for a place of refuge." The scheme was fascinating, and a very golden life they would have had of it, those lucky mutineers, had not some spoil-sport come sneaking privily to Morgan with a tale of what was toward. They might have seized Cocos Island or Juan Fernandez, or "some other island," such as one of the Enchanted, or Gallapagos, Islands, where the goddesses were thought to dwell. That would have been a happier life than cutting logwood, up to the knees in mud, in some drowned savannah of Campeachy.
However, just as the wine-bowl spoiled the project of the galleon, so did the treachery of a lickspittle, surely one of the meanest of created things, put an end to the mutiny. Morgan was not there to colonise Pacific Oceans, but to sack Panama. He had no intention of losing half his army for an imperial idea. He promptly discouraged the scheme by burning all the boats in the roads. The ship or chata, which would have been the flagship of the mutineers, was dismasted, and the masts and rigging were added to the general bonfire. All the brass cannon they had taken were nailed and spiked. Wooden bars were driven down their muzzles as firmly as possible, and the wood was then watered to make it swell. There was then no more talk of going a-cruising to found republics.
Morgan thought it wise to leave Panama as soon as possible, before a second heresy arose among his merry men. He had heard that the Governor of Panama was busily laying ambuscades "in the way by which he ought to pass at his return." He, therefore, picked out a strong company of men, including many of the mutineers, and sent them out into the woods to find out the truth of the matter. They found that the report was false, for a few Spanish prisoners, whom they captured, were able to tell them how the scheme had failed. The Governor, it was true, had planned to make "some opposition by the way," but none of the men remaining with him would consent to "undertake any such enterprize." With this news the troops marched back to Panama. While they were away, the poor prisoners made every effort to raise money for their ransoms, but many were unable to raise enough to satisfy their captors. Morgan had no wish to wait till they could gather more, for by this time, no doubt, he had satisfied himself that he had bled the country of all the gold it contained. Nor did he care to wait till the Spaniards had plucked up heart, and planted some musketeers along the banks of the Chagres. He had horses and mules enough to carry the enormous heaps of plunder to the river. It was plainly foolish to stay longer, for at any time a force might attack him (by sea) from Lima or (by land) from Porto Bello. He, therefore, gave the word for the army to prepare to march. He passed his last evening in Panama (as we suppose) with the female paragon from Taboga. The army had one last debauch over the punch-bowls round the camp fires, and then fell in to muster, thinking rapturously of the inns and brothels which waited for their custom at Port Royal.
"On the 24th of February, of the year 1671, Captain Morgan departed from the city of Panama, or rather from the place where the said city of Panama did stand; of the spoils whereof he carried with him one hundred and seventy-five beasts of carriage, laden with silver, gold and other precious things, besides six hundred prisoners more or less, between men, women, children and slaves." Thus they marched out of the ruined capital, over the green savannah, towards the river, where a halt was called to order the army for the march to Venta Cruz. A troop of picked marksmen was sent ahead to act as a scouting party; the rest of the company marched in hollow square, with the prisoners in the hollow. In this array they set forward towards Venta Cruz to the sound of drums and trumpets, amid "lamentations, cries, shrieks and doleful sighs" from the wretched women and children. Most of these poor creatures were fainting with thirst and hunger, for it had been Morgan's policy to starve them, in order "to excite them more earnestly to seek for money wherewith to ransom themselves." "Many of the women," says the narrative, "begged of Captain Morgan upon their knees, with infinite sighs and tears, he would permit them to return to Panama, there to live in company of their dear husbands and children, in little huts of straw which they would erect, seeing they had no houses until the rebuilding of the city. But his answer was: he came not thither to hear lamentations and cries, but rather to seek money. Therefore they ought to seek out for that in the first place, wherever it were to be had, and bring it to him, otherwise he would assuredly transport them all to such places whither they cared not to go." With this answer they had to remain content, as they lay in camp, under strict guard, on the banks of the Rio Grande.
Early the next morning, "when the march began," "those lamentable cries and shrieks were renewed, in so much as it would have caused compassion in the hardest heart to hear them. But Captain Morgan, a man little given to mercy, was not moved therewith in the least." They marched in the same order as before, but on this day, we read, the Spaniards "were punched and thrust in their backs and sides, with the blunt end of [the pirates'] arms, to make them march the faster." The "beautiful and virtuous lady" "was led prisoner by herself, between two Pirates," both of whom, no doubt, wished the other dear charmer away. She, poor lady, was crying out that she had asked two monks to fetch her ransom from a certain hiding-place. They had taken the money, she cried, according to her instruction, but they had used it to ransom certain "of their own and particular friends." This evil deed "was discovered by a slave, who brought a letter to the said lady." In time, her words were reported to Captain Morgan, who held a court of inquiry there and then, to probe into the truth of the matter. The monks made no denial of the fact, "though under some frivolous excuses, of having diverted the money but for a day or two, within which time they expected more sums to repay it." The reply angered Morgan into releasing the poor woman, "detaining the said religious men as prisoners in her place," and "using them according to the deserts of their incompassionate intrigues." Probably they were forced to run the gauntlet between two rows of pirates armed with withes of bejuco.
A day's hard marching brought them to the ruins of Venta Cruz, on the banks of the river, where the canoas lay waiting for them under a merry boat guard. The army rested at Venta Cruz for three days, while maize and rice were collected for the victualling of the boats. Many prisoners succeeded in raising their ransoms during this three days' halt. Those who failed, were carried down the river to San Lorenzo. On the 5th of March the plunder was safely shipped, the army went aboard the canoas, the prisoners (including some from Venta Cruz) were thrust into the bottoms of the boats, and the homeward voyage began. The two monks who had embezzled the lady's money escaped translation at this time, being ransomed by their friends before the sailing of the fleet. The canoas dropped down the river swiftly, with songs and cheers from the pirates, till they came to some opening in the woods, half way across the isthmus, where the banks were free enough from brush to allow them to camp. Here they mustered in order, as though for a review, each man in his place with his sword and firelock. Here Captain Morgan caused each man to raise his right hand, and to swear solemnly that he had concealed nothing privately, "even not so much as the value of sixpence." Captain Morgan, a Welshman by birth, "having had some experience that those lewd fellows would not much stickle to swear falsely in points of interest, commanded every one to be searched very strictly, both in their clothes and satchels and everywhere it might be presumed they had reserved anything. Yea, to the intent this order might not be ill-taken by his companions, he permitted himself to be searched, even to the very soles of his shoes." One man out of each company was chosen to act as searcher to his fellows, and a very strict search was made. "The French Pirates were not well satisfied with this new custom of searching," but there were not very many of them, and "they were forced to submit to it." When the search was over, they re-embarked, and soon afterwards the current caught them, and spun them down swiftly to the lion-like rock at the river's mouth. They came safely to moorings below San Lorenzo on the 9th of March. They found that most of the wounded they had left there had died of fever, but the rest of the garrison was in good case, having "exercised piracy" with profit all the time the army had been plundering. There was "joy, and a full punch-bowl," in the castle rooms that night.
Morgan now sent his Santa Katalina prisoners to Porto Bello in "a great boat," demanding a ransom for Chagres castle, "threatening otherwise" to blast it to pieces. "Those of Porto Bello," who needed all their money to repair their own walls, replied that "They would not give one farthing towards the ransom of the said castle, and that the English might do with it as they pleased"—a sufficiently bold answer, which sealed the fate of San Lorenzo. When the answer came, the men were again mustered, and "the dividend was made of all the spoil they had purchased in that voyage." Each man received his due share, "or rather what part thereof Captain Morgan was pleased to give." There was general dissatisfaction with "his proceedings in this particular," and many shaggy ruffians "feared not to tell him openly" that he had "reserved the best jewels to himself." They "judged it impossible" that the share per man should be but a paltry 200 pieces of eight, or L50, after "so many valuable booties and robberies." Why, they said, it is less than we won at Porto Bello. Many swore fiercely that, if they had known how small the booty was to prove, they would have seen Henry Morgan in gaol before they 'listed. Why they did not tear him piecemeal, and heave him into the sea, must remain a mystery. They contented themselves with damning him to his face for a rogue and a thief, at the same time praying that a red-hot hell might be his everlasting portion. "But Captain Morgan," says the narrative, "was deaf to all these, and many other complaints of this kind, having designed in his mind to cheat them of as much as he could."
Deaf though he was, and callous, he had a fine regard for his own skin. The oaths and curses which were shouted after him as he walked in the castle made him "to fear the consequence thereof." He "thought it unsafe to remain any longer time at Chagre," so he planned a master stroke to defeat his enemies. The castle guns were dismounted, and hoisted aboard his flagship. The castle walls were then blasted into pieces, the lower batteries thrown down, and the houses burnt. When these things had been done "he went secretly on board his own ship, without giving any notice of his departure to his companions, nor calling any council, as he used to do. Thus he set sail, and put out to sea, not bidding anybody adieu, being only followed by three or four vessels of the fleet." The captains of these ships, it was believed, had shared with him in the concealed plunder.
There was great fury among the buccaneers when Morgan's escape was known. The French pirates were for putting to sea in pursuit, to blow his ships out of the water, but Morgan had been sufficiently astute to escape in the provision ships. The pirates left behind had not food enough to stock their ships, and could not put to sea till more had been gathered. While they cursed and raged at Chagres, Morgan sailed slowly to Port Royal, where he furled his sails, and dropped anchor, after a highly profitable cruise. The Governor received his percentage of the profits, and Morgan at once began to levy recruits for the settling of Santa Katalina.
As for his men, they stayed for some days in considerable misery at San Lorenzo. They then set sail in companies, some for one place, some for another, hoping to find food enough to bring them home. Some went to the eastward, raiding the coast for food, and snapping up small coasting vessels. Some went to the bay of Campeachy to cut logwood and to drink rum punch. Others went along the Costa Rican coast to find turtle to salt for victuals, and to careen their barnacled and wormy ships. One strong company went to Cuba, where they sacked the Town of the Keys, and won a good booty. Most of them came home, in time, but to those who returned that home-coming was bitter.
Shortly after Morgan's return to Jamaica, a new Governor arrived from England with orders to suppress the gangs of privateers. He had instructions to proclaim a general pardon for all those buccaneers who cared to take advantage of the proclamation within a given time. Those who wished to leave "their naughty way of life" were to be encouraged by grants of land (thirty-five acres apiece), so that they might not starve when they forsook piracy. But this generous offer was merely a lure or bait to bring the buccaneers to port, in order that the Governor might mulct them "the tenths and fifteenths of their booty as the dues of the Crown for granting them commissions." The news of the intended taxation spread abroad among the pirates. They heard, too, that in future they would find no rest in Port Royal; for this new Governor was earnest and diligent in his governorship. They, therefore, kept away from Port Royal, and made Tortuga their rendezvous, gradually allying themselves with the French buccaneers, who had their stronghold there. Some of them, who returned to Port Royal, were brought before the magistrate, and hanged as pirates. Their old captain, Henry Morgan, left his former way of life, and soon afterwards become Governor of Jamaica. He was so very zealous in "discouraging" the buccaneers that the profession gradually lost its standing. The best of its members took to logwood cutting or to planting; the worst kept the seas, like water-Ishmaelites, plundering the ships of all nations save their own. They haunted Tortuga, the keys of Cuba, the creeks and inlets of the coast, and the bays at the western end of Jamaica. They were able to do a great deal of mischief; for there were many of them, and the English Colonial governors could not spare many men-of-war to police the seas. Often the pirates combined and made descents upon the coast as in the past. Henry Morgan's defection did but drive them from their own pleasant haunt, Port Royal. The "free-trade" of buccaneering throve as it had always thriven. But about the time of Morgan's consulship we read of British men-of-war helping to discourage the trade, and thenceforward the buccaneers were without the support of the Colonial Government. Those who sailed the seas after Morgan's time were public enemies, sailing under the shadow of the gallows.
Authorities.—W. Nelson: "Five Years at Panama." P. Mimande: "Souvenirs d'un Echappe de Panama." A. Reclus: "Panama et Darien." A. Radford: "Jottings on Panama." J. de Acosta: "Voyages." S. de Champlain: "Narrative." Cieca de Leon: "Travels." Exquemeling: "Bucaniers of America." Don Perez de la Guzman: "Account of the Sack of Panama."
I am also indebted to friends long resident in the present city of Panama.
Campeachy—Logwood cutting—The march to Santa Maria
William Dampier, a Somersetshire man, who had a taste for roving, went to the West Indies for the first time in 1674, about three years after the sack of Panama. He was "then about twenty-two years old," with several years of sea-service behind him. He had been to the north and to the east, and had smelt powder in a King's ship during the Dutch wars. He came to the West Indies to manage a plantation, working his way "as a Seaman" aboard the ship of one Captain Kent. Planting sugar or cocoa on Sixteen-Mile Walk in an island so full of jolly sinners proved to be but dull work. Dampier tried it for some weeks, and then slipped away to sea with a Port Royal trader, who plied about the coast, fetching the planters' goods to town, and carrying European things, such as cloth, iron, powder, or the like, to the planters' jetties along the coast. That was a more pleasant life, for it took the young man all round the island, to quiet plantings where old buccaneers were at work. These were kindly fellows, always ready for a yarn with the shipmen who brought their goods from Port Royal. They treated the young man well, giving him yams, plantains, and sweet potatoes, with leave to wander through their houses. "But after six or seven Months" Dampier "left that Employ," for he had heard strange tales of the logwood cutters in Campeachy Bay, and longed to see something of them. He, therefore, slipped aboard a small Jamaica vessel which was going to the bay "to load logwood," with two other ships in company. The cargo of his ship "was rum and sugar; a very good Commodity for the Log-wood Cutters, who were then about 250 Men, most English." When they anchored off One Bush Key, by the oyster banks and "low Mangrovy Land," these lumbermen came aboard for drink, buying rum by the gallon or firkin, besides some which had been brewed into punch. They stayed aboard, drinking, till the casks gave out, firing off their small-arms with every health, and making a dreadful racket in that still lagoon, where the silence was seldom so violently broken. The logwood began to come aboard a day or two later; and Dampier sometimes went ashore with the boat for it, on which occasions he visited the huts of the woodmen, and ate some merry meals with them, "with Pork and Pease, or Beef and Dough-boys," not to mention "Drams or Punch."
On the voyage home he was chased by Spaniards, who "fired a Gun" at the ketch, but could not fetch her alongside.
It was an easy life aboard that little ketch; for every morning they fished for their suppers, and at no time was any work done unless the ship was actually in peril of wreck. While they were lazying slowly eastward, "tumbling like an Egg-shell in the Sea," her captain ran her on the Alcranes, a collection of sandy little islands, where they stayed for some days before they found a passage out to sea. They spent the days in fishing, or flinging pebbles at the rats, or killing boobies, and then set sail again, arriving after some days' sailing, at the Isles of Pines.
Here they landed to fill fresh water at the brooks, among the sprays of red mangrove, which grew thickly at the water's edge. They also took ashore their "two bad Fowling-pieces," with intent to kill a wild hog or cow, being then in want of food, for the ship's provisions had given out. They did not kill any meat for all their hunting, nor did they catch much fish. Their ill success tempted the sailors to make for the Cuban keys, where they thought they would find great abundance, "either Fish or Flesh." The Cuban keys were favourite haunts of the buccaneers, but it was dangerous for a small ship like the ketch to venture in among them. On Cape Corientes there was a Spanish garrison of forty soldiers, chiefly mulattoes and caribs, who owned a swift periagua, fitted with oars and sails. They kept sentinels always upon the Cape, and whenever a ship hove in sight they would "launch out," and seize her, and cut the throats of all on board, "for fear of telling Tales." Fear of this garrison, and the prudent suggestion of Dampier—that "it was as probable that we might get as little Food in the South Keys, as we did at Pines, where, though there was plenty of Beefs and Hogs, yet we could not to tell how to get any—" at last prevailed upon the seamen to try for Jamaica. They were without food of any kind, save a little flour from the bottoms of the casks, and two "Barrels of Beef," which they had taken west to sell, "but 'twas so bad that none would buy it." On a porridge of this meat, chopped up with mouldy flour, they contrived to keep alive, "jogging on" towards the east till they made Jamaica. They arrived off Blewfield's Point thirteen weeks after leaving Campeachy, and, as Dampier says: "I think never any vessel before nor since made such Traverses ... as we did.... We got as much Experience as if we had been sent out on a Design." However, they dropped their anchor "at Nigrill" "about three a Clock in the Afternoon," and sent in the boat for fruit and poultry. One or two sea-captains, whose ketches were at anchor there, came out to welcome the new arrival. In the little "Cabbin," where the lamp swung in gimbals, the sailors "were very busie, going to drink a Bowl of Punch, ... after our long Fatigue and Fasting." The thirsty sea-captains, bronzed by the sun, came stumping down the ladder to bear a hand. One captain, "Mr John Hooker," said that he was under "Oath to drink but three Draughts of Strong Liquor a Day." The bowl, which had not been touched, lay with him, with six quarts of good rum punch inside it. This Mr Hooker, "putting the Bowl to his Head, turn'd it off at one Draught"—he being under oath, and, doubtless, thirsty. "And so, making himself drunk, disappointed us of our Expectations, till we made another Bowl." Thus with good cheer did they recruit themselves in that hot climate after long sailing of the seas.
Dampier passed the next few weeks in Port Royal, thinking of the jolly life at One Bush Key, and of the little huts, so snugly thatched, and of the camp fires, when the embers glowed so redly at night before the moon rose. The thought of the logwood cutters passing to and fro about those camp fires, to the brandy barrel or the smoking barbecue, was pleasant to him. He felt inclined "to spend some Time at the Logwood Trade," much as a young gentleman of that age would have spent "some Time" on the grand tour with a tutor. He had a little gold laid by, so that he was able to lay in a stock of necessaries for the trade—such as "Hatchets, Axes, Long Knives, Saws, Wedges, etc., a Pavillion to sleep in, a Gun with Powder and Shot, etc." When all was ready, he went aboard a New England ship, and sailed for Campeachy, where he settled "in the West Creek of the West Lagoon" with some old logwood cutters who knew the trade.
Logwood cutting was then a very profitable business, for the wood fetched from L70 to L100 a ton in the European markets. The wood is very dense, and so heavy that it sinks in water. The work of cutting it, and bringing it to the ships, in the rough Campeachy country, where there were no roads, was very hard. The logwood cutters were, therefore, men of muscle, fond of violent work. Nearly all of them in Dampier's time were buccaneers who had lost their old trade. They were "sturdy, strong Fellows," able to carry "Burthens of three or four hundred Weight," and "contented to labour very hard." Their hands and arms were always dyed a fine scarlet with the continuous rubbing of the wood, and their clothes always smelt of the little yellow logwood flowers, which smell very sweet and strong, at most seasons of the year. The life lived by the lumbermen was wild, rough, and merry. They had each of them a tent, or a strongly thatched hut, to live in, and most of them had an Indian woman or a negress to cook their food. Some of them had white wives, which they bought at Jamaica for about thirty pounds apiece, or five pounds more than the cost of a black woman. As a rule, they lived close to the lips of the creeks, "for the benefit of the Sea-Breezes," in little villages of twenty or thirty together. They slept in hammocks, or in Indian cots, raised some three or four feet from the ground, to allow for any sudden flood which the heavy rains might raise. They cooked their food on a sort of barbecue strewn with earth. For chairs they used logs of wood or stout rails supported on crutches. On the Saturday in each week they left their saws and axes and tramped out into the woods to kill beef for the following week. In the wet seasons, when the savannahs were flooded, they hunted the cattle in canoas by rowing near to the higher grass-lands where the beasts were at graze. Sometimes a wounded steer would charge the canoa, and spill the huntsmen in the water, where the alligators nipped them. In the dry months, the hunters went on foot. When they killed a steer they cut the body into four, flung away the bones, and cut a big hole in each quarter. Each of the four men of the hunting party then thrust his head through the hole in one of the quarters, and put "it on like a Frock," and so trudged home. If the sun were hot, and the beef heavy, the wearer cut some off, and flung it away. This weekly hunting was "a Diversion pleasant enough" after the five days' hacking at the red wood near the lagoon-banks. The meat, when brought to camp, was boucanned or jerked—that is, dried crisp in the sun. A quarter of a steer a man was the week's meat allowance. If a man wanted fish or game, in addition, he had to obtain it for himself. This diet was supplemented by the local fruits, and by stores purchased from the ships—such as dried pease, or flour to make doughboys.
Men who worked hard under a tropical sun, in woods sometimes flooded to a depth of two feet, could hardly be expected to take a pride in their personal appearance. One little vanity they had, and apparently one only—they were fond of perfumes. They used to kill the alligator for his musk-sacs, which they thought "as good civet as any in the world." Each logwood cutter carried a musk-sac in his hat to diffuse scent about him, "sweet as Arabian winds when fruits are ripe," wheresoever his business led him.
The logwood cutters usually formed into little companies of from four to twelve men each. The actual "cutters" had less to do than the other members, for they merely felled the trees. Others sawed and hacked the tree trunks into logs. The boss, or chief man in the gang, then chipped away the white sappy rind surrounding the scarlet heart with its crystals of brilliant red. If the tree were very big (and some were six feet round) they split the bole by gunpowder. The red hearts alone were exported, as it is the scarlet crystal (which dries to a dull black after cutting) which gives the wood its value in dyeing. When the timber had been properly cut and trimmed it was dragged to the water's edge, and stacked there ready for the merchants. The chips burnt very well, "making a clear strong fire, and very lasting," in which the rovers used to harden "the Steels of their Fire Arms when they were faulty."
When a ship arrived at One Bush Key the logwood cutters went aboard her for rum and sugar. It was the custom for the ship's captain to give them free drinks on the day of his arrival, "and every Man will pay honestly for what he drinks afterwards." If the captain did not set the rum punch flowing with sufficient liberality they would "pay him with their worst Wood," and "commonly" they "had a stock of such" ready for the niggard when he came. Often, indeed, they would give such a one a load of hollow logs "filled with dirt in the middle, and both ends plugg'd up with a piece of the same." But if the captain commanding were "true steel, an old bold blade, one of the old buccaneers, a hearty brave toss-pot, a trump, a true twopenny"—why, then, they would spend thirty or forty pounds apiece in a drinking bout aboard his ship, "carousing and firing of Guns three or four days together." They were a careless company, concerned rather in "the squandering of life away" than in its preservation. Drink and song, and the firing of guns, and a week's work chipping blood-wood, and then another drunkenness, was the story of their life there. Any "sober men" who came thither were soon "debauched" by "the old Standards," and took to "Wickedness" and "careless Rioting." Those who found the work too hard used to go hunting in the woods. Often enough they marched to the woods in companies, to sack the Indian villages, to bring away women for their solace, and men slaves to sell at Jamaica. They also robbed the Indians' huts of honey, cocoa, and maize, but then the Indians were "very melancholy and thoughtful" and plainly designed by God as game for logwood cutters.
In the end the Spaniards fell upon the logwood men and carried them away to Mexico and Vera Cruz, sending some to the silver mines, and selling the others to tradesmen. As slaves they passed the next few years, till they escaped to the coast. One of those who escaped told how he saw a Captain Buckenham, once a famous man at those old drinking bouts, and owner of a sugar ship, working as a slave in the city of Mexico. "He saw Captain Buckenham, with a Log chained to his Leg, and a Basket at his Back, crying Bread about the Streets for a Baker his Master."
In this society of logwood cutters Dampier served a brief apprenticeship. He must have heard many strange tales, and jolly songs, around the camp fires of his mates, but none of them, apparently, were fit to print. He went hunting cattle, and got himself "bushed," or marooned—that is, lost—and had a narrow escape from dying in the woods. He helped at the cutting and trimming of the red wood, and at the curing of the hides of the slaughtered steers. When ships arrived he took his sup of rum, and fired his pistol, with the best of them. Had he stayed there any length of time he would have become a master logwood merchant, and so "gotten an Estate"; but luck was against him.
In June 1676, when he was recovering from a guinea-worm, a creature which nests in one's ankle, and causes great torment, a storm, or "South," reduced the logwood cutters of those parts to misery. The South was "long foretold," by the coming in of many sea-birds to the shore's shelter, but the lumbermen "believed it was a certain Token of the Arrival of Ships," and took no precautions against tempest. Two days later the wind broke upon them furiously, scattering their huts like scraps of paper. The creek began to rise "faster than I ever saw it do in the greatest Spring Tide," so that, by noon, the poor wretches, huddled as they were in a hut, without fire, were fain to make ready a canoa to save themselves from drowning. The trees in the woods were torn up by the roots, "and tumbled down strangely across each other." The ships in the creek were blown from their anchors. Two of them were driven off to sea, dipping their bows clean under, and making shocking weather of it. One of them was lost in the bay, being whelmed by a green sea.
The storm destroyed all the tools and provisions of the lumbermen, and left Dampier destitute. His illness, with the poisonous worm in his leg, had kept him from work for some weeks, so that he had no cords of red wood ready cut, "as the old Standards had," to buy him new tools and new stores. Many of the men were in the same case, so they agreed with the captains of two pirate ketches which called at the creek at that time, to go a cruise to the west to seek their fortunes. They cruised up and down the bay "and made many Descents into the country," "where we got Indian Corn to eat with the Beef, and other Flesh, that we got by the way." They also attacked Alvarado, a little, protected city on the river of that name, but they lost heavily in the attack. Of the sixty pirates engaged, ten or eleven were killed or desperately wounded. The fort was not surrendered for four or five hours, by which time the citizens had put their treasure into boats, and rowed it upstream to safety. It was dark by the time the pirates won the fort, so that pursuit was out of the question. They rested there that night, and spent the next day foraging. They killed and salted a number of beeves, and routed out much salt fish and Indian corn, "as much as we could stow away." They also took a number of poultry, which the Spaniards were fattening in coops; and nearly a hundred tame parrots, "yellow and red," which "would prate very prettily." In short they heaped their decks with hen-coops, parrot-cages, quarters of beef, casks of salt fish, and baskets full of maize. In this state, the ships lay at anchor, with their men loafing on deck with their tobacco, bidding the "yellow and red" parrots to say "Damn," or "Pretty Polly," or other ribaldry. But before any parrot could have lost his Spanish accent, the pirates were called from their lessons by the sight of seven Spanish warships, under all sail, coming up to the river-bar from La Vera Cruz. Their ports were up, and their guns were run out, and they were not a mile away when the pirates first saw them. As it happened, the River Alvarado was full of water, so that these great vessels "could scarce stem the current." This piece of luck saved the pirates, for it gave them time to make sail, and to clear the bar before the Spaniards entered the river. As they dropped down the stream, they hove the clutter from the decks. Many a Pretty Polly there quenched her blasphemy in water, and many a lump of beef went to the mud to gorge the alligators. The litter was all overboard, and the men stripped to fight the guns, by the time the tide had swept them over the bar. At this moment they came within range of the Spanish flagship, the Toro, of ten guns and 100 men. She was to windward of them, and perilously close aboard, and her guns sent some cannon-balls into them, without doing any serious harm. Dampier was in the leading ship, which stood to the eastward, followed by her consort, as soon as she was over the bar. After her came the Toro, followed by a ship of four guns, and by five smaller vessels manned with musketeers, "and the Vessels barricadoed round with Bull-hides Breast high." The Toro ranged up on the quarter of Dampier's ship, "designing to board" her. The pirates dragged their cannon aft, and fired at her repeatedly, "in hopes to have lamed either Mast or Yard." As they failed to carry away her spars, they waited till "she was shearing aboard," when they rammed the helm hard up, "gave her a good Volley," and wore ship. As soon as she was round on the other tack, she stood to the westward, passing down the Spanish line under a heavy fire. The Toro held to her course, after the second pirate ship, with the six ships of the fleet following in her wake. The second pirate ship was much galled by the fleet's fire, and ran great risk of being taken. Dampier's ship held to the westward, till she was about a mile to windward of the other ships. She then tacked, and ran down to assist her consort, "who was hard put to it." As she ran down, she opened fire on the Toro, "who fell off, and shook her ears," edging in to the shore, to escape, with her fleet after her. They made no fight of it, but tacked and hauled to the wind "and stood away for Alvarado." The pirates were very glad to see the last of them; "and we, glad of the Deliverance, went away to the Eastward." On the way, they visited all the sandy bays of the coast to look for "munjack," "a sort of Pitch or Bitumen which we find in Lumps." When corrected with oil or tallow this natural pitch served very well for the paying of the seams "both of Ships and Canoas."
After this adventure, Dampier returned to the lumber camp, and passed about a year there, cutting wood. Then, for some reason, he determined to leave the Indies, and to visit England; and though he had planned to return to Campeachy, after he had been home, he never did so. It seems that he was afraid of living in that undefended place, among those drunken mates of his. They were at all times at the mercy of a Spanish man-of-war, and Dampier "always feared" that a Spanish prison would be his lot if he stayed there. It was the lot of his imprudent mates, "the old Standards," a few months after he had sailed for the Thames.
After a short stay in England, Dampier sailed for Jamaica, with a general cargo. He sold his goods at Port Royal, but did not follow his original plan of buying rum and sugar, and going west as a logwood merchant. About Christmas 1679 he bought a small estate in Dorsetshire, "of one whose Title to it" he was "well assured of." He was ready to sail for England, to take charge of this estate, and to settle down as a farmer, when he met "one Mr Hobby," at a tavern, who asked him to go "a short trading voyage to the Country of the Moskito's." Dampier, who was a little short of gold at the moment, was very willing to fill his purse before sailing north. He therefore consented to go with Mr Hobby, whose ship was then ready for the sea. He "went on board Mr Hobby," and a fair wind blew them clear of Port Royal. A day or two of easy sailing brought them to Negril Bay, "at the West End of Jamaica," where Dampier had anchored before, when the valorous captain drained the punch-bowl. The bay was full of shipping, for Captains Coxon, Sawkins, Sharp, and other buccaneers, were lying there filling their water casks. They had the red wheft flying, for they were bound on the account, to raid the Main. The boats alongside them were full of meat and barrels. Mr Hobby's men did not wait to learn more than the fact that the ships were going cruising. They dumped their chests into the dinghy, and rowed aboard of them, and 'listed themselves among the sunburnt ruffians who were hoisting out the water breakers. Dampier and Mr Hobby were left alone on their ship, within hearing of the buccaneers, who sang, and danced to the fiddle, and clinked the cannikin, till the moon had set. For three or four days they stayed there, hearing the merriment of the rovers, but at the end of the fourth day Dampier wearied of Mr Hobby, and joined the buccaneers, who were glad to have him.
A day or two after Christmas 1679 they got their anchors and set sail. They shaped their course for Porto Bello, which had recovered something of its old wealth and beauty, in the years of peace it had enjoyed since Morgan sacked it. They landed 200 men to the eastward of the town, "at such a distance" that the march "occupied them three nights." During the day they lay in ambush in the woods. As they "came to the town" a negro saw them, and ran to set the bells ringing, to call out the troops. The buccaneers followed him so closely that the town was theirs before the troops could muster. They stayed there forty-eight hours gathering plunder, and then marched back to their ships staggering under a great weight of gold. They shared thirty or forty pounds a man from this raid. Afterwards they harried the coast, east and west, and made many rich captures. Sawkins, it seems, was particularly lucky, for he made a haul of 1000 chests of indigo. Warrants were out for all these pirates, and had they been taken they would most surely have been hanged.
After these adventures, the squadron made for "a place called Boco del Toro," "an opening between two islands between Chagres and Veragua," where "the general rendezvous of the fleet" had been arranged. The ships anchored here, with one or two new-comers, including a French ship commanded by a Captain Bournano, who had been raiding on the isthmus, "near the South Sea," but a few days before. At the council aboard Captain Sawkins' ship, it was given out, to all the assembled buccaneers, that the Spaniards had made peace with the Darien Indians. This was bad news; but Captain Bournano was able to assure the company "that since the conclusion of the said peace, they had been already tried, and found very faithful"; for they had been of service to him in his late foray. He added that they had offered to guide him "to a great and very rich place called Tocamora," and that he had promised to come to them "with more ships and men," in three months' time. The buccaneers thought that Tocamora, apart from the beauty of the name, appeared to promise gold, so they decided to go thither as soon as they had careened and refitted. Boca del Toro, the anchorage in which they lay, was full of "green tortoise" for ships short of food. There were handy creeks, among the islands, for the ships to careen in, when their hulls were foul. The pirates hauled their ships into the creeks, and there hove them down, while their Moskito allies speared the tortoise, and the manatee, along the coast, and afterwards salted the flesh for sea-provision.
As soon as the squadron was ready, they mustered at Water Key, and set sail for Golden Island, where they meant to hold a final council. On the way to the eastward they put in at the Samballoes, or islands of San Blas, to fill fresh water, and to buy fruit from the Indians. When the anchors held, the Indians came aboard with fruit, venison, and native cloth, to exchange for edged iron tools, and red and green beads. They were tall men, smeared with black paint (the women used red, much as in Europe), and each Indian's nose was hung with a plate of gold or silver. Among the women were a few albinos, who were said to see better in the dark than in the light. "These Indians misliked our design for Tocamora," because the way thither was mountainous and barren and certain to be uninhabited. A force going thither would be sure to starve on the road, they said, but it would be an easy matter to march to Panama, as Drake had marched. New Panama was already a rich city, so that they would not "fail of making a good voyage by going thither." This advice of the Indians impressed the buccaneers. They determined to abandon the Tocamora project as too dangerous. Most of them were in favour of going to sack Panama. But Captain Bournano, and Captain Row, who commanded about a hundred Frenchmen between them, refused to take their men on "a long march by land." Perhaps they remembered how Morgan had treated the French buccaneers after his Panama raid, nine years before. They therefore remained at anchor when the squadron parted company. An Indian chief, Captain Andreas, came aboard the English flagship. The bloody colours were hoisted, and a gun fired in farewell. The English ships then loosed their top-sails and stood away for Golden Island, to an anchorage they knew of, where a final muster could be held. They dropped anchor there, "being in all seven sail," on 3rd April 1680.
Their strength at the Samballoes had been as follows:—
Tons Guns Men Captain Coxon in a ship of 80 8 97 Captain Harris " 150 25 107 Captain Sawkins " 16 1 35 Captain Sharp " 25 2 40 Captain Cook " 35 0 43 Captain Alleston " 18 0 24 Captain Macket " 14 0 20
but of these 366 buccaneers a few had remained behind with the Frenchmen.
While they lay at Golden Island, the Indians brought them word of "a town called Santa Maria," on the Rio Santa Maria, near the Gulf of San Miguel, on the Pacific coast. It was a garrison town, with four companies of musketeers in its fort, for there were gold mines in the hills behind it. The gold caravans went from it, once a month in the dry seasons, to Panama. If the place failed to yield them a booty, the buccaneers were determined to attack new Panama. Had they done so they would probably have destroyed the place, for though the new city was something stronger than the old, the garrison was in the interior fighting the Indians. The design on Santa Maria was popular. On the matter being put to the vote it was carried without protest. The buccaneers passed the 4th of April in arranging details, and picking a party to protect the ships during their absence. They arranged that Captains Alleston and Macket, with about twenty-five or thirty seamen, should remain in the anchorage as a ship's guard. The remainder of the buccaneers, numbering 331 able-bodied men (seven of whom were French), were to march with the colours the next morning.
On the 5th of April 1680, these 331 adventurers dropped across the channel from Golden Island, and landed on the isthmus, somewhere near Drake's old anchorage. Captain Bartholomew Sharp, of "the dangerous voyage and bold assaults," came first, with some Indian guides, one of whom helped the Captain, who was sick and faint with a fever. This vanguard "had a red flag, with a bunch of white and green ribbons." The second company, or main battle, was led by the admiral, Richard Sawkins, who "had a red flag striped with yellow." The third and fourth companies, which were under one captain (Captain Peter Harris), had two green flags. The fifth and sixth companies, under Captain John Coxon, "had each of them a red flag." A few of Alleston's and Macket's men carried arms under Coxon in these companies. The rear-guard was led by Captain Edmund Cook, "with red colours striped with yellow, with a hand and sword for his device." "All or most" of the men who landed, "were armed with a French fuzee" (or musket), a pistol and hanger, with two pounds of powder and "proportionable bullet." Each of them carried a scrip or satchel containing "three or four cakes of bread," or doughboys, weighing half-a-pound apiece, with some modicum of turtle flesh. "For drink the rivers afforded enough."
Among the men who went ashore in that company were William Dampier, the author of the best books of voyages in the language; Lionel Wafer, the chirurgeon of the party, who wrote a description of the isthmus; Mr Basil Ringrose, who kept an intimate record of the foray; and Captain Bartholomew Sharp, who also kept a journal, but whose writings are less reliable than those of the other three. It is not often that three historians of such supreme merit as Dampier, Wafer, and Ringrose, are associated in a collaboration so charming, as a piratical raid. Wafer had been a surgeon in Port Royal, but Edmund Cook had shown him the delights of roving, and the cruise he had made to Cartagena had confirmed him in that way of life. Basil Ringrose had but lately arrived at the Indies, and it is not known what induced him to go buccaneering. He was a good cartographer, and had as strong a bent towards the description of natural phenomena, as Dampier had. He probably followed the pirates in order to see the world, and to get some money, and to extend his knowledge. Sharp had been a pirate for some years, and there was a warrant out for him at Jamaica for his share in the sack of Porto Bello. With Dampier's history the reader has been made acquainted.
The Indians, under Captain Andreas, led the buccaneers from the landing-place "through a small skirt of wood," beyond which was a league of sandy beach. "After that, we went two leagues directly up a woody valley, where we saw here and there an old plantation, and had a very good path to march in." By dusk they had arrived at a river-bank, beneath which the water lay in pools, joined by trickles and little runlets, which babbled over sun-bleached pebbles. They built themselves huts in this place, about a great Indian hut which stood upon the river-bank. They slept there that night, "having nothing but the cold Earth for their Beds," in much discouragement "with the going back of some of the Men." The buccaneers who had been some weeks at sea, were not in marching trim, and it seems that the long day's tramp in the sun had sickened many of them. While they rested in their lodges, an Indian king, whom they called "Captain Antonio," came in to see them. He said that he had sent word to one of his tributaries, farther to the south, to prepare food and lodgings for the buccaneers "against their Arrival." As for himself, he wished very much that he could come with them to lead their guides, but unfortunately "his child lay very sick." However, it comforted him to think that the child would be dead by the next day, at latest, "and then he would most certainly follow and overtake" them. He warned the company not to lie in the grass, "for fear of monstrous adders"; and so bowed himself out of camp, and returned home. The kingly prayers seem to have been effectual, for Captain Antonio was in camp again by sunrise next morning, with no family tie to keep him from marching.