The Taking of Maracaibo
Captain Morgan takes the city of Maracaibo on the coast of Neuva Venezuela—Piracies committed in those seas—Ruin of three Spanish ships, set forth to hinder the robberies of the pirates.
Not long after their arrival at Jamaica, being that short time they needed to lavish away all the riches above mentioned, they concluded on another enterprise to seek new fortunes: to this effect Captain Morgan ordered all the commanders of his ships to meet at De la Vacca, or the Cow Isle, south of Hispaniola, as is said. Hither flocked to them great numbers of other pirates, French and English; the name of Captain Morgan being now famous in all the neighbouring countries for his great enterprises. There was then at Jamaica an English ship newly come from New England, well mounted with thirty-six guns: this vessel, by order of the governor of Jamaica, joined Captain Morgan to strengthen his fleet, and give him greater courage to attempt mighty things. With this supply Captain Morgan judged himself sufficiently strong; but there being in the same place another great vessel of twenty-four iron guns, and twelve brass ones, belonging to the French, Captain Morgan endeavoured also to join this ship to his own; but the French not daring to trust the English, denied absolutely to consent.
The French pirates belonging to this great ship had met at sea an English vessel; and being under great want of victuals, they had taken some provisions out of the English ship, without paying for them, having, perhaps, no ready money aboard: only they gave them bills of exchange for Jamaica and Tortuga, to receive money there. Captain Morgan having notice of this, and perceiving he could not prevail with the French captain to follow him, resolved to lay hold on this occasion, to ruin the French, and seek his revenge. Hereupon he invited, with dissimulation, the French commander, and several of his men, to dine with him on board the great ship that was come to Jamaica, as is said. Being come, he made them all prisoners, pretending the injury afore-said done to the English vessel.
This unjust action of Captain Morgan was soon followed by Divine punishment, as we may conceive: the manner I shall instantly relate. Captain Morgan, presently after he had taken these French prisoners, called a council to deliberate what place they should first pitch upon in this new expedition. Here it was determined to go to the isle of Savona, to wait for the flota then expected from Spain, and take any of the Spanish vessels straggling from the rest. This resolution being taken, they began aboard the great ship to feast one another for joy of their new voyage, and happy council, as they hoped: they drank many healths, and discharged many guns, the common sign of mirth among seamen. Most of the men being drunk, by what accident is not known, the ship suddenly was blown up, with three hundred and fifty Englishmen, besides the French prisoners in the hold; of all which there escaped but thirty men, who were in the great cabin, at some distance from the main force of the powder. Many more, it is thought, might have escaped, had they not been so much overtaken with wine.
This loss brought much consternation of mind upon the English; they knew not whom to blame, but at last the accusation was laid on the French prisoners, whom they suspected to have fired the powder of the ship out of revenge, though with the loss of their own lives: hereupon they add new accusations to their former, whereby to seize the ship and all that was in it, by saying the French designed to commit piracy on the English. The grounds of this accusation were given by a commission from the governor of Barracoa, found aboard the French vessel, wherein were these words, "that the said governor did permit the French to trade in all Spanish ports," &c. "As also to cruise on the English pirates in what place soever they could find them, because of the multitudes of hostilities which they had committed against the subjects of his Catholic Majesty in time of peace betwixt the two crowns." This commission for trade was interpreted as an express order to exercise piracy and war against them, though it was only a bare licence for coming into the Spanish ports; the cloak of which permission were those words, "that they should cruise upon the English." And though the French did sufficiently expound the true sense of it, yet they could not clear themselves to Captain Morgan nor his council: but in lieu thereof, the ship and men were seized and sent to Jamaica. Here they also endeavoured to obtain justice, and the restitution of their ship, but all in vain; for instead of justice, they were long detained in prison, and threatened with hanging.
Eight days after the loss of the said ship, Captain Morgan commanded the bodies of the miserable wretches who were blown up to be searched for, as they floated on the sea; not to afford them Christian burial, but for their clothes and attire: and if any had gold rings on their fingers, these were cut off, leaving them exposed to the voracity of the monsters of the sea. At last they set sail for Savona, the place of their assignation. There were in all fifteen vessels, Captain Morgan commanding the biggest, of only fourteen small guns; his number of men was nine hundred and sixty. Few days after, they arrived at the Cabo de Lobos, south of Hispaniola, between Cape Tiburon and Cape Punta de Espada: hence they could not pass by reason of contrary winds for three weeks, notwithstanding all the utmost endeavours Captain Morgan used to get forth; then they doubled the cape, and spied an English vessel at a distance. Having spoken with her, they found she came from England, and bought of her, for ready money, some provisions they wanted.
Captain Morgan proceeded on his voyage till he came to the port of Ocoa; here he landed some men, sending them into the woods to seek water and provisions, the better to spare such as he had already on board. They killed many beasts, and among others some horses. But the Spaniards, not well satisfied at their hunting, laid a stratagem for them, ordering three or four hundred men to come from Santo Domingo not far distant, and desiring them to hunt in all the parts thereabout near the sea, that so, if the pirates should return, they might find no subsistence. Within few days the same pirates returned to hunt, but finding nothing to kill, a party of about fifty straggled farther on into the woods. The Spaniards, who watched all their motions, gathered a great herd of cows, and set two or three men to keep them. The pirates having spied them, killed a sufficient number; and though the Spaniards could see them at a distance, yet they could not hinder them at present; but as soon as they attempted to carry them away, they set upon them furiously, crying, "Math, mata," i.e., "Kill, kill." Thus the pirates were compelled to quit the prey, and retreat to their ships; but they did it in good order, retiring by degrees, and when they had opportunity, discharging full volleys on the Spaniards, killing many of their enemies, though with some loss.
The Spaniards seeing their damage, endeavoured to save themselves by flight, and carry off their dead and wounded companions. The pirates perceiving them flee, would not content themselves with what hurt they had already done, but pursued them speedily into the woods, and killed the greatest part of those that remained. Next day Captain Morgan, extremely offended at what had passed, went himself with two hundred men into the woods to seek for the rest of the Spaniards, but finding nobody, he revenged his wrath on the houses of the poor and miserable rustics that inhabit those scattering fields and woods, of which he burnt a great number: with this he returned to his ships, somewhat more satisfied in his mind for having done some considerable damage to the enemy; which was always his most ardent desire.
The impatience wherewith Captain Morgan had waited a long while for some of his ships not yet arrived, made him resolve to sail away without them, and steer for Savona, the place he always designed. Being arrived, and not finding any of his ships come, he was more impatient and concerned than before, fearing their loss, or that he must proceed without them; but he waiting for their arrival a few days longer, and having no great plenty of provisions, he sent a crew of one hundred and fifty men to Hispaniola to pillage some towns near Santo Domingo; but the Spaniards, upon intelligence of their coming, were so vigilant, and in such good posture of defence, that the pirates thought not convenient to assault them, choosing rather to return empty-handed to Captain Morgan, than to perish in that desperate enterprise.
At last Captain Morgan, seeing the other ships did not come, made a review of his people, and found only about five hundred men; the ships wanting were seven, he having only eight in his company, of which the greatest part were very small. Having hitherto resolved to cruise on the coasts of Caracas, and to plunder the towns and villages there, finding himself at present with such small forces, he changed his resolution by advice of a French captain in his fleet. This Frenchman having served Lolonois in the like enterprises, and at the taking of Maracaibo, knew all the entries, passages, forces, and means, how to put in execution the same again in company of Captain Morgan; to whom haying made a full relation of all, he concluded to sack it the second time, being himself persuaded, with all his men, of the facility the Frenchman propounded. Hereupon they weighed anchor, and steered towards Curacao. Being come within sight of it, they landed at another island near it, called Aruba, about twelve leagues from Curacao to the west. This island, defended by a slender garrison, is inhabited by Indians subject to Spain, and speak Spanish, by reason of the Roman Catholic religion, here cultivated by a few priests sent from the neighbouring continent.
The inhabitants exercise commerce or trade with the pirates that go or come this way: they buy of the islanders sheep, lambs, and kids, which they exchange for linen, thread, and like things. The country is very dry and barren, the whole substance thereof consisting in those three things, and in a little indifferent wheat. This isle produces many venomous insects, as vipers, spiders, and others. These last are so pernicious, that a man bitten by them dies mad; and the manner of recovering such is to tie them very fast both hands and feet, and so to leave them twenty-four hours, without eating or drinking anything. Captain Morgan, as was said, having cast anchor before this island, bought of the inhabitants sheep, lambs, and wood, for all his fleet. After two days, he sailed again in the night, to the intent they might not see what course he steered.
Next day they arrived at the sea of Maracaibo, taking great care not to be seen from Vigilia, for which reason they anchored out of sight of it. Night being come, they set sail again towards the land, and next morning, by break of day, were got directly over against the bar of the said lake. The Spaniards had built another fort since the action of Lolonois, whence they now fired continually against the pirates, while they put their men into boats to land. The dispute continued very hot, being managed with great courage from morning till dark night. This being come, Captain Morgan, in the obscurity thereof, drew nigh the fort, which having examined, he found nobody in it, the Spaniards having deserted it not long before. They left behind them a match lighted near a train of powder, to have blown up the pirates and the whole fortress as soon as they were in it. This design had taken effect, had not the pirates discovered it in a quarter of an hour; but Captain Morgan snatching away the match, saved both his own and his companions' lives. They found here much powder, whereof he provided his fleet, and then demolished part of the walls, nailing sixteen pieces of ordnance, from twelve to twenty-four pounders. Here they also found many muskets and other military provisions.
Next day they commanded the ships to enter the bar, among which they divided the powder, muskets, and other things found in the fort: then they embarked again to continue their course towards Maracaibo; but the waters being very low, they could not pass a certain bank at the entry of the lake: hereupon they were compelled to go into canoes and small boats, with which they arrived next day before Maracaibo, having no other defence than some small pieces which they could carry in the said boats. Being landed, they ran immediately to the fort De la Barra, which they found as the precedent, without any person in it, for all were fled into the woods, leaving also the town without any people, unless a few miserable folks, who had nothing to lose.
As soon as they had entered the town, the pirates searched every corner, to see if they could find any people that were hid, who might offend them unawares; not finding anybody, every party, as they came out of their several ships, chose what houses they pleased. The church was deputed for the common corps du guard, where they lived after their military manner, very insolently. Next day after they sent a troop of a hundred men to seek for the inhabitants and their goods; these returned next day, bringing with them thirty persons, men, women, and children, and fifty mules laden with good merchandise. All these miserable people were put to the rack, to make them confess where the rest of the inhabitants were, and their goods. Among other tortures, one was to stretch their limbs with cords, and then to beat them with sticks and other instruments. Others had burning matches placed betwixt their fingers, which were thus burnt alive. Others had slender cords or matches twisted about their heads, till their eves burst out. Thus all inhuman cruelties were executed on those innocent people. Those who would not confess, or who had nothing to declare, died under the hands of those villains. These tortures and racks continued for three whole weeks, in which time they sent out daily parties to seek for more people to torment and rob, they never returning without booty and new riches.
Captain Morgan having now gotten into his hands about a hundred of the chief families, with all their goods, at last resolved for Gibraltar, as Lolonois had done before: with this design he equipped his fleet, providing it sufficiently with all necessaries. He put likewise on board all the prisoners, and weighing anchor, set sail with resolution to hazard a battle. They had sent before some prisoners to Gibraltar, to require the inhabitants to surrender, otherwise Captain Morgan would certainly put them all to the sword, without any quarter. Arriving before Gibraltar, the inhabitants received him with continual shooting of great cannon bullets; but the pirates, instead of fainting here at, ceased not to encourage one another, saying, "We must make one meal upon bitter things, before we come to, taste the sweetness of the sugar this place affords."
Next day very early they landed all their men, and being guided by the Frenchman above said, they marched towards the town, not by the common way, but crossing through the woods, which way the Spaniards scarce thought they would have come; for at the beginning of their march they made as if they intended to come the next and open way to the town, hereby to deceive the Spaniards: but these remembering full well what Lolonois had done but two years before, thought it not safe to expect a second brunt, and hereupon all fled out of the town as fast as they could, carrying all their goods and riches, as also all the powder; and having nailed all the great guns, so as the pirates found not one person in the whole city, but one poor innocent man who was born a fool. This man they asked whither the inhabitants were fled, and where they had hid their goods. To all which questions and the like, he constantly answered, "I know nothing, I know nothing:" but they presently put him to the rack, and tortured him with cords; which torments forced him to cry out, "Do not torture me any more, but come with me, and I will show you my goods and my riches." They were persuaded, it seems, he was some rich person disguised under those clothes so poor, and that innocent tongue; so they went along with him, and he conducted them to a poor miserable cottage, wherein he had a few earthen dishes and other things of no value, and three pieces of eight, concealed with some other trumpery underground. Then they asked him his name, and he readily answered, "My name is Don Sebastian Sanchez, and I am brother unto the governor of Maracaibo." This foolish answer, it must be conceived, these inhuman wretches took for truth: for no sooner had they heard it, but they put him again upon the rack, lifting him up on high with cords, and tying huge weights to his feet and neck. Besides which, they burnt him alive, applying palm-leaves burning to his face.
The same day they sent out a party to seek for the inhabitants, on whom they might exercise their cruelties. These brought back an honest peasant with two daughters of his, whom they intended to torture as they used others, if they showed not the places where the inhabitants were hid. The peasant knew some of those places, and seeing himself threatened with the rack, went with the pirates to show them; but the Spaniards perceiving their enemies to range everywhere up and down the woods, were already fled thence farther off into the thickest of the woods, where they built themselves huts, to preserve from the weather those few goods they had. The pirates judged themselves deceived by the peasant, and hereupon, to revenge themselves, notwithstanding all his excuses and supplication, they hanged him on a tree.
Then they divided into parties to search the plantations; for they knew the Spaniards that were absconded could not live on what the woods afforded, without coming now and then for provisions to their country houses. Here they found a slave, to whom they promised mountains of gold and his liberty, by transporting him to Jamaica, if he would show them where the inhabitants of Gibraltar lay hid. This fellow conducted them to a party of Spaniards, whom they instantly made prisoners, commanding this slave to kill some before the eyes of the rest; that by this perpetrated crime, he might never be able to leave their wicked company. The negro, according to their orders, committed many murders and insolencies upon the Spaniards, and followed the unfortunate traces of the pirates; who eight days after returned to Gibraltar with many prisoners, and some mules laden with riches. They examined every prisoner by himself (who were in all about two hundred and fifty persons), where they had hid the rest of their goods, and if they know of their fellow-townsmen. Such as would not confess were tormented after a most inhuman manner. Among the rest, there happened to be a Portuguese, who by a negro was reported, though falsely, to be very rich; this man was commanded to produce his riches. His answer was, he had no more than one hundred pieces of eight in the world, and these had been stolen from him two days before by his servant; which words, though he sealed with many oaths and protestations, yet they would not believe him, but dragging him to the rack, without any regard to his age of sixty years, they stretched him with cords, breaking both his arms behind his shoulders.
This cruelty went not alone; for he not being able or willing to make any other declaration, they put him to another sort of torment more barbarous; they tied him with small cords by his two thumbs and great toes to four stakes fixed in the ground, at a convenient distance, the whole weight of his body hanging on those cords. Not satisfied yet with this cruel torture, they took a stone of above two hundred pounds, and laid it upon his belly, as if they intended to press him to death; they also kindled palm leaves, and applied the flame to the face of this unfortunate Portuguese, burning with them the whole skin, beard, and hair. At last, seeing that neither with these tortures, nor others, they could get anything out of him, they untied the cords, and carried him half dead to the church, where was their corps du guard; here they tied him anew to one of the pillars thereof, leaving him in that condition, without giving him either to eat or drink, unless very sparingly, and so little that would scarce sustain life for some days; four or five being past, he desired one of the prisoners might come to him, by whose means he promised he would endeavour to raise some money to satisfy their demands. The prisoner whom he required was brought to him, and he ordered him to promise the pirate five hundred pieces of/eight for his ransom; but they were deaf and obstinate at such a small sum, and instead of accepting it, beat him cruelly with cudgels, saying, "Old fellow, instead of five hundred, you must say five hundred thousand pieces of eight; otherwise you shall here end your life." Finally, after a thousand protestations that he was but a miserable man, and kept a poor tavern for his living, he agreed with them for one thousand pieces of eight. These he raised, and having paid them, got his liberty; though so horribly maimed, that it is scarce to be believed he could survive many weeks.
Others were crucified by these tyrants, and with kindled matches burnt between the joints of their fingers and toes: others had their feet put into the fire, and thus were left to be roasted alive. Having used these and other cruelties with the white men, they began to practise the same with the negroes, their slaves, who were treated with no less inhumanity than their masters.
Among these slaves was one who promised Captain Morgan to conduct him to a river of the lake, where he should find a ship and four boats, richly laden with goods of the inhabitants of Maracaibo: the same discovered likewise where the governor of Gibraltar lay hid, with the greatest part of the women of the town; but all this he revealed, upon great menaces to hang him, if he told not what he knew. Captain Morgan sent away presently two hundred men in two settees, or great boats, to this river, to seek for what the slave had discovered; but he himself, with two hundred and fifty more, undertook to go and take the governor. This gentleman was retired to a small island in the middle of the river, where he had built a little fort, as well as he could, for his defence; but hearing that Captain Morgan came in person with great forces to seek him, he retired to the top of a mountain not far off, to which there was no ascent but by a very narrow passage, so straight, that whosoever did attempt to gain the ascent, must march his men one by one. Captain Morgan spent two days before he arrived at this little island, whence he designed to proceed to the mountain where the governor was posted, had he not been told of the impossibility of ascent, not only for the narrowness of the way, but because the governor was well provided with all sorts of ammunition: beside, there was fallen a huge rain, whereby all the pirates baggage and powder was wet. By this rain, also, they lost many men at the passage over a river that was overflown: here perished, likewise, some women and children, and many mules laden with plate and goods, which they had taken from the fugitive inhabitants; so that things were in a very bad condition with Captain Morgan, and his men much harassed, as may be inferred from this relation: whereby, if the Spaniards, in that juncture, had had but fifty men well armed, they might have entirely destroyed the pirates. But the fears the Spaniards had at first conceived were so great, that the leaves stirring on the trees they often fancied to be pirates. Finally, Captain Morgan and his people, having upon this march sometimes waded up to their middles in water for half, or whole miles together, they at last escaped, for the greatest part; but the women and children for the ma j or part died.
Thus twelve days after they set forth to seek the governor they returned to Gibraltar, with many prisoners: two days after arrived also the two settees that went to the river, bringing with them four boats, and some prisoners; but the greatest part of the merchandise in the said boats they found not, the Spaniards having unladed and secured it, having intelligence of their coming; who designed also, when the merchandise was taken out, to burn the boats: yet the Spaniards made not so much haste to unlade these vessels, but that they left in the ship and boats great parcels of goods, which the pirates seized, and brought a considerable booty to Gibraltar. Thus, after they had been in possession of the place five entire weeks, and committed an infinite number of murders, robberies, and such-like insolencies, they concluded to depart; but first they ordered some prisoners to go forth into the woods and fields, and collect a ransom for the town, otherwise they would certainly burn it down to the ground. These poor afflicted men went as they were sent, and having searched the adjoining fields and woods, returned to Captain Morgan, telling him they had scarce been able to find anybody, but that to such as they had found they had proposed his demands; to which they had answered, that the governor had prohibited them to give any ransom for the town, but they beseeched him to have a little patience, and among themselves they would collect five thousand pieces of eight; and for the rest, they would give some of their own townsmen as hostages, whom he might carry to Maracaibo, till he had received full satisfaction.
Captain Morgan having now been long absent from Maracaibo, and knowing the Spaniards had had sufficient time to fortify themselves, and hinder his departure out of the lake, granted their proposition, and made as much haste as he could for his departure: he gave liberty to all the prisoners, first putting every one to a ransom; yet he detained the slaves. They delivered him four persons agreed on for hostages of what money more he was to receive, and they desired to have the slave mentioned above, intending to punish him according to his deserts; but Captain Morgan would not deliver him, lest they should burn him alive. At last, they weighed anchor, and set sail in all haste for Maracaibo: here they arrived in four days, and found all things as they had left them; yet here they received news from a poor distressed old man, whom alone they found sick in the town, that three Spanish men-of-war were arrived at the entry of the lake, waiting the return of the pirates: moreover, that the castle at the entry thereof was again put into a good posture of defence, well provided with guns and men, and all sorts of ammunition.
This relation could not choose but disturb the mind of Captain Morgan, who now was careful how to get away through the narrow entry of the lake: hereupon he sent his swiftest boat to view the entry, and see if things were as they had been related. Next day the boat came back, confirming what was said; assuring him, they had viewed the ships so nigh, that they had been in great danger of their shot, hereunto they added, that the biggest ship was mounted with forty guns, the second with thirty, and the smallest with twenty-four. These forces being much beyond those of Captain Morgan, caused a general consternation in the pirates, whose biggest vessel had not above fourteen small guns. Every one judged Captain Morgan to despond, and to be hopeless, considering the difficulty of passing safe with his little fleet amidst those great ships and the fort, or he must perish. How to escape any other way, by sea or land, they saw no way. Under these necessities, Captain Morgan resumed new courage, and resolving to show himself still undaunted, he boldly sent a Spaniard to the admiral of those three ships, demanding of him a considerable ransom for not putting the city of Maracaibo to the flames. This man (who was received by the Spaniards with great admiration of the boldness of those pirates) returned two days after, bringing to Captain Morgan a letter from the said admiral, as follows:—
The Letter of Don Alonso del Campo y Espinosa, Admiral of the Spanish Fleet, to Captain Morgan, Commander of the Pirates.
As soon as Captain Morgan received this letter, he called all his men together in the market-place of Maracaibo, and after reading the contents thereof, both in French and English, asked their advice and resolution on the whole matter, and whether they had rather surrender all they had got to obtain their liberty, than fight for it.
They answered all, unanimously, they had rather fight to the last drop of blood, than surrender so easily the booty they had got with so much danger of their lives. Among the rest, one said to Captain Morgan, "Take you care for the rest, and I will undertake to destroy the biggest of. those ships with only twelve men: the manner shall be, by making a brulot, or fire-ship, of that vessel we took in the river of Gibraltar; which, to the intent she may not be known for a fireship, we will fill her decks with logs of wood, standing with hats and montera caps, to deceive their sight with the representation of men. The same we will do at the port-holes that serve for the guns, which shall be filled with counterfeit cannon. At the stern we will hang out English colours, and persuade the enemy she is one of our best men-of-war going to fight them." This proposition was admitted and approved by every one; howbeit, their fears were not quite dispersed.
For, notwithstanding what had been concluded there, they endeavoured the next day to come to an accommodation with Don Alonso. To this effect, Captain Morgan sent to him two persons, with these propositions: First, that he would quit Maracaibo, without doing any damage to the town, or exacting any ransom for the firing thereof. Secondly, that he would set at liberty one half of the slaves, and all the prisoners, without ransom. Thirdly, that he would send home freely the four chief inhabitants of Gibraltar, which he had in his custody as hostages for the contributions those people had promised to pay. These propositions were instantly rejected by Don Alonso, as dishonourable: neither would he hear of any other accommodation, but sent back this message: "That if they surrendered not themselves voluntarily into his hands, within two days, under the conditions which he had offered them by his letter, he would immediately come, and force them to do it."
No sooner had Captain Morgan received this message from Don Alonso, than he put all things in order to fight, resolving to get out of the lake by main force, without surrendering anything. First, he commanded all the slaves and prisoners to be tied, and guarded very well, and gathered all the pitch, tar, and brimstone, they could find in the whole town, for the fire-ship above-mentioned; then they made several inventions of powder and brimstone with palm leaves, well anointed with tar. They covered very well their counterfeit cannon, laying under every piece many pounds of powder; besides, they cut down many outworks of the ship, that the powder might exert its strength the better; breaking open, also, new port-holes, where, instead of guns, they placed little drums used by the negroes. Finally, the decks were handsomely beset with many pieces of wood, dressed up like men with hats, or monteras, and armed with swords, muskets, and bandeleers.
The fire-ship being thus fitted, they prepared to go to the entry of the port. All the prisoners were put into one great boat, and in another of the biggest they placed all the women, plate, jewels, and other rich things: into others they put the bales of goods and merchandise, and other things of bulk: each of these boats had twelve men aboard, very well armed; the brulot had orders to go before the rest of the vessels, and presently to fall foul with the great ship. All things being ready, Captain Morgan exacted an oath of all his comrades, protesting to defend themselves to the last drop of blood, without demanding quarter; promising withal, that whosoever behaved himself thus, should be very well rewarded.
With this courageous resolution they set sail to seek the Spaniards. On April 30, 1669, they found the Spanish fleet riding at anchor in the middle of the entry of the lake. Captain Morgan, it being now late and almost dark, commanded all his vessels to an anchor, designing to fight even all night if they forced him to it. He ordered a careful watch to be kept aboard every vessel till morning, they being almost within shot, as well as within sight of the enemy. The day dawning, they weighed anchor, and sailed again, steering directly towards the Spaniards; who seeing them move, did instantly the same. The fire-ship sailing before the rest fell presently upon the great ship, and grappled her; which the Spaniards (too late) perceiving to be a fire-ship, they attempted to put her off, but in vain: for the flame seizing her timber and tackling, soon consumed all the stern, the fore part sinking into the sea, where she perished. The second Spanish ship perceiving the admiral to burn, not by accident, but by industry of the enemy, escaped towards the castle, where the Spaniards themselves sunk her, choosing to lose their ship rather than to fall into the hands of those pirates. The third, having no opportunity to escape, was taken by the pirates. The seamen that sunk the second ship near the castle, perceiving the pirates come towards them to take what remains they could find of their shipwreck (for some part was yet above water), set fire also to this vessel, that the pirates might enjoy nothing of that spoil. The first ship being set on fire, some of the persons in her swam towards the shore; these pirates would have taken up in their boats, but they would not ask or take quarter, choosing rather to lose their lives than receive them from their hands, for reasons which I shall relate.
The pirates being extremely glad at this signal victory so soon obtained, and with so great an inequality of forces, conceived greater pride than they had before, and all presently ran ashore, intending to take the castle. This they found well provided with men, cannon, and ammunition, they having no other arms than muskets, and a few hand granadoes: their own artillery they thought incapable, for its smallness, of making any considerable breach in the walls. Thus they spent the rest of the day, firing at the garrison with their muskets, till the dusk of the evening, when they attempted to advance nearer the walls, to throw in their fire-balls: but the Spaniards resolving to sell their lives as dear as they could, fired so furiously at them, that they having experimented the obstinacy of the enemy, and seeing thirty of their men dead, and as many more wounded, they retired to their ships.
The Spaniards believing the pirates would next day renew the attack with their own cannon, laboured hard all night to put things in order for their coming; particularly, they dug down, and made plain, some little hills and eminences, when possibly the castle might be offended.
But Captain Morgan intended not to come again, busying himself next day in taking prisoners some of the men who still swam alive, hoping to get part of the riches lost in the two ships that perished. Among the rest, he took a pilot, who was a stranger, and who belonged to the lesser ship of the two, of whom he inquired several things; as, What number of people those three ships had in them? Whether they expected any more ships to come? From what port they set forth last, when they came to seek them out? He answered, in Spanish, "Noble sir, be pleased to pardon and spare me, that no evil be done to me, being a stranger to this nation I have served, and I shall sincerely inform you of all that passed till our arrival at this lake. We were sent by orders from the Supreme Council of State in Spain, being six men-of-war well equipped, into these seas, with instructions to cruise upon the English pirates, and root them out from these parts by destroying as many of them as we could.
"These orders were given, upon the news, brought to the court of Spain of the loss and ruin of Puerto Bello, and other places; of all which damages and hostilities committed here by the English, dismal lamentations have often been made to the catholic king and council, to whom belongs the care and preservation of this new world. And though the Spanish court hath many times by their ambassadors complained hereof to the king of England; yet it hath been the constant answer of his Majesty of Great Britain, that he never gave any letters patent, nor commissions, for acting any hostility against the subjects of the king of Spain. Hereupon the catholic king resolved to revenge his subjects, and punish these proceedings: commanded six men-of-war to be equipped, which he sent under the command of Don Augustine de Bustos, admiral of the said fleet. He commanded the biggest ship, named N. S. de la Soleda, of forty-eight great guns, and eight small ones. The vice-admiral was Don Alonso del Campo y Espinosa, who commanded the second ship called La Conception, of forty-four great guns, and eight small ones; besides four vessels more, whereof the first was named the Magdalen, of thirty-six great guns, and twelve small ones, with two hundred and fifty men. The second was called St. Lewis, with twenty-six great guns, twelve small ones, and two hundred men. The third was called La Marquesa, of sixteen great guns, eight small ones, and one hundred and fifty men. The fourth and last, N. S. del Carmen, with eighteen great guns, eight small ones, and one hundred and fifty men.
"Being arrived at Carthagena, the two greatest ships received orders to return to Spain, being judged too big for cruising on these coasts. With the four ships remaining, Don Alonso del Campo y Espinosa departed towards Campeche to seek the English: we arrived at the port there, where, being surprised by a huge storm from the north, we lost one of our ships, being that which I named last. Hence we sailed for Hispaniola, in sight of which we came in a few days, and steered for Santo Domingo: here we heard that there had passed that way a fleet from Jamaica, and that some men thereof had landed at Alta Gracia; the inhabitants had taken one prisoner, who confessed their design was to go and pillage the city of Caracas. On this news, Don Alonso instantly weighed anchor, and, crossing over to the continent, we came in sight of the Caracas: here we found them not, but met with a boat, which certified us they were in the lake of Maracaibo, and that the fleet consisted of seven small ships, and one boat.
"Upon this we came here, and arriving at the entry of the lake, we shot off a gun for a pilot from the shore. Those on land perceiving we were Spaniards, came willingly to us with a pilot, and told us the English had taken Maracaibo, and that they were now at the pillage of Gibraltar. Don Alonso, on this news, made a handsome speech to his soldiers and mariners, encouraging them to their duty, and promising to divide among them all they should take from the English: he ordered the guns we had taken out of the ship that was lost to be put into the castle, and mounted for its defence, with two eighteen-pounders more, out of his own ship. The pilots conducted us into the port, and Don Alonso commanded the people on shore to come before him, whom he ordered to repossess the castle, and reinforce it with one hundred men more than it had before its being taken. Soon after, we heard of your return from Gibraltar to Maracaibo, whither Don Alonso wrote you a letter, giving you an account of his arrival and design, and exhorting you to restore what you, had taken. This you refusing, he renewed his promises to his soldiers and seamen, and having given a very good supper to all his people, he ordered them not to take or give any quarter, which was the occasion of so many being drowned, who dared not to crave quarter, knowing themselves must give none. Two days before you came against us, a negro came aboard Don Alonso's ship, telling him, 'Sir, be pleased to have great care of yourself; for the English have prepared a fire-ship, with design to burn your fleet.' But Don Alonso not believing this, answered, 'How can that be? Have they, peradventure, wit enough to build a fire-ship? Or what instruments have they to do it withal?'"
This pilot having related so distinctly these things to Captain Morgan, was very well used by him, and, after some kind proffers made to him, remained in his service. He told Captain Morgan, that, in the ship which was sunk, there was a great quantity of plate, to the value of forty thousand pieces of eight; which occasioned the Spaniards to be often seen in boats about it. Hereupon, Captain Morgan ordered one of his ships to remain there, to find ways of getting out of it what plate they could; meanwhile, himself, with all his fleet, returned to Maracaibo, where he refitted the great ship he had taken, and chose it for himself, giving his own bottom to one of his captains.
Then he sent again a messenger to the admiral, who was escaped ashore, and got into the castle, demanding of him a ransom of fire for Maracaibo; which being denied, he threatened entirely to consume and destroy it. The Spaniards considering the ill-luck they had all along with those pirates, and not knowing how to get rid of them, concluded to pay the said ransom, though Don Alonso would not consent.
Hereupon, they sent to Captain Morgan, to know what sum he demanded. He answered, that on payment of 30,000 pieces of eight, and five hundred beeves, he would release the prisoners and do no damage to the town. At last they agreed on 20,000 pieces of eight, and five hundred beeves to victual his fleet. The cattle were brought the next day, with one part of the money; and, while the pirates were busied in salting the flesh, they made up the whole 20,000 pieces of eight, as was agreed.
But Captain Morgan would not presently deliver the prisoners, as he had promised, fearing the shot of the castle at his going forth out of the lake. Hereupon he told them he intended not to deliver them till he was out of that danger, hoping thus to obtain a free passage. Then he set sail with his fleet in quest of the ship he had left, to seek for the plate of the vessel that was burnt. He found her on the place, with 15,000 pieces of eight got out of the work, beside many pieces of plate, as hilts of swords, and the like; also a great quantity of pieces of eight melted and run together, by the force of the fire.
Captain Morgan scarce thought himself secure, nor could he contrive how to avoid the shot of the castle: hereupon he wished the prisoners to agree with the governor to permit a safe passage to his fleet, which, if he should not allow, he would certainly hang them all up in his ships. Upon this the prisoners met, and appointed some of their fellow-messengers to go to the said governor, Don Alonso: these went to him, beseeching and supplicating him to have compassion on those afflicted prisoners, who were, with their wives and children, in the hands of Captain Morgan; and that to this effect he would be pleased to give his word to let the fleet of pirates freely pass, this being the only way to save both the lives of them that came with this petition, as also of those who remained in captivity; all being equally menaced with the sword and gallows, if he granted them not this humble request. But Don Alonso gave them for answer a sharp reprehension of their cowardice, telling them, "If you had been as loyal to your king in hindering the entry of these pirates, as I shall do their going out, you had never caused these troubles, neither to yourselves nor to our whole nation, which hath suffered so much through your pusillanimity. In a word, I shall never grant your request, but shall endeavour to maintain that respect which is due to my king, according to my duty."
Thus the Spaniards returned with much consternation, and no hopes of obtaining their request,. telling Captain Morgan what answer they had received: his reply was, "If Don Alonso will not let me pass, I will find means how to do it without him." Hereupon he presently made a dividend of all they had taken, fearing he might not have an opportunity to do it in another place, if any tempest should rise and separate the ships, as also being jealous that any of the commanders might run away with the best part of the spoil, which then lay much more in one vessel than another. Thus they all brought in according to their laws, and declared what they had, first making oath not to conceal the least thing. The accounts being cast up, they found to the value of 25,000 pieces of eight, in money and jewels, beside the huge quantity of merchandise and slaves, all which purchase was divided to every ship or boat, according to her share.
The dividend being made, the question still remained how they should pass the castle, and get out of the lake. To this effect they made use of a stratagem, as follows: the day before the night wherein they determined to get forth, they embarked many of their men in canoes, and rowed towards the shore, as if they designed to land: here they hid themselves under branches of trees that hang over the coast awhile, laying themselves down in the boats; then the canoes returned to the ships, with the appearance of only two or three men rowing them back, the rest being unseen at the bottom of the canoes: thus much only could be perceived from the castle, and this false landing of men, for so we may call it, was repeated that day several times: this made the Spaniards think the pirates intended at night to force the castle by sealing it. This fear caused them to place most of their great guns on the land side, together with their main force, leaving the side towards the sea almost destitute of defence.
Night being come, they weighed anchor, and by moonlight, without setting sail, committed themselves to the ebbing tide, which gently brought them down the river, till they were near the castle; being almost over against it, they spread their sails with all possible haste. The Spaniards perceiving this; transported with all speed their guns from the other side, and began to fire very furiously at them; but these having a very favourable wind, were almost past danger before those of the castle could hurt them; so that they lost few of their men, and received no considerable damage in their ships. Being out of the reach of the guns, Captain Morgan sent a canoe to the castle with some of the prisoners, and the governor thereof gave them a boat to return to their own homes; but he detained the hostages from Gibraltar, because the rest of the ransom for not firing the place was yet unpaid. Just as he departed, Captain Morgan ordered seven great guns with bullets to be fired against the castle, as it were to take his leave of them, but they answered not so much as with a musket shot.
Next day after, they were surprised with a great tempest, which forced them to cast anchor in five or six fathom water: but the storm increasing, compelled them to weigh again, and put to sea, where they were in great danger of being lost; for if they should have been cast on shore, either into the hands of the Spaniards or Indians, they would certainly have obtained no mercy: at last, the tempest being spent, the wind ceased, to the great joy of the whole fleet.
While Captain Morgan made his fortune by these pillagings, his companions, who were separated from his fleet at the Cape de Lobos, to take the ship spoken of before, endured much misery, and were unfortunate in all their attempts. Being arrived at Savona, they found not Captain Morgan there, nor any of their companions, nor had they the fortune to find a letter which Captain Morgan at his departure left behind him in a place where in all probability they would meet with it. Thus, not knowing what course to steer, they concluded to pillage some town or other. They were in all about four hundred men, divided into four ships and one boat: being ready to set forth, they constituted an admiral among themselves, being one who had behaved himself very courageously at the taking of Puerto Bello, named Captain Hansel. This commander attempted the taking of the town of Commana, on the continent of Caracas, nigh sixty leagues to the west of the Isle de la Trinidad. Being arrived there, they landed their men, and killed some few Indians near the coast; but approaching the town, the Spaniards having in their company many Indians, disputed the entry so briskly, that, with great loss and confusion, they were forced to retire to the ships. At last they arrived at Jamaica, where the rest of their companions, who came with Captain Morgan, mocked and jeered them for their ill success at Commana, often telling them, "Let us see what money you brought from Commana, and if it be as good silver as that which we bring from Maracaibo."