How the pirates arm their vessels, and regulate their voyages.
Before the pirates go to sea, they give notice to all concerned, of the day on which they are to embark; obliging each man to bring so many pounds of powder and ball as they think necessary. Being all come aboard, they consider where to get provisions, especially flesh, seeing they scarce eat anything else; and of this the most common sort is pork; the next food is tortoises, which they salt a little: sometimes they rob such or such hog-yards, where the Spaniards often have a thousand head of swine together. They come to these places in the night, and having beset the keeper's lodge, they force him to rise, and give them as many heads as they desire, threatening to kill him if he refuses, or makes any noise; and these menaces are oftentimes executed on the miserable swine-keepers, or any other person that endeavours to hinder their robberies.
Having got flesh sufficient for their voyage, they return to their ship: here they allow, twice a day, every one as much as he can eat, without weight or measure; nor does the steward of the vessel give any more flesh, or anything else, to the captain, than to the meanest mariner. The ship being well victualled, they deliberate whither they shall go to seek their desperate fortunes, and likewise agree upon certain articles, which are put in writing, which every one is bound to observe; and all of them, or the chiefest part, do set their hands to it. Here they set down distinctly what sums of money each particular person ought to have for that voyage, the fund of all the payments being what is gotten by the whole expedition; for otherwise it is the same law among these people as with other pirates. No prey, no pay. First, therefore, they mention how much the captain is to have for his ship; next, the salary of the carpenter, or shipwright, who careened, mended, and rigged the vessel: this commonly amounts to one hundred or one hundred and fifty pieces of eight, according to the agreement. Afterwards, for provisions and victualling, they draw out of the same common stock about two hundred pieces of eight; also a salary for the surgeon, and his chest of medicaments, which usually is rated at two hundred or two hundred and fifty pieces of eight. Lastly, they agree what rate each one ought to have that is either wounded or maimed in his body, suffering the loss of any limb; as, for the loss of a right arm, six hundred pieces of eight, or six slaves; for the left arm, five hundred pieces of eight, or five slaves; for a right leg, five hundred pieces of eight, or five slaves; for the left leg, four hundred pieces of eight, or four slaves; for an eye, one hundred pieces of eight, or one slave; for a finger, the same as for an eye. All which sums are taken out of the common stock of what is gotten by their piracy, and a very exact and equal dividend is made of the remainder. They have also regard to qualities and places: thus the captain, or chief, is allotted five or six portions, to what the ordinary seamen have: the master's mate only two, and other officers proportionately to their employ: after which, they draw equal parts from the highest to the lowest mariner, the boys not being omitted, who draw half a share; because when they take a better vessel than their own, it is in the boys' duty to fire their former vessel, and then retire to the prize.
They observe among themselves very good orders; for in the prizes which they take, it is severely prohibited, to every one, to take anything to themselves: hence all they take is equally divided, as hath been said before: yea, they take a solemn oath to each other, not to conceal the least thing they find among the prizes; and if any one is found false to the said oath, he is immediately turned out of the society. They are very civil and charitable to each other; so that if any one wants what another has, with great willingness they give it one to another. As soon as these pirates have taken a prize, they immediately set ashore the prisoners, detaining only some few, for their own help and service: whom, also, they release, after two or three years. They refresh themselves at one island or another, but especially at those on the south of Cuba; here they careen their vessels, while some hunt, and others cruise in canoes for prizes.
The inhabitants of New Spain and Campeche lade their best merchandize in ships of great bulk: the vessels from Campeche sail in the winter to Caracas, Trinity isles, and that of Margarita, and return back again in the summer. The pirates knowing these seasons (being very diligent in their inquiries) always cruise between the places above-mentioned; but in case they light on no considerable booty, they commonly undertake some more hazardous enterprises: one remarkable instance of which I shall here give you.
The Man-of-War gave them chase.
A certain pirate called Pierre Francois, or Peter Francis, waiting a long time at sea with his boat and twenty-six men, for the ships that were to return from Maracaibo to Campeche, and not being able to find any prey, at last he resolved to direct his course to Rancheiras, near the River de la Plata, in 12 deg. and a half north latitude. Here lies a rich bank of pearl, to the fishery whereof they yearly sent from Carthagena twelve vessels with a man-of-war for their defence. Every vessel has at least two negroes in it, who are very dexterous in diving to the depth of six fathoms, where they find good store of pearls. On this fleet, called the pearl-fleet, Pierre Francois resolved to venture, rather than go home empty; they then rid at anchor at the mouth of the River de la Hacha, the man-of-war scarce half a league distant from the small ships, and the wind very calm. Having spied them in this posture, he presently pulled down his sails, and rowed along the coast feigning to be a Spanish vessel coming from Maracaibo; but no sooner was he come to the pearl-bank, when suddenly he assaulted the vice-admiral of eight guns and sixty men, commanding them to surrender. The Spaniards made a good defence for some time, but at last were forced to submit.
Having thus taken the vice-admiral, he resolved to attempt the man-of-war, with which addition he hoped to master the rest of the fleet: to this end he presently sunk his own boat, putting forth the Spanish colours, and weighed anchor with a little wind which then began to stir, having with threats and promises compelled most of the Spaniards to assist him: but so soon as the man-of-war perceived one of his fleet to sail, he did so too, fearing lest the mariners designed to run away with the riches they had on board. The pirate on this immediately gave over the enterprise, thinking themselves unable to encounter force to force: hereupon they endeavoured to get out of the river and gain the open seas, by making as much sail as they could; which the man-of-war perceiving, he presently gave them chase, but the pirates having laid on too much sail, and a gust of wind suddenly rising, their main-mast was brought by the board, which disabled them from escaping.
This unhappy event much encouraged those in the man-of-war, they gaining upon the pirates every moment, and at last overtook them; but finding they had twenty-two sound men, the rest being either killed or wounded, resolved to defend themselves as long as possible; this they performed very courageously for some time, till they were forced by the man-of-war, on condition that they should not be used as slaves to carry stones, or be employed in other labours for three or four years, as they served their negroes, but that they should be set safe ashore on free land. On these articles they yielded with all they had taken, which was worth, in pearls alone, above 100,000 pieces of eight, besides the vessel, provisions, goods, &c. All of which would have made this a greater prize than he could desire, which he had certainly carried off, if his main-mast had not been lost, as we said before.
Another bold attempt like this, no less remarkable, I shall also give you. A certain pirate of Portugal, thence called Bartholomew Portugues, was cruising in a boat of thirty men and four small guns from Jamaica, upon the Cape de Corriente in Cuba, where he met a great ship from Maracaibo and Carthagena, bound for the Havannah, well provided with twenty great guns and seventy men, passengers and mariners; this ship he presently assaulted, which they on board as resolutely defended. The pirate escaping the first encounter, resolved to attack her more vigorously than before, seeing he had yet suffered no great damage: this he performed with so much resolution, that at last, after a long and dangerous fight, he became master of it. The Portuguese lost only ten men, and had four wounded; so that he had still remaining twenty fighting men, whereas the Spaniards had double the number. Having possessed themselves of the ship, the wind being contrary to return to Jamaica, they resolved to steer to Cape St. Anthony (which lies west of Cuba), there to repair and take in fresh water, of which they were then in great want.
Being very near the cape above said, they unexpectedly met with three great ships coming from New Spain, and bound for the Havannah; by these not being able to escape, they were easily retaken, both ship and pirates, and all made prisoners, and stripped of all the riches they had taken but just before. The cargo consisted in 120,000 weight of cocoa-nuts, the chief ingredient of chocolate, and 70,000 pieces of eight. Two days after this misfortune, there arose a great storm, which separated the ships from one another. The great vessel, where the pirates were, arrived at Campeche, where many considerable merchants came and saluted the captain; these presently knew the Portuguese pirate, being infamous for the many insolencies, robberies and murders he had committed on their coasts, which they kept fresh in their memory.
The next day after their arrival, the magistrates of the city sent to demand the prisoners from on board the ship, in order to punish them according to their deserts; but fearing the captain of the pirates should make his escape (as he had formerly done, being their prisoner once before) they judged it safer to leave him guarded on shipboard for the present, while they erected a gibbet to hang him on the next day, without any other process than to lead him from the ship to his punishment; the rumour of which was presently brought to Bartholomew Portugues, whereby he sought all possible means to escape that night: with this design he took two earthen jars, wherein the Spaniards carry wine from Spain to the West-Indies, and stopped them very well, intending to use them for swimming, as those unskilled in that art do corks or empty bladders; having made this necessary preparation, he waited when all should be asleep; but not being able to escape his sentinel's vigilance, he stabbed him with a knife he had secretly purchased, and then threw himself into the sea with the earthen jars before-mentioned, by the help of which, though he never learned to swim, he reached the shore, and immediately took to the woods, where he hid himself for three days, not daring to appear, eating no other food than wild herbs.
Those of the city next day made diligent search for him in the woods, where they concluded him to be. This strict inquiry Portugues saw from the hollow of a tree, wherein he lay hid; and upon their return he made the best of his way to del Golpho Triste, forty leagues from Campeche, where he arrived within a fortnight after his escape: during which time, as also afterwards, he endured extreme hunger and thirst, having no other provision with him than a small calabash with a little water: besides the fears of falling again into the hands of the Spaniards. He eat nothing but a few shell-fish, which he found among the rocks near the seashore; and being obliged to pass some rivers, not knowing well how to swim, he found at last an old board which the waves had driven ashore, wherein were a few great nails; these he took, and with no small labour whetted on a stone, till he had made them like knives, though not so well; with these, and nothing else, he cut down some branches of trees, which with twigs and osiers he joined together, and made as well as he could a boat to waft him over the rivers: thus arriving at the Cape of Golpho Triste, as was said, he found a vessel of pirates, comrades of his own, lately come from Jamaica.
To these he related all his adversities and misfortunes, and withal desired they would fit him with a boat and twenty men, with which company alone he promised to return to Campeche, and assault the ship that was in the river, by which he had been taken fourteen days before. They presently granted his request, and equipped him a boat accordingly. With this small company he set out to execute his design, which he bravely performed eight days after he left Golpho Triste; for being arrived at Campeche, with an undaunted courage, and without any noise, he assaulted the said ship: those on board thought it was a boat from land that came to bring contraband goods, and so were in no posture of defence; which opportunity the pirates laying hold of, assaulted them so resolutely, that in a little time they compelled the Spaniards to surrender.
Being masters of the ship, they immediately weighed anchor and set sail from the port, lest they should be pursued by other vessels. This they did with the utmost joy, seeing themselves possessors of so brave a ship; especially Portugues, who by a second turn of fortune was become rich and powerful again, who was so lately in that same vessel a prisoner, condemned to be hanged. With this purchase he designed greater things, which he might have done, since there remained in the vessel so great a quantity of rich merchandise, though the plate had been sent to the city: but while he was making his voyage to Jamaica, near the isle of Pinos, on the south of Cuba, a terrible storm arose, which drove against the Jardines rocks, where she was lost; but Portugues, with his companions, escaped in a canoe, in which he arrived at Jamaica, where it was not long ere he went on new adventures, but was never fortunate after.
Portugues made the best of his way to del Golpho Triste.
Nor less considerable are the actions of another pirate who now lives at Jamaica, who on several occasions has performed very surprising things. He was born at Groninghen in the United Provinces. His own name not being known, his companions gave him that of Roche Brasiliano, by reason of his long residence in Brazil: hence he was forced to fly, when the Portuguese retook those countries from the Dutch, several nations then inhabiting at Brazil (as English, French, Dutch, and others) , being constrained to seek new fortunes.
This person fled to Jamaica, where, being at a stand how to get his living, he entered himself into the society of pirates, where he served as a private mariner for some time, and behaved himself so well, that he was beloved and respected by all. One day some of the mariners quarrelled with their captain to that degree, that they left the boat. Brasiliano following them, was chosen their leader, who having fitted out a small vessel, they made him captain.
Within a few days after, he took a great ship coming from New Spain, which had a great quantity of plate on board, and carried it to Jamaica. This action got him a great reputation at home; and though in his private affairs he governed himself very well, he would oftentimes appear brutish and foolish when in drink, running up and down the streets, beating and wounding those he met, no person daring to make any resistance.
To the Spaniards he was always very barbarous and cruel, out of an inveterate hatred against that nation. Of these he commanded several to be roasted alive on wooden spits, for not showing him hog-yards where he might steal swine. After many of these cruelties, as he was cruising on the coasts of Campeche, a dismal tempest surprised him so violently, that his ship was wrecked upon the coasts, the mariners only escaping with their muskets and some few bullets and powder, which were the only things they could save. The ship was lost between Campeche and the Golpho Triste: here they got ashore in a canoe, and, marching along the coast, with all the speed they could, they directed their course towards Golpho Triste, the common refuge of the pirates. Being upon his journey, and all very hungry and thirsty, as is usual in desert places, they were pursued by a troop of an hundred Spaniards. Brasiliano, perceiving their imminent danger, encouraged his companions, telling them they were better soldiers, and ought rather to die under their arms fighting, as it became men of courage, than surrender to the Spaniards, who would take away their lives with the utmost torments. The pirates were but thirty; yet, seeing their brave commander oppose the enemy with such courage, resolved to do the like: hereupon they faced the troop of Spaniards, and discharged their muskets on them so dexterously, that they killed one horseman almost with every shot. The fight continued for an hour, till at last the Spaniards were put to flight. They stripped the dead, and took from them what was most for their use; such as were also not quite dead they dispatched with the ends of their muskets.
Having vanquished the enemy, they mounted on horses they found in the field, and continued their journey; Brasiliano having lost but two of his companions in this bloody fight, and had two wounded. Prosecuting their way, before they came to the port they spied a boat at anchor from Campeche, well manned, protecting a few canoes that were lading wood: hereupon they sent six of their men to watch them, who next morning, by a wile, possessed themselves of the canoes. Having given notice to their companions, they boarded them, and also took the little man-of-war, their convoy. Being thus masters of this fleet, they wanted only provisions, of which they found little aboard those vessels: but this defect was supplied by the horses, which they killed, and salted with salt, which by good fortune the wood-cutters had brought with them, with which they supported themselves till they could get better.
They took also another ship going from New Spain to Maracaibo, laden with divers sorts of merchandise and pieces of eight, designed to buy cocoa-nuts for their lading home: all these they carried to Jamaica, where they safely arrived, and, according to custom, wasted all in a few days in taverns, giving themselves to all manner of debauchery. Such of these pirates will spend two or three thousand pieces of eight in a night, not leaving themselves a good shirt to wear in the morning. My own master would buy sometimes a pipe of wine, and, placing it in the street, would force those that passed by to drink with him, threatening also to pistol them if they would not. He would do the like with barrels of beer or ale; and very often he would throw these liquors about the streets, and wet peoples' clothes without regarding whether he spoiled their apparel.
Among themselves these pirates are very liberal: if any one has lost all, which often happens in their manner of life, they freely give him of what they have. In taverns and alehouses they have great credit; but at Jamaica they ought not to run very deep in debt, seeing the inhabitants there easily sell one another for debt. This happened to my patron, to be sold for a debt of a tavern wherein he had spent the greatest part of his money. This man had, within three months before, three thousand pieces of eight in ready cash, all which he wasted in that little time, and became as poor as I have told you.
But to return Brasiliano, after having spent all, was forced to go to sea again to seek his fortune. He set forth towards the coast of Campeche, his common rendezvous: fifteen days after his arrival, he put himself into a canoe to espy the port of that city, and see if he could rob any Spanish vessel; but his fortune was so bad, that both he and all his men were taken and carried before the governor, who immediately cast them into a dungeon, intending to hang them every one; and doubtless he had done so, but for a stratagem of Brasiliano, which saved their lives. He wrote a letter to the governor, in the names of other pirates that were abroad at sea, telling them he should have a care how he used those persons he had in custody; for if he hurt them in the least, they swore they would never give quarter to any Spaniard that should fall into their hands.
These pirates having been often at Campeche, and other places of the West-Indies in the Spanish dominions, the governor feared what mischief their companions abroad might do, if he should punish them. Hereupon he released them, exacting only an oath on them that they would leave their exercise of piracy for ever; and withal he sent them as common mariners, in the galleons, to Spain. They got in this voyage, all together, five hundred pieces of eight; so that they tarried not long there after their arrival. Providing themselves with necessaries, they returned to Jamaica, from whence they set forth again to sea, committing greater robberies and cruelties than before; but especially abusing the poor Spaniards, who fell into their hands, with all sorts of cruelty.
The Spaniards, finding they could gain nothing on these people, nor diminish their number, daily resolved to lessen the number of their trading ships. But neither was this of any service; for the pirates, finding few ships at sea, began to gather into companies, and to land on their dominions, ruining cities, towns, and villages; pillaging, burning, and carrying away as much as they could.
The first pirate who began these invasions by land was Lewis Scot, who sacked the city of Campeche, which he almost ruined, robbing and destroying all he could; and after he had put it to an excessive ransom, he left it. After Scot came another named Mansvelt, who invaded Granada, and penetrated even to the South Sea; till at last, for want of provision, he was forced to go back. He assaulted the isle of St. Catherine, which he took, with a few prisoners. These directed him to Carthagena, a principal city in Neuva Granada. But the bold attempts and actions of John Davis, born at Jamaica, ought not to be forgotten, being some of the most remarkable; especially his rare prudence and valour showed in the fore-mentioned kingdom of Granada. This pirate, having long cruised in the Gulf of Pocatauro, on the ships expected to Carthagena, bound for Nicaragua, and not meeting any of them, resolved at last to land in Nicaragua, leaving his ship hid on the coast.
This design he soon executed; for taking eighty men out of ninety, which he had in all—and the rest he left to keep the ship—he divided them equally into three canoes. His intent was to rob the churches, and rifle the houses of the chief citizens of Nicaragua. Thus in the dark night they entered the river leading to that city, rowing in their canoes; by day they hid themselves and boats under the branches of trees, on the banks, which grow very thick along the river-sides in those countries, and along the sea-coast. Being arrived at the city the third night, the sentinel, who kept the post of the river, thought them to be fishermen that had been fishing in the lake: and most of the pirates understanding Spanish, he doubted not, as soon as he heard them speak. They had in their company an Indian who had run away from his master, who would have enslaved him unjustly. He went first ashore, and instantly killed the sentinel: this done, they entered the city, and went directly to three or four houses of the chief citizens, where they knocked softly. These, believing them to be friends, opened the doors; and the pirates, suddenly possessing themselves of the houses, stole all the money and plate they could find. Nor did they spare the churches and most sacred things; all of which were pillaged and profaned, without any respect or veneration.
Meanwhile, great cries and lamentations were heard of some who had escaped them; so that the whole city was in an uproar, and all the citizens rallied in order, to a defence; which the pirates perceiving, they instantly fled, carrying away their booty, and some prisoners: these they led away, that if any of them should be taken by the Spaniards, they might use them for ransom. Thus they got to their ship, and with all speed put to sea, forcing the prisoners, before they let them go, to procure them as much flesh as was necessary for their voyage to. Jamaica. But no sooner had they weighed anchor, when they saw a troop of about five hundred Spaniards, all well armed, at the sea-side: against these they let fly several guns, wherewith they forced them to quit the sands, and retire, with no small regret to see these pirates carry away so much plate of their churches and houses, though distant at least forty leagues from the sea.
These pirates got, on this occasion, above four thousand pieces of eight in money, besides much plate, and many jewels; in all, to the value of fifty thousand pieces of eight, or more: with all this they arrived at Jamaica soon after. But this sort of people being never long masters of their money, they were soon constrained to seek more by the same means; and Captain John Davis, presently after his return, was chosen admiral of seven or eight vessels, he being now esteemed an able conductor for such enterprises. He began his new command by directing his fleet to the north of Cuba, there to wait for the fleet from New Spain; but missing his design, they determined for Florida. Being arrived there, they landed their men, and sacked a small city named St. Augustine of Florida. The castle had a garrison of two hundred men, but could not prevent the pillage of the city, they effecting it without the least damage from the soldiers or townsmen.