These four ships setting sail from Hispaniola, steered for the river De la Hacha, where they were suddenly overtaken with a tedious calm. Being within sight of land becalmed for some days, the Spaniards inhabiting along the coast, who had perceived them to be enemies, had sufficient time to prepare themselves, at least to hide the best of their goods, that, without any care of preserving them, they might be ready to retire, if they proved unable to resist the pirates, by whose frequent attempts on those coasts they had already learned what to do in such cases. There was then in the river a good ship, come from Carthagena to lade with maize, and now almost ready to depart. The men of this ship endeavoured to escape; but, not being able to do it, both they and the vessel fell into their hands. This was a fit purchase for them, being good part of what they came for. Next morning, about break of day, they came with their ships ashore, and landed their men, though the Spaniards made good resistance from a battery they had raised on that side, where, of necessity, they were to land; but they were forced to retire to a village, whither the pirates followed them. Here the Spaniards rallying, fell upon them with great fury, and maintained a strong combat, which lasted till night; but then, perceiving they had lost a great number of men, which was no less on the pirates' side, they retired to secret places in the woods.
Next day the pirates seeing them all fled, and the town left empty of people, they pursued them as far as they could, and overtook a party of Spaniards, whom they made prisoners, and exercised with most cruel torments, to discover their goods. Some were forced, by intolerable tortures, to confess; but others, who would not, were used more barbarously. Thus, in fifteen days that they remained there, they took many prisoners, much plate and movables, with which booty they resolved to return to Hispaniola: yet, not content with what they had got, they dispatched some prisoners into the woods to seek for the rest of the inhabitants, and to demand a ransom for not burning the town. They answered, they had no money nor plate; but if they would be satisfied with a quantity of maize, they would give as much as they could. The pirates accepted this, it being then more useful to them than ready money, and agreed they should pay four thousand hanegs, or bushels of maize. These were brought in three days after, the Spaniards being desirous to rid themselves of that inhuman sort of people. Having laded them on board with the rest of their purchase, they returned to Hispaniola, to give account to their leader, Captain Morgan, of all they had performed.
They had now been absent five weeks on this commission, which long delay occasioned Captain Morgan almost in despair of their return, fearing lest they were fallen in to the hands of the Spaniards; especially considering the place whereto they went could easily be relieved from Carthagena and Santa Maria, if the inhabitants were careful to alarm the country. On the other side, he feared lest they should have made some great fortune in that voyage, and with it have escaped to some other place. But seeing his ships return in greater numbers than they departed, he resumed new courage, this sight causing both in him and his companions infinite joy, especially when they found them full laden with maize, which they much wanted for the maintenance of so many people, from whom they expected great matters under such a commander.
Captain Morgan having divided the said maize, as also the flesh which the hunters brought, among his ships, according to the number of men, he concluded to depart; having viewed beforehand every ship, and observed their being well equipped and clean. Thus he set sail, and stood for Cape Tiburon, where he determined to resolve what enterprise he should take in hand. No sooner were they arrived, but they met some other ships newly come to join them from Jamaica; so that now their fleet consisted of thirty-seven ships, wherein were two thousand fighting men, beside mariners and boys. The admiral hereof was mounted with twenty-two great guns, and six small ones of brass; the rest carried some twenty; some sixteen, some eighteen, and the smallest vessel at least four; besides which, they had great quantities of ammunition and fire-balls, with other inventions of powder.
Captain Morgan having such a number of ships, divided the whole fleet into two squadrons, constituting a vice-admiral, and other officers of the second squadron, distinct from the former. To these he gave letters patent, or commissions to act all manner of hostilities against the Spanish nation, and take of them what ships they could, either abroad at sea, or in the harbours, as if they were open and declared enemies (as he termed it) of the king of England, his pretended master. This done, he called all his captains and other officers together, and caused them to sign some articles of agreement betwixt them, and in the name of all. Herein it was stipulated, that he should have the hundredth part of all that was gotten to himself: that every captain should draw the shares of eight men for the expenses of his ship, besides his own. To the surgeon, beside his, pay, two hundred pieces of eight for his chest of medicaments. To every carpenter, above his salary, one hundred pieces of eight. The rewards were settled in this voyage much higher than before: as, for the loss of both legs, fifteen hundred pieces of eight, or fifteen slaves, the choice left to the party, for the loss of both hands, eighteen hundred pieces of eight, or eighteen slaves: for one leg, whether right or left, six hundred pieces of eight, or six slaves: for a hand, as much as for a leg; and for the loss of an eye, one hundred pieces of eight, or one slave. Lastly, to him that in any battle should signalize himself, either by entering first any castle, or taking down the Spanish colours, and setting up the English, they allotted fifty pieces of eight for a reward. All which extraordinary salaries and rewards to be paid out of the first spoil they should take, as every one should occur to be either rewarded or paid.
This contract being signed, Captain Morgan commanded his vice-admirals and captains to put all things in order, to attempt one of these three places; either Carthagena, Panama, or Vera Cruz. But the lot fell on Panama, as the richest of all three; though this city being situate at such a distance from the North Sea as they knew not well the approaches to it, they judged it necessary to go beforehand to the isle of St. Catherine, there to find some persons for guides in this enterprise; for in the garrison there are commonly many banditti and outlaws belonging to Panama and the neighbouring places, who are very expert in the knowledge of that country. But before they proceeded, they published an act through the whole fleet, promising, if they met with any Spanish vessel, the first captain who should take it should have for his reward the tenth part of what should be found in her.